I have been finding it increasingly difficult to get motivated to do a long hilly run on my own so I thought I would find an event to enter.
I found The Yomp Mountain Challenge, 23 miles with 3,900ft ascent in the beautiful Cumbrian fells in the Upper Eden Valley near Kirkby Stephen. The route was over fell land, bog and tussock and described as flagged at 50m intervals. Perfect!
The Yomp Mountain Challenge started life as the Mallerstang Horseshoe and Nine Standards Yomp. It was established by the Rotary Club of Upper Eden to commemorate the achievements of the British Forces engaged in the Falklands Campaign in 1982, 33 years ago. For those with a gentler aim there are routes of 11.5 miles (Half Yomp) and 6.5 miles (Short Yomp). The full course follows the Mallerstang watershed, and includes six summits over 650m high.
I mentioned the event to Ruth who also decided to enter. This was great news to have some company and motivate each other en route. We decided to run it together and planned to complete within 6-7 hours.
I was a little sceptical about the route being flagged at 50m intervals so I bought the map, highlighted the route, wrote on the 10 checkpoints to be dibbed and made a list of grid references for the checkpoints just in case they were not obvious on the day.
We arrived at Kirkby Stephen School, went to register with full kit, food, water and collected our numbers and dibbers (a bit like a USB stick that you wear on your wrist and insert into a machine at every checkpoint to record your times). As it was hot and sunny, I asked ‘what are the kit rules for the day?’ The nice man said ‘take as little as you can’. Music to our ears! We hurried back to the car to drop some kit off and took only the essentials, waterproof jacket, water, food, map and compass.
9am and the hooter sounded to dib and start running. From Kirkby Stephen Grammar School, the route headed South out of town past Wharton Hall, a mile further to the 1st checkpoint, continuing over Wild Boar Fell to checkpoint 2 and on to Swarth Fell Pike for checkpoint 3. It was all climbing before swinging off the tops down to Aisgill Moor for checkpoint 4 where there was actually a portaloo. How very civilized and decent of them. We started climbing again from the valley via Hell Gill onto Mallerstang Edge to checkpoint 5 at The Riggs. It was really hot and the ascents were punishing. The route passed over High Seat, checkpoint 6 and then High Pike, checkpoint 7 before dropping down to the Swaledale road at the top of Tailbridge Hill, checkpoint 8 and another portaloo, we couldn’t believe it! The final stage was the ascent to the Nine Standards, checkpoint 9 and then on down to Kirkby Stephen with checkpoint 10, two miles from the finish. The route was challenging with the last two miles being very difficult to keep going.
We finished in 6 hours and 17 minutes which we were pleased with due to the heat, the ascent and short chats to the marshals at checkpoints. We got a decent medal and a certificate of completion, along with a printout of our split times at the checkpoints.
Full Yomp 133 finishers. We were joint 71st. The first finisher did it in 3 hours 17.
Half Yomp 105 finishers.
Short Yomp 139 finishers.
The course record was set in 2011 by Karl Bell in 2 hours 43 minutes. Amazing!
We were very impressed with the organisation of this event and would recommend it to anyone wanting a long run with plenty of ascent. You can also enter on the day if you prefer to check the weather forecast for that weekend first. It is very remote over those fells so the route was flagged at 50m intervals as they said it would be. We couldn’t believe it. There were at least two very helpful and cheerful marshals at each checkpoint with plenty of water and a brew and a butty at the finish. The only drawback (tongue in cheek) was that there was no cake at the finish and we know how much runners love cake!
Happy Yomping everyone!
Ruth’s comments – To Yomp or not to Yomp
Three words that should put the fear of God into any sensible individual. Yomp – a march with heavy equipment over difficult terrain. Mountain – big, green/grey/brown hilly things, not flat, not tarmac. Challenge – something really hard, that may make you cry and swear. When Debbie mentioned she was going to do an event that had those words in the title, I suspect I probably pulled a face. And then promptly went and entered it. I was doing it more to support Debbie as she had supported me with my ultra training, so it seemed only fair that I return the favour.
I really had no expectations prior to the start of the event, both in terms of what the Yomp would be or how long it would take, but in the end The Yomp was definitely not what I thought it would be. In a very good way. As Debbie has alluded to, there was a lot of ascent but it was, for a tarmac loving, fell novice like me, more than doable. The scenery was absolutely stunning – certainly less verdant than the Lake District, more brown, not as neat and tidy, with huge expanses of nothingness. The weather gods were at their most benevolent which helped too. The fact that the route was so well marked was a bonus as it took out the need to navigate and map read, meaning you could just concentrate on keeping going as fast as the terrain would allow you. All the Rotary Club marshals were lovely – Debbie couldn’t thank them enough for all what they had done (a bit of John Wiseman rubbing off on her perhaps, though which bit I wouldn’t like to say).
I would certainly recommend it for those who like off road running and want to do an event for the experience and a fun day out, rather than to boost your Run Britain rankings. Yes 23 miles is a long way and the elevation profile on Debbie’s Strava link doesn’t lie, but it really didn’t seem that long and you just have to take each up and down hill as it comes.
Only two things could be changed to make it any better. First one would be a simple list of the miles at which the check points occur. It’s all very well having a list of place names at which the checkpoints are, but if you are not familiar with the area and not actively looking at your map, to know the approximate distance at which the checkpoints are at would help. Second and far more importantly, like Debbie has mentioned, is to have CAKE. I’m sorry Rotary Club but a butty and a custard cream at the finish is simply not good enough. I’m usually not one to really be that bothered about food after a race but I could have battered someone for a piece of Battenberg or freaked out for a piece of fruit cake.