Dr Julie Carter



What are the things which lead up to a wonderful wild experience? What are the ingredients which go into making a satisfying and successful adventure? Focus, commitment, training, a dogged determination not to be put off and distracted from the plan. Things don’t just happen – you have to make them happen. You have to figure out how to work up to your goal in a realistic time frame, step-by-step. So, when I was persuaded to enter the Ennerdale fell race, which took place on the 12th June, I made sure I that I upped my running distance, practiced the route, built up stamina and visualised in my mind enjoying the race. Plan, prepare, train and visualise – all very predictable. Then two weeks before the race when I went off to Scotland for a climbing trip with my partner Mandy. It was an exciting heady mix of being let free in Scotland with great weather and dry rock. By the end of the first weekend, we had done two exquisite climbs which I had been waiting for decades to do. I’d just never been in the right place at the right time with the right climbing partner for these climbs before. But there I was, and having to save my legs for a big race seemed a bit irrelevant. And our trip to paradise continued for climb after climb, day after day until I was driving home two days before Ennerdale with an exhausted body and a happy heart. I wondered what to do about the race. I checked the phone for the weather – still very warm. What came next felt ridiculous.

Murrays route

For years I have wanted to do all the “Classic Rock” climbs in the Lake District in one unassisted journey. Fifteen long rock climbs and a lot of fells to cover on foot between the crags. It was an impossible dream having only been completed by a handful of men who are very good fell runners and all climb several grades harder than we do. They soloed most of the climbing with very little protection as they carried hardly any climbing gear. We would need to lead the climbs with full ropes and a full climbing rack in a traditional fashion, and Mandy, although she has been climbing for fifty years, is not a fell runner at all. But since no women have completed the “Lakeland Classics” in one go before time was not really important. We could carry our gear, keep ourselves safe, and camp out and just keep going.

view from th waiting room Jones Direct Scafell s 4a

I reckoned some of my fell running friends would see this as a ruse to get out of the Ennerdale race. But the truth was I was in the right place, at the right time, with the right person and all I needed to do was recognise that. It was the adventure of a lifetime, and in our own backyard. Each climb, each scrambling descent, each stormy sky and hard-won walk are etched into us. Some of the routes were a battle in bad conditions, some were pure pleasure and all were savoured and stored up within us like treasure. The forecast lied. We had rain, gales, cold and mist and sunshine on occasion too. After four long days of climbing, we amazed ourselves by topping out on the final, and the easiest and shortest climb of Little Chamonix at Shepherd’s Crag.

There was no Ennerdale race for me this year. Instead, we had a unique few days which I am still absorbing and digesting. Commitment and planning are all very well but if I had stuck to my plan, I would still be waiting for another elusive right time. I will write the story of our unlikely adventure in coming weeks but for now I don’t want to forget that it only happened at all because of a willingness to be distracted from my plan. When life surprises us with rare and unexpected chances then only fool sticks to the plan.