In early November, I embarked on the less-explored Gerry Charnley Way, marking a near-perfect onset of early winter. While this route may not hold particular significance for most, it carried a personal weight for me, representing unfinished business from years past.
Approximately 3-4 years ago, during a previous attempt with James and Steve, I had to abandon the route due to an ITB issue that compelled me to walk back. Interestingly, despite my setback, one of the lads went on to complete the round on a notably warm summer day, accomplishing it in around 16 hours. The goal of this post is to add some light to the round and give a small insight into my experience without giving a step-by-step of the route as I feel this is not in keeping with the round.
The inception of the Charnley Way traces back to the collective efforts of Gerry Charnley’s friends, who conceptualized the route as a tribute following his tragic demise on the Helvellyn range in December 1982 at the age of 53. The chosen terrain for this memorial route holds historical significance, as it once hosted the Karrimor International Mountain Marathon (now the OMM), an event Charnley devised and organized in 1981. A commemorative map, meticulously crafted by Harvey Map Services, delineates the route, marked by 26 control points.
This map not only serves as a guide but also offers versatility to running enthusiasts. It unfolds the option of traversing three single distinct circuits visiting each control point —Eskdale, Borrowdale, and Langdale—or embracing the challenge of completing the round and going to all 26 control points. Covering approximately 57 kilometres with an ascent of 3600 meters. Each circuit commences at a youth hostel, converging on Charnley Crag, located south of Esk Pike, adding a sense of cohesion to the journey.
In 2007, Ben Abdelnoor breathed new life into the Charnley Way, completing the route in a commendable 10 hours and 47 minutes. Notably, he speculates that trail-running legend Billy Bland accomplished the route in less than 8 hours during the 1980s—a testament to the trail’s enduring allure. For an in-depth perspective, refer to Ben’s article featured in The Fellrunner (Autumn 2007).
Further cementing the trail’s legacy, the South Ribble Fell Search and Rescue, as part of their 50th-anniversary celebrations in 2014, reprinted the commemorative map. This act not only pays homage to Gerry Charnley’s memory but also serves as an invitation for modern adventure seekers to connect with the roots of the Charnley Way. For those interested in exploring this trail, contact details can be found via the link below. Since then, a few more have been and ran the route.
The Charnley Way unfolds against the backdrop of the Lake District’s captivating tapestry—a masterpiece of nature that elevates every stride into a journey through rolling hills, craggy peaks, and mirrored lakes.
Eskdale, the Prelude: As the inaugural segment of the Charnley Way, Eskdale serves as a picturesque prelude, inviting runners into a landscape adorned with charming villages and meandering rivers. The peaks that frame Eskdale include the imposing Scafell Pike, England’s highest peak. As runners navigate this enchanting first circuit, they traverse an environment where the rugged beauty of Scafell Pike creates a dramatic contrast against the serene valleys and meadows.
Borrowdale, a Dramatic Interlude: Moving into Borrowdale, the Charnley Way presents a dramatic interlude amid deep valleys and rugged fells. Borrowdale, known for its towering fells, features the formidable Great End—an iconic peak that commands attention. The undulating terrain unfolds mysteries in the form of deep valleys, and as runners conquer Borrowdale’s landscape, the imposing presence of Great End becomes an integral part of their journey.
Langdale, the Majestic Climax: Approaching the climax of the Charnley Way, Langdale emerges as a realm surrounded by iconic peaks, notably the Langdale Pikes. These majestic summits, including Pike of Stickle and Harrison Stickle, stand as sentinels, each bearing witness to the timeless beauty of the Lake District. As runners traverse Langdale’s landscape, they navigate around and ascend these craggy peaks. The Langdale Pikes create a fitting conclusion to the trail, offering panoramic views that showcase the rugged allure of the Lake District’s mountainous environment.
In each segment of the Charnley Way, from Eskdale’s charming villages framed by Scafell Pike to Borrowdale’s dramatic fells with the formidable Great End, and finally to Langdale’s iconic peaks, runners traverse not only distance but also diverse mountainous landscapes. The enchantment of the Lake District becomes an integral part of the Charnley Way experience, weaving a story that extends beyond the physical trail and immerses adventurers in the rich tapestry of nature’s wonders.
In conclusion, the Charnley Way beckons trail and mountain runners with the promise of a transformative journey into the heart of the Lake District’s untamed wilderness. The summits, the historical echoes, and the camaraderie that pervades this trail create an experience that transcends the ordinary. The route makes for a fantastic day out in some wild places. Id encourages anyone thinking about training for the Bob Graham round or George Fisher round to look at this as an epic training route.
For me, Jack from Mountain Fit, the day unfolded over 11 hours, spanning from car to car. I am relieved to have finally laid this challenge to rest, yet a return to it in the future is undoubtedly on the horizon. The day was part of winder ongoing coaching and training program for later in the year. The conditions were near-perfect, embracing the tranquillity of winter with intermittent sunshine and breathtaking mountain views. There was a particular moment of awe when standing on Lingmoor, the entire route unfolded before me.
My favourite stretch of the journey, without a doubt, was the ascent to Scafell and the traverse over to Angle Tarn. This part of the Lake District, with its rugged and intricate terrain, demands heightened awareness and focus. It was during this section that my good friend James joined me, injecting the journey with his infectious enthusiasm. Sharing a portion of the route with him was truly epic. However, our paths diverged at Stakes Pass, where he left me to continue the final 10 kilometres into the enveloping darkness.
The day, marked by its perfect blend of winter charm, panoramic views, and challenging landscapes, will remain etched in my memory. The climb to Scafell and the camaraderie with James added an extra layer of significance to the journey. As I reflect on these moments, I am left with a sense of accomplishment and a lingering anticipation for future returns to this captivating route.