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On #InternationalMountain day, we pick out five running routes involving UK peaks that are truly worth their tough ascents
Ben Ledi, Trossachs
Length: 18.2 miles. Max height: 879m. Total elevation: 1209m
The distinctive outline of Ben Ledi rises invitingly on the skyline from the town of Callander, and the summit of this popular mountain is the highest point (879m) in the main area of the Trossachs. Starting in Callander, this enjoyable run takes in some easier sections of the Rob Roy Way and the Great Trossachs Path. The main path up Ben Ledi is clear and well-maintained and there’s plenty to see as the surrounding landscape opens out as you climb higher, with views over to the Pentlands from the main path and to Ben Lomond and the Arrochar Alps from the summit on a clear day. A pleasant ridgeline descends to the minor summit of Stuc Dhubh, from where the route drops off left to reach the Glen Finglas Reservoir in the valley below. The final stretch follows the Great Trossachs Path along the shores of Loch Venachar, rejoining the Rob Roy Way to return to Callander.
Y Lliwedd, Snowdonia
Length: 7.1 miles. Max height: 898m. Total elevation: 10009m
This route lends itself to a dry day with low winds and good visibility. Take a sneaky ascent of Y Lliwedd, the final frontier of Snowdonâ’s famous Horseshoe. But give this splendid mountain some credit of its own and enjoy its sharp, shapely ridgelines, offering challenging and technical mountain terrain. Views are stunning, peering over the edges towards Snowdonia’s cwms below as well as south towards Porthmadog and the Rhinogau range. On a busy day, this rocky round will keep you away from Snowdonia’s busier paths. The return descent from Bwlch Ciliau is fun and quick, to meet your ascent route again at the waterfalls below Cwm Llan. The best time to run this route is early on a summer’s morning - catch dawn on Y Lliwedd, then head back to Caffi Gwynant Cafe for breakfast.
Length: 15.3miles. Max height: 950m. Total elevation: 1270m
The Ullswater Valley is steeped in history and hidden delights, and this route gives you plenty. Start at Aira Force car park and head up into the valley known as Glencoynedale (notice the mixture of languages in the name), traverse the wonderfully technical high valley trail and run past the site of what was once the second most productive silver mine in the country, then up to Sticks Pass. Descend to your cafe/pub stop in the flooded valley of Thirlmere, once home to workers building the Manchester Corporation Water Works pipeline. Then head back up over the Welsh-named summit Helvellyn and descend Swirral Edge or Lower Man Ridge, to avoid scrambling. Both paths lead to the lower site of the Greenside Mines. Finally, head back into Glencoyne via Nick Head and down the other side of this hidden valley.
Great Gable, Cumbria
Length: 7.4miles. Max height: 890m. Total elevation: 1258m
Starting at the southernmost end of Seathwaite, one of the three offshoots of the beautiful Borrowdale valley, this route rewards hard graft with some of the best views in Cumbria and even some great opportunities for a refreshing wild swim. It begins with a scramble up Sourmilk Ghyll, which takes you into the heart of a combe, dwarfed by the surrounding mountains. From here it’s a steep zigzag up onto Green Gable, a leg-sapping dip through Windy Gap and then some glorious ridge running over Great Gable. A steep descent to Styhead followed by another long ascent gains another incredible ridge over Allen Crags and the summit of Glaramara. The fast, furious descent back to Seathwaite is a great test of the nerve and legs to finish.
Route thanks to Jen and Sim Benson www.jenandsimbenson.co.uk
Length: 18.9 miles. Max height: 1098. Total elevation: 2473m
The Charlie Ramsay Round is one of the greatest Scottish running challenges - if not the greatest. The enormous loop of 24 Munros (Scottish mountains over 3000m) must be completed in 24 hours, the distance totalling 56 miles, with 8687m of climbing, all on rough mountain ground. This already-tough route follows just a snippet of it, diving back down to the valley floor via An Gearanach’s steep zigzagging path, passing beneath the spectacular Falls of Steall, and crossing the Water of Nevis by a wire bridge - one wire for your feet and two more for your hands. This is a highly challenging and potentially dangerous route, demanding good navigation skills and mountaincraft, as well as a strong pair of legs and a lot of puff. Think twice before undertaking it in anything less than perfect conditions. The reward is a stunning day out in the mountains and the taste of one of Scotland’s - no, the world’s best off-road running challenges.
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“Be bold, start cold is an adage I stick to when training or racing and it works a treat for stopping you sweating profusely once warmed up,” says GB international Robbie Britton. “Even racing in -23 degrees C in the Arctic Ultra in 2016, I started quite cold in just a merino base layer and light windproof jacket, then soon warmed up and stayed warm thanks to my windproof keeping
the temperature in.
“Just have a think about your race and, if you intend to be working hard throughout, then dress minimally. If you know you might be stopping at checkpoints or walking up a long hill, then use an arm warmer or carry an extra top.”
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