Conditions during the race led to it being diverted away from its crux climb. Photo: Andy Jackson

Conditions during the race led to it being diverted away from its crux climb. Photo: Andy Jackson

Organisers of a gruelling Lakeland mountain race were forced to divert runners from the most difficult section of the route after high winds and heavy rain lashed the fells.

Safety staff on the inaugural True Mountain Lakes Sky Ultra decided conditions on the grade-three scramble up Pinnacle Ridge on St Sunday Crag were too hazardous.

The race went ahead on Saturday on the full course, but with a diversion to avoid the scramble.

Norwegian runner Eirik Haugsnes won the event after breaking free from pursuers Paul Tierney, Gareth Hughes and Jim Mann in the second half of the race.

A spokesperson for the True Mountain Lakes Sky Ultra said: “After 10 days of perfect weather, the gods decided to give the runners plenty of great Lakeland cyclonic systems smashing into the west coast.

“With winds reaching 65kph on the tops, the runners headed up the long ridgeline of Low Pike, High Pike and Dove Crag to receive a royal battering across the tops of Hart Crag, Fairfield and the Helvellyn massif.

“Joe Faulkner and his Nav4Adventure safety team were out on the course early, with instructions to make the on-the-spot decisions about the course.

“With high winds and plenty of rain it was pretty audacious for the race directors Andrew Burton and Charles Sproson to keep to the full course, but with such a strong and experienced field of runners, both of them agreed with the felltop safety team that the race should stand as is.

The race included difficult ascents. Photo: True Mountain

The race included difficult ascents. Photo: True Mountain

“With the risk of injury on Pinnacle Ridge, the crux climb of the course, the Nav4 safety team made the call to remove this section from the race, completely backed by Andrew and Charles.

“This allowed a faster ascent of St Sunday Crag, bringing the runners to the col between Birks and St Sunday slightly quicker.

“Jim Mann started to put the pressure on and moved from fourth place into third, chasing Gareth Hughes down as fast as he could. With Gareth only making it through the Kirkstone Pass checkpoint five minutes before Jim, this gave him an extra boost – he had made 15 minutes up on Gareth over the second half of the race.

“Really flying now, like his shorts were on fire, Jim Mann put in the most amazing effort up Red Screes to win the uphill ‘super stage’ and continued this effort to make 3½ minutes on Gareth and win the downhill super stage and come in a close third place.

“In the ladies race Sarah Ridgeway continued to stay in front of [Beth] Pascall to scoop the first place in the ladies’ open, Beth coming in second and Zoe Salt came in to take the ladies third place.

“In the male vets 45, Mike Robinson, Dark Peak Club member, put in possibly the best effort of all the competitors to cross the line in first place, fifth overall, looking completely battered, but very happy indeed.”

Second place went to Dave Cumins, a Dragon’s Back Race 2015 finisher, who said: ‘It’s been my best birthday yet’. Third place went to Phil Clayton, a Black Combe fellrunner.

Runners make a swift descent during the event. Photo: True Mountain

Runners make a swift descent during the event. Photo: True Mountain

Steph Scott, Northumberland Fell Runner and Ultra-Runner.com Trail Team member, took the Ladies vets 45 first place. No other women’s vet finished the 50km (31-mile) race.

Organisers said Eirik Haugsnes claimed the course to be very hard, equalling European events such as the Tromsø Sky Race in Norway and Trofeo Kima in Italy. He commented on the extremely technical nature of the course and found the ascents very steep, saying: ‘it was not possible to run the hills; I had to walk’.

Gareth Hughes said it was quite easily the hardest race he had done so far. “Classic fell running combined with technical ridgelines made for a daring concept when faced with severe rain and gales on the day.

“As a climber I felt at ease on Swirral Edge and Striding Edge and felt the greatest challenge had to be the technical descents such as that off Nethermost Pike, with the added thrill of river crossings and steep grassy slopes that could only be ascended with large clumps of grass in hand. It made for a truly unique experience.”

Sarah Ridgeway said the Lakes Sky Ultra was a race that lures you in then spits you out. “You have to look deep into yourself to just finish.

A runner refuels during the race. Photo: Andy Jackson

A runner refuels during the race. Photo: Andy Jackson

“The initial gentle climb lulled me into a false sense of security. I was in my element encased in cloud and lashed by driving rain, then the course really showed i’s teeth. The scrambling proved a welcome distraction from what really made it so tough: the merging of traditional fellrunning terrain, tussock, bog, and steep vegetated climbs that could only be attacked on all fours.

“Your fight almost exhausts but you reach the aid station at half-way and the atmosphere, support and coffee enliven you to battle on to finally be rewarded with, dare I say, a kind descent to the finish. I’ll not forget this race – the hardest in the UK Sky Running calendar so far and a fantastic experience.”

Jim Mann added: “This course has it all; steep climbs, fun scrambling ridges, technical terrain and fast runnable descents. I will be back for sure.”

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