Climbing Mountain Marathon Orienteering Running

2023 review

As previewed in my blog post a year ago, this has been a year of change. Pippa had decided the stresses of academic life need not be forever, so she started an 18 month sabbatical to see if a life in the outdoors would suit her, working as a climbing and mountaineering instructor. In May we left Durham where we had lived since 2009 (and for some years earlier in the 2000’s) and moved to Kendal in the Lake District to be nearer the hills.

Since then, Pippa’s time has been spent on training and assessment for the necessary qualifications, taking on bits of work to get to know the industry, shadowing other professionals to gain experience, and starting to build her brand and discover her market. You can now find her at Lakes Climber (including a review of her first 8 months) and Facebook and she is very much open for bookings! She passed her Rock Climbing Instructor qualification in May (which allows you to instruct on indoor walls and “single pitch” crags – formerly called the Single Pitch Award), did the 9-day training for her Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor award (which allows you to do “everything” outside winter conditions – multi-pitch climbing, scrambling, sea cliffs, teaching climbing, etc.), and has booked her 5-day MCI assessment for next May. Fingers crossed!

I’ve been somewhat following in Pippa’s footsteps, did my Mountain Leader (ML) at the same time in 2021, RCI training in 2022, and joined her on some practices with a Durham scout group, Durham Uni Mountaineering Club, and various friends. I’ve also been a dummy client, dangling on the end of a rope while she practices rescuing me! I now have my own RCI assessment booked at the end of February. Who knows where it could lead, and there have definitely been times when it has been gorgeous weather outside, and I’ve been very jealous of her heading out, when I have to “look forward” to 8 hours in front of a computer screen. However it isn’t all like that, and she assures me on many days with clients she is at some point wet, cold, bored or all three (obviously not with any of our lovely friends she has been out with!!). We’ll see…

Sunny day instructing with Durham University Mountaineering Club
Pretending to enjoy the rain while being dummy clients on a scrambling day with Pippa – fortunately Lorna’s boundless enthusiasm and fudge saw us through!

Orienteering has been a game of two halves this year. I came into the New Year frustrated with too many niggling ankle, calf and hamstring injuries since I turned 40. So in January I decided to put that right, I got into a regular habit of strength exercises 3 times a week, thought about what I ate and lost 4kg, stayed healthy and clear of winter colds, and put in a solid stretch of training (mostly just steady runs, as hill reps and intervals have led quickly to injury in recent years). I was rewarded with various successes in M45 – Northern Champion, then British Long Champion (only second time since the first in 2018), and then a very pleasing JK coming second overall and winning the second day on super technical terrain in Bigland. Since coming to the Lakes I also entered and won the OMM Lite in Grasmere which was a fun new format of two day racing (see report here).

M45 British Orienteering Champion!

Sadly it all came crashing down, literally, in June when I was out rock climbing on Great Central Route at Dow Crag, Coniston, and fell off while leading. Protection held, but I did fall several metres, in a pendulum, and bashed my ankle on a ledge. Managed to hobble the mile back to the car, but next day it wasn’t weight-bearing. A&E confirmed it was “only” a very bad sprain. That meant zero running for 3 months, then a further 2 months very slowly building it up, then 1 month with a persistent cold/cough!

Dow Crag – Great Central Route is in the dark forboding gully on the right of the crag

Although recovery wasn’t all bad. I did lots of road biking when I couldn’t run, and with the recent move there were loads of places to go exploring, both west of Kendal into the Lakes (including the big passes like Kirkstone, Wrynose, and Hardknott) and east into the Yorkshire Dales. we also got away in the summer for a week of orienteering at the OOCup in Slovenia. I shuffled slowly round, but through careful navigation and completing all days (as others fell by the wayside), and perhaps jogging a bit against the physio’s advice, managed to sneak 3rd in M45, while Pippa took victory in W45! Pot of jam each and free entry to a Slovenian multi-day next year – we’ll be back! Then it was on to help coach the GBR team at some World Cup races in the sandstone towers of the Czech Republic – fun to get to know and work with the team, and a bonus to be there for a GBR sprint gold medal.

Notwithstanding the foray into the forest above, I’m just running again in December now, and hoping for a better 2024! Big goals for next year are to navigate smoothly to some great results at the big O competitions like the JK, finally do the Paddy Buckley Round (I was planning to do it just the weekend after I did my ankle), and get to some Lakeland Classics fell races.

My work continues with Microsoft. As I was already working predominantly from home, the move to Kendal was fairly easy for me, and occasionally trips to the office in London take about the same time (still prefer east coast mainline to Avanti west coast though!). It has been a busy year where my team launched the new Azure Operator Insights service providing AI-driven analytical insights to telecommunications operators, working closely with our lead customer Three and various other operators.

Meanwhile Pippa – alongside her instructing work – has taken a part time role as an engagement officer at Vision of Adventure, a charity giving opportunities for the visually impaired to have fun in the outdoors, climbing, caving, canoeing, cycling and swimming.

We really landed on our feet in Kendal, finding a flat to rent from a friend at just the right moment. We’ve still got our house in Durham and are renting it out and learning the joys of being landlords, with missed rent payments and a broken garage door. Through the year I’ve had half an eye on Rightmove, then we started looking at a couple of places, and in November had an offer accepted on a house. It was built circa 1850, has some “character” and the survey revealed quite a bit of work needed. It’ll be a “project” but we have secured the services of a good local builder and it should be fantastic when it is complete.

Hopefully becoming our new home in Kendal

Speaking of projects, as a parting “present” to orienteering in the North East I’m continuing to coordinate the British Long and Relay Championships near Whitby, North Yorkshire in April 2024. Get your entry in now! Lots to do, but it is the sort of organising I perversely quite enjoy. Fingers crossed it doesn’t go the way of the last major orienteering event I was coordinating (the JK 2020…).

Flyer for the British Orienteering Championships 2024 which I’m coordinating

Meanwhile we have switched allegiances to Lakeland Orienteering Club (LOC) and looking forward to running for them in 2024. It was a bit worrying that the committee seemed to have a big argument and the chair resigned a week after we joined, but I’m sure they are a great club, and certainly have lots going on. I’m trying to keep a low profile and avoid too much volunteering until British Champs are out the way, but I’m sure I’ll get sucked in at some point, and I’m really looking forward to regular O training, day and night, on quality Lakes terrain – roll on 2024, it is going to be a great one!!

Quality Lake District Orienteering terrain