As we reached the end of the ridge, the wind hit us squarely in the face. We were hoping the track would drop away to the south. It didn't.
This wasn't a great surprise. We already knew we were lost and, as we had stumbled along in the fog, had decided that the path we were following was most probably not a path at all. The steep scree face that barred our way was not an obstacle. It was the closest thing to a "you are here" sign than we could have hoped for. As we now knew exactly where we were on the map, we turned tail and scurried off in search of the next control.
The morning had started well enough: on the whole we were moving well, the temperature was perfectly manageable (Koulin 3/4s and a short sleeve shirt under my Gravitas had been an ideal choice). Although there wasn't much rain at that point, the weather before the event had been really wet. This made for slimy rocks and slippery mud. Whilst far from treacherous, it certainly demanded care and slowed our pace. Pushing to raise our speed, we overshot the first control, despite passing within metres of it. Very annoying, but a timely reminder to move at the pace of our navigation and not to navigate at the speed we can run.
As we gained altitude, the wind picked up and the mist dropped to meet us. Soon the viability was down to 10 metres with constantly moving strands of cloud chaotically rushing around us. With the tricky conditions and early mistakes we were extra careful with the navigation. It paid dividends as the next few controls appeared out of gloom in front of our compasses. Soon, thanks to route choice, we were yo-yoing with several teams of stronger runners, which was heartening.
Approaching Wrynose pass and control 4, it was already apparent that we were up against the clock. The fog cleared for long enough to speed our run to the 5th control. Until this point, our category - Combined Course - had been racing to the same controls. Now we all split up as we could now chose four controls from a list of 7. This meant runners heading off in many directions and routes varied greatly. At this point we chose to climb rather than take a longer route around. In hindsight this was a mistake: we ended up lost on the ridge.
Once back on track, the next three controls were ticked off in quick succession. We made a push for the final optional control, but as the wind picked up further and the fog darkened we realised we had to call it: we were out of light and out of time to complete the course. We briefly toyed with spending the night on the hill and making our way back to the start the following day. However we had an easy escape route to Coniston, so donning our head torches and opening the beers we had carried for the camp, that was where we headed.
Today was a gentle reminder how easily things can go wrong. We made a few mistakes, but (I think) on the whole made sensible decisions: there were no catastrophes. It just seemed that many small elements slowed us down and we couldn't move around the course as quickly as necessary. Only six teams made it through the first day of our course within the time limit, so it was certainly a tough year. I cant wait to see what next year holds.