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Tour de Helvellyn

Lakes Mountain 42

Pennine 39

Lakes Mountain 42

Tour de Helvellyn


2016 will be the sixth TdeH which has fast become a classic winter mountain run,  traditionally run on the shortest Saturday in December.  The route starts at Askham and runs around Helvellyn, predominately on mountain trails and bridleways, but climbing to a height of nearly 600m, and a distance of around 38 miles.

  • A winter run of this type is tough and requires good navigational skills, experience and self reliance.
  • The event is ‘low key’ with minimal support and all participants will need to be suitably experienced and equipped.

The route remains  as per the original; a tough circuit around Helvellyn starting and finishing at Askham on the edge of the Lakes. The distance is 38 miles with several thousand feet of ascent and descent. The terrain is tough mountain trails and so fell running and navigational skills are essential. Entries are limited and strictly limited to experienced and competent entrants. This is not an event for novice trail runners…!

What you need to know:

Entry Pre/Post Race Accomodation Route
Registration Controls Kit


  • Entry is £35 per person, including the hire and use of an SI ‘dibber’, which will be issued to you at registration.
  • It is a condition of entry that you are suitably experienced and have the skills necessary to look after yourself in very challenging terrain and conditions. This is no ordinary trail run, but needs winter hill running experience.
  • To enter, ensure you have read all the details below and then enter via the registration page at SportIdent.
  • There is a limit of  just 200 runners on this event.
  • You can edit your entry subsequently, if you wish to book accommodation or amend your details, etc.

Pre/Post Race Accommodation

We’ll also have floor space available at Askham in the Community Centre, on Friday and Saturday nights at a cost of £5 pppn.  Accommodation is limited and must be booked in advance.    The Queens Head in Askham has been popular with some runners over the past three years and is right next door to the event centre.    Bank House B&B in Penrith is also highly recommended.  There is also the Wayfarers Hostel in Penrith which may be an option, especially for those coming by train;  taxi or lift sharing is possible, being just five miles from Askham race HQ.


Registration is open on Friday evening between 8pm and 10pm, and again from 6.00am. You may start at any time from 7.00am – 9-00am, but be aware that Control 2 at Side Farm,  Patterdale, does not open before 9.30am and closes at 11.45am. You choose your start time, but you must not arrive at Side Farm before 9:30am

allowing for a quick kit check on start line. Askham Community Centre will be a ‘Quiet Zone’ between 11.00pm and 5.00am due to people sleeping.   Please do not arrive after 11pm.  Car parking is at a premium, so please share cars where possible and park as directed.  Small Campervans are permitted in the car park but we need to be parked very close, and at the back of the car park on the hard grass area.


  • All of the route follows footpaths, bridleways or minor lanes in a logical sequence around Helvellyn, but it is unmarked and you need to navigate.  No route description is issued; as competent navigators you won’t need one!
  • Start and finish at Askham Community Centre (513 237).  Road track and paths over Barton Fell to Howtown and Control 1 at Martindale Church (435 191) a self-clip control, hence no drinks.
  • Minor roads and then a bridleway track takes you up Boardale and over Boardale Hause to Control 2,  Side Farm (398 162) This will be a manned control with hot and cold drinks and simple savoury ‘nibbles’.  This control will open at 9.30am.  You must not arrive before 9.30am, if you do so you will be required to wait. Anyone passing through before 9.30am will be disqualified. These times are well tried and tested, and there for very good reasons.
  • There is also a cut-off at Side Farm CP2 (outward)  at 11.45am.  Hence you need to plan and pace your run, and choose your start time. If you arrive after 11.45am you will be short-routed back to Askham by the same outward route.
  • Road, track and bridleway up to Greenside and Control 3 at Swart Beck Footbridge (359 179). This is a Manned Control – but is remote from the road and has no drinks available, although the tumbling waters of the beck underneath might be flowing underneath, subject to freeze weather.
  • Follow the bridleway over open and exposed mountain terrain, passing Sticks Pass to descend to Control 4 at Stannah Beck footpath / Bridleway junction / finger post (321 189)
  • Follow the footpath generally southwards to CP 5 Swirls car park (317 168) 
  • Run along forest trails to Control CP6 at Birkside Ghyll (326 124).  Then ascend Raise Beck, then past Grisedale Tarn takes you down Grisedale to Patterdale and Control CP7 at Side Farm (398 162)  Once again, this is a manned control with hot and cold drinks and simple savoury nibbles.  There is also a cut off 4:30pm, and anyone arriving after this time will be transported back to Askham.
  • Finally, retrace your outward route back over Boardale Hause, to Martindale Church (Control CP8 at 435 191) and then to the Finish at Askham Community Centre (513 237)
  • Warning – Be careful with your navigation from ‘The Cockpit’ Stone Circle and on towards Askham. There are several confusing paths and too many competent runners have gone astray due to poor navigation. Don’t lose concentration in the dark; this is relatively simple ground …. especially as you came this way earlier in the day!
  • Retirements – Basically, we don’t want any, especially at Swirls as it’s a long drive around and the roads may be sketchy!   If you get to Patterdale CP2 and feel the full route is too much for you, you are requested to turn around and return via the outward route, thus complete a shorter day under your own steam.  It is a big rough climb upto Sticks Pass and down to Swirls CP.  Short routing yourself is better than a ‘DNF’ or a long cold wait in Thirlmere.

If you retired from the event it is very important that you report the finish and return your SI card to us.   At the finish…. We’ll keep the tea and coffee flowing until your ready for the famous  ‘Joe’s Soup’ along with more tea and cakes…   Controls We’ll be using SI timing so that you can compare those important split times. All controls are ‘self-dibbing’ SI boxes; some at unmanned controls and some at manned control points with drinks, and simple ‘nibbles, etc. Full details of control points, with a description, are on the website now.  It is your responsibility to ensure you ‘dib’ at each SI control.  We don not intend to make any changes, but if we need to do so you will be notified at registration. Please check you have them correctly marked on your map. You will also be issued with a race number which must be worn on your front, or rucsac, and visible to event staff at each manned control. This manual system is vital to your safety .   Kit List The first two years of the TdeH were run in epic and awe inspiring conditions, and the third and fourth in very wet and windy conditions, which produced just as much windchill and danger of hypothermia.  We don’t want to cancel due to poor weather, and so you really need to be equipped to enjoy and survive your run.   Several people suffered in 2012 and 02013 due to not carrying enough warm clothing,  and not putting it on when needed. It’s not wise to skimp on anything at this time of weather.

Your kit will be checked on the start line. Our kit check is real and worthwhile and conducted by very experienced mountain runners. It should be short and brief; don’t skimp on your gear.

  • Waterproof Jacket with hood, waterproof over trousers. Pertex only based ‘running’ jackets are simply not acceptable.  As much as I like Montane as a brand, their Featherlite Pants are not waterproof. Consider a full-weight ‘mountain jacket’ if conditions are extreme.  Paramo is acceptable, of course.
  • Long sleeved thermal ‘base layer’ shirt, plus an additional long sleeved micro-fleece mid-layer.
  • A third additional ’emergency’, retirement layer, such as a primaloft gilet or jacket, is very strongly recommended.
  • Warm hat and gloves/mitts (and may be spare ones too in case you fall over!)  Spare ‘inners’ inside water resistant shell mitts are a very good idea.  Gloves or mitts need to be warm and weather resistant.
  • All the above gear needs to be good quality  ‘winter weight’ gear, and not just normal lightweight running stuff. For example, a single ‘Buff’ does not qualify for a hat.  A second ‘base-layer’ is not acceptable as a mid-layer.
  • Long thermal leg wear.  Ok  we know we have a few die-hards, so shorts may be worn if conditions and personal preference allow – but long leg wear must be carried, and in addition to over trousers.  Three quarter length tights are also Ok, in all but extreme weather and when combined with good waterproof overtrousers, although shin protection has been worthwhile in previous year’s due to snow crusts!
  • Personally, I do not regard ‘Skins’ or other compression garments as warm / thermal winter wear when used on their own; but over thermal tights they are OK.
  • Headtorch – even for the fastest, even if it is just a small emergency light.
  • Food / drink – and plenty of it!   Two Controls will provide savoury ‘nibbles’ to supplement your own food*
  • Compass, whistle, SURVIVAL BAG  and emergency food.
  • First Aid Kit – Minimum of one 5x5cm wound dressing and a roll of tape or bandage.
  • A map suitable to navigate you around the route – it’s your choice. A GPS or SATMAP is not a map and not acceptable.  The BMC Mountain Map is recommended, although the start and finish at Askham is just off the map!   Map choice is up to you; as long as it is suitable for you to navigate safely around the route, at a scale that you can use, and is weatherproofed, that is OK.  But, please be realistic …no black and white paper photocopies, super cut down strip maps, or similar!
  • You need to mark your map up before the event – all info is listed on the website before the event, with any last minute updates notified at registration.   A route description or control card is not provided on the day.
  • Mug and/or drinks bottledisposable plastic cups are not routinely provided at controls on NAV4 events as this just creates litter, is not at all eco friendly, and is an unnecessary chore for our long suffering checkpoint staff.
  • So please bring a mug if you want a drink!  Carrying a large plastic mug also allows you to grab a drink and carry on walking rather than faffing around at the checkpoint.  Trust me … I know what I’m talking about! 
  • Water canister with taps or funnels will be available for filling bottles and bladder
  • * Please be aware … that we have suffered frozen pipes, blocked sinks and impassable roads …be prepared.
  • Finally, if you have any FAQ’s then send me an email, or post it on our facebook page – NAV4 Adventure

OK – That’s it – let’s be safe and have some fun – see you in December!