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Category: Packrafting
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The cumbria packraft ultra is a 150 mile packrafting challenge over the Lake Districts 11 longest lakes.


With 50 miles of paddling and nearly 20,000 feet of ascent on the walking sections it is both a physical and technical challenge.
Prior to August 2021 no one had ever attempted this journey

THE IDEA

Another packraft crazy idea - I thought it it one night drifting of to sleep. Paddliing and walking around the major lakes. Maybe THE most obvious journey to make in the Lake District? OK, pehaps not that obvious as it would be a tough challenge. I plotted it out next day - 150 miles total with 50 miles paddling. 11 Lakes

I asked my friend Alistair if he had a week free for an expedition. He said yes (before I even told him what it was!)

We had 6 days (Alistairs a busy family man) so 25 miles a day that doesn’t sounds too bad?  But then add in your kit (16kg is aboiut minimum with a packraft that will stand up to some abuse and a dog) add on time for change between foot and paddle power (22 x 30 mins is quite a lot of time) and it is mabe a bit tight.

Average walking speed - estimate was 2.5 mph (as about 18,000 feet of ascent)

Average paddling speed (if not windy) - estimate was 2.5mph

So ten hours a day moving time minimum - in reality that would be 12 actual hours. That doesn't leave a lot of room for error!

THE REALITY

Day 1

Paddling along at 3mph at the Southern end of Windermere it seemed like the target for the day (mid Ullswater) would be easy to achieve. But gradually a Northerly wind blew up and by midday we still had two miles to do and by now we should have been in Ambleside.  So we ended the first day a mile or so short of the target. Not a disaster, but it had been a long and tiring day, only stopping at 9pm.

Day 2

The next day we seemed to be catching up on the schedule, but the steep ascent of Sticks Pass slowed us down more than we thought and by the time we reached the Southern end of Thirlmere we were done for! So a slightly early camp below the mist shrouded hills above the lake and  the plan to start early and get as far as we could to Loweswater

Day 3

The steep climb over Watendlath to Derwent Water was OK with fresh legs, we were glad we rested. Calm conditions on the lake meant we kept a good average speed up, and after a shopping trip to Keswick for food we stayed in the Middle Derwent River to Bassenthwaite Lake as water levels were quite high. Calm conditions again on Bassenthwaite Lake helped us and we then had time to push on all the way to Loweswater and get slightly ahead of schedule. The next day involved 4 separate lakes so we knew progress would be slower.

Day 4

Stunning conditions on Loweswater which was like a mirror. We were as efficient as possible with changeovers and reached the climb over to Scarth Gap early afternoon. A tailwind on Ennerdale Water was a bonus and allowed us to get within 5kms of the target distance, which we were quite happy with. Heavy rain all evening and overnight swelled the rivers and streams!

Day 5

Tough walking in the upper Calder valley and very wet all the way to Wastwater. Wet feet and equipment soaking up water made things tougher. We also had to wade a couple of quite deep rivers. The rain relented at Wasdale for a few hours and we pushed on into the gloomy damp evening all the way to the foot of Walna Scar. This was a very arduous day with very poor conditions underfoot for much of the way. Again it started to rain very hard and continued all night.

Day 6

The last day was planned to be shorter so we had 20 miles to do. The rain relented and conditions were good, but our very heavy packs full of saturated equipment were now far heavier than when we started. Coniston Water was busy with holiday makers and we could afford to relax a bit now with time in hand. Alistairs feet were falling to bits though and I think we had both reached our limit! We were very happy to reach Newby Bridge to complete the circuit. The Lakes gave us one more torrential downpour in the last few miles!

STATISTICS

Start - Newby Bridge

Paddle 16km (Windermere)
Walk  16kms (480 metres ascent via Scandale Pass)

Paddle  12km (Ullswater)
Walk  23.5kms (940 metres ascent via Gowbarrow and Sticks Pass)

Paddle  6km (Thirlmere)
Walk  11.5kms (380 metres ascent via Watendlath)

Paddle  5kms (Derwent Water)
Walk or paddle   3.2 kms (follow Middle Derwent river)

Paddle  8kms (Bassenthwaite Lake)
Walk  18.3 kms (340 metres ascent via Wythop Mill)

Paddle  1.8kms (Loweswater)
Walk  3.5 kms (20 metres ascent)

Paddle  4kms (Crummack Water)
Walk  1.4 kms (10 metres ascent)

Paddle  2kms (Buttermere)
Walk  9kms (360 metres ascent via Scarth Gap)

Paddle  3kms (Ennerdale Water)
Walk  24kms (420 metres ascent via Callderskew)

Paddle  3kms (Wast Water)
Walk  26.5kms (1000 metres ascent via Burnmoor Tarn, Eskdale, Duddon and Walna Scar)

Paddle  9kms (Coniston Water)
Walk  9.2kms (300 metres ascent via Ikenthwaite and High Dam)

Finish Newby Bridge

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Day 1 - Newby Bridge  - Windermere - Scandale Pass to mid Ullswater

Day 2 - mid Ullswater - Gowbarrow - Stciks Pass - Thirlmere

Day 3 - Thirlmere  - Watendlath - Derwent Water - Bassentwaite Lake -  Loweswater

Day 4 - Loweswater - Crummock Water - Buttermere - Scarth Gap - Ennerdale Water - Calderskew

Day 5 - Calderkew - Wast Water - Eskdale - Duddon to Foot of Walnda Scar

Day 6 - Walna Scar - Coniston Water - Return to Newby Bridge

You can view the full GPX trace here