I had a blast over the week!
I arrived on the Saturday after an amazingly clear run-up from Somerset and settled into my campsite on the edge of Ullswater Lake.
Day 1 (Sunday) was Swindale South, an open fell with many contours, rock detail and mostly dry marsh. I had the advantage of starting 4 minutes behind @Pete on the same course which meant I had a visible target after he lost a few minutes on control 3. Navigation was quite easy, but I struggled with hill fitness but kept chipping down the gap until I lost a few minutes at control 6. I pushed for the next few legs making back some of the lost time until I under-shoot control 9, got disorientated and lost almost 14 minutes. Back to the campsite for a swim in the lake and an early night!
Day 2 (Monday) was Threlkeld Knotts (and Common) an open fell with contour detail, loose rocks and boulder fields. It was a fairly epic 1.5km 200m climb up to the start to enjoy the sunshine and light breeze. It was @Jeff.Pakes turn to be just ahead at the start. Unfortunately, I failed to execute my plan to control 1, so I was out of place when I turned into the control. The error was re-inforced by seeing Jeff, who happened to be too high looking like he had just punched control 1 - 5 minutes lost.
The rest of the course went ok - a few minor errors but nothing significant. I met Jeff again at control 9, looking for a boulder hidden in waist-high grass, and the rest of the course went to plan. Across a 77-minute course, there were just 10 seconds between myself and Pete.
After day 2, most QOs headed to Andy and Rosie’s campsite to share a (Cornish) cream team, and it was lovely to spend some time together before heading to my pub for the evening.
After an early morning swim in Lake Windermere and a cooked breakfast, I headed to Dale Park for Day 3 - an area of largely runnable steep oak woodland with lots of intricate rock and contour detail and an adjacent conifer plantation of lower visibility. I absolutely loved the detailed and intricate mapping.
I had a few minor wobbles but ultimately came unstuck towards the end, losing 9 minutes on a control - it was so frustrating as I knew where I was just outside the circle but could not come into the control at the right height. Overall a better result than the previous days.
For the rest day, I relaxed and headed out on Lake Windermere for a few hours to do some stand-up body boarding in the sunshine.
Day 4, Raven Crag, was on the other side of the valley from the same assembly as day 3. It is a varied forest with a wealth of contour and rock detail (with low visibility conifer plantations and very steep cliffs). Again I really enjoyed the terrain, made a few small and one large 10-minute errors, and had a similar result to the day before.
QO were late starters, and a group of us were nearly the last to leave the parking area as we chatted all things orienteering and mourned the destruction of Rosie’s O shoes.
The final day was Helsington Barrows, a highly runnable open fell with areas of loose rock and some contour detail. The temperature was unbearable, and I really struggled on the terrain - I just could not make the terrain match the map, and I kept getting pulled offline, putting me out of position. I was done halfway round and just wanted it to end. My actual vs planned route from the compulsory wall crossing after control 2 to control 3 highlights how things went:
Overall I really enjoyed my first Lakes 5 Days - the weather really helped, but it was worth the journey for some interesting terrain that I am not used to. Overall I came 21st, so there is definitely some room for improvement!