An entertaining evening with Joss Naylor in Ambleside

Joss Naylor was once quoted as saying, “I am a man for doing, not saying“. Well, on Saturday evening at Charlotte Mason, Ambleside, he said a lot, and as ever was thoroughly entertaining as he said it. The evening with Joss was part of the Ultra Running Weekend, which was being organised to celebrate 60 years of the Climbers Shop, in Ambleside. It was brilliant to share a stage again with Joss Naylor at this event, and to introduce him, and also interview him and m/c the Q&A session that followed.


Actually Joss fooled me by not following the script, and just bypassing the introductions and going straight into recounting the story of his 1971 International Three Peaks record. But I guess no-one present really needed me to be saying: “He won 10 Lake District Mountain Trials in all. In 1974 he decided to run the Pennine Way and finished in 3 days. Having already done 63 Lakeland peaks in 24 hrs, in 1975 he did 72. Then in 1986 (aged 50) there was all 214 Wainwrights in 7 days.” That would have been part of my intro.


The Three Peaks effort was setup by Frank Davies, who had founded the Climbers Shop (in Ambleside), and just happened to be an experienced rally driver. It involved ascending (ie running up and down) Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon, and starting off from sea level in Fort William to finish at sea level at Caernarvon, having driven at speed between the feet of each mountain. The year before Davies had driven Peter Hall, who did the running, and they managed just over 12 hours. Frank Davies thought it could be done faster. Joss was 36 years old and they had a souped-up Ford Capri for the trip.

A few things I recall from the story Joss wove. Three fast trial runs through Glasgow to get the best route (noticed by a policeman on third, so called it a day). A drunk ferryman at Ballachulish. Filthy weather on the Ben, still up in 1 hour and down in under 30 mins. All achieved in a frankly astonishing 11 hours 52 minutes.


When he paused for breath I was able to ask some of my carefully crafted questions, most of which points he had already covered. How did you stop blisters: “Sheep’s wool wrapped round my toes.” What did you do the next day: “Supported someone on a Bob Graham Round.”

Arms wide

In recognition of the 60 year theme, we then talked about his own effort a little later. This was in 1996 when he did his 60 at 60 Lakeland peaks round. It encompassed 60 summits, 110 miles and 34,000ft in 36 hours. Again a couple of remembered points: Nine months training and a week beforehand unloading a trailer and his back went. He went over Broad Stand with his dog Fly. Billy Bland was pacing him early on and he thought Joss ought to slow down. Two fabulous sunrises would be enough in themselves.


We then had fabulous refreshments provided by the Climbers Shop, before coming back for questions. I was busy compering and can’t remember all that was asked, but they were wide ranging topics: how he kept himself in shape [I think he said cider vinegar every morning]; what the shortest race he ever won was [a local show race]; why support the Brathay Trust [they do excellent work with disadvantaged kids]. Thinking of that statement at the beginning of this blog I finished by asking Joss, “what are you going to do next Joss?” The somewhat unexpected answer was, “behave myself, I guess.” That response has to be taken in the context of him having not been very well recently.

BrathayThe weekend was rounded off by staying in a luxury lodge at Brathay Hall, and having a lovely walk with friends over Reston Scar earlier in the day. Plus squeezing in food at both Wilfs (café) and More? (the artisan bakery) in Staveley Mill Yard at various points. [Photos: Mike Cambray]Reston

Thanks to Kim from Sam Read Books (in Grasmere) for coming to the event and selling a whole bunch of my three fell running books at the event.

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