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Four Passes

26-Sep-2020 Borrowdale, Lake District, Cumbria, UK (England)


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Mountains Race Race Terrain
31KM / 19Miles
1 Day - 220 Runners

DIFFICULTY Race Difficulty Intermediate  

Entry From £30 GBP

Four Passes was originally put on by the warden of Borrowdale Youth Hostel and was run from there for many years. It fell into disuse before Bob took the route on and organised the challenge for the LDWA, but it is no longer on their calendar and we believe it is too good a route not to be used as an event.

It is an absolutely classic 19(ish) miles route taking in four of the Lake Districts most scenic valleys and their adjoining passes. It is a circular route which starts and finishes at Rosthwaite Village Hall in Borrowdale, at the southern end of Derwent Water.

The first pass takes you to Sty Head Tarn situated between the Scafell Massif and Great Gable before dropping to the beautiful but always dramatic Wasdale with Cumbria's deepest lake. Onto the second which is Black Sail Pass & the third Scarth Gap, which happens to be the easiest ascent of the day & gives views of Haystacks, Wainwrights resting place to the right. The fourth and final pass is an old miners path and is probably the hardest of the day but you will take in an old miners building on your way to the top of Honisters Pass before returning down to the village hall.

The views all day are fantastic... but never forget to look behind for those sights are equally as stunning.

Entries cost £30 and include a full route description, timing, fully stocked checkpoints with a variety of food (you will be spoilt for choice),  professional photographers, a hot meal at the end and a medal for all finishers. Start times are 8.30am for walkers and 9.30am for all runners and everyone must be finished by 5.30pm.

This event is held in September this year but among the Cumbrian Fells and they demand to be respected, all entrants must carry full body cover waterproof kit, basic first aid kit, emergency food, at least 500ml of fluid, map & compass (and know how to use them).

Local accommodation is available in nearby Youth Hostels, campsite or Bed & Breakfast. We have organised limited free parking in the nearby field which will be signposted on the day and there is also hardstanding car park next to the village hall which is free to members of the National Trust or approximately £7.50 per day or Scafell Hotel overflow car park for around £3-£4 per day.


Event Organiser
Jeff Mitchell



Elevation: Very little change < 500 metres. Benign running terrain, not technical.

Suitable for: First ultra runners completing a marathon or doing regular long distance running in the last six months.


Elevation: Increase of up to 1000 metres

Suitable for: Runners who have completed at least one ultra distance race (or similar event) or are doing long distance running (>26 miles) regularly, with elevation shown.


Elevation: Increase of up to 1500 metres

Suitable for: Runners who have completed several ultra distances or similar events, or are doing long distance running regularly, with elevation shown.


Elevation: Increase of up to 2000 metres with some challenging climatic conditions (e.g. ice, snow, humidity or heat) and or technical terrain

Suitable for: Experienced runners who have completed at least regular ultra distances in last 12 months, or are doing regular long distance running (>50 miles) with elevation and conditions shown (where possible). Admission to these races may be subject to evidence of recent qualifying race participation and recent medical examination certificate. Check with the race organiser regarding entry requirements.


Elevation: Increase of up to 2000 metres with very challenging climatic conditions (e.g. ice, snow, humidity, heat or at high altitude) and or technical terrain.

Suitable for: Very experienced long distance ultra runners (min 3 years’ experience) or are doing regular long distance running (>50 miles) with elevation and conditions shown (where possible). Admission to these races is often subject to evidence of recent qualifying race participation and recent medical examination certificate. Purchase of specialist kit is often recommended for these races.

Endurance - Multi-activity

Type: An ultra distance race including at least two of the following activities such as running, swimming, cycling, kayaking, skiing and climbing. It may also include different climatic conditions (eg ice, snow, humidity, cold water, mud or heat).

Suitable for: Experienced multi-skilled athletes who have trained for the different activities included in this event. Admission to these races may be subject to receipt of a recent medical examination certificate. Check with the race organiser regarding entry requirements and any specialist equipment required such as a wetsuit, skis or a mountain bike.

Global - Virtual

Type: A virtual race which can be run at any time shown on the dates shown, on any type of terrain in any country.

Suitable for: For runners from beginners to experienced as you choose your own course and challenge based on the guidelines and options set by the virtual race organiser.

Review Four Passes

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07:18 18-10-17

I ran this race in October 2017. The name of the race tells the story: you run over four fantastic passes in the Lake District. The basic stats show around 18.5 miles of distance and 5500 feet of ascent and equally important, descent. I say this because the descents are very tough.

This is run by Ascend Events, a small family based organisation, and I cannot fault them in any way. The distance may not be “ultra”, but this is a very decent test. The whole route is very technical. Hardly ever are you able to run without concentrating on where you are putting your feet due to rocks, tree roots, streams, bogs etc. The climbs are steep and sustained. The descents are very demanding. Take your eye off the game for a second and you could be upside down before you know it. Add in the weather…

This is a true beauty of a route. I would say that you need to consider it seriously if you are a novice to this environment. It’s not easy, you need to carry the correct gear etc. It’s not a walk in the park, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it (there is a walking option too if you prefer). The checkpoints are well manned and well stocked, the route is pretty easy to follow and a gpx file is available. The personal touch is there too. I happened to express my liking for cheese and pickle sandwiches to Jeff (maybe more than once!). When I finished, he didn’t give me a medal but a cheese and pickle sandwich! True class.

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11:08 16-10-17

I wrote a full review of this event after its first running in 2016 (see below). The minor issues I mentioned from last year were fully resolved and everything was organised to perfection. I just wanted to briefly update my review as I had a very different race this year. The conditions were incredibly wet, there had been flooding earlier in the week and although it was unseasonably mild at low levels, it was much colder in the wind at the top of the passes. I made some fundamental errors by not adding extra layers quickly enough and not drinking enough. Once I started to get cold I wasn't able to move enough to stay warm and I got too confused to remember to drink and too shivery to open any food. I was starting to become hypothermic and was very lucky to get help from a walker and several runners who assisted me to the checkpoint. I have learned a lot of lessons about the importance of layering up before I start to get cold - once your core temperature drops there's no going back. I cannot say enough about how well I was looked after by the Ascend Events team. The checkpoint volunteer who took care of me initially clearly knew exactly what she was doing in assessing the situation and providing the necessary treatment to get me well enough to be taken to the finish. Once there, I was never left alone and was treated with incredible kindness. My friends were alerted to bring me dry clothes and I recovered quickly once warm. Had I not had such good care, it would have quickly progressed to a medical emergency.

No one else suffered from hypothermia that day, so it was definitely the mistakes I made that caused it, and I've learned some valuable lessons. If you love the Lakes then you will love this race and the organisers do everything possible to make it a good day out and excellent value for money. If you enter, please do not underestimate how much the temperature and conditions change as you climb and how slowly you will have to move if the weather is bad - this is seriously technical terrain and wet rock needs to be treated with respect. Make sure you drink even if you don't feel like you're sweating. The mandatory kit is there for a reason. If you're sensible then this race is definitely doable.

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01:19 22-03-17

I ran this in 2016, and what a beauty it is! At around 18 miles, it is short in terms of distance but long in terms of quality.

Starting and finishing in Rosthwaite, this route takes you, as the name suggests, through four passes. Basically you climb and then descend. Repeat another three times and you are done. The climbs are steep and tough but so rewarding. The descents are at times technical and difficult but also they are runnable if you are used to this sort of terrain.

This is run by Ascend Events, which is a small family run business, and this shines through. It is so friendly and well organised with attention to detail especially on the food front (always a plus in my opinion). Tea and toast at registration. Well stocked checkpoints (cheese and pickle sandwiches hit my spot) and a hot meal at the end. Tea in a proper mug rather than a plastic one. All for a very reasonable price.

If you are venturing into this sort of running for the first time, then I’d advise caution. It is very tricky in places and the weather could be anything. However, if you have run shorter races in this terrain and want to move up to something longer I would say that this was an ideal step.

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03:20 17-10-16

I ran this in 2016 - the first time this route was organised by Ascend Events and a great debut for them. A couple of minor issues that will no doubt be addressed next year - the route was actually around 18 miles and a couple of grid references need checking. Other than that, this was a fantastic day out and exceptional value for money.

Communication prior to the race was great and the kit list is sensible for the terrain without being excessive. This race will appeal to runners who like lots of elevation and technical terrain and are prepared to deal with whatever the Lakes throw at you weather wise! Conditions this year were great for October but there was torrential rain and gales the next day, so it can get very cold up there when you're moving slowly at this time of year. The route description and gpx file mean you don't need to be a brilliant navigator, but it is mostly an unmarked route, so a recce run or running in a group is a good idea if you aren't confident.

I'm the first to admit that I am out of my comfort zone on the sheer rocky descents. I don't think I would've attempted this earlier in my running life. I did a fair amount of hiking and took just under 5 hours, but the climbs give you a real buzz and there are plenty of runnable sections. Those more confident on technical terrain would find it much more runnable. I loved the challenge, the time flew as I was so focused on the technicalities of the course. Anyone unsure if this is for them would benefit from a recce run to get a feel for the terrain. It's probably not a race for anyone that usually races on flat roads and it certainly isn't a fast route. If you like a challenge and you want to run somewhere breathtaking, then this race is ideal!

The volunteers and organisation on the day were outstanding. Little things make a difference - tea in proper mugs at the start and finish was lovely. There was toast at the start and fantastic chilli at the finish. Two of the four CPs has food and drink and they were very well stocked with plenty to choose from - there are longer and more expensive races that could learn a lot from this event. Everyone from photographers to volunteers pouring tea was lovely and helpful and Jeff did a great job of ensuring it was a fantastic day.

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