THE Coniston Gullies Fell race is one the shortest on the BOFRA calendar but it is by far one of the most exhilarating.

It starts on the relatively flat track at the base of Pate Bield but soon shows it’s teeth with a sharp right turn up Long Crag.

Very quickly, horizontal running gives way to near vertical climbing. From here until the top, it is not running speed but thigh strength and the skill of crawling that count.

A true lung-buster of a race, the scramble to the top is unrelenting and not for the feint hearted or unfit.

Once the summit at Yew Pike is reached, there is a short horizontal section before a leap of faith into the descent.

If the ascent was a mad scramble, the descent is a mind-numbing near-vertical drop.

Strong ankles and scree riding are the name of the game to speed down to the more grassy fell base.

Just as the thighs are beginning to burn from the strength sapping climb and steep descent there is now the “sprint” back along the track to the very welcome finish line.

This year’s very dry late spring ensured that the ground was hard and the scree was dry and fast leading to some spectacular descents.

Despite the very technical nature of the race, a record 72 seniors lined up for the challenge along with 104 juniors.

In the senior race, Mercia’s Simon Bailey demonstrated the advantage of experience over youth as he was first to the summit, closely followed by the younger Josh Jardine of Helm Hill.

First to the top is not a passport to supremacy as Jardine perfectly displayed in this race.

Youth won the day as Jardine seemed to float over the scree and charge along the track to win the race in 14min10sec, setting a new record for the revised route.

Bailey sped into the finish funnel in second place in 14:45) with Borrowdale’s Ted Ferguson third in 15:02).

Sharon Taylor made it a double for Helm Hill as she powered across the finish line to win the ladies race in 20:35, chased all the way by Pudsey and Bramley’s Rachel Pilling and Wharfedale Harriers’ Jean Powell who were second and third respectively.

The under-17 race follows a different route up Mouldry Bank to Rascal How and back.

While less technical than the senior race it is no less challenging a climb for these younger runners.

Continuing the club’s winning form, Helm Hill’s Robert Askew charged home to win in 9:16 followed by Keighley and Craven’s Eric Beaumont (9:40) and Helm Hill’s Ollie Sanders (9:42).

Ilkley Harriers’ own power house Bernadette Raven won the girls race in 11:25 with Ambleside’s Holly Dobson second in 12:59.

Another fine Helm Hill athlete, Alex Tallon, won the under-14 race in 6:25.

This race follows part of the senior course, turning part way up Long Crag. Calder Valley’s William Hall sprinted into the finish in second place (6.26), just ahead of Ambleside’s James Bowen.

The girls’ race had a thrilling conclusion as Otley’s Charlotte Rawstron stormed over the finish line to win with a time of 7:23.

Rossendale Harriers’ Evie Taylor was hot on her heals in second place in 7.24. Helm Hill’s Sarah Smith was third in 7:34.

Ambleside’s Rowan Ashworth won the under-12 race in 5.24 from Cumberland Fell Runners’ Mylo Jewell (6.00) who beat Ambleside’s Alex Graham (6.01) in a sprint finish.

Helana White of Clayton-le-Moors won the girls’ race in 6:15 ahead of Leven Valley’s Bethan Saunders (6:21) and Helm Hill’s Elise Tallon (6:35).

The under-nine race might be the shortest and populated by the youngest runners but don’t let their tender age fool anyone into thinking they are not competitive.

The fierce competition begins before the race starts as they jostle for position on the narrow start line.

Once the race commences they battle all the way and never give up. Jamie Dent romped home as the winner in 4:10 followed by Helm Hill’s Joseff Tancrel (4:17) and Wharfedale’s Hugo Bishop (4:21). Helm Hill again filled premier positions in the girls’ race as Emma Ranner won in 4:37 from Isla Jebb (5:06) and Ambleside’s Tess Evans, (5:11).