WHAT some described as perfect racing conditions set the stage for a battle of epic proportions between some of the North’s leading fell runners at this year’s Great Whernside fell race.

As soon as the race commenced over the brutal first climb, Pudsey and Bramley’s Joe Baxter was challenged all the way by the Wharfedale Harriers’ trio of Ted Mason, Sam Watson and Robin Howie.

As the foursome fought their way to Hag Dyke, over the famous bogs and eventual moonscape like summit, the order fluctuated.

The legendary bogs beyond Hag Dyke failed to slow these seasoned runners as they all negotiated a firm-based line covered only by a little surface water.

This was a surprise to all as recent heavy rain should have guaranteed the more usual man-eating marshes of myth and legend.

More tussling for position took place on the descent with Baxter taking the win in 29min 40sec from Howie (30:59) and Mason (31:19), pushing Watson into fourth place.

The ladies race was no less of a battle on the ascent as Ambleside’s Lou Roberts, Swaledale’s Sarah Hackett, Wharfedale’s Monica Padilla and Ilkley Harriers' Helen Thurston battled all the way to the summit.

As with the men, positions altered during the ascent with the final order being determined on the descent. Roberts took the crown in 39:55 from Thurston (41:01) and Padilla (41:27).

After the race many described it as a fantastic race and all but a small minority found a dry route across the marshy flatlands between Hag Dyke and the hand over fist climb to the summit.

Route choices from the summit trig back to the bogs determined the final pecking order with local knowledge and a lack of fear in high demand.