For history of the Lake District Mountain Trial

The Lake District Mountain Trial was started in 1952 by the Lakeland Regional Group of the Youth Hostels Association as part of their twenty-first anniversary celebrations.

The first Trial started in Langdale, the runners ascending Bowfell, Esk Pike and Scafell Pike in turn and then descending by the corridor route to Styhead. From Styhead the route went up Great Gable, with the return route to Langdale by way of Rossett Gill. Later Trials took a different fixed course, but this was known in advance by the runners. The distance was normally about 29 kms and competitors were started at intervals. Most competitors wore heavy footwear. A women’s race was also organised in 1953 and 1954, the route going up Rossett Gill to Esk Pike, over Bowfell and down the Band.

In 1956 the Lancashire Evening Post sponsored the event and a new organising committee was formed by the late A H Griffin. Representatives were drawn from mountain rescue teams, the Outward Bound Schools, mountaineering clubs and the Youth Hostels Association. The objective was ‘to encourage among fell walkers and mountaineers the highest possible standard of safe and fast traverse of difficult mountain country’. The course was lengthened and the rule that competitors had to be members of the YHA no longer applied. A radical change in the event was made by keeping the course secret. The competitors were given an Ordnance Survey National Grid Reference for the first checkpoint. The other checkpoint references were revealed as they made their way around the course. In later events the competitors were started at intervals and given the grid references for the whole course a little way after the start In 2003 maps were issued already pre-marked with the course. The Lake District Mountain Trial became the first event in England to be run regularly on orienteering principles, a decade before the sport became firmly established in this country.

The Trial is now organised by the Lake District Mountain Trial Association which was formed in 1965. Membership of the Association is open to everybody who has an interest in the event. The Trial has grown from fewer than 50 competitors in the late Fifties to the present numbers. The women’s event was revived in 1978 as a separate race. The severity of the event demands that all competitors are required to have the experience to cope with poor conditions. The Mountain Trial was shortened for safety in 1978 and 2004, and in 2013 the Trial was cancelled on the day due to severe weather. In 2017 the Long and Medium races had to be stopped, again due to severe weather.

The principal sponsor, Lyon Equipment, is committed to ensuring that the Trial retains its unique and traditional character among the Lake District fell events. The Association is committed to ensuring that the Mountain Trial will continue the tradition of a friendly event; never easy, sometimes desperate, with top fell runners and mountaineers finding it a sufficient test of stamina and skill for completion of the course to be reward enough. The more persistent are able to collect a special certificate for completing 21 classic trials (Men) or 15 medium or classic trials (Women).