The Angry Corrie 72: Nov 2007-Jan 2008


Janet Sutcliffe, born 1940, died 6 July 2007: An appreciation

IT WAS IN THE SPRING of 1981 that I first met Janet. I was about to attempt the Bob Graham Round and it was suggested Janet should be approached to provide roadside assistance. Little did I know that this unassuming lady was one of the best women fellrunners and walkers of her generation.

Brought up in Manchester, where she worked for ICI, she ran for Sale Athletic Club and competed in both athletics and hockey at county level. In the 1960s she joined the Manchester Associates Rambling Club and it was from this that her great love of the outdoors began. Soon she was competing in long-distance challenge walks such as the 61-mile Fellsman Hike, the Long Mynd, and the North Yorks Moors Crosses Walk, being fastest woman on the former on four occasions. A change of career in the 1970s took her to west Cumbria, and with the fells on her doorstep she jumped at the challenge of fellrunning. With her walking and orienteering background, she excelled in the longer races such as the Duddon, Langdale and Sedbergh, but her favourite was the Lake District Mountain Trial. This is an orienteering-type event held annually from different venues and it was with great pride that she completed it 17 times.

Eventually Janet turned her eyes north, with the odd foray over the border. Soon, like most of us, she was smitten with the wonderful mountains. Bagging wasn't the name of the game for her - it was just being among them that counted - but after a time she did complete the Munros (on An Teallach in May 1987), Corbetts (Beinn na Caillich in 1994) and Donalds (Knee of Cairnsmore in 1997). Most of these were climbed unaccompanied.

In 1995 she was elected to membership of the Rucksack Club, taking part in a number of that legendary club's longer epics. She became the only woman in the club's history to finish the Tan Hill-Cat and Fiddle walk - a 120-mile non-stop jaunt that links the two highest hostelries in England - now that is a pub crawl. She was a vice-president of the club in 2004. An authority on tea shops and home baking, she could talk for hours on the best scones in Cumbria and would deviate on her route to the big hills to sample an entry in a Good Eating guide.

In 2006 a cancer she had previously fought off returned. A long spell of treatment was of no avail, and in 2007 she was told it was terminal. Throughout this time, Janet was extremely upbeat and constantly thought about her friends and not herself, still trying to get out on the hills and to help others on fell challenges as she had helped me all those years ago.

So it was on Saturday 1 September, on the slopes of Mellbreak in her beloved Lake District, that a group of her friends gathered to witness the scattering of Janet's ashes and to celebrate the life of an extraordinary lady.

John Crummett


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