Monday, 22 February 2010

Northern Fells – 20 February

The weather forecast suggested a weekend of two halves with Saturday being predicted to be the half with sunshine while Sunday would get the snow and so it transpired which made our decision to head for the hills north of the A66, on Saturday, a particularly good one. Not only a weekend of two halves but a day of two halves – a bright sunny morning under an almost cloudless sky that developed clouds; dark, heavy, dramatic clouds later in the day.

Having seen photographs taken from Knott Halloo on Gategill Fell (on Blencathra) Pauline had long wanted to see the views for herself and so we climbed Blencathra in brilliant winter sunshine by Gategill Fell and up over Knott Halloo.

Northern Fells  (1 of 10)Looking south down Gategill Fell


Northern Fells  (2 of 10) Looking south down Gategill Fell

With only our own footprints for company working our way up the ridge.

Northern Fells  (4 of 10) Looking south west from Gategill Fell summit

The ice axes may seem superfluous but without them we wouldn’t have got through the small but awkward cornice at the end of the ridge.

Northern Fells  (3 of 10) Skiddaw to the north west


Northern Fells  (5 of 10) Looking south west over Gategill Fell

From Blencathra  we crossed Mungrisedale Common to reach Lonscale Fell before climbing Skiddaw where darkening dramatic skies were developing.


Northern Fells  (6 of 10) South over Derwent Water


Northern Fells  (7 of 10) South over Derwent Water again


Northern Fells  (10 of 10) South west from the Trig Point


Northern Fells  (9 of 10) South West from above Carl Side


Northern Fells  (8 of 10) south west to the North Western Fells 

Finally back down the Tourist Track and round to Threlkeld to complete another wonderful day’s running in the hills.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Winter Hill Weekend – 13/14 February

Six out of every seven years the Anglezark Amble takes place the day before the Winter Hill fell race. The “Amble” is a LDWA event organised by the West Lancs. Group and although not a race is, like almost all LDWA events, highly competitive attracting a significant number of runners. The long route is almost 24 and a half miles long with about 3000 feet of climbing as it crosses Winter Hill before going on to traverse Turton, Darwen and Anglezark Moors and finally returning to Rivington where it starts and finishes. The Winter Hill fell race route wanders around and across Winter Hill for a total of 11 and a bit miles and almost 3000 feet of climbing over both paths and pathless moorland.

The Amble is almost always our first LDWA event of the year and is often the first chance to see old friends for the first time since the previous autumn. Taking place the day before the Winter Hill race means the “keen front” of the field is usually less competitive as most local runners save themselves for the Sunday. The Winter Hill race is, for many, the first race of the year and for almost everyone the first tough race of the year and it is also a chance to meet people last seen before the short days of winter. Many use it as a measure of the success, or otherwise, of winter training and it marks a watershed, ending the grind of mid-winter training and start of longer days on the hills.

Away at around eight o’clock on a cold Saturday morning I was just clinging on to the leading group of 7 descending the far side of Winter Hill. Turton Moor wasn’t frozen and some of the going was pretty slow. Leaving the CP at Entwhistle the seven of us were clear of the rest of the field and getting strung out crossing Turton Moor for the second time. By Darwen Moor there were only four in front of me but they seemed well away but I started to chase them in the hope I might drop Karen Nash who was just behind me. Approaching Darwen Tower I was surprised to see, at least, two other runners standing talking to the marshals. Leaving them there with only two in front I settled down for the long drag to Great Hill only to be surprised by two runners catching up quite quickly – having taken another wrong turn Dave Ward & Duncan were racing back to the front of the field – me! In and out of the next CP quickly but they dropped me on Great Hill and after White Coppice I couldn’t stay ahead of Karen who had never been far behind. Fourth place in 04:06:16 less than 6 minutes slower than last year’s PB.


Winter Hill Fell Race (1 of 6) Horwich club mates Rob (93), Mark (100) and Doug – all of whom helped on my Bob Graham Round in 2006

Winter Hill Fell Race (2 of 6) Queuing at the stile below the Pike on her first Winter Hill race

Winter Hill Fell Race (3 of 6) Stewart (?) dragging me up the the CP at The Knoll

Winter Hill Fell Race (5 of 6) Approaching the Trig Point with the worst of the climbing done

Winter Hill Fell Race (6 of 6) After almost 36 miles racing over two days – ready for a pint of Holt’s bitter

In 2006 I ran both the Amble and Winter Hill but that was my Bob Graham year and I had been training hard for months before the middle of February and so easing my creaking legs out of bed on Sunday morning I wondered what I had let myself in for. The ground on Saturday had thawed quite quickly as the sun rose but it had frozen hard overnight and didn’t thaw so readily on Sunday but in many places it couldn’t be trusted to take your weight – none of which stopped Rob Hope from breaking his own course record. The results are here. My own pace was somewhat more sedate towards the back of the field. After almost 5 miles my legs started to loosen a bit and I began to think it might be possible to reach the finish, before dark. The second half went much better and I finished in 02:18:34, fourth of eight V55 and 126 of 196 finishers. I have only ever run faster than 02:18:34 twice and one of those was less than 1 minute faster so I am pretty pleased with the time after being slightly disappointed in not getting close to 4 hours on Saturday.

2006      Amble: 04:03:01      Winter Hill: 02:29:56     combined: 06:31:57

2010      Amble: 04:06:16      Winter Hill: 02:18:34     combined: 06:24:51

Conditions were probably better in 2010 but I think I can be happy with the results of my winter’s training.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Almost Spring? – 6 February

Another sunny Saturday morning might seem to be suggesting Spring isn’t too far away and, as ever, I am seeking signs that the “winter slog” of grinding out training miles might be about to turning into something much more enjoyable. Next weekend, with both the Anglezark Amble (24 miles) on Saturday and Winter Hill fell race (11 miles) on Sunday,  is the first real test of my winter training. This will be a fairly tough weekend and I wanted a sort of “preliminary test” to confirm I was ready to do both and as Ray, who is a Bob Graham Aspirant, was joining me I thought a “Grand Tour” of Winter Hill with four ascents on part of the race route would be about right. With the days beginning to lengthen our 08:00 start was well after first light but still early enough to catch some of the morning golden glow.

Winter Hill (1 of 5) By the quarries looking over Horwich and the Lancashire Plain


Winter Hill (2 of 5)Over Bolton with Manchester beyond under waves of cloud

Although initially cold the sun wasn’t long in bringing real warmth to the morning and although the frozen ground and if occasional icy patch hadn’t reminded us it wasn’t really Spring it would have been easy to believe Summer was only a few weeks away. It is as well for both of us that the year isn’t so advanced because many more miles of running and feet of climbing are needed before the big challenges of the year are faced.

Winter Hill (3 of 5) The “Blue Lagoon” with Belmont Church beyond

Despite the “Spring Illusion” the sunshine and the blue sky were trying to conjure up the moorland hasn’t yet awakened and the bracken lies brown everywhere with trees standing bare like silent signposts.


Winter Hill (4 of 5)North westerly face in shadow for many more weeks


Winter Hill (5 of 5)Trees below Rivington Pike with Pike Cottage beyond

Perhaps it was the warmth of the near Spring sunshine, perhaps my winter training is beginning to come together, I am not entirely sure but with 20 miles and almost four and half thousand feet of climbing in my legs I felt exhilarated at the end of wonderful Winter Hill morning. I only hope I feel half as good next weekend.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Kinder Trial – 31 January

Described as a ‘low key orienteering event’ this is the type of race I know, in theory, how to navigate my way round but, in practice, all too often I discover the gap between one and the other. I am not very familiar with Kinder and this is part of a plan to get to know it better and so I was very pleased to see the fine weather on Saturday, comfortable with the assumption it would last through Sunday too. Sunday morning’s snow was a bit of a surprise as was the low threatening cloud cover that extended from Manchester south over Kinder and beyond. The snow fall was very local but the low clouds weren’t and nearing Hayfield I really began to wonder if I would be able to chew what I had bitten off.

There are 10 controls to be visited in any order and all are below the plateau and, much more importantly, below the cloud base. Little or no fresh snow had fallen and apart from navigation (and the one control placed in the wrong gully – thanks, Andy) the main problem was the old hard ice fields that could not always be avoided. More than once I wished I hadn’t left my spikes in the car – or I had taken a wiser line and avoided the ice. Despite a couple of moments when the map didn’t match the ground and a wrong turn, or two, in Hayfield at the very end I avoided getting badly lost. The results are here and I managed a “middle of pack” finish both in my age group and overall.

Kinder Trial 2010 (1 of 6)

 Below Kinder and the clouds

Kinder Trial 2010 (2 of 6)

 Below Kinder and the clouds again

 Kinder Trial 2010 (3 of 6)

  Away to the west under a leaden sky

Kinder Trial 2010 (4 of 6)

  West under a leaden sky

 Kinder Trial 2010 (5 of 6) Kinder Trial 2010 (6 of 6)















Hoar frost on a fence

With frost on the ground below and a heavy sky above almost the only colour to be seen was on competitors’ clothing and I think the monochrome images prove a better idea of how the landscape was. In complete contrast, the event is great fun with a fantastic atmosphere and good food at the finish – I’ll be going back for another go next year.