Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Chinley to Hathersage – 27 March

Last weekend when I planned to race the “Edale Skyline” I was stricken with a cold that Pauline was just getting over and I wasn’t out apart from a short bike ride in the rain. Although I resumed running during the week this Rucksack Club walk was timed perfectly to provide a long but not too arduous day out. From Chinley we went south of the Derwent watershed (and the High Peak Marathon (HPM) route) and could see its southern ridges and summits. Mam Tor is probably the furthest south we had ventured before this walk.

Chinley-001 North west towards Mam Tor with Rushup Edge running from the left

Over Mag Low and Goutries Hill before crossing Bradwell Moor and dropping into Bradwell the route wandered through and around the remains of the area’s industrial past. The land here is littered with old mine shafts and disused quarries.

Chinley-002 Bradwell

Beyond Bradwell, Abney Moor provides some high ground with panoramic views of the area with more glimpses of the HPM route.

Chinley-003 North east from above Bradwell looking back to Mam Tor

On the far side of Abney Moor, Bamford can be seen nestling below Bamford Moor with the southern end of Ladybower Reservoir just visible in the distance.

 Chinley-005Win Hill near the centre with Bamford Moor on the right 


Chinley-004 Bamford below Bamford Moor with Ladybower Reservior in the middle distance


Chinley-006 Final descent to Hathersage (in the shadows) for a train back to Chinley

Significantly lower than the high plateau of Edale Moor these moors are altogether gentler and far less bleak. This is a quiet corner of the High Peak – we didn’t see any other walkers or runners until just outside Hathersage – and while I am happy we have seen these moors I don’t think they have the enduring appeal required to draw us back.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Haworth Hobble – 13 March

A cold but bright and sunny Saturday morning with an ‘improving forecast’ greeted us in Haworth as we sorted out kit ready for the 8 o’clock start. On the three previous occasions I have run the Hobble it has started on top of the hill outside Haworth so this is going to be a little further with a little more climbing.

Haworth Hobble - 001 Haworth Primary School – registration & the finish


As ever the start is fast, probably too fast and before long we are out into the clag and a chilling wind. By the time I reach the moors beyond the first check point, despite a waterproof top, I am still cold and can’t get going properly. Once on the road at Long Causeway, with the wind behind us, I begin to warm up and start to try to catch some runners in front. The clag has disappeared, in between the clouds some sunshine appears and everything begins to seem a little better. Mankinholes is usually considered the turning point but my own preference is to consider Stoodley Pike as the point at which the race ‘turns for home’. 

Haworth Hobble - 002 First view of Stoodley Pike – the ‘blip’ on the horizon

Reaching Mankinholes involves a bit of a climb out of Todmorden but Stoodley Pike involves another bit of climb out of Mankinholes. The climb to Mankinholes is about 350 feet after 18.5 miles and about a mile later, after almost 20 miles, the climb to Stoodley Pike is a further 500 feet and although these aren’t huge climbs you can’t not notice them.

Haworth Hobble - 003 Climbing towards Mankinholes

Haworth Hobble - 004 Climbing towards Stoodley Pike

The climbing doesn’t finish here but, somehow, it the remaining climbs don’t feel as bad as the last pull to Stoodley Pike. By now I am feeling much better and start to enjoy the race, picking up a few places and particularly enjoying the descents.

Haworth Hobble - 005 Beyond Hardcastle Crags approaching the final check point

The last mile or so – the part I hadn’t done previously – provided a couple of opportunities to go wrong and I took them both, losing a few minutes and perhaps half a dozen places (including one in my own age group) but that is what happens when you don’t know (or fail to learn) the route. I finished 3 of 9 in my age group and 90 of 273 (finishers) overall which I am pleased with, particularly given how bad I felt for the first sixteen miles. While I don’t think I have ever really enjoyed the “Hobble” it is a long  testing race early in the season and the organisation, support and food are all good and it is a good day out.

Haworth Hobble - 010This was Pauline’s first fell race and, I think it is fair to say, she was delighted to finish (as the stronger of a pair with John Swift) in a reasonable time – a proper family outing! (Results are here.)

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Western Fells – 28 February

On Sunday 28th February, the day after Helen & I had been on Helvellyn and Skiddaw, we had a walk over the hilly parts of Leg 1 with Rae and Pauline. A little lower than Helvellyn and on a slightly better day (even Helvellyn was free of clouds for most of the day) the snow wasn’t as difficult and the clouds were a little higher. I don’t think I have climbed Robinson by this route since August 2006 and the memories just came flooding back – the lone tree on the skyline, the stiff climb out of the valley (“How am I going to do this for another 23 hours?”) and the enjoyable run down to the climb up Hindscarth.

The Smithy (19 of 22) West over the Buttermere Fells

The Smithy (21 of 22) West with Great Gable in the distance


The Smithy (22 of 22)West to High Crag 

Robinson, Hindscarth and Dale Head are a hugely significant triumvirate for aspiring BG contenders, either at the beginning when they are the first taste of the hills to come or, perhaps more likely, the final three to complete the 42 and lead into the last few miles along the road back to the Moot Hall in Keswick. They also provide a glimpse of the wonderful fells west of Buttermere and even under the threatening skies that stayed with us all morning these fells were so inviting. On Dale Head Helen was planning a recce for later in March while we stood and drank in the views, wishing we had time to wander round the next leg and drop into the Wasdale Head Inn for supper as we had done once before on a long summer’s day from Buttermere to Wasdale.

Monday, 8 March 2010

High Peak Marathon - 5 March

Team: “Simon Triger Memorial Speed Fest”

In the summer of 2009 as I was thinking about starting another blog I had 2 or 3 ideas I wanted to use to develop and guide a new blog. I didn’t want another “training blog” – they are helpful, I think, but too narrowly focused and reach a natural end in either success or failure. I did want, however, to share our love of days in the hills and to use more photographs. Finally, of course, I needed a title that would stand the test of time, have some originality and not be too difficult to remember. “Just Us and a few friends” seems to meet all three requirements along with the bonus of just a hint of ambiguity about the few friends. Perhaps most obviously the few friends could be the others we go to the hills with but my original intention was that the few friends would be the fells themselves. For as long as I can remember, I have considered hills to be friends, places to visit more than once (even if a “tick-list” was the purpose of the first visit) and places to respect. Travelling the hills safely, especially in winter, requires some skills and respect for the conditions but, tragically, even the utmost respect, experience and mastery of these skills isn’t always enough.
In September 2008 Simon Triger was caught by a severe storm high on Mont Blanc and died before rescuers could reach him (Daily Telegraph). Simon was a member of Westerlands CCC (Tribute) who had run the HPM a number of times. For the 2010 race Mark organised the “Simon Triger Memorial Speed Fest” team (“Speed Fest” being the exact opposite of fell running, for most of us). Injuries took their toll on the original team and the places were filled by Andy, Helen and myself to produce an “all Rucksack Club, mixed, vets” (but not necessarily competitive) team. Of the four of us, only Mark had known Simon and I found it a sobering experience reading the many tributes and realising again that when you “take to the hills” there isn’t a script saying you will get down safely, or alive.
It was a very pleasant surprise to meet Simon’s Mum, Jennie and Mike Lynch late on Friday night in the hall before the start of the race.
High Peak Marathon - 001 Andy & Helen with Simon’s Mum, Jennie & (most of) Mike Lynch before the start
High Peak Marathon - 002 Mark, Andy, Helen & self ready for an “All-Nighter in the Peak”
Team photo at 03:51 – it seemed a good idea at the time
HPM-101 Most of Team Rach after breakfast at Snake Pass summit
High Peak Marathon - 004Almost monochrome below Kinder as Helen starts the last proper climb
High Peak Marathon - 005South west towards Hayfield and lower snow free slopes 
High Peak Marathon - 006 Team Rach climbing Kinder
Conditions through Friday night were benign and despite being not quite cold enough to freeze the ground we made good progress. Dawn broke grey, grim and wet on Bleaklow. Our “reasonable pace” began to flag a bit before we finally made it back to Edale after about 42 miles in  13:32:31 and in 28th place.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Helvellyn and Skiddaw – 27 February

Armed with a plan that had already been revised and would continue to be revised as the conditions on the fells became more apparent, Helen (a “Bob Graham aspirant” and fellow Rucksacker) and I left Dunmail Raise on our way to Keswick on Legs 4 + 5 of an anti-clockwise Round.

The Smithy (1 of 22) Steel Fell from Dunmail Raise

Always likely to be a hard day, we thought, without realising just how hard it was going to become and although it didn’t take long for the first clues to be apparent (the cairns on the line to Seat Sandal summit were buried in snow) the initial climb was blessed with spectacular views to the south west.

The Smithy (2 of 22) South west from Steel Fell with the Coniston Fells in the distance

The Smithy (3 of 22)West from Steel Fell with Great Gable and the Scafells in the distance

The Smithy (5 of 22)  North West from Steel Fell with Skiddaw partially obscured

On the summit of Seat Sandal we had our first view of the frozen wilderness that the Eastern Fells have become.


The Smithy (6 of 22) Helen on Seat Sandal with Fairfield beyond

The Smithy (7 of 22)  Grisedale Tarn (frozen) with Fairfield on the right, St Sunday Crag in the centre and a series of inversions beyond

The Smithy (8 of 22)  Fairfield

The Smithy (11 of 22)Dollywagon Pike above Grisedale Tarn

The Smithy (10 of 22)  St Sunday Crag catching the sun

The Smithy (9 of 22)  Our Brocken Spectre on Grisedale Tarn

We started up Fairfield and began to realise just how long a day this could turn out to be and decided to miss Fairfield and head straight for Dollywagon Pike instead. Despite the sunshine all around the the Helvellyn ridge, the ridge itself was shrouded in thick cloud. From Dollywagon northwards we followed a compass needle and counted the summits, seeing on the very tops of the largest cairns.

The Smithy (12 of 22)  Helvellyn summit shelter

Between Helvellyn and Lower Man we saw a lone walker, the first person we had seen for almost three hours, and only just found the rising ground leading to the summit of Lower Man and the rest of the ridge. On Raise we met another couple of hikers and a couple of skiers as we continued north in deteriorating conditions. Deeper snow drifts and thicker clouds produced a complete whiteout on several occasions, most notably coming off Great Dodd just before dropping out of the clouds, briefly.

The Smithy (13 of 22)    Looking south west just below the cloud base on Great Dodd

Over Clough Head and down into Threlkeld where Rae welcomed us with hot drinks and real food some six hours after leaving Dunmail on a route we would have done in half that time in reasonable conditions. With considerably less of the day left than planned we settled for Skiddaw on its own. Round to Skiddaw House, up over Sale How and back into the clag where the temperature dropped substantially. The summit ridge, blasted by a strong, cold wind, was no place to dally and we began to wonder if we had overshot the summit so disorienting were the conditions. “Two more minutes then we’ll turn” we agreed and as the seconds ticked away, out of the swirling mist the Trig Point appeared.

The Smithy (14 of 22) Skiddaw Pillar

The Smithy (15 of 22)

The Smithy (16 of 22)

It was cold on the summit ridge

Down off the ridge and below the cloud base we started to thaw out and enjoy the last of the day’s panoramas. Reaching Latrigg car park after almost nine hours running and walking and despite our earlier intentions to run down to The Smithy in Thirlemere we gladly called it a day and accepted a lift from Rae back to a warm fire and hot drinks to complete a wonderful winter day on the fells.

The Smithy (18 of 22) Towards the North Western Fell as the sun begins to set

The Smithy (17 of 22)Latrigg, Derwent Water and the high fells beyond