Posts Tagged ‘gulley’

Phew, finally caught up. With the lads up a Cairngorm at the weekend a reduced party (Diver Driver, Dr Crowe and Michael) took to the crags on Mother Pule. A first proper Monday night out, the longest day and a beautiful evening.

First up Flying Buttress, it still needs a minimum of 3 pieces of gear in the vertical crack, a bit of faith onto the ledge and some awkwardness to feel around the horizontal bulges but the handholds are as good as ever.

Fraser led a corner (next to the hideous green scoop) with aplomb and to round off Dr Crowe had a go at Square Buttress. The first go ended with a Dr Ali-like lunge for the main break. It was followed by a Dr Ali-like pendulum across the face. All the year’s experience came into play – if at first you don’t succeed then light a cheroot and have another go, and so it went, with bats flying around and a curlew and an owl calling at opposite ends of the hill. Dusk came and we went to the pub. Marvellous.

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The Team

Dr Ali pulled the Peak Bog Men together for what was to become our best turn out and finish ever. I may be wrong but I can’t remember 4 Peak Boggers starting and finishing a race. Even Lis (her indoors) turned out in the green vest of the Bogger to offer support – it will be great to see her joining us in a race soon but on this occasion the team was:

  • Alistair Macdonald
  • Andrew Doig
  • Richard Sharp
  • Steven Tuck

Arriving at Crowden camp site in plenty of time, we met up in the car park, registered, exchanged Sunday morning pleasantries and even had time for a quick warm up before the race began.

The Race

The race started with Dr Ali and Mr Tuckle bemused as Sharpy set off like a mountain hare up the lane the Youth Hostel. His cunning plan – he revealed later – was to get to the stile as quickly as he could, where he knew he could then grab some rest whilst waiting in the queue. Upon reaching the queue I was surprised by one runner and his partner for their complete disregard for etiquette as they blatantly pushed their way to the front. By the time I got over the stile I had lost sight of both Sharpy and Dr Ali.

The stile marked the beginning of the gruelling 800 foot climb to Lad’s Leap. Up this difficult terrain I adopted what is becoming my usual tactic of running slowly rather than walking fast. I passed Sharpy and couldn’t even muster the energy for a slap on the back to say hello. I was later rewarded for my efforts when I caught up and passed the queue jumper and his partner.

The terrain steepened onto some high rocky steps and I had to join the rest of the runners in walking. This sudden change of activity from small, slow, running steps to big wide walking steps, sent my legs into instant confusion. This inevitably led to protest. Reaching the top of this steep section my protesting legs turned to direct action in an attempt to further their case for inertia. After intense negotiations in which I promised my legs never to put them in this situation again, they agreed to get me up to the top of the hill.

Lad's Leap Route

Lad's Leap Route

The Top

Contouring around the upper edge of Rakes Moss and Robinson’s Moss to Tintwistle Knarr the route threw every condition imaginable under foot. Ankle spraining rocky outcrops where  interspersed with deep sticky peat groughs  and tortuous limb lacerating heather. Knowing this was also the route back I tried to evaluate my route choice against that of the other runners.

Unlike other fell races that I’ve done where the field seems to spread quite quickly, I found myself stuck in a group. Feeling under pressure to keep up with the calves in front and to stay ahead of the irregular gasping behind made me more self conscious than I’ve been before on a race.  The calves in front made an impression on me because of  their size and because I couldn’t get past them. They belonged to a powerful looking chap in a red shirt who also seemed to be wearing headphones.  After a while I got the same feeling you get when driving behind someone travelling at the same speed as you on the motorway. You just have to overtake them! You just have to be in front. Or is that just me? This situation lead to me making a couple of bold lunges in order to pass people as they slowed down to negotiate difficult terrain. My familiarity with the terrain going some way to make up for my lack of fitness and running finesse.

The Bottom

As we started the descent I was overtaken by several people who I then managed to keep pace with. At the Western end of Tintwistle Knarr the path all but disappeared as the route plummeted through broken rocks dangerously disguised by the heather. Seizing the opportunity to pick up several places over the more cautious runner,  I instinctively threw myself down the descent and let gravity do its work. I managed to shout a breathless apology to a group of runners that I ploughed through like a bowling ball and comforted myself that the noises they made in return did at least sound understanding.

Back on low ground I knew what was to come.  I had read tales of the cruel second ascent and was fully expecting to be finished off by it. To my surprise it wasn’t as bad as I’d thought it would be. With nearly as much height gain as the initial ascent but on a disused quarry track the terrain was much more forgiving. Though only at walking pace I did managed to run the entire climb. To be honest if I’d had to stop and walk I don’t think I could have got going again. The hardest thing about this climb was the illusion that the top was just round the next corner. Of course it never was and on and on it went.

Back on the Top

With my legs now turned to jelly I reached the top and scrambled my way over Robinson’s Moss and back to Lad’s Leap, periodically exchanging places with a bloke in a Penistone vest. I couldn’t pass a girl in a Pennine vest who had passed me on the ascent to the quarry so was happy to try to keep pace with her. Nearing Lad’s Leap for the second time, we caught up with a couple of runners who were traversing a rather nasty looking peat bog. The girl in the Pennine vest opted to deftly skip by them on the outskirts of the bog. Recognising that she had taken the easier but longer route around the obstacle I seized the opportunity and opted for the shorter, more direct route across the bog. Why I thought I would defy gravity and deny the bog its vice like grip on my tired legs is now a complete mystery to me.

I desperately pulled at my legs to free them from the suction of the bog as I watched the girl in the Pennine vest overtake and then disappear with the 2  runners we had both caught up. On hearing “For fuck’s sake!” I turned to see that the calves in the red shirt had made the same mistake as me. My feeling of desperation turned to determination and I set about extracting myself from the bog. Determined to stay in front of the calves in the red shirt I caught and passed the two I had tried to short cut at the bog and regained my position behind the girl in the Pennine vest.

The Final Descent

SteveTuck at Lads Leap 2010

SteveTuck at Lads Leap 2010

We began the final descent. I could hear someone breathing down my neck and felt sure the calves in the red shirt were about to pass me. I was eventually passed  by the person behind me but to my surprise it was a girl. I have no idea where she had come from. I felt really happy as she streaked past me and the girl in the Pennine vest, who gave chase for a while and increased her lead over me. Glancing round I could see the calves in the red shirt and gave a final push.  Running downhill isn’t one of my strengths so I was pleased that I had left him out of sight by the time I got to the youth hostel at the bottom of the hill. Here I was met Lis and the rest of Dr Ali’s family cheering me on. I could see the girl in the Pennine vest in front of me but too far ahead for me to catch her up. I settled into my position for a relaxed jaunt to the finish line and much needed refreshment.

The Mystery

Looking at the results I assumed that 703 was the girl in the Pennine vest and that she must have pipped someone on the finish line out of my sight. Then Jan sent me a photo which clearly shows 703 as the girl who flew past me and the girl in the Pennine vest on the final descent. Not only can I not find the girl in the Pennine vest in the results table but her number – which looks to start with a 1 – doesn’t exist for thit race.

The Results

Lad’s Leap Fell Race 2010 Results

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With the good Drs Ali and Crowe opting for Huddersfield climbing wall Mr Tuckle decides to take advantage of the last of the snow before the thaw. Deciding against Black Hill I opted for a trudge up Pule Hill, a much safer bet on my own.

The lane leading up to the A63

The lane leading up to the A62

snow drift

Some interesting snow drifts have formed on the old farm track


My initials peed into the snow. Some people never grow up. I blame the parents


I don’t think anybody will know which way I came


My foot disappeared down a snow covered hole. Looking back I realised I had wandered too far right and had ended up over the gulley with a stream in the bottom. As I tried to push myself back out with my left foot it too began to slip down the bank into the gulley. Waste deep, I scrambled out. Realising that the conditions were a little too rough to be tackled alone I broke open my flask, had a coffee and made my way back down.


I put my time to good use by building a snowman which, on reflection looks a little scary. His name is Jim. Follow snowmanjim on twitter


I bade Jim the snowman farewell and set off for home


After all the trudging through deep snow it was good to be back in the village.

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Another Monday night, another bunch of feeble excuses (bellyaching, babysitting, birthday) the worst of all time being “I’ve been on a history walk. In Sheffield”. A history walk. In Sheffield. Just let that one sink in a moment. This left Dr Crowe and Mr Tuck a free hand to chance their arms at a little gulley number spotted by Dr Crowe as a possibility when once he was upon the Raven Stones. A plan previously hatched on the train home from work over a battered Ordnance Survey map named the object of their desire: Birchen Clough.

Birchen Clough

Birchen Clough

Usual time pressed departure, Mr Tuck hurling himself into Uppermill Spa en route for booze and chocolate – apparently not for us so what with the excuses and this most recent disappointment the evening wasn’t shaping up very well. Fortunately things changed when we got to Binn Green car park where we met with clear skies with a low, spectacularly delicate cloud formation. Several layers of waterproofs later we set off along the reservoir track towards Greenfield Reservoir. Headtorches dimming (all that early autumn activity on Pule Hill) we stopped and swapped batteries. Actually several sets of batteries as we tried to find enough that worked. Duly illuminated we struck off from the main path and found ourselves at the bottom of the water run off below Greenfield Reservoir. The only way was up, and then up beyond the dam onto the hillside towards the kind of place a path ought to be. Contouring round we dropped back down at the head of the res. All the dam rambling had taken a while and still dumped us on the wrong side of the intake. Scrabbling across a slippy escarpment in the dark wasn’t much fun with water of unknown depth but certainly low temperature on either side.

The path less taken but more bleedin’ obvious greeted us and took us to the bottom of Birchen Clough. The clough itself appeared as a gentle rise overlooked by the Raven Stones which were silhouetted in a shower of clichés. We got a good look at the clough. Too much water, too deep and too fast to go for a straight up the middle approach. This was after all a recce and we didn’t want to spoil the fun for a larger group outing. A modest start then, criss-crossing the gulley as it rose easily. At our early rest to check out the first obstacle Mr Tuck rightly observed that we had created the sport of extreme stepping-stones. Extreme stepping-stones is to gulley scrambling, what bouldering is to climbing. A cut down version of the real thing to be practised by those in need of a substitute. We confidently expect a BMC sub-committee to consider the ethics of stepping stoning and whether it is really the “done thing” giving as it might the “professional” stepping stoner an unfair advantage over amateur gentleman gulley scramblers. It might also spawn a whole range artificial aids (water wings?) and unseemly garments detrimental to the traditions of the sport (i.e. non-tweed).

Such musings powered us over the first of several narrowings in the flow and over the larger boulders on the cloughside. The gulley walls were gainfully employed as the flatter stones in the flow of the water proved extremely slippery. The first major waterfall was taken with due care and attention and our previous practices, developed on Oaken Clough, paid off. We emerged over the brow of the fall on the side of the Pool of Tranquility. In “The Land that Time Forgot” this would have been the bathing place of prehistoric nymphs. On this evening it would have been survivable only by a geordie hen party. We took coffee and a cheroot for the Doctor. The view up the clough looked fine, though the distances were foreshortened in the dark.

Circling the pool brought us to the next waterfall which posed the evening’s second biggest challenge (the first equal were Fingers’ excuse for not coming and Tuck’s battery management issues). Mr Tuck favoured a move to the right and headed across the flow. At the central point he was forced to assume a kneeling crawl below the main force. Steadily on unsteady ground he gained the gulley wall and a degree of security.

Meanwhile Dr Crowe trended left, working finger jams in the cracks of the side wall until the face of the fall was reached. The band of rocks and stones between the flow and the gulley wall arrowed towards a face above a couple of metres high. The wall on the left began to overhang and was covered in a thick layer of moss, a natural line for a green crack specialist. It was all looking a bit desperate but a traverse across the flow wasn’t really an option so it was a simple brutish mantel through spray and when the moss gave out a direct thrutch through the brim of the waterfall gave the traditional and inelegant conclusion to a fine night out.

Turning back to look down the clough we saw that it we couldn’t see anything – mist had sprung up in a ten minute interval to reduce  to a few metres. That and a check on the time meant heading down. We took the path on the left hand side of the clough picking our way through mist and boulders, following trails of sawdust (left from a weekend fell race?).  Took extreme stepping stoning to a new level – extreme stepping stoning in only a few metres of visibility – the opposite bank only vaguely outlined. Only a few more directional difficulties and then back on the big path back to the car park

Disorientation and dam rambling put the pub beyond reach and even the car park was devoid of intimate couples.

In truth, an evening of swing at the climbing wall was averted and more evidence provided for our grandchildren to truly marvel at the brutality of a recession which forced their forebears to seek entertainment in freezing waterfalls.

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One week after identifying Oaken Clough we got the weather and decided to give it a go:

Photos on picasa

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