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Ian Roberts Fell Race

At the end of the race me and several other runners found that we couldn’t remove our shoes because they were frozen to our feet. As I sit here writing this nearly 3 hours after finishing the race I’m still unable to feel 2 of the toes on my left foot. They’re numb, completely numb. To my adjoining toes they feel like something in my sock that shouldn’t be there. A very odd sensation. All part of the fun.

It was a bleak night but I didn’t expect to wake up to hills covered in snow this morning. This should make it interesting. There were already many tales being told in Marsden Cricket Club (race HQ for the Ian Robert’s) of the various adventures people had already had getting there this morning. With dark skies, high winds and snow showers we might well be in for some more.  Was I really going to spurn the warmth of my insulated coat and head up the hill? Of course I bloody was. I made my way up to the start with fellow Peak Bog Men Stephen (Diver-Driver) Fraser and Alistair McDonald.

I’m pretty sure comedy starts to fell races that begin in Marsden are quickly becoming the way things are done round here. We’ve already had what’s been termed ‘The Keystone Cops start’ to the Trigger earlier this year. Phil Hobbs stepped up to the ‘starting mound’ to do the housekeeping and start the race. One hundred and five fell runners primed and ready to go, eagerly staring up the track waiting for the countdown. When…”Is that a car …coming towards us?” Up pootles a rather surprised looking farmer in a pick-up truck carrying a huge bale of hay. One hundred and five fell runners now find themselves clambering off the track to find enough space to let him through. Normal service was soon resumed and we were off.

I’d decided to go for a fast start (for me anyway) up to the footbridge after the first road crossing. It was fun. Keeping up with the faster runners and jostling for position as we raced along the track. I forgot to slow down after crossing the bridge though and got dragged along at a pace much quicker than I’m comfortable with. By the time we hit the first ascent of Bobus I was knackered.  I arrived at the top having only lost 3 or 4 places but now expected to lose more on the section around the catchwater leading to Black Moss. I didn’t so was quite pleased and feeling the recovery from the quick start and ascent was going quite well. I looked up to see everyone crossing the bog at the same place – usual in snow when it’s easier to see and run in a broken trail. I decided they were all sheep-like idiots and that I could pick off a least half a dozen by blazing a much more efficient trail of my own. At least 12 runners passed me as I floundered helplessly through the snow covered, energy sapping bog.

My attention was soon diverted from the resulting low morale of this error by the freezing gale force wind which side-swiped us as we traversed the dam of Black Moss reservoir and the realisation that my trousers were falling down – I had neglected to tie the waist cord before the race. Why it took me several minutes of fumbling about to learn that it was almost impossible to tie with gloves on I can only put down the hypothermia and altitude sickness. I got annoyed with myself and sped past at least 6 runners before we got to the paved section of the Pennine Way, hoicking my trousers up every couple of minutes. Funny, but I’ve just read my previous account this race  in 2010 to find that I sped up in this exact same place on that race too. I think it may be down to the turn in the course which puts the wind behind you – a good thing for us tall fellas as we act like sails in high winds.

I wasn’t looking forward to the decent on the paving slabs especially as they were covered in snow and ice. I was planning to run as much as I could on the grass by the side of the path. Once on the slabs I was surprised at how runable they actually were so I stayed on them and flew down gaining a couple more places after the stream crossing at the bottom. Whilst running down this section I got chance to look up and was staggered by the scenery. It was beautiful, covered in a layer of snow with the tussocks and other vegetation sticking through the top and the rocks on Pule Hill in clear contrast. I didn’t have time to stop and take a photo so decided I should come back later.

Pule Hill - ian roberts fell race

Running into the wind almost brought me to a stop as I ascended the Standedge Trail and I was overtaken by 3 strong limbed athletes. I tucked into this group and stayed as close as I could to use them as a wind break (you know what us tall fellas are like in strong winds) until we turned off the trail to head along the catchwater to the bottom of Pule Hill.

I could see a steady stream of runners walking up Pule and, anticipating that the wind was going to be a factor, was ready to do the same myself. But I didn’t. I didn’t make any ground on the group in front of me who were walking but I did manage to run all the way up even though my legs had turned to jelly. I was surprised at this point to see a race marshal cheerily urging me on and pointing the way whilst trying to hold the hood of their coat tightly to their head against the wind which was doing its best to blow the poor soul off the hill.

Now, I try not to look behind in races – it scares me and and makes me feel under pressure – but at some point I had glanced over my shoulder to see Alistair McDonald not far behind me. I wasn’t making the most of the decent of Pule Hill because of my jelly legs so was expecting to lose a couple of places on this section. By the time I had got to the top of the incline and turned east over the moor and into the wind again I was pleasantly surprised that I hadn’t been.

Feeling like one of those young chaps who prefer to wear their trousers with the wasteband around their knees and tiring from the distraction of having to periodically yank my trousers back up I decided to have another go at tying them. I was celebrating the success of this endeavor when came the distinct and inevitable sound of a firmly pinned race number fighting with the weather for its freedom. Not long after I was overtaken by a runner who was travelling at great speed – I decided to let him go.
“He’s probably not in the race anyway.”
“He’ll have just got out of his car at the bottom of the hill.”
“On fresh legs.”
“Yeh that’ll be it.”
“The noise of the race number? Gortex! – yeh, makes a right racket in wind.”

A few minutes later, on the steeper section of the decent, Alistair glided past with effortless speed. This did speed me up a bit but I couldn’t stay with him. By the time we reached the track where we’d started the race he was about 50 meters ahead of me and quickly gaining on a group further in front. After the uneven, soft, spongy decent of Pule this section completely confuses the legs often resulting in them refusing to work. By the time I had got to the road crossing I was glad that it  was marshaled. I wouldn’t have cared if there had been a bus coming, I just wanted to get to the finish.

For some reason the second ascent of Bobus was slower than the first :-). And I noticed that the 2 runners who had recently overtaken me had started to walk.  The marshal at the stream junction which lead us down into Butterley Clough had erected a tent to fend off the weather. This last section is horrible. Most people that do this race can be heard complaining about it. It’s evil. Possibly the worst section of any fell race in West Yorkshire – which of course makes it the best! The deep tussocky terrain and steep decent can turn the hardest of fell runners into quivering wrecks. Today though the snow made it almost a pleasure. And, though I did take a spectacular fall and was barely able to get back on my feet I really enjoyed it. The tracks in the snow also pointed out a far better route than I had ever found on this section before. Even the ascent up the other side of the clough was enjoyable. And even though I’d been overtaken on the descent I was catching Alistair and the group of runners he was now struggling to get passed.

On the muddy zig-zag decent to the footbridge several runners made bold moves which nearly ended badly. I decided to stay put. Play it safe. Not take any risks. This, of course, didn’t last very long. I like bold, daring moves. Like…well…throwing caution to the wind and blazing my own trail through bogs. So I knew it wouldn’t be long before I tried something. Just then I spied an opportunity. A small rise next to the path. “If I throw myself at that I can get past most of this group and tuck in behind the two at the front before I reach the bridge.” It only worked! I crossed the bridge with only 2 people in front of me before launching myself up the other side of the gully determined not to lose the places I had so boldly won.

By the time I got to the top of the gully I felt quite sick. I had nothing left. Legs and lungs screaming in protest I somehow managed to get myself over the style and start running again. The track  – with a wall on one side and young trees on the other – is barely wide enough for one runner and had been turned into thick foot-clawing mud. The chap in front of me was the same runner who had passed me on the decent into Butterlley Clough and had himself performed several daring downhill maneuvers to get there. The chap behind was Alistair. He couldn’t have been more than an inch behind me. He was going to power past me at any moment. “If only I could get past the chap in front. That would put someone between us and it might just put him off.” Finding legs from who know’s where I made a mad dash through a small gap in the trees. I’d done it! I’d got past him. I could see the end 30 meters away! All I’ve got to do is stay on my feet and keep going. I could tell by the faces at the finish line that it was close. I could also tell the other two hadn’t given up. Desperately trying to gulp oxygen from the freezing air I dug in a bit more. Surprisingly my legs responded. I sped up. Forcing myself forward I moved closer to the finish. I went over and ended up on my arse.

If there was such a thing as a prize given for the least amount of time spent on the floor after a fall I would have won it. Somehow, without conscious effort I was back on my feet and across the finish line before the other two. Hardly able to breath and bent double trying  not to throw up I was thanked for the “great battle”. Unable to speak I responded with pats on the back.

The other two, Alistair and (I’ll post his name when I get it from the results) had seen me slip – as the result times show they were inches behind me – and without any communication between them they both decided not take advantage of  my misfortune to gain the extra place. That, to me anyway, is what this is all about. And that’s why it was such a great race.

I came 44th – my best ever place in this race with a time of 65 minutes and 9 seconds by best ever time.

Ian Roberts Fell Race 2013 Results

first & third road crossing and the path up Bobus

first & third road crossing and the path up Bobus

second road crossing looking back at path from the Standage Trail to Pule Hill

second road crossing looking back at path from the Standage Trail to Pule Hill

Pule Hill - ian roberts fell race

Butterlley Clough

Butterlley Clough

Pule Hill - ian roberts fell race

Pule Hill

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It’s all coming back to me now. This time last year I’d done a considerable amount of running in preparation for the New Chew 2012 before falling down a hole in the paving slabs on the Pennine Way on Black Hill. This year I did little. I’d done a fair bit over Christmas in preparation for the Trigger (Marsden to Edale Fell Race) on January 13th but since then had only run twice and one of them was along Blackpool prom – hardly a fell.

It wasn’t until I was driving to the race with my good pal and team mate Dr Ali that I began to think about the facts – we’ll be out running on t’moor for four and a half hours that’s  30 minutes less than it took us to do the Trigger… erm…oh ‘eck I hadn’t thought of that. To be honest I hadn’t thought about anything since booking us on the race – well I don’t do I?  “Never mind I was OK last year” I told myself as I tried to plant a false memory of effortlessly gliding across hill and dale 12 months earlier.

We were soon parked and heading for kit check and registration at Dovestones Sailing Club. One of the things I find quite wonderful about fell races is the genuine joy, energy and helpfulness of the people on the organising teams.  The Saddleworth Runners are no exception. I have never before been greeted by so many friendly smiling faces on such a cold, wintry morning – and can’t imagine Simon Pymm on kit check being happier if he’d run and won the race.

With kit checked and numbers pinned to clothing we waited in line to start. We got our maps and start time at 9:52am and we were off. Dr Ali was quickly at work studying the map and planning a route – he’s bloody good at this and quick. After some discussion we had a strategy. We decided to head up the Chew Valley and out towards Holme Moss and Crowden where the big points were – doing the Trigger a month earlier had given us a good indication of the ground we could cover and how long it would take. We could then head round to Black Hill and head back over Saddleworth Moor. It was a good plan and gave us room for manoeuvre should we need to make adjustments.

Eh? So how does it work?

This kind of race has no fixed course or route and is as much about navigation as speed. At the start of the race your are given a map of the area covered and a control card. Dotted around the area are control points each with a unique number or stamp with which you mark your control card. Each control is worth a number of points dependent on the relative difficulty of getting to it. The location of the controls are shown on the map. The idea is to get as many points as you can within the given time – in this case 4 hours 30 minutes. For each minute late you lose 3 points.

So how did it go?

It was cold. The run up Chew Road got us into a good rhythm and quickly warmed us up. Our first control (5 points) was just off the track on the top of a knoll. We bagged this and carried on up to Chew reservoir where we found the second control and a photographer. We got another 10 points for the control but nothing for the photographer. Here the weather turned almost arctic so we kept moving. We set a good pace heading east to find the Pennine Way where we descended into a glorious spring morning. Our third control was a bit trickier to find being located at the bottom of a crag (Rakes Rocks) which we couldn’t see because we were running in a trough. Rising onto higher ground we were soon able to find it for 20 more points.

From here we planned to head up the Pennine way, about a mile past Laddow for the next control. We decided to miss this one and instead head straight down into Crowden Great Brook (15 points) then back up into the arctic winter, across Bareholme Moss to the grouse butts in Wiggin Clough. This control was labeled as a sheep fold but turned out to be a grouse butt. No matter, we found it easily (30 points) and made jokes about small sheep whilst looking at a group of people scratching their heads at the sheepfold near the grouse butts about 200 metres further north.

Another change of plan at this point. We decided to cross Crowden Little Brook and head south to pick up a 35 point control on a slag heap in a disused quarry just above Crowden before heading back north to Stonefold Grough on Westend Moss for another 30 points. Somewhere along this route we had to ditch our plan for getting to the control on Holme Moss calculating that the descent to Heyden Brook and up the other side would take us too long. We headed straight up to Black Hill making good time on decent terrain.

Dr Ali’s expert navigation and route finding saw us arriving at the A635 – Isle of Skye Road – in Peak Bog Men record breaking time. We crossed the road to the layby and located our next 20 points. With about 50 minutes remaining it felt like we  were cutting it fine but should get back in time… so, perfect then. We crossed the road and soon found the next control at a stream junction (15 points) before following the stream to Rimmen Cottage – the old shooting lodge for our final 10 points.

Points in the bag all that was left was a long slog back to the finish at Dovestones Sailing Club. We took the direct route across moorland to Greenfield reservoir- where the steep decent of Ox Rake Brow just about saw off the rest of my legs with about 3 miles of flat trail to go. Dr Ali set the pace so I locked into a rhythm, switched of my head and followed.  We made it back with 4 minutes to spare. Job well done.

We did about 16.5 miles and over 3000 feet of climb – pleased with that.
We came 7th out of 36 in our race (long score) – well chuffed, I think that’s our best yet.
We had a fantastic day – the most important thing.

The Food

The post race food of the New Chew is about as good as it gets. Veg and cheese bake or meat and potato pie – the proper, home made stuff with lashings of  beetroot and red cabbage, none of your nonsense. A variety of expertly made cakes and gallons of tea finishes off a remarkable race with a warm cozy glow.

The New Chew has got to be one of the best races on the calendar. It’s got the lot: great organisation; challenging and varied terrain; weather conditions that vary minute to minute from spring running in t-shirt and shorts to arctic survival in full winter kit; breath-taking scenery;  the spread and variation of controls means that you’re not following crowds around – you hardly know you’re on a race;  and and the food… mmmmm the food. With numbers limited to protect the moorland restoration work I’ll be looking out for registration early next year to make sure I don’t miss out.

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trigger

Traversing some of the toughest terrain in the Peak District in mid winter, the Trigger Race is a test of speed, navigation and endurance and often – in my case -survival. Starting at Marsden the route measures 20 miles as the crow flies and ascends over 4500 feet climbing Black Hill, Bleaklow and Kinder before finishing in Edale. Profits from the race are donated to the Woodhead Mountain Rescue Team.

Totally out of character for me, I’d left entry too late and failed to get on the starting list. I had made it on to the reserve list though, and a couple of Peak Bog Men had bumped into the race organiser whilst doing a reci on Bleaklow who’d told them I would get a starting place. I was going to do it anyway – jumping into the race at the start and tagging along unofficially  As it turned out there was no need. A couple of weeks later I learned I was in – Entry List. Plans for anarchic fell running were wisely dropped.

Not knowing the route beyond Crowden I was planning to stick to the Pennine Way and other major footpaths as much as possible. An hour studying maps with Dr Ali who’d done the race before and surveyed much of the route changed my mind – so I think I’m already on Plan ‘C’.

Logistics were sorted out, cars were taken and left at Edale to get us home and support from ‘Jellied Eels’ Jeff Button was organised.

The weather in the week leading up to the race had been utterly miserable so I was pleasantly surprised to wake and find glorious sunshine and, importantly, no wind whatsoever.

Alistair Macdonald, Rick Legge, Alistair Macdonald, Stephen Fraser, Steven Tuck

Alistair Macdonald, Rick Legge, Alistair Macdonald, Stephen Fraser, Steven Tuck

We met at Marsden Cricket Club and after the usual formalities and photographs we were off. I’d anticipated a bit of a bottleneck going through the gates approaching Butterlley dam so made sure I got myself forward for the start. It quickly became apparent that, though the start route had been published nobody had actually studied it. This lead to what has been termed the Keystone Cops start to the race and a good deal of hilarity  Calls of “which way do we go?” and “We’re all following you” were shouted – I even heard someone say “Follow Mr Tuckle”, I can only guess they sensed that I had some local knowledge. Going through the first gate I found myself in first place! Pity it was at the wrong end of the race and for only 5 seconds. A group passed me then turned to ask me which way they should go when we reached the next gate. It was good to see Mac cheering us on as we crossed the Dam but sadly he was unable to prevent the tidal wave of runners now passing as we hit the obvious trail up the Wessenden Valley.

I quickly found my pace and settled in for the long haul as many, many runners passed me by. I was surprised to see people walking where the route steepened briefly at both Little Hey Sike and Leyzing Cloughs and managed to gain a few of the places I had lost. At Wessenden Head reservoir We came off the main Wessenden trail and got our first taste of boggy, tussocky moorland following the ‘Old’ Pennine Way route up to the first road crossing A635 – known locally as the Isle of Skye Road after the pub which was here up until the 1950s when it was demolished either due to a fire or the potential health threat from drainage into the reservoirs.

Crossing the road we continued the slog up Black Hill on paving slabs. Straight forward enough but great care had to be taken descending the steep sides of Reap Hill and Dean Clough as my Mudclaws glided effortlessly across the icy surface Blades of Glory style. I didn’t want to risk a fall here so walked down gingerly. Scanning the path carefully for the holes I am prone to fall down. I was soon at the foot of the steep section on the side of Issue Edge which leads to the summit. Everybody seemed to be walking up this section, I’m pretty sure they all thought I was insane as I slowly edged past them in a low gear. It felt great to get to the top where I gave myself a mental high-5 as I tagged the first trig point of the race.

The mist began to thicken but retained the brightness that betrays better things to come. I turned off the Pennine Way and followed a trod across the edge of Sliddens Moss. Here the ground was perfect – soft with a crisp icy shell. A steep and exciting  decent lead to Crowden Little Brook. Crossing the brook lead to what is probably an old quarry access road – now a rough trail mined with icy puddles every few yards – 3km of this and I would be at the first checkpoint and refreshments with Jeff. Just before the end of this section I saw my first fellow Peak Bog Man as Alistair passed me. This surprised me as I thought he was already ahead of me. Taking the connoisseurs descent route off the hill I was soon with Jeff who had doing a sterling job of organising supplies. I was busy gulping down some of these supplies when we were joined by Dr Ali. I asked Dr Ali if I could tag along with him for the rest of the race as, from here on, I was on virgin territory – I was glad when he agreed. Fresh supplies stuffed into my rucksack and we were off.

We crossed the second road crossing – A628 Woodhead Pass – and followed a footpath around the top of Torside Reservoir where we encountered the first person to offer us Jelly Babies – strange. Crossing the road, we ran alongside a wall before crossing it and beginning the steep ascent which was to lead us to Lawrence Edge. This is where sticking with Dr Ali began to pay off – he know’s these parts. Definitely not runnable this is a scramble. A scramble that has to be undertaken with the sound of gun fire from neighboring gun club echoing around the rocks. It’s worth it though. Height was gained rapidly and we soon found gradient easing off as we headed to Shining Clough Moss on a moonscape beneath a perfect blue sky.

We joined the Pennine Way just south of Far Moss before leaving it for a trod which took us straight to trig point number 2 at Higher Shelf Stones. This last section was like being on another world. The ground, being covered in ice crystals, sparkled and shone in the bright, clear sunlight. This vision and a surge of endorphins triggered a euphoric rush which lasted for a good ten minutes. It was one of the best running experiences I have ever had.

We set off from the trig point on a good trod which petered out near the top of Crooked Clough. Dr Ali’s route finding and research paid off again. We avoided the descending into the Clough and were soon traversing its eastern edge on another good trod which took us to the Pennine Way. On rapidly tiring legs it wasn’t long before we were at our last road crossing – the A57 Snake Pass – where Jeff was waiting with warm tea and Christmas pudding, a treat I’d been looking forward to the whole race. Reaching this point in my mind was ‘job done’ but I hadn’t any idea how much there was left to do.

snake pass snake pass mr tuckle snake pass dr ali

We set off on the Pennine Way which was treacherously icy so I was happy when we left it after about 1km at a delta of streams at the bottom of Withins Clough  which we were to follow on varying trods to the foot of another steep scramble. Time to dig deep and plug away again. We arrived at a group of stones at the top which I later learned from  Bridget were called The Boxing Gloves. After catching our breath we headed off south for our third and final trig point – Kinder. After more jelly babies and a quick bit of banter with the chaps from Woodhead Mountain Rescue we were off on the last stretch.

Not having been on Kinder before I didn’t know what to expect. We headed to the downfall on a  good trod before finding the Pennine Way again. The plan from the downfall was to follow a series of stream systems to the Western side of Grindslow Knoll. Again I felt we were on another planet. Running deep inside groughs and stream beds we were almost permanently surrounded by the darkness of eroded peat – the skyline only momentarily visible when we climbed from one to the other. I struggled to imagine a more difficult place to navigate – Dr Ali told me it involved several compass bearings, a small fir tree and a cairn. Even if I’d possessed the neccersay skill and knowledge I was too tired to use it and was happy I had someone to lead my through this maze of frozen blackness. This section was longer than I had imagined. We eventually found ourselves at the top of Grindsbrook Clough. Dr Ali was cross with himself as this meant we were now on the eastern side of Grindslow Knoll, something he’d wanted to avoid.  He still managed to expertly navigate us on decent paths back to the route which would lead us down into Edale.

edale churchA wave of emotion and relief swept over us as we spotted the steeple of Edale Parish Church which was followed by hearty congratulations and back slapping. I’ve followed Dr Ali around this race twice before in the car and never imagined that I would ever be able to complete such a challenge and here I was finishing it with the person who’d inspired me, and the sun was shining.

We were soon into the village and running down the road to the finish at Fieldhead Campsite where we were greeted by Jeff, Alistair, Rick and Bridget. We came 118th and 119th finishing in a time of 5h 6m 20s. I was elated and knackered but already looking forward to doing again next year.

Finish Line photos by Jeff Button.

rl sf am trigger finish

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We’ve had a few Monday nights out, an unmemorable evening chez Den Lane midge pits and peat quarry, a more interesting time at Running Hill Pits which, with eight small quarries to go at and some bits and pieces in our grades will be somewhere to go back to, a lovely atmosphere atmosphere and setting as well. I think we snuck a quick Alderman’s in there as well. Dr Crowe and Steven Fraser managed a half day at Ravensdale reported on Farcebook. All these social media choices and instant web2.0 gratification, if only the quality of the climbing was as good as the reportage.

Knocking all that into a cocked hat was a plan hatched for Monday 9th August as Dr Crowe had an enforced change of work schedule and Steven was devoid of responsibility. In a blinding move master Jack Crowe made an 8.15 AM appearance at Marsden station (all the way from York where he’d been playing in the Anti-Racism World Cup) and the party was complete. Only deviating to the butchers for essential pies it was straight over Holme Moss and across the Woodhead Dam for the walk into Shining Clough. The weather was good the path was lousy but once up at the crag the full majesty of it became apparent. “Ahhh, cracks, ooooh chockstones – lovely!” Dr Crowe exclaimed.

The views were pretty cool too.

We started out on Atherton Brothers (S4a **) which was a delight for Dr Crowe to lead. With Fraser on only one pie there was a lot less hauling than at Ravensdale. Steven then took up the lead on Via Principia (S4a **). Making short work of an offwidth crack to a short ledge it began to rain, but he battled gamely on. An awkward moment above the second ledge as the rain came in more heavily and assorted alternatives were tried. Eventually he got a sling round a chockstone. The only problem was that it moved a bit under load. Confidence dented and clearly a bit pumped he carried on for a couple more moves but found the top out beyond his reach. Like any good dad Dr Crowe sent Jack up without any gear to finish off and Steven nobly popped round to the top to help him sort out the belay stance.  Seconding the route showed what a really great effort Steven put in to almost make the lead and it was clear that the weather and the feeling that a key bit of gear was a bit suspect made coming off the right thing to do.

Steven watches his own progress on Via Principia …

Steven ascends Via Principia

And comes back down again….

To round off we tried to up our game and have a go at Phoenix Climb (VS 4c***)

Phoenix Climb - the full length crack in the face

the fabulous vertical crack that stands out on the face. After the usual struggles Dr Crowe realised that with only one piece of gear that was big enough to hold in the crack below the hole there wasn’t much hope of getting further as the crack above the hole just got a bit wider and was unprotectable. So back to the hat trick: rain, downclimb and a bit of top roping. With the exuberance of youth Jack hauled himself up the climb forgetting that his feet would be of any use. But enjoying it nonetheless…

The grin says it all really – another quality Peak District day out, and back to the car before it really threw it down.

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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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A quick day off and down to Sheffield to Rivelin Edge with Andrew to celebrate his birthday. No longer able to do a route for every year he’s attained we managed approximately 10%.
Rivelin is neat little edge with a large needle and although blowy and overcast the rockface was well protected and friction was excellent.

Rivelin Needle in the snow (Nov 2004)
Started ambitiously and at the top of our leading grades on Left Edge (VS 4c) which as a delicate slab climb turned into a gear-free wandering epic with much tree hugging off piste. So we then settled down to a couple of V Diffs and a severe, taking comfort in the thought of it being early season and all the indoor climbing is no preparation for the real thing, we haven’t been out on Pule etc etc. I can’t remember the names but one I think was Temple Crack. Anyway this is what they looked like:

Left Edge:

Left Edge VS 4c

Temple Crack:

Temple Crack

Misc routes

On the way back I read my notes in my copy of “On Peak Rock” – I did Left Edge in August 2004 and followed my mate Graham up  the Needle on Croton Oil (HVS). sometimes its two steps forward and two back …

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Black Hill is most northerly of the three great gritstone and peat plateaux which dominate the Dark Peak region of the Peak District. Smaller in area and lower than either Kinder or Bleaklow it is nonetheless a remote and bleak place to be in bad weather” – Peak District Information

That said, we are all experienced with map and compass, we know the area very well (and how to get off in bad visibilility), were suited and booted correctly and were carrying a couple of rucksacks full of emergency equipment… Oh and Dr Crowe had his cheroots.

Some fine chaps

Ey up Sharpy, Dr Ali, The Prof and Dr Crowe

We arived in Holme – the start of our walk – slightly late due to a puncture and some misdirection by me. More snow was falling and the Prof and Sharpy were already there waiting for us. After gearing up we set off just before 9pm. With visibilility aided by the snowlight the slog up Issues Road (track) was done without head torches. The row of dead moles pinned to the barbed wire fence like washing on a line made for a slightly eerie sight. I can only assume that this is how the farmers around Holme warn off any other moles thinking of encroaching on their turf.

Things started to get interesting at the end of Issues Road where the snow deepened and the path disapeared under it. After crossing the stream we stopped to check our course but Dr Ali and Sharpy were doing a fine job of navigating and we were soon heading up the steeper section leading to the Pennine Way. With the snow ranging from ankle to almost knee deep my tired legs were soon longing for solid ground. It never came. The snow just got deeper.

Dr Ali’s excellent navigation skills found us at the large cairn which we knew was at the top of the main path before the last summit section. After several false summits we came across two small sticks pushed into the snow which Dr Crowe aptly named the slalom gate.  The chaps who came up here on the New Year’s Day run recognised these as being close to the summit trig point. After 2 attempts to find the trig point from this location we decided that enough was enoough and – not wanting to create so many foot prints so as to confuse our route off – we set off back down.

I was dissapointed to have not found the trig point but soon realised we had made the right decision. The 12 inch deep footprints that we had left in the snow on our way up only 20 minutes earlier had all but disapeared. The snow, so fine and powdery that it felt more like fine sand, coupled with the strong wind and further snow fall had completely covered our tracks. Again Dr Ali, compass in hand, led us expertly and safely past the gulley and down to where we knew we were on safe ground and we soon found ourselves on the trudge down Issues Road and back to the cars completing another fine adventure.

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