Thursday, 31 January 2013

Headtorching with Keighley and Craven

Last night me and Harry had a brilliant head torch run out with the K & C head torch brigade from the White Lion in Kildwick. Keighley & Craven AC have a social run organised each Wednesday of which a small hardcore always run off road and it was this "lot" that we joined in with.

There were about 8 or 9 of us I think and, from what I can work out, we ran along the canal and then up over Kildwick Moor and Bloomer Hill, along various tracks and through loads of confusing fields, all the way to Cocklicks Farm (yes, really) before turning back at 45º and heading across to Farnhill Pinnacle and then whizzing back down to the pub. 5.25 miles and 644 feet with loads of mud thrown in. In fact Harry was completely plastered when we got home and had to have a shower. Unfortunately we couldn't stop for a drink and the pub grub put on at the White Lion for afters but will do next time.

And my now not very new looking fell shoes have clocked up over 120 miles and they are still absolutely brilliant. Could be the best fell shoes I've ever had in fact:

Inov8 300's now come in muddy yellow

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Assault on Ingleborough

The plan for yesterday was meant to be a Cutthroat Bridge to Snake Pass High Peak Marathon recce with Gav and Hester but the humungous dump of snow that fell on Friday night put mockers on that -  to tell you the truth, having been over Howden Edge and Bleaklow in really deep snow before, I knew it would have been a truly epicsome (read completely and utterly stupid) adventure but, as Snake Pass was showing as closed to the snow first thing on Saturday, I was relieved to be able to knock it on the head with a rock solid excuse. The roads locally in Settle were chocka with snow anyway so just getting to the High Peak would have been tricky and worse still for Hes and Gav, coming down from Masham and Thirsk.

So.... I decided to trot up Ingleborough with Haz (not to be confused with Hes) from Austwick instead. Our route up Ingleborough from Austwick is a doddle in normal weather involving crossing the deadly lawn like paths of Norber, dodging the ravenous swarms of grass devouring swaledales, avoiding the bunny deatheaters and generally using a track that you could follow blindfold, but yesterday the snow made it really properly tough. Straight from the off it was hard work trying to run, as the snow was so deep, but this was nothing as to what came later - I was having to walk when the snow was a foot deep to begin with but, after a while, I was glad of the snow just being a foot deep as it gave me the chance to run! And the snow was the sticky, heavy kind (great for snowball making) rather the the light icy powdery stuff (crap for snowball making) that we'd had in the past two weeks, making it all the more of a grind to plough on.

It normally takes me an hour to get to the summit of Ingleborough (5 miles) this way on a track thats normally brilliantly runnable but yesterday the same 5 miles took me 2 hours and 15 minutes!! We were battling out our own furrow through the snow all the way, with no others having been up before us to cut a path, and gee whiz, the snow just became unbelievable, especially after the double ladder stile below Simon Fell. The mile from there to the top of Ingleborogh was waist deep a lot of the time and poor old Harry really struggled to follow me here; the plucky little lad forged on though and we finally found the wind shelter on the top plateau, itself ice encased and virtually invisible in the white cloud and snow.

From there, after the snow was initially very deep and drifty coming off the summit, we managed to find our way down to the top of Little Ingleborough where, at long last, we finally picked up the footprints of two walkers who passed us going the other way. By the time we reached Gaping Gill more footfall had been added by a few other hardy walkers and we were running on a proper trod, making the second half of our run actually... a run.

Just fantastic though. 10 miles in 3 hours 32 minutes!!!

Harold with Norber beyond

Me and the boy

Looking back at our tracks

Harry furrowing on

"Too infinity and beyond!"

Nick Pot - it doesn't look like this in the 3 Peaks Fell race!

Into the white out

Harry doing his bit to de-ice the wind shelter

Our route

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Another glorious head torch run in the Settle Hills!

A stunning head torch run with the boy tonight. We trotted into Settle Market Square and then up Banks Lane before climbing all the way up to the trig point and cairn by Warrendale Knotts. The snow was thick and deep up there, making for some tough going, and once we were on the very top it was all untracked crumpy snow, apart of course from bunny prints and those of the odd passing fox. 

It was extremely beautiful too what with a waxing moon poking through the clouds and the reflected light from the snow. Once at the trig it was absolutely glorious to just survey the surrounding hills, all silent in the frosty whiteness. We heard a fox calling a few times (Harry’s ears pricked up at each raspy bark) which kind of added to the tranquil and slightly spooky atmosphere.

Solitary (well solitary plus Haz) head torch running in the hills, especially in the snow on such a clear and frosty night, is just the best thing ever. I’ve been invited to run with the Bowland bats when they’re next in my neck of the woods which will be a real contrast - I was reading up on their bat run last week and something like 25 of them all ran up Winter hill with their head torches on, presumably in one large gaggle. Probably a great laugh I admit, and sociable too (especially in the pub after), but I can't imagine you get anything like the same at one with nature experience that you get up in the hills on your tod at night. Anyway I'm sure I'll find out next month.

After the trig we dropped off the east side of the hill through huge drifts of powdery snow into Attermire Scar, following that south into the valley below the crags and then heading up and over Sugar Loaf Hill all the way to High Hill Lane, which we crossed, before heading down Lambert Lane. This ‘lane’ is a stoney, boulder strewn pitted cart track usually but tonight it was half filled with huge five or six feet high snow drifts with a nicely worn snowy trod beside them all the way down to Lodge Farm. At the farm we swerved left (south) up through Pond Plantation before dropping down in a long zig zag through Cleaptops Wood and then meandering heading back home through the fields and along Watery Lane.

A fabulous 6.4 miles and 1,100 odd feet giving me 152 miles and 27,500 feet of ascent for the year so far.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Gorgeous headtorch run

Apologies for posting about one of my bog standard head torch run outs but, after lots of fresh snow fell today, tonights little 3 mile trot out to Cleatop Wood and back was simply stunning. The snow was pretty much never less than 6 inches deep, often much deeper, and because it was fresh untrodden powdery snow actually running in it wasn't too bad either. I've marked up my route on the map below - just imagine this map and those features and contours..... but under a blanket of snow

Cleatop Park (wood) is actually known as "Sticky Wood" by Harry
And running down through the wood was absolutely magical - all silent and still with everything covered in immaculate pristine snow. We actually stopped smack in the middle of the wood and just stood and stared into the trees and bushes around us as lit up by my (new) headtorch beam. We also had our expert tracksmen heads on and spotted both deer and fox prints in the snow. Fan-bleeding-tastic.

Oh and the new head torch is the dog's bollocks too

Fenix HP11

Sunday, 20 January 2013

A fantastic snowy weekend of running

Settle received a nice covering of snow at the start of the week on Monday, followed by another top up on Friday afternoon, so I was really keen to get out in the snow this weekend. On Saturday me and the boy Hazzer set off around the Settle Loop, which is a circular route out towards Malham and back, well known by local hill walkers, runners and mountain bikers alike. In the summer on firm ground its really fast and runnable all the way (there's an annual trail/fell race each September too) but, what with the snow and ice, yesterday it was a brilliant mix of runnable, trudge-able, wade-able, crawl-able and skate-able. 

The normal route, shown here (as a mountain bike trail), unfortunately misses out two great hills and trig points so my route yesterday (see here) added in visits to the top of Rye Loaf Hill and Warrendale Knotts, and made the total run 11.6 miles and just over 1,700 feet of climb. The snow drifts were incredible in places too, whipped up by a strong gusting biting wind.

Harry with his sticky legs spying out the way

A droopy drift

Stockdale Lane after the farmer had been through with his snow plough

The ice blasted trig point on Rye Loaf Hill

Coming off of Rye Loaf into the snowy wilderness

Harry at the drift blocked entrance to Jubilee Cave

Harry admiring the view towards High Hill
An absolutely gorgeous run with Hester and Harry into Narnia Hackfall and Rumer Woods from Masham. Lots of stick chucking and snow kicking for Harry, with Hes and I spotting lots of wildlife tracks in the snow. We spotted 8 buzzards flying over Rumer woods at the same time and also saw two hares.

A beautiful run followed by falafel, tea and chocolate cake in Johnny Baghdad's cafe in Masham.

Hackfall Woods

Hester looking gorgeous

Hazzer swimming in the Ure


Rumer Woods

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Crap Head Torch Review

My current head torch is a Black Diamond Storm and its...... crap!

It has a habit of suddenly going out. And then requires a load of random on/off button pressing to get it to come back on again, which to be fair it eventually does most of the time. This unreliability, as you might expect, is not especially handy at this time of year in the middle of a wood in the pitch dark while out for a run! I suspect its got a dodgy connection or something (I can't imagine it was designed to randomly switch itself off) but its darn annoying either way.

The Black Diamond Storm.... with the light actually working
I bought it at the last minute last summer, after my previous headtorch broke, just in time to support Martyn Price on a night leg of his successful Bob Graham attempt and, five minutes after putting the flipping thing on, on its maiden voyage, it died on me. I eventually got it working again and it then worked fine for the rest of that night. Fine enough in fact for me to think that maybe I hadn't put the batteries in properly or something and decide not to take it back to Castleberg Sports but to keep it. 

It then suckered me in even more by behaving perfectly on its next couple of outings (spread over a few weeks, it being summer). Then just when taking it back to the shop would be difficult (and un-British), after maybe a couple of months, it developed this turning off thing increasingly regularly and especially after loading new batteries.

Oh and thats the other thing, the batteries are supposed to last a good time, 50 hours on full power in fact! Hah! You can half that at the very least!

I'm sure this says that the batteries will last 50 hours on the triple power 100 lumens setting
Suffice to say I've now finally had enough and I've ordered a replacement tonight, a Fenix HP11.  At this time of year, what with work and all, 5/7ths of all my runs are headtorchers and I need a flipping reliable light to see by. Touch wood the Fenix will be just that.

In conclusion don't buy a Black Diamond Storm and, if you do, take it back to the shop straight away if its not working properly! And don't believe a word of the battery life either!

Sunday, 13 January 2013

First Bob Graham Recce of the year

A Bob Graham Round is, in the cold light of day, a ridiculous thing to want to do - visit 42 peaks in the Lakes, as laid down by Bob Graham (a random lakelander) on his 42nd birthday in 1932, within a 24 hour deadline. The total distance was for a long time randomly thought to be 72 miles, a myth that a lot of Bob Grahamers don't do much to dispel it has to be said, but in fact (so long as you take the most efficient line) its more likely to be somewhere between 62 and 66 miles. I always say 66!

Its not really the distance thats the problem though and all sorts of other issues raise there heads during an attempt:

Firstly the total climb, something like 26,000 feet! Thats almost 5 miles of total upwardsing and 5 miles of downwardsing to add to the 66 miles of alongwardsing

Secondly the ground you're going over is just about the most perfect collection of the worst that the Lake District can throw at you - mud, rocks, river crossings, more rocks, boulders, swamps, bogs, more mud and even more rocks. Not forgetting stupidly steep climbs and bonkersly steep descents!

Then there's the weather! I have nothing more to say on the subject having had my fill of bad weather last year. Needless to say during a Bob Graham Round attempt you spend a great deal of time up high..... where the weather can be dreadful - a gentle breeze in Grasmere = hurricane force winds on the summits; a fine summer pitter patter of rain in Wasdale = a monsoon like deluge on Scafell Pike.

Then there's being able to eat and drink properly to maintain your energy, the navigation (hah!), the logistics, your support team, your clothing, the weather and... well the list goes on. Oh and being able to run helps too.

Anyway.... the full round is split into 5 manageable 'legs' and visits the valley bottoms at the intervals between them for refreshment/replenishment stops (the 24 hour clock doesn't stop ticking though) and today me a couple of like minded potential Bob Grahamees, Kev and Roy, went round leg 1 from Keswick to Threlkeld via the peaks of Skiddaw, Great Calva and Blencathra. (I say leg 1 but this is only the case if the round is done clockwise - on an anticlockwise round it would be done in reverse as leg 5 surprisingly enough!)

Skiddaw, Great Calva and Blencathra nestling nicely above Keswick

And the weather was.......... snow! In fact it was pretty much a white out when we finally got to the top of Blencathra leading to some not fantastic navigation in finding the summit. 15 miles and just over a mile of climbing/descending later we managed to survive our way round and a merry time was had by all. Chuffing brilliant!!

Skiddaw summit just about in view

My excellent new fell shoes

Kev and Roy almost at the top of Blencathra

Harry the snow dog

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Settle Hills Ahoy!

Settle, where I live, is blessed with hills to run straight out of the door so funnily enough I do a lot of  running up, over and round all of the local hills. This morning me and the boy wonder Harry had a lovely run over to Attermire Cave via Cleatops Wood and Lambert Lane, followed by a scoot over Warrendale Knotts before dropping back down to home

Heading for High Hill

Lambert Lane 

Harry having a lovely time half way up High Hill

Dropping down towards Attermire Scar

Climbing to the cave

A cracking view of the 3 Peaks

Cairn on Warrendale Knotts

Thursday, 10 January 2013

New fell shoes!

My brand spanking new Inov8 fell shoes arrived today and I initiated them with a 4.5 mile run around Settle Hills tonight. Just in time too as my tatty old Walshes were on their last legs!

Out with the old....

In with the new....

.... and immediately set about ruining them!

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Claire's Birthday run

Finishing of a rock solid first week of 2013 running, a group of us (but not Harry who'd been stolen by my youngest daughter Lauren) ran up and over Cronkley Fell and back from Holwick today. A glorious run with some sunshine thrown in to boot. 

Fantastic to run in a previously unvisited part of the country too and a really lovely there and back route, following the race line of the Cronkley Fell Race. The pint of Golden Plover and slab of birthday cake in the Strathmore Arms after went down well too.

The motley crew (excluding me) with birthday girl Claire third from the right

Cronkley Fell ahoy!

The turning point - an island in the river Tees

First Humdinger!

Yesterday me and Harry finally kickstarted our running year with a proper beast of a run, trotting round the 3 Peaks of Yorkshire (Whernside, Pen y Ghent and Ingleborough) from Ingleton. The most efficient and common route round the 3 Peaks usually starts from Horton in Ribblesdale, rather than Ingleton, and I can manage to cut visiting all 3 peaks down to 21.3 miles in total, although the main walkers route trudged round by hundreds and hundreds of walkers each year is typically a couple of miles longer than that. 

The annual fell race each April starts from Horton too and follows a line similar to my 21.3 mile route, albeit following the Pennine Way up and off of Pen y Ghent to a much greater extent. The fell race attracts some criticism from fell running purists because perhaps it follows well used and hard packed trails and roads too much but it is still a supremely tough race, and is a fast one too, and does still involve climbing for the best part of 5,000 feet and three big hills regardless.

Anyway our run yesterday was anything but efficient (and definitely not fast) and went out of its way to avoid any hard packed tracks and roads. It also involved more climb too, as Ingleton is lower than Horton. All in all our route was 28.25 miles with 5,200 feet of climb, a real humdinger! It was either really muddy, really tussocky or really swampy, or all three at the same time, all the way round too making for tough going!

Anyway a brilliant, brilliant run followed by a much needed mug of tea (with bickies and a bowl of water provided for Haz) in Bernies Cafe in Ingleton.

Looking back towards Ribblehead Viaduct with Whernside beyond

Running towards Nether Lodge on the Ribble Way

Hull Pot 

Harry pointing the way up Pen y Ghent

Sulber Nick with Ingleborough ominously lurking under cloud ahead