Sunday, 16 March 2014

Bleaklow Fresh Breeze

My aim for yesterday's LSD (long steady distance) was a 22-24km run, and roughly about 3hrs on my feet. Tim was joining me, and we chose a route which gave me the chance to explore a few trods (little paths frequented by runners, and sheep!) I'd never explored before, but that Tim knows very well.

The forecast was for a westerly Fresh Breeze, so appropriate clothing, spares, and emergency kit was packed. We headed out on familiar paths up onto Bleaklow and across to Higher Shelf Stones. All the time, we're conscious that the wind is on our backs...and the return leg would be much tougher. Our far point was planned as either Bleaklow Stones, or Grinah Stones. The latter would give me the ideal distance with a 24km run. Visibility was good, though we had the ever present Fresh Breeze buffeting us.

Turning roughly north from Higher Shelf trig point we bee-lined for Hern Stones and almost to Wain Stones. Tim then took me up the old Pennine Way - a more direct route to Bleaklow Head, and a good path to put in memory for future runs. A brief pause was had at the cairn to check energy levels and such, confirming I was still feeling good. Now came the fun bit. Initially we aimed for the top of Near Black Clough (a trod I'm familiar with)
but we then struck off East across to Near Bleaklow Stones and then Bleaklow Stones. The running was fairly good on this ground, much firmer and less bog trotting than on the popular path to the south of our line. The regeneration of the moorland that's been going on up on Bleaklow is really evident in this area, with very little bog sections needing to be negotiated.

At Bleaklow Stones we took the decision not to continue to Grinah. I was a little disappointed feeling I had the distance in me, but the westerly breeze would have made the additional running on the return leg really tough. There are no paths as such up there, and the ground is physically challenging to run on. Add in the wind, and the fact that it was a bitter cold wind, would have sapped my energy and risked me having to cut the run short. So, a wise decision. At times like that I always get reminded of the mountaineering saying, that the summit of a mountain is only half-way - you still have to get home.

The route we chose next took us on a southerly bearing, crossing tufty grass, rocky and boggy parts and occasionally finding the faintest of trods to follow. We headed down The Ridge, towards the Alport Valley and then turned west across The Swamp and climbed up Hern Clough to pick up the Pennine Way. (I'm not making up these names, honest!) Another chat about route choices ensued, and we decided (well I did) that we should get some pace in our running and head south on the Pennine Way then down Doctors Gate back to Glossop. It felt good that I could still run a decent pace and feel relatively strong after the rough terrain we'd crossed.

20.6km and 832m (strava clocks it at 605m?!) recorded on my ambit, in a total of 2:44:08. The average pace was 7:18min/km which I feel is really good. All my recent longer runs have been on fairly flat routes so I'm pleased with this one. Stats aside, and if I can blank out the wind we had to contend with, it was an amazing run. We saw so many grouse and mountain hares in their mixed winter-going-on-summer coats I lost count. Seeing familiar parts of Bleaklow from new angles was lovely. I couldn't help but pause frequently to admire the beauty of where we were. Not many photos taken because the cold wind meant my hands were firmly tucked up inside gloves and big windproof overmitts. I'll be heading back to the The Swamp and The Ridge so watch this space for more photos.

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