Monday, 28 September 2015

Navigation Instruction for FRA, Elterwater

This is my third time instructing on a Fell Running Association navigation course and yet again it was a cracking weekend. Good students, good weather, good service from the hostel in Elterwater and good all round. It was good to have Tim along as an instructor this time too, and meet up with past and new instructors on the course.

The weekend schedule is:
Friday evening arrive, meet and greet followed by a classroom based intro to navigation
Saturday - early morning run, a short exploration close to the hostel and through the quarry
Saturday morning/early afternoon - navigation out on the hill
Saturday afternoon - solo navigation event putting into practice the skills learnt
Saturday night (after dinner) - night navigation exercise in pairs, 10 check points in a small area
Sunday - early run along the river, good views of the morning sun hitting the peaks high above the valley
Sunday - 10km solo navigation exercise, finding 10 check points on the open fell

I really enjoy the whole weekend, getting to spend time teaching map and compass skills. Even with a weekend it always feels like we need a week to really get the skills drilled in fully, and like anything confidence grows with practice and more practice.

essential kit for the weekend
check point
one of the good features to navigation from
working out compass bearings and setting the map
juniper tree
juniper berries - and yes they did smell just like gin!
view over towards Helvellyn direction
mushrooms! (tiny ones)
complex terrain to test out the navigation skills
glorious views like this all weekend
view towards Helvellyn on Sunday was even better
which knoll am I aiming for?
Good ole' Herdy sheep
and don't forget the bracken!

If you can't wait until the next FRA course (March 2016) and would like to have some navigation instruction then get in touch - Tim and I are available for one-to-one or group tuition in the Peak District, Snowdonia or the Lake District. As well as leading guided fell runs and taking runners out on race recces, we've both raced mini-mountain marathons, orienteering events and many fell races. Our navigation courses are tailored to what you want and to compliment the level of knowledge and experience you come with. We are also course providers for the NNAS (National Navigation Award Scheme) and can provide courses to help you gain your Bronze and Silver Awards.
Tel: 07985 251185 or for more information.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Ultra Challenge on the Pennine Way

Our holiday was never going to be a typical sit-on-the-beach-and-relax type. That's just not us. After mulling over a few options what to do Tim and I decided to pack light and head north on a running holiday along a section of the Pennine Way. Tim is running the Spine Challenger Mountain Rescue race in January (108 miles non-stop in 60 hours or less) next year so we decided to recce a decent section of route. We started at Wessenden Head (thanks for the lift Caity) and made our way to Horton In Ribblesdale.

Our pace was going to be steady (120km over 4 days), and a good test physically and mentally for me. I've never got close to running that distance in a week (I think 65km was my max to date). But I was up for the challenge and determined to do it. So far this year I've pushed myself to complete my first ever marathon (the Howgills 26 trail marathon in May) and first ever ultra race (the Long Tour of Bradwell in August). These four days would double the distance I've ever done in four days and get me out running around 30km on consecutive days. Oh, and to be clear, when I say running, I obviously mean running mixed in with walking.

Day 1: Wessenden Head to Mankinholes
32.2km - 545m ascent - 5hrs 3mins
The weather was pretty grim as we were dropped off at the road side. Proper claggy and raining. So with waterproofs on we got going. The forecast was for mixed weather and I only hoped it wouldn't be this damp all week. There was never a thought of curtailing the trip, just fingers crossed for decent drying facilities! The easy path down to Wessenden Reservoir soon gave way to a steep down and up onto moorland. Navigation was pretty straight forward even on unfamiliar ground for us, and with the clag drastically reducing visibility. It's fair to say we didn't see much on this day. The route crosses a few major roads, one of which had a very tempting smell of cooking bacon but so early in the day we resisted and pushed on. Before long we were at the M62 crossing, and rather dauntingly only half a bridge visible.

where's the rest of the bridge?

It wasn't until we reached the edge approaching Stoodley Pike that the cloud lifted a little and we could make out Mankinholes below and our first overnight stop.
Tim approaching Stoodley Pike monument

It was still really early, maybe around noon, so we pushed on along the ridge to the monument and had a snack. We added a few kilometres on along the Pennine Way so we could avoid the big climb back to the ridge in the morning. The rest of the day was spent having brews at the hostel, drying our clothes and have a decent meal at the local pub, Top Brink.

I was nicely surprised at how good I felt after the distance, and importantly my first time running with a decently packed rucksack. No matter how light you pack there's still going to be a good amount of weight with spare clothes, extra warm running kit, water and food. At the start of the day my pack had been 6kg - so easily 3kg more than I'd run with before.

Day 2: Mankinholes to Cowling
33.3km - 1107m ascent - 6hrs 18mins
After a lot of rain overnight it was good to start off dry. Not so on the feet, the ground was sodden. The day was a set of decent ascents and descents, and it seemed to be that every time I looked back where we'd come from the monument at Stoodley Pike it was gradually shrinking, but still dominant on the skyline. I imagine going the other way that the monument taunts your southward progress. The reservoirs along the way make good features to track your progress. The day stayed dry and blustery, but warm enough to run in t-shirts interspersed with arm warmers being pulled on. The skies were dramatic and it was really enjoyable falling into a good rhythm of running and walking.

We stayed in a B&B and had a super meal at the local pub, Bay Horse. It would have been good to stay for the quiz, the landlord was bound to be a great character, but we had an early start planned so retired early, safe in the knowledge that our socks had been washed and were being dried by the B&B owners - bonus!

Day 3: Cowling to Malham
29km - 844m ascent - 4hrs 56mins
Bags packed, arm warmers on to combat the cooler morning and we were on our way. We'd been told that today promised a good few ups and downs early on, then easy running into Malham. That was about right. There was a superb inversion in the valleys to our east. The grass under foot was damp and in places muddy from all the cattle.

glorious skies and rolling hills

After the summit at Pinhaw the day was indeed on fairly rolling land. Looking at the profile it does however hide the fact that we were gradually gaining height all the way to Malham. That might have contributed to me starting to feel the distance in my legs and the pace slowing.

Pinhaw trig point

We had a nice relaxing afternoon around the village and hostel and I resisted coming away from the pub with a bundle of kittens.

Day 4: Malham to Horton In Ribblesdale
24.6km - 876m ascent - 3hrs 49mins
Final bag pack of the week. All the dry bags and stuffing things into the rucksack had fallen into a system and it seemed like we were on the way for the last day before we could blink. The route north to Malham Cove was nicely straight forward, as you'd imagine with it only being about a mile from the village. A popular tourist spot, but at 8am on a Thursday we had the path virtually to ourselves.

early start so sun not yet reaching Malham Cove

Two big hills now stood between us and the finish. Fountains Fell and Pen-y-ghent. I'd start to actually believe I could do this four day run trip yesterday, but now reality was sinking in. The limestone paving on top of Malham Cove took some careful negotiating, it would be easy to trip and fall; thankfully the rocks were dry. After Ing Scar we were soon making steady progress around Malham Tarn and across to the ascent of Fountains Fell. The route doesn't actually take you to the summit of this hill, rather it goes around the end of it and down to the road. Pen-y-ghent came into view early in the day but as we reached the high point on Fountains it really dominated the skyline.

Pen-y-ghent from Fountains Fell
Approaching Pen-y-ghent from Dale Head

The weather was forecast to be dry until around 1pm and over the morning the cloud was encroaching from the south. That along with a train to catch at 1.24pm gave us a good sense of purpose to continually putting one foot in front of the other. I was really excited to be climbing up the final hill of the trip, and now well into the realms of building mental strength. My body was doing fine as long as I ignored the toe pain, the quad discomfort and the tightness in my calves. Oh, and the sore bits on my back where my bra and rucksack decided to rub. There's bound to be some form of pain on a long trip, I now needed to push on and ignore it. Nothing was so bad to stop me, but I did feel the need to apologise for my moaning to Tim. He was very patient!

Onwards and upwards (and up some big steps towards the top), and finally we made it to the trig point and superb views of the hills beyond and down to Horton. Now it was just down down down (and more ignoring of that toe pain!).

final section climbing up onto Pen-y-ghent

Final trig point of the trip....Pen-y-ghent

We pulled into the village around 12noon and enjoyed a lunch in the cafe then wandered to the train station for the journey home. What a superb trip. 120km and 3371m of ascent in 16hrs 31mins, or thereabouts. Not really an ultra in terms of a single event, but certainly my biggest week for distance by a long way and consecutive running days. I'll be back for more.

Key learning points:

  • we packed really well, only two things in my bag went unused (peaked cap and waterproof over-mitts) and both would have been used if the weather was worse
  • one hostel pillow is never enough
  • a good drying room is very welcomed (Malham wins the gold star on this trip)
  • you can do more than you think you are capable of
  • 30km no longer feels like a long way, especially when you share the journey with your best friend
  • using two different scales of maps for navigating is useful at times

Monday, 7 September 2015

Shelf Moor Fell Race 2015

Time once again for the local Shelf Moor fell race to be organised by the Glossopdale Harriers. I'd volunteered again this year to help put out the flags on Saturday and then sweep the race route on Sunday. Both days had glorious weather and the views onto Bleaklow, Kinder and beyond with the blazing purple heather were fantastic. I hope the racers took a brief moment to glimpse the beauty on race day!

The Saturday Flagging Party:

Sunday's race day - not many pictures as I was too busy running at the back of the race:

And a final photo to show off the beautiful heather, taken on a guided run I lead about 10 days before the race: