Monday, 20 November 2017

Peak Raid navigation race, Old Glossop

The final race of my Glossopdale Harriers 2017 champs - I needed to do this one to qualify for the overall champs category and I'm glad I had entered. The day dawned beautifully, blue skies and frosty under foot. Less chance of getting boggy feet and ankles with a keen frost, though no guarantee you won't go in a bog monster!

This is a score event (organised by Explorer Events), meaning once you have a map with the check points on you can do as much or as little as you like. I was joined by fellow Glossopdale Harrier Marie and we did the event together - both just needing to finish and get some points to get on the overall champs table, and thus secure a delightful club souvenir at the Christmas Do!

After the usual pre-race faff with kit, pinning on numbers and sauntering the 1km or so to the start point we are ready. First dib at the start, grab a map and spend a few minutes pondering our route choice.  Our aim is to get 5 check points (CPs) and have a good outing. I'm pleased that it looks like we will be able to do a loop route, rather than an out and back.

CP#6, small group of rocks, on rock
We head off towards Mossy Lea and our first CP, CP#7. We see plenty of runners heading south and up the steep bank towards CP#8 - I've been over that way once, and pretty much vowed never again. It's rough, very rocky among the heather and no real trods to speak of. Given our aim, heading for CP#8 and CP#9 would have seriously limited our time and points so we discount them and stay on better ground.

Knowing the area is a massive advantage in these races - there's no place names on the map or contour height markings (the latter I find so odd). Soon enough I'm ditching one of my thermal layers and we are climbing up towards Shelf Benches, along the well worn path towards the pond. Nav is spot on and I'm teaching nav to Marie as we go.  CP#7 is a ruin - one I have passed by so closely many many times yet never seen! That's why I love these events on your own patch, always something new to see.

checking the route
From CP#7 we head up to CP#6.  It's rough ground and we climb~traverse our way to it - being careful not to get drawn along trods that are going away from our tartget. Again, I know roughly where it is but I am glad of a clear day on this one. Low cloud or clag would have made nav more interesting and my approach different. Now on top of Shelf Moor, near The Pike, we are going for CP#5 so it's over to Dowstone Clough then west towards and beyond Dog Rock. I'm pointing out contour features to Marie along the way, this terrain is hard to nav on so not ideal for a beginner but she's picking it up well and reading the ground nicely.

CP#5 is pretty much placed exactly where Tim had hidden his goodie box once so I am familiar with the approach - steep tufty rocky grass....we find a good way down among the rough ground and even include a small bum slide to our advantage. It is meant to be fun after all!!  After dibbing we are climbing back up steeply....our next target is way over in Shittern Clough, CP#3

climbing out from CP#5

From the path along Yellowslacks I know the ground over to Shittern Clough is heather bashing, but also that a way down the path you can then bear right (north-ish) on a burnt patch so we enjoy the free running on the path for a while before beelining to CP#3. We can't avoid the heather completely and it's hilariously deep and holey and still frozen in the shaded north side of the hill as we make our way ever slower into the clough. With CP#3 located in the clough we start the climb towards Cock Hill and CP#2.
CP#3, Shittern Clough - stream, end of path

It's hard to see exactly where CP#2 will be - will it be in the main quarry under the trig or off to the north slightly? We clamber up towards the trig but then head to the top edge of the main sign in there so we continue and easily locate the CP in the next bit of quarry. Safe approach needs us to go along and around to it but I look back to see someone clambering down the small crag! With a quick time check we have ooodles of time to head out to CP#1 and get back without fear of going over the 3 hour time limit (which means you lose some - or maybe all - of the points you have accrued).

CP#2, N Crag Foot (under Cock Hill trig)
The terrain here is best described as lumpy - quarry spoils and rocky little trods mean the going is initially slow then we can run a little as a trod becomes clearer. Closer to CP#1 we meet Andy B and Ian O of Glossopdale coming in the opposite direction, who helpfully confirm we are close to the CP and need to just keep going in the same direction. So our nav was reassuringly spot on.

Our final CP - CP#1 old quarry, on ground

Final CP for us dibbed and we have about 30mins to get back to base....3km later and we're back. The run off is lovely, the sun is shining as it has been all morning and we are back to the scout hut really quick. The final dib at the end sees us completing 6 check points in 2hrs 40 or so and 11km covered. Happy with that given we pootled along, I took photos at each CP and we didn't rush any of it.  A refreshing brew and biscuit is welcomed as we socialise with the other runners and await Tim finishing.

Me (left) and Marie dibbing at the finish, thanks to Explorer Events for the photo.

Thanks to Explorer Events - another brilliantly organised nav event. Shame I can't do the final race in the series but it clashes with another local race organised by a mate, Shittern Santa Saunter - a delightful race starting from Howard Town Brewery in Old Glossop.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Waterlicht Show, Winnat Pass

A few photos and video's to serve as memories to this art installation that came to Winnat Pass late September: 

Friday, 10 November 2017

Get Brave....GO APE!!

More blog catching up and this time I'm looking back to the end of September.

A massive step out of my comfort zone this one. Tim booked us on Go Ape and I felt brave.

As a bit of background, at some point in the last 6 years I developed vertigo. Not so bad that I need help with daily stuff, but put me on steep ground, shock the system with a sudden amount of vast exposure, or sometimes just run along an edge path and suddenly WHAM!! I'm feeling nauseous, off balance and annoyed my body does this to me.

So, the day came for us to head over to Buxton. I'll let the photos and videos tell the story...

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Cycling Snake Pass

What a superb stroke of luck that the week the Snake Pass is closed for routine maintenance we have decent weather. I've been doing a bit of indoor cycling using a turbo so this was the perfect opportunity for one last shot at having some fun on the roads without worrying about traffic.

Monday 23rd Oct
Tim and I set off with the aim of getting me to the top and back. After the initial resistance from legs I get round the steep bit near the bottom and then settle into a good rhythm all the way up. There's a decent bit of breeze blowing - mostly as a tailwind. At the top we pause for me to catch my breath - then carry on over a little way just to the second layby.

on the way up

Monday summit

Another brief pause and I'm on my way back to the summit, straight into a very stiff headwind on the steepest bit of the whole of the snake pass!! I do it, but legs are burning. The headwind is such that we need to pedal on the descent back to Glossop. Hands and feet are chilly cold but bearable.
15km in about an hour and 445m ascent

Tuesday 24th 
Keen to have another go but the rain is persistent all day.

Wednesday 25th
We grab another decent weather window though today is much cooler. The wind is still going some but not at bad as Monday. This time we keep going over the top and on to the Snake Pass Inn. Roadworks are just beyond, and although we can probably get through I have to get back home for work.
21.2km in 1hr 18 and 560m ascent
Heading back up to the summit

Wednesday summit

Returning to the summit from Snake Pass Inn

Thursday 26th
A solo cycle today as Tim is off doing other things. I want to feel brave and continue past the top and over the other side but lack of knowing how to fix a puncture/repair a mechanical cause me to doubt my abilities. I must get Tim to show me that stuff again! I do however succeed in getting to the top and back down. Today I just savour the traffic-free roads, slowing to admire the views one can rarely see for more than a fleeting glimpse.  I'm thankful for virtually no wind in any direction today.
14km in just under an hour with 383m ascent

Thursday's solo summit....and yes, I'm wearing Tim's warm top!

Friday 27th
The last day the road will be closed to traffic for probably quite a while. I heard yesterday that they are aiming to open the road by 2pm so as soon as we finish work at 10am we quickly change and get the bikes out. Not much wind again - brilliant - and beautiful sunshine - what a treat.
Our aim today is to get me all the way over to Ladybower and back. We consider getting to Fairholmes but I know that will add on maybe another 10km or so - I keep it as a possibility depending on how I feel once we're descending towards the reservoir.
Up we go, legs feeling OK but know this is the 4th time up in 5 days. Will I be able to get all the way to Ladybower....and back? I throw doubts and concerns out of mind and settle into the rhythm of pedalling, admiring the view, chatting with Tim as we can cycle side by side for much of the ride. There's a few places we need to slow as we pass workers doing their maintenance stuff but at no point do we need to get off. Onwards, the summit comes and goes and we are over the top and on our way down. It seems more undulating than I remember it from driving over, yet we are constantly and steadily descending. Soon enough we are at Ladybower. Wow. I did it!!!
I'm so chuffed we push on to Fairholmes - the worst that can happen on the return is that I sit down and wait while Tim goes to get the van and rescues me!!  A swift tea and rejuvenating cake later and we are back on the bikes on our return. The road alongside Ladybower is surprisingly steep in places and my legs are feeling it. I also feel tired in my back and neck from just being in the same position for so long.

The A57 is rejoined and we turn towards Glossop. I haven't looked at how far we have come, we aren't on a time limit so I tell my aches and discomfort to shut up and enjoy the journey back. The autumn colours on the trees are delightful and the sunshine warming on cold hands.
Near Hagg Farm I really don't want to be on the bike. Just from a physical aspect, my body craves to be in a different position. I know I must have another hour or so to go....Tim gently pushes me to reach the layby at Birchen Clough before stopping....for I really want to stop now. I push on, it hurts. At the layby I get off the bike and stretch. This is the low point. I know the only option is the get back on, pedal and endure...all the while mindful that I am so lucky to be able to firstly physically be able to do this, and secondly be fortunate to have the time and live right on the doorstep of this closed road. I dig in, determined not to stop and walk.
A maintenance chap slows his vehicle and tells us the road is going to open in 10-15mins - we reckon just enough time to get to the top and start descending. That really helps focus me to keep going!7

Up ahead there's another two riders who passed when I was stretching....we slowly gain and then overtake them right before the steep final push to the summit. Nothing for it but to keep them behind so I use masses of mental strength and keep on pedalling. I alternate seated fast spins with standing harder pushes. I'm not sure which hurts more but I finally reach the top and we pause. I'm not sure I could have stayed on the bike any longer, but I did it. After a brief rest we hop back on the bikes and enjoy our final descent back to Glossop. 

Friday summit...looking back to the East and the cyclists I'd managed to stay ahead

As we pass the golf course on the edge of Glossop the road is being re-opened. Perfect timing.

As we turn back onto our road I check my watch....48.7km....nothing for it but to add a cool-down lap to the turning circle and back to round it up to 50km. My longest ever bike ride, my first time riding over the Snake Pass...and back....and probably one of the physically hardest things I've ever done. To say I'm chuffed is an understatement. This was a goal for me next year, and something that was motivating me as I pedal on the turbo over winter. I'm going to have to find a new goal now!!
50.2km in 2hrs55 (incl a good 10min tea/cake stop) and 992m ascent (no way did I have energy to find 8more metres to round that one up). 
A huge huge thank you to Tim for looking after me, giving me the confidence to do all of these rides, especially Snake Success to Fairholmes and back.

Totals for the week on the bike:
6hrs 28mins
2588m ascent

Time for a few rest days!

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

French Alps Holiday

Yey, Holiday Time! The original plan for this holiday was centred around Tim running the TDS - one of the UTMB races. Going from Courmayer to Chamonix the race covers 110km with 7000m of ascent - so not a short or easy one. Unfortunately injury led to Tim pulling out of the race but the holiday was still on. Tim's written about this over on his blog.

We got ourselves a 4 day lift pass so we could enjoy the Aiguille de Midi station, and get up higher on a few days without the 1000-1500m of ascent needed to get out of the Chamonix valley and on to the high paths. Cheating perhaps, but with a 3hr walk up switch-backs, it isn't something you want to do every day.

Weather was super hot the first half of the holiday, then mixed with a few days of low cloud and rain. We went from super hot to -10 degrees on our last trip up the Aiguille de Midi!

On our way up to the Aiguille de Midi, 3842m
The cable car journeys take 20mins from the valley floor rising 2700m 

Mont Blanc with Digital Crack on the chunk of rock...a hard climb (understatement I'm told)

Back down at the Plan de l'Aiguille at 2310m we had a wander up to Lac Bleu

On the first Saturday we headed up to the Gorges de Notre Dame for a walk up to Col de Bonhomme, an 18km round trip with nearly 1200m ascent.

View from Col de Bonhomme

The next day we headed back up to Chamonix early, wanting to avoid the heat of the day for our walk. But first, Tim headed up to the Plan Praz cable car station the hard way - up the Vertical Kilometre route which goes directly up underneath the cable car. I took the easy option in the cable car this time.

Mont Blanc from Chamonix town centre
I met Tim at the top, and we caught the high level cable car across to Le Brevent. Thankful of the cloud cover, we walked over to the Refuge Bellachat for coffee then down a million and one switch backs back down to Chamonix town centre.

Looking across to Mont Blanc from Le Brevant, 2525m

Heading down the first steep section from Le Brevant

On Tuesday Tim was off doing some Alpine climbing with Kev who we were staying'll have to ask Tim for details of what they did, I just went to see them off as they left the Aiguille de Midi station, out of the ice cave and down the arete onto the glacier. I watched them get smaller and smaller as they crossed the glacier until I could no longer make them out.

Kev and Tim getting ready in the ice cave

They're the two on the left, just leaving the ice cave

and off down the arete

They're just visible by the sticky up rock on the arete

With the majestic Mont Blanc as a backdrop, Tim and Kev are down on the glacier next to those round dots....they're tents!

I took myself off on a delightful run/walk across the high level path from Plan de l'Aiguille to the Mer de Glace train over at Montenvers. Apart from a couple of guys up ahead and a few other runners I had the path to myself - my pace was somewhat slowed because I couldn't resist stopping to take lots of photos!

The Mer de Glace, claiming to be the largest glacier in Europe it is sadly retreating at an alarming rate

The next few days were rainy so we had a good relax, short runs and walks and caught up on doing 'not a lot'. On one of those days we did a little driving tour up to the Col Des Montets - visibility was not great but we did see plenty of markers out for the UTMB races.

Lac Passy - a lovely 2.5km circuit ideal for running, but also windsurfing and swimming

Our final day came too quick and with it more low cloud and rain. Perfect for me to give the Vertical KM a go. Now, this is no easy thing. The Chamonix VertK is one of the toughest because to be classed as an official VertK route the overall distance covered can be no more than 5km, obviously with a minimum of 1000m ascent. The one in Chamonix covers a short 3.5km - meaning it is steep. Very steep. And, to top it off - with no option to go around, right near the top is a section of via ferrata - not ideal when I get vertigo!!

Nevertheless, this was on my list of things to do so here I was. Tim was giving it another go (without getting off course this time!) so we set off together and once he'd finished he'd come back down to give me some encouragement to keep going. I was pleased to get over 700m before he came back down to me.

About a quarter of the way up and in the cloud

Maybe halfway now....totally in the cloud and feeling the calves burning

Yey - I've done the via ferrata section, calmly helped by Tim's reassuring words
After celebrating at the top we didn't hang around - it was cold and we needed to change clothes so we jumped on the cable car down to Chamonix.
In search of coffee....we headed back up the Aiguille de Midi one last time
We had a day pass so thought we'd nip up and see the snow that had been falling - rain in the valley is sure to mean snow up there and we weren't disappointed. In the picture above you can see the lighter green stripe up the opposite hill - that's the cable car route up to Plan Praz - and therefore you can clearly see the route of the Vertical Km which we'd just done!! 

Snow scoured mountains became obvious - but only on the return trip down from the Aiguille de Midi - on the way up the cloud was so thick you couldn't even see the cable car cables!!

Mont Blanc is in the background....honest!

Back in Chamonix town centre it was heaving - the UTMB race was expecting the first finishers in a few hours so we grabbed the most delicious burger and chips I've ever tasted (Poco Loco not far from La Poste if you go to Cham you must go). That VertK had given me a raging appetite!  So, we ate, hung around and soon we had the first UTMB finisher  - Francois d'Haene in only just over 19 hours - incredible for a race 170km long....then 15mins later Kilian Jornet came in second.

A superb holiday, with a good mix of adventure and relaxation. We'll be back to the French Alps - there's a lot to discover out there.