Tuesday, 20 February 2018

New Chew Short Score 2018

First of the Glossopdale Harriers Fell Champs- a navigation race that lasts 3 and a half hours and is over some of the most amusing (read: un-runnable) terrain locally.
Setting off from Chew Sailing Club at about 9am, it was a little chilly, but the sun was out and it was clear on the tops. You could see a small amount of snow on the ground on the moors, but nothing crazy. Contrary to what seems to be normal practice in Orienteering events - from what I can see - I went against the grain of heading off near the end of the time slot, and went as early as possible. The benefits of heading out when others have trogged around looking for a checkpoint, leaving footprints in the snow... or even still being there in gaggles - is obvious, but our strategy was a little different. The earlier we start, the earlier we finish, and the sooner we get to have some of the legendary spread of food laid out at the end.

I jogged off up the main path/road onto the moor, working out a rough route plan. Not really knowing quite how far I was going to be able to go in the time, a couple of ideas were playing around in my head. As the ground was pretty rough further out, it would be a LOT harder to get home in a decent amount of time. There are always a decent number of people who under-estimate how long it takes to move across broken and un-even terrain, and there are a good amount of competitors who over-run by not inconsiderable margins.
Having "done" the over ambitious thing in Peak Raid last year, the idea today was to get out, go hard and get as many checkpoints in a wide circuit as possible, and come back in as wide a circle as possible, picking up anything else that might be in my way. With that in mind, and with a couple of escape routes planned, depending on timings, I hammered out past the easy 10 pointer - 1 to get should I have time when I arrive back, and straight up to the tops, collecting a 20 pointer just on Chew Edge, before doing the thing that not many people seemed to do- ignore the other, smaller points around that area which would take up a fair amount of bog bashing and descent/ascent, and cracked on across the tops to the Laddow side.

It took a while to get to the next CP, but I dropped into it pretty well - guided in from a fence by a series of tributaries, then it was back up to the fence and follow it all the way along to the next CP. Easy nav.
Fence line. Easy Nav. If the fence is actually there. In this case, it was.
From there it was a bit of a fun gallumph downhill through a load of moderately ankle twisting turks heads, a drop down a bit of a cliff, more broken ground and then a significant climb to a sheepfold. The sun was still out, it was clear above, and there was no-one anywhere near me. It was simply glorious to be out.

Now came the interesting point. I HAD planned to go straight back up to Crowden Castles, but had only been out for an hour... there was the opportunity to drop into Crowden Little Brook and sweep north picking up 3 40 pointers, and then come back across the moor from Black Hill towards Chew... and there were options there as well.
Go long.

Little more than 10 minutes later I was cursing my decision as I made my way through epically horrible terrain. 2ft+ high Turks heads with knee deep bog inbetween slowed me down to a crawl- in some cases, literally. No turning back now... I moved as fast as I could through this purgatory of floor space, tripping, cursing and ocassionally losing my map, and eventually came out down near the sheepfold. Clipped the card, and got myself on the track for some well earned running time. As fast as I had been moving previously, my average pace still needed to be faster in order to get back in time.
The Path. No pics of Turks heads. I was too busy doing other things. Like falling over. And cursing.
Up to the waterfall and the next point was easy enough and no real nav was needed, but the next section, north up the stream, without going too high onto the moor above and into a restricted area, while the mist was coming in, at a height where knee deep snow was now becoming apparent were all factors that did not point to a particularly fast leg. Not really what you need at the furthest point out of a race where you are master of your own route choice...

The bottom of the clough was horrible and boggy. Half way up it was clagged with Turks heads, on top it was turksheads and kneedeep snow. Above that was forbidden ground. Not a whole lot of choice, so I made my way north as fast as conditions and my legs would allow, spending the final 300m in the bottom of the clough nigh on wading through the stream to make sure I didn't miss the control.

Once found it was up on top find a trod and head direct for the Pennine Way. It is pretty obvious at this point on the moor, but there are still a number of groughs to cross to get to it, which don't go down amazingly well with tired legs.
The Pennine Way. And the Mist, coming in.

Hit the PW, and yet, not home and dry by a long way. Time ticking away, and still a bog drenched moor to get across with checkpoints strewn across it. My first reaction was to go for the one immediately closest to me, up a clough, but once there, knee deep snow and bog made me think again, considering the amount of moorland I would still have to traverse to get back a from there. The decision was made to go south a little on the Pennine Way (icy as an icy thing, and very slippy), and then hang a right up a grough to another Checkpoint in a very obvious place- considering the contour lines, and then back across the moor...
not a problem.
I can't honestly remember where this was, so consider this to be a witty comment

Found the grough, went up - found the right place. No CP. Odd. There was a really obvious feature, and the CP wasn't there. Another competitor was also looking for the same one, and after a good while looking for it, I took some photos to prove it wasn't in the right place and headed West up the grough to gain a point where I would traverse the moor.
And then came across the CP about 100 metres further upstream that it should have been. Clipped it, and started across the moor.
Time was beginning to tick away. I figured I might just get another point in, and went North to the one that looked like it would be easiest to find. It was. But it was not the easiest to get to. Instead of having horrendous turksheads and bog on a slope as before in Crowden Little Brook, this was turks heads and bogs on a flat piece of ground. Even worse because it LOOKED like it should be runnable.
Eventually I clipped the point, and realised that going across the tops was not going to be an option... no-where near enough time considering the conditions underfoot - so elected for the get off the hill quick and take the massive path down past the reservoirs to home. Added bonus- there was a CP just at the end of the path. Even more added bonus, if I kept up a decent pace and got back to the Sailing club with 15 mins to spare, I might just be able to snag that final 10 pointer that I ran past at the beginning.

Down the clough at ankle twisting speed, off the hill and through a river to clip a CP. Back to the path, which is essentially as good as a road once you've been battling across the equivalent of fields of man-traps for the last 3 hours.... and bash as hard as possible to the end.
Go Go Go Go.
Do I have enough time?
I get to the bottom of the hill, turn right is home, turn left up the slope is 10 points.... I have 17 mins. Easy.

Hard work and Hamstrings threatening to cramp all the way. The watch gets checked a couple of times, but there is still a decent amount of time in hand. The downhill won't take much time. Clip the point, map, compass etc put away and down - no nav left to do, just a final last ditch run to the end.

Finished in 3:25 with 280 points. And a bit ruined.

Another person ended up with more points than me, but was late, and ended up on 270. A lot of others were late back as well - the terrain really does mess with peoples time keeping abilities.
The food at the end was excellent, as was the tea and the company.
And I came 1st.
Yes, a low key, local race, but flipping heck. I won.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Kong MMM Bethesda 2018

Thanks to Travs on the FRA forums who restored my toungue in cheek faith in my ramblings.
Lynne and I were over in Wales this weekend just gone for the Kong Mini Mountain Marathon. I got an SI dibber for Christmas so decided to enter a few nav events this year. It's also pretty good to practice my navigation away from the comfort of the Peak District, hence the Kongs.

Saturday was proper grim, and we were fairly pleased not to be running the race then. The guys putting out the controls on Sat must not have had an enjoyable time.... Sunday dawned beautifully and continued into a bright, but very cold day. We wrapped up warm, and I anticipated being out for the full 4 hours. A small niggle in the back of my mind said "you haven't run for 4 hours in quite a few months..." so I ignored it.

At the Start we got our maps and I headed on up the hill at a swift-ish pace (not quite as swift as Welsh/Calder Matt) trying to work out a bit of a strategy. Kong, it would seem, put out a boat load of checkpoints which only a superhuman would have a hope of clearing, so it really is a matter of being intelligent with route and checkpoint choice.
Unfortunately my maths is terrible and as much as I try and create different routes with different point scores, I generally go with gut instinct.

Snow was down to about 550metres, so a lot of the first few checks were in open green territory. I ticked off a few of them, clocking up a fair amount of ascent and descent, and getting myself creatively engaged in the navigation as well.... not exactly lost, just occasionally slightly geographically embarrassed.

All was going relatively well until I bashed across a hill in the right direction and then came across an unrelentingly steep, heather covered (infested?!) hillside that needed to be bashed through. Not fun. I did so with aplomb, getting warmer and warmer, took off a buff, checked I had everything, carried on, 2 mins later, checked again. No dibber.

1hour 50 into using my Christmas present, it is lost on a welsh hillside. So I stopped and searched for about 20-30 mins, covering and re-covering my steps, searching in heather and generally cursing, til I gave it up as lost. Dammit.

Right, consume food, look at map, work out best route home.
The option was a pretty formidable down and up, or a quite considerable round the valley, up and over. Had I still been racing, the direct would have won without a shadow of a doubt. Slightly dejected and downcast, chewing on a bar I made my way back around the valley, up and over Bera Bach and home, via, it has to be said, some pretty amazing views. The snow was crunchy and it was a delight to be out.

At the end, the guys on control took pity on me, asked where I had been and inputed the contols manually, so that at least I had a score. Not a very good one, but a score nevertheless.
Lessons learnt today.... put a cord on your dibber. Take more food. Don't underestimate a 4 hour run. The hills in Wales are a bit bigger than at home.

The soup, cake and tea at the end was well worth it though.
Bought a new dibber, and will be out competing at the next Kong in the Lakes. See you there.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Peak Raid Glossop 2017

I've been really enjoying the Peak Raids this year. Running through freezing cold bogs while trying to workout where you are and where you are meant to be going is really quite fun. The November edition from Glossop promised to be fairly amusing, not only because it is our local stomping ground, but also because it is the final fell race in the Glossopdale Harriers Fell champs for 2017.
 In order for anything useful to happen at the area in the table where I was, I needed to have an excellent day and Chris W needed to have a shocker. Any other combination and there would be no change at all.
So a good day or nothing then.

It was bright, cold and clear. Ideal if you weren't totally comfortable with navving on Bleaklow... it can be a challenge even in slightly less than perfect conditions. There were nigh on 200 people entered into the race, so there was never going to be much time when you were going to be out of sight of at least one person.

On dibbing and getting the map, a cursory glance was taken, noting high point controls at Cock hill, James's Thorn and out at Alport head. There were a couple of controls far out on rough ground -but together, they only gave 50 points... I might as well miss them in order to ensure I had enough time to accurately nav through the quarry at Cock hill to get a single 50 pointer and not worry about slogging through groughs to find the ones far out.
Anti-clockwise it was then.

A quick run along Doctors Gate towards 8, and a whole horde of people were climbing the heather laced hill toward the approximate point. I joined them, making sure not too much height was gained, and contoured around to the CP. Done - from here to 9 was really rough ground - but there is a trod on the edge of the hill that runs along a series of butts. It doesn't run all the way along the hill, but it gains some time. That done, past the clough and drop down to another trod I could see that led me to the re-entrant. Bang on

CP10 was next, figuring I could take the trod, or I could just straight line it, I decided on the latter, which was good fun. Not sure it was all that much faster than taking the White Clough trod, but I gained time on others around me. The control was a little sneaky in that it was in another re-entrant, and not around the rocks, which you might assume with a quick glance at the map.

From there, a contour around the hill -it was fabulously clear, so you could see for miles. To be honest, I climbed a bit more than I needed to as I knew where a decent trod to Herne clough was, but I wasn't certain of hitting it at a lower level... should have been, but there you go. Climbed, hit the trod and zoomed straight to Herne, followed by a bit of bashing around looking for a pond. Fell in a bog most of the way up my legs, and eventually found the ice covered pond and associated Checkpoint.

From there, I was astonished to have more than 1.5 hours left, in fact, it was nearer 2 hours... excellent. The checks to the south east of the map were discounted and I headed up around the drainage to Fork stones and around Alport head. The point was on a stone, and after careful reading of the map, it appeared that it was a stone that was not in a grough... a look around and a likely candidate presented itself, lo and behold, there was the checkpoint. Excellent.

From there to the one north of Bleaklow head could have been done on an accurate compass bearing, but having been lost up there previously, the non-potential time-wasting option was taken. Run north west through the groughs until you hit Bleaklow head, and nav from there.
On my way over there was another guy standing on top of a grough in a sea of groughs looking confusedly at his map, the compass and the ground... No real features to be seen - not a great place to be stopped and wondering where you are.
Bleaklow head was gained without too much drama, a bob north to the fence line and a simple 200m bearing saw me bang onto the Check.
Loads of time left. Might as well head to the northerly most CP and curve my way around and get as many of them as possible....

A blast to and along the Pennine Way saw me pass a few club mates, I took the old PW rather than the new one which landed me most of the way up the grough that I needed, dibbed and surged to the quad track around the summut of Glossop Low. Down the track zoe and I had a quick snatched conversation as we dropped to 1, and then the slightly concerning part of the quarries towards the high pointer.
I needn't have worried. The cartography was excellent and the CP was exactly where it said it was going to be. Instead of following others, I read the landscape and ran straight to it... crikey, still more time than I anticipated.
Maybe I can finish the last 4?

Over to check 3 Shittern/Small clough and a contour around to pick up the path towards Dog rock, before diving down the hill to an easily found 5.
Here I *should* have gone a lot more east into the clough and ascended to get the 60 pointer at 6. However, fatigue was taking over a bit, and I was kind of running out of time, having glanced at my map I thought that I had 1 CP left - number 7... so bee-lined it. The ground was horrendously rough and the climb up to Shelf benches and beyond was so energy sapping. I might have to use it as more training - it was horrible!
Constantly checking my watch I was thinking that as soon as it hit the magic 20 mins to go mark I was just going to have to turn tail and head home without getting the point.

Thanks to Lynne for the pictures
Waaay before then the top of the plateau was crested and I stormed across to get the check (which was sneakily in a bit of a different place than I thought.... just about to turn, put my map away and head home with about 25 mins to go, something caused me to do an idiot check... pulled out the map and did a tot up....

Hang on. Thee is a point just up the hill from me worth 60 points. Double check.... damn. I forgot about that one! Do I have time? 25 mins left, its 700m away and up a steep bit of hill.... but I know how to get off the top, and I KNOW I can get to the finish from a lot further away in about 20 mins. The CP has to be done.
A lot of people were coming down from there, and I pretty much blindly followed sheep trods up the hill to approximately the right place... 50 yards away from the point I could see it, so I packed the map away, shoved a gel down my throat and prepared for the run off.
Dib the point, timecheck... should be loads of time. Turn and run.

The upshot was that I got back with 8 mins to spare. Very glad that the idiot check was done, without that I'd have finished with plenty of time left, but 60 points down! Valuable lessons learned even in my own back garden.
Overall, 4th, which I'm more than happy about.