Sunday, 3 July 2011

Dark Peak 15 Trigs

For those of you who can't be bothered to read this epic, there is a summary at the end of the blog. So just skip there instead.

A bit of background first. I was shadowing for my SPA a couple of weeks back when I received an email from a Dan saying that he was thinking of doing the Dark Peak 15 trigs and did anyone want to join him. I’d heard of it, but couldn’t quite remember how far it was- I knew it was about 30 miles or more, or thereabouts and thought, yeah, it’s a bit of a challenge, I’ll have a go.
Got home, looked at the website- oh, 55 miles. Ah well. That’s a nice day out. Never run that far before, in fact the furthest I’ve run was the London marathon a few years ago, and that was hell. I’m sure this one will be ok though. Nigh on twice as far, over hills, with a rucksack. Yeah, it’ll be fine.

So. A couple of weeks gone, and we’re standing outside the Royal Oak in Glossop, packed up ready to go, its 530am, and theres a bit of distance between us and the pub, even though its about 5 yards behind us. Lynne is there taking pictures, we look around, it’s a beautiful morning, the sun just on the cusp of rising, might as well not wait any longer, lets be off.
Andy saying "the pub is that way!
In hindsight it’s a good thing we didn’t have a massive x-number of months lead in to the run- it would have meant obsessing over training schedules, long runs, can I/ can’t I do it… as it was, we had 2 weeks to do a couple of runs- I just did a normal training run with the Harriers in the first week, and a race on the Wednesday just gone. Perfect.
And off we trotted.
The leg up to Harry Hut was short and enjoyable as we got used to each others pace. The ground was solid, and we were in the shade for the most part. A short stop at the top for the obligatory photo, and we were off to the next one. Pounding over to the path and then up the flags over to Kinder.
As we went up to Kinder, the sun started coming through and the scenery was just beautiful. In short order we had got to Sandy Heys after a bit of peat bashing, where Andy managed to find a pitchfork- at least there was a slight variation in the trig pictures…
We were now following the Kinder Trog route over and down toward Kinder Low, a route on which I must have fallen over on about 5 times in the recent Kinder Trog. Not something that I wanted to do today. Underfoot was still very much home turf and we made good time going around Kinder. The fact I had food and water meant that my concentration levels were much higher, and I wasn’t stumbling around like a drunk for half the time.

Me sorting out Pitta bread nutrition on top of Win Hill
My running nutrition was based on what has been relatively successful in past long adventure races. Geobars- half every half hour for as long as you can- basically until the end. Supplementary food was also packed in the form of pitta bread, 2 lots of 3 halves filled with butter, nutella and gooseberry jam. (delicious when knackered), a couple of chocolate elevenses for a bit of variety and 3 emergency powergels.
To start with I used High 5 4:1 but planned on changing that half way round to just electrolyte- because eating that much AND drinking carbohydrate replacement for longer than 6 hours is a good way to feel really ill after a while- your body can only process so many carbs per hour, exceed that and you get really good gut-rot.

Before we knew it- and I really mean that- it was a pleasant surprise- we came upon Kinder Low trig. Wow- making excellent time. We were definitely up quite a bit on the 14 hour schedule that we were looking at. Not bad running at all.

There were a few times that we discussed amongst ourselves that we didn’t want to be going off too fast, because that would make things very very hard toward the end. However, the ground was good, we knew where we were going, so it made sense to make some hay while the sun shined.
Looking East there was a beautiful cloud inversion down into the Edale Valley. 630am is a great time to be up there, and I’ll have to get up there early doors in the next few weeks with a decent camera to get some shots. Truly magical. The views continued as we shot down to Brown Knoll and back up onto the plateau- with Julien showing us some “interesting” route finding on the way back up onto the path. Going over the South edge of Kinder we came across some lovely stone and rocks- apparently a lot of which don’t have specific names, despite being very prominent and distinctive.
We were now apparently on the Edale Skyline route- funny how when you’re with other fellrunners, as you run they pretty much navigate by which race route is closest to where they are running at the time! We pounded across the top, with the sun ever getting higher, it was barely even 8am by this point and it was already getting pretty damn hot. Over the top and the Trig on Edale moor- (is that 1934? Julien told me, but its been a fair few hours and a couple of miles since then, and I really can’t remember)

On the way up to Winhill, Dan slowing up for food behind
A quick stop to slap on some sunscreen and then off the Eastern side of Kinder, where Julien was happy to find a small Spring to fill up waterbottles, then, over to Edale cross and up Winhill. The morning was still glorious, if getting a little warm and we were glad of the track up the side of the forest in which we could keep some shade. Then out, onto the moorside and up to the Winhill trig to find Lynne and her camera snapping away as we climbed up to the top. It was great to see her up there, and good to know that we were getting more than just the photos at each trig to remember the route by.
We were about an hour up on the 14 hour schedule by now, and were beginning to have delusions of grandeur. My heel was rubbing a little on the right, so I took the time to stick a compeed patch on it. We had covered half a marathon distance by now, and I was feeling pretty good. The constant eating on the half hour (whether or not I wanted to) was going well, and my energy levels were fine. My heel patched up, we set off down Winhill, not going down the path, but rather following another of Juliens “shortcuts” direct down the hill under a load of trees and down some quite steep ground. Still, better than having to trudge down hundreds of steep slippery steps, I suppose.
Now the road section up to the cross into High Neb, up the road, apparently a part of the High Peak Marathon route- Julien recalling past exploits of overhauling a number of teams on this stretch- up to the place where we were to go into the field. I thought we were going to head up to the carpark and along the track. No- far to simple and just out of the way. Lets bash through this unending field of heather and bracken.
Bracken Bashing

This was our first taste of the heather, which was a massive issue in slowing us down. Bashing through hundreds of yards of the stuff, to be rewarded by a gentle, and then not so gentle incline through chest deep bracken to High Neb edge. At a different time of year there wouldn’t have been so much vegetation, but then, the ground would have been in a totally different state as well and our problems would have been very different. I fell over once in the bracken, cutting a shin and smacking the other one good and proper, but hey, you can’t complain, not when you’re not even half way round yet.
Up on the edge, Lynne had just about got there before us, and was snapping away. The obligatory trig point photo, and I noticed that my inov8s had a lace holder snapped… damnit- tested, and kind of destroyed, but still attached to my feet. I’ll write about it more in the near future. Right, might as well ignore it and get going - and off we went, along the edge and over to Stanedge pole- a point which has been used for trigonometry, but not actually a trig point- and so, not a target for the day. It was about 10 or so now and there were a fair few climbers out, and people walking their dogs, the first signs of civilisation.
On we trotted over and through some pathways, on what seemed like an indeterminable path, and eventually pretty much hit 26 miles bang on the nose as we ran across the playing fields into the Sportsman pub- a legitimate stop- on this challenge. We arrived just as it had opened, and took the opportunity to sit down for a moment, refill water bottles, eat sarnies, and, in Juliens case, have a beer.
Its worth saying at this point that we spent about 20 mins in the Sportsman, eating into our 1hour lead on the 14 hour schedule, before setting out.
Wierdly enough, the main muscles in my legs- quads and hamstrings felt fine, but it was the adductors that were really feeling it… fatigue spreading across them like a warm glow- promising to be a fire at some point soon.
We got to the next, low trig point in short order, with nothing to really jog the memory about it apart from 2 loud and vicious dogs, and my legs hurting a bit- and looking across from that trig point to Emlin and Back tor and thinking… damn. That’s quite a long way.
This was the bit that none of us really knew very well, so relying on mapwork and a bit of GPS-ness we found our way through the least exciting part of the day.
The line took us down to Cramshaw Farm, and north west up the road to the curve, over the fence and out to Gibraltar rocks, down the hill through the open access area, through the woods in a direct line (with a load of brambles and some interesting descents) across the dam, up onto Dale road and up the bridle path.
For the ascent onto Emlin We followed a beautiful line of Grouse Butts that were very well appointed- doors, tie on points for dogs, seats etc. all that was missing was a drinks cabinet.

By the time we got to Emlin we were only about 20 mins up on the 14 hour schedule. A short debate followed about route choice, and we set out in a direct line up Small dale and across Cartledge flat to gain the Paved path to Back Tor. That was 3km of heather and bilberry plant hell. The sun was beating down on us, we were just over halfway, legs really beginning to feel it, and now time to bash through some of the worst terrain we had come across all day. Nasty. Words can’t quite attest to how long and horrible that leg actually was, and it contributed quite a lot to us falling behind time.
On the way up to Back tor
Go away, make a cup of tea and drink it, all the while thinking about the horribleness of the crossing to here, and you might just get an idea of how damn long it took.
Eventually we came across the path, and jogged our way South to Back Tor. Lynne was there, showing extreme patience as we came in late to schedule, smiling and taking pictures as we took sat in front of the trig point. Fatigue was beginning to show, I changed my socks- always a good idea to carry a spare pair… mmm good feeling! The heather bashing was taking its toll and my adductors were in a fair old bit of pain from having to lift my legs up, over and through so many plants.
Pic on Back tor
However, now was not the time to dwell on pain.
It was time, and off we went up the paved path. After a while we peeled off West to begin the traverse across Round Hill and what could best be described as Middle Moss kind of way- just at that point a Dark Peak runner just about caught up with us- presumably on a training run (but who goes on a training run in their team colours?!) and we exchanged a few brief pleasantries as we set out across the moor, up Cartledge brook until we dropped down on to Howden Edge, to happen upon the trig point. At this stage, one of the team was getting a bit heat struck and the pace was slowing quite a bit, but we were still capable of some decent times. We went out across to Outer edge, and then came the bash down Broadhead Clough. That was a bash and a half. Very steep, through crazy ground with heather and bracken all the way down. There was a spring halfway down to fill up waterbottles with- a very welcome relief- both just for getting some liquids and simple to rest the legs from the relentless pounding they were getting.
Onto the path and down the West side of Howden reservoir, which should have been a quick leg, Julien was advocating a direct route across the moors, which meant 2k shorter, but a LOT more ascent and descent. In the state we were in, flat was best, descents were slow and ascents were slower. Also, for one member it was getting worse and the pace was dropping. A 15 hour round was looking increasingly in doubt as we got to the end of the road and climbed up the path to Birchen Hat and a beautiful view over to the Tower – something I have never seen before- nor even knew about!
Up to Alport trig was slow and painful, 15 hours was looking too close for us to be able to be a reality. We trudged along up to the end of Alport valley- now THAT is a long valley to go along, I didn’t really appreciate how long it would take us to clear that monster… and up into the swamp. Our flagging member was beginning to run again and we started to gain some time- not much, but some… we could taste the beer at the end now.
We were flagging, but perking up as Hern clough came into view. This might be tight, but we could make it. Heading up the clough Andy was over the bonk, the top, and the Pennine way appeared very quickly indeed, then a short run up, and there was Overexposed, and on the skyline a group of Glossopdale runners who had got out to support us in on the final couple of trigs. Dan forged on ahead to the summit to be welcomed with whoops and shrieks, and Andy, Julien and I brought up the rear, exchanging pleasantries with all and sundry, with a couple of dogs running around the place, it all felt very different to the rest of the run- still there was a time pressure, and as soon as the photo was taken, it was down the Shelf Benches race route and a bash across the trod on Harrod moss to gain the final Trig at Cock hill. Just on the way down, another runner hove into view coming up the hill- another Glossopdalean- Charlie- what a welcome this was- smiling and laughing we took the photos, and turned into the sun and down the hill, now in very familiar territory indeed for a final run down the hillside. Legs aching, feet blistered, not actually all that sunburnt, but feeling the heat.
Down into Old Glossop, up the bridleway and over Shirehill- which felt like it might be the straw that broke the camels back- the climb there is bad enough at the end of an 8 miler, let alone a 55miler- down the otherside through the woods into the estate, hang a left, and there, 14 hours and 40 mins later, was the pub.
Finally getting to the pub
 A well deserved pint was waiting for each of us- and a pint of water, and despite apparently looking quite good and in control as we descended- by the time we’d been sitting down for about 5 mins we were in bits- well… I was. Thanks for the observation Charlie!

Yes, we did it, we picked up enough pace toward the end to make it in time. 15 trigs in less than 15 hours, on a ridiculously hot day.

Summary for those of you who couldn’t be bothered to read the whole thing.
Set out at 530. It got warm. Ahead of Schedule. Got hotter. Behind Schedule. Bonk. Really behind schedule. Pick up. Home in 14:40. Beer.
My ITBs now feel like violin bows. My knees hurt, my back hurts and my shoulders are tight. I get the feeling the next Sports Massage is going to hurt, don’t know if I can face up to the foam roller today, the contrast shower last night was amazing and the sooner I get on the recovery practices the better!

The Garmin only lasts for about 12 hours, so I was very happy to get 13 and a bit out of it... the track runs out just over in Alport, but it gives a pretty good impression of what went on.
Have a quick butchers at it here
and here is the flickr photostream from Dan


  1. Great account, Tim. BTW, I wasn't dropping back for food, I was optimistically texting the welcome party to let them know that we were ahead of schedule, which requires care if you don't want to break a wrist or something!
    As for referring to Andy as a 'flagging member'..., well I'll leave it to him to settle that score!
    All good stuff; a magic day out. Thanks for the company!
    My pics on Flickr at

  2. You are completely insane. Well done!


  3. Great write up Tim! I'm going to be running it myself in a few weeks, fancy another crack at it?! ;-)

  4. Nice write-up, I'm looking at having a crack at some point this summer if I have a free weekend and people to go with!

  5. Yep- I'd be up for doing it again. In hindsight it was all rather good fun! Don't know how soon I'll be doing it, but drop us a line.