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.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Peak Raid Totley Nov 2017

I was  a little more prepared for this one - in that the alarm went off and I got up, had breakfast and went... as opposed to being woken by Lynne 45 mins before the start saying "were you going to do that race....?) so, bonus there.
The area around Totley is not all that familar to me. The fact that there are a number of bogs, lots of reed and rushes and an awful lot of turks heads is well known, so the going underfoot was going to be a little challenging, especially when still on the way back from injury. The idea of the day was to have fun, enjoy the nav, and maybe to put myself under a bit of pressure. If I lost points because I was late, that wasn't an issue. There is nothing riding on this race, it is a time for experience.

The day was bright and cold, and although all the more experienced orienteers tend to start later in the time period, I decided that I'd start earlier, get some time on the hill by myself and not follow other people around. Start time was about 8:30, and off I set into the sharp, cold air.

Somewhat excitingly, my navigation started off terribly. The first checkpoint was bang where I thought it was going to be - but unfortunately I had a bit of a crisis of confidence about 30 metres away from it, turned round, ran back where I came from for about 5 mins before telling myself I was an idiot, and then going back and finding the CP in exactly the place where I thought it was going to be. Lack of confidence and a little bit of inaccuracy as well. Ah well, thats 5 minutes down the drain, nevermind. Crack on.

So far the terrain had been track, track, turks heads, bog, turks heads, bog. So in order to give my legs a bit of a rest, I tried to make the next bit as smooth as possible by following some trods.
No such luck into the bombhole of my next CP. No, no turks heads, but instead heather, heather, reeds, river, reeds, heather.
Great, no rest for the wicked then.

By this time there were a number of others out on the course, and we battled through the heather to the nearest path to get down south on the Clockwise round that we had put ourselves on. There was a fairly decent path right over to within about 400m of the next CP, and once that track ended it was again, bog, bog, reeds, knee deep water and a fight through some bracken before getting to the sheepfold.
So far, so good. No-one was following me, I had a decent amount of time left, and my nav was getting me to the right places. The next CP was going to be a little more fun as it was "on the edge of the wood" with no real identifying features to attack it from, so a bit of accuracy and cunning was called for. Not only that, but it was across the way, through what can only really be described as a sea of heather.
Bash Bash Bash. Through another boggy river and a load of reeds, and through the trees I can see the kite. Marvellous. Punch, and onward over more heather until a lovely path going towards the next CP. Across to my left were a herd of deer running away from some brightly clad runners on the other bank, and I wondered if I'd see them later. (I didn't).

Up to the boundary stone, dib, and then a bit of a complex one to find my nemesis - "small re-entrant". I really hate these things. It took a while with me furtling about in various places, losing a good few minutes. To be honest at some points I was really confused about where I was, and now looking back on it, I was really too far north and didn't take note of the several changes in contours around me (and the big stones that should have been a clue....).

From there, Northwards and then west to the next obvious one in the sequence, and then North again along some really runnable paths - feeling good picking up the one between 2 boulders, and north again, taking some fun and complex paths in order to stay within the rules - not running on the road where it was hashed out.
2 hours gone. 1 hour left.
Choice time - go a long way out for a 50 pointer with the prospect of another couple on the way back, or go safe for a 40 pointer, but which takes me pretty much into a dead end (all the other points near it had been got...)

Now is the time to learn. Go big.
I set off to the other side of the map from the race HQ and as I was running there I was thinking "this is probably not going to work... run faster". It took an age to get to the vicinity of the CP and another age to find the damn thing. I must have lost another 5 mins rooting around in heather and rocks for it and nearly gave up. It was another of those which if you found direct, would have been fine... but faffing and having to find and re-find locations to get to it really ate into my time.

Got it. 30 mins to go. 8km direct to get home. This could be tight.... especially as direct wasn't going to be a possibility, and there were a lot of workarounds to do.
Knocking back a gel and some bloks I headed for home as fast as I could (which after 2.5 hours was not all that fast). At one point I worked out I needed to do an 18min 5k to get back in time, which wasn't going to happen. Eventually I got back 10 mins late, so a penalty of 175 points.
54th ish.
Had I played it safe and gone with the 40 pointer at that crux I would have been joint 9th. If I got there with enough time and I could have gone for one of the others a bit closer to home I might even have come 8th or 7th.
Ah well. Experience in the bank. Good to know.

It was a 30km day as well, with 900m of ascent, so a decent day out by any standards. Fabulous.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Glove choices 2017/18

Yes, my hands are still quite nesh. However, I have reduced my vast pile of gloves to only a few that are in regular service, and this gets refined still further for winter use.
Generally speaking mitts are now my main choice for warmth, so nothing with fingers really gets a look in. If you have warm hands in gloves, I envy you. If you don't - read this.


My general rule is to have a warm layer and a waterproof layer (obvious, no?). With any luck, the warm layer is also windproof, and the waterproof layer is even more so. For running they need to be as light as possible, but this does mean some level of fragility if you're heading up over rocks and scrambly bits.

Running - Warm layer

From last winter I have been using Montane Prism mitts. They are ridiculously lightweight and pack down so small I sometimes think I've forgotten them. They see regular use throughout the year and are now beginning to show some signs of wear. As they are a synthetic insulation, holes in the fabric shouldn't mean they leak much (as a down glove would). When they get wet, and the wind is blowing, without an extra waterproof layer on top, I do find that the temperature in my hands gets lower...
That's the size of em.

small - but warm. (mine are the old style with no touch screen snazzy bits like the new ones)
The other thing that is a bit annoying about these is that even though I have small hands, and I have a size S, getting your hands INTO the damn things is a bit of a pain. The wrist restriction is very tight indeed- great for not letting anything into your hands, but an annoyance to get them on. As you can see, my pair are beginning to "go" at the wrist closures.
Oooohh - beginning to go at the seam. (what a rubbish picture)
The Super-prism mitts are out and about now, but they're heavier. As a solution, they are pretty neat, but once they get wet, that's it. I'd rather have the versatility of 2 gloves which are equally light.

Running - Waterproof layer

Extremities tuff-bags. Made of Goretex paclite, these are as waterproof as you're going to find. Also, even without an inner layer, the amount of wind that they cut means they are a decent warm layer on their own. No - there is no insulation, but the palm is ever-so-slightly re-inforced.
These, added on over the Prisms, or indeed, any other glove or mitt really make a massive amount of difference to hand warmth and dexterity (once the gloves are off). I'm onto my second pair of these, not because I have worn any of them out yet, but because I was an idiot and lost a pair at a race.
Blinking brilliant mitts.

Tuff Bags - with a decent palm grip

Tuff bags - with a good closure around the wrist as well. The gauntlet is long and also has an elasticated cuff.

Walking/rescue - Warm layer

Considering that I'm probably going to put these through a lot more abuse than the running mitts ever get, these mitts have to be proper solid and (hopefully) unbreakable. Considering that these Montane Extreme mitts are still going 4 years later shows that they are made of stern stuff. No they are not waterproof, and the insulation is pile, but wow, they are solid and dependable. The inners to the Waterproof outerlayer of the Montane resolutes are made of the same insulation, but without the solid palm material. Both of them get used as insulation layers, but often as not, the Resolute outers get deployed over whatever else I am wearing.
The thing I love about the extreme mitts is you can "carry" them like this

The fluffy inside of the resolute mitt. (the palm on the extreme is like this, whereas the back is Primaloft)
My extremes are going on the thumb...

Walking/rescue- Waterproof layer

My Montane resolutes are getting a little long in the tooth - and are unfortunately no longer made. You can see the material over the thumbs is getting worn a significant amount so "waterproof" might be overstating things a little too much at the moment. The palm is rock solid, and for the most part, these are indeed waterproof. Should I buy another pair? Well... I really only need a pair of the waterproof shells - and luckily enough, Montane make a pair. Not eVent any more - they have a deal with Gore now, so there is a set of shells in Proshell - the Endurance Pro-mitt. Expensive... but lovely.  Mountain Equipment also did much the same thing, but I can't see it in their current range - Extremities also do something much the same - the Guide tuff bag - oooh, choices.
delamination? de- something-ing on the thumb of my Resolute mitts.