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.

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