Sunday, 22 December 2019

Midwinter(ish) 15 Trigs

Having realised that we both had the weekend free, Chris and I decided that it might be amusing to have a bimble around the 15 trigs route. Officially it is a route around the 15 trig points that appeared on a LAMM map, back in the day. A 55 mile (ish) route from Sheffield to Glossop and back- or indeed vice versa if you are fortunate enough to live in Glossop.

It seems the route is generally attempted in summer- or at least not in the depths of winter, and has a nominal "completion time" of 15 hours. The current record is somewhere below 9 hours by the somewhat exceptional Tom Saville. We were not going to challenge this time on nigh on the shortest day of the year in questionable fitness.
Prep. You got the scotch eggs?
Theoretically Chris and I agreed that it would be good to give ourselves some wriggle room- maybe do it on Saturday, maybe on Sunday depending on the weather. In reality, Sunday was totally out as I certainly didn't want to get up for a 5am departure the morning after a Christmas party, and Chris was not going to miss a piano recital by his daughter.
(full disclosure, if the weather was rubbish, we would have definitely given it a miss- we enjoy bashing about on a moor in the dark and the rain- but not THAT much). We decided on an anticlockwise route which would take us across Bleaklow first- the rougher terrain with the longer distance- about 30 miles, which would (theoretically) leave us with better ground and easier underfoot for the second half.

How hard can it be?!
Up early for a 5:30am start. It had been wet recently so the ground was sodden, the clag was down and it was that heavy mist that often gets mistaken for drizzle by those not used to Bleaklow. Head torches on, food sorted out and kit in bags, we said cheerio and headed off into the Dark (peak). I am fortunate enough to live pretty much bang on the route, so we didn't bother going to the Royal Oak to start- we'd touch that on the way back to here to make a full circuit.

Home to Cockhill

Fairly standard line. No problems- just getting into the swing of running at this time in the morning and letting the coffee wake us up properly.

Don't expect the quality of photos to get any better

Cockhill to Higher Shelf

Still dark, clag down- waterproof mitts on. The track across the tops was hard to find, so the minor detour of the massive erosion of the quad track was followed. Not the most direct of lines, but it was the place where we were likely to make the fastest progress. Across to Dog rock, fairly standard, and up the Shelf moor race route to the trig. Claggy, but fine to follow.
See. Told you.

Higher Shelf to Alport

Easy trot to Herne and into the Alport. Clag really down low so we faffed a fair amount with routes in The Swamp. Once on the track, easy going but a bit of faff to make sure we came up onto Alport moor at the right point. Lots of chat about all kinds of stuff, nothing really to note except that it's still dark and fairly grim, low viz and generally good to move over the moor.
Alport. Trig. Really.

 Alport to Outer Edge

Along the top of Alport there was a small choice whether to just do the normal route along to Birchen Hat and down the track to the road- or whether to strike across Fagney and down through the plantation... more direct, but more potential to screw it up. We were enjoying the running and decided that due to the low viz and the general nature of the day out (pleasure rather than speed) we'd just take the path with least chance of screwing it up.
Once down in the trees away from the wind we stopped for the first food of the day. A scotch egg each. Grand food! Hunger suitably sated, we went down to the road where it became apparent that we could switch off and stow our headtorches as it had become light enough to at least run along a road by.
Across and over Slippery Stones and up to Bull stones on a long and slow, heathery ascent before we finally came across the trod to Outer edge trig. A couple of celebratory Tangfastics, and we were on our way- daylight now, so easy nav!
Daylight! At last.

Outer Edge to Margery Hill

Across bog monster territory to Cut Gate and then easy nav to the trig. Shouldn't be a problem. We successfully navigated across to Cut Gate- well, to within 30ft of Cut Gate and I took a doozy of a foot placement and went up to my waist in bog.
Nice. Never done that before, and now, maybe a quarter of the way around a fairly big day, in winter, I was soaked through and mud covered on my lower half. Oh well. Onward and upward. I was a bit concerned about how I might cope over the next few hours in terms of windchill. Thankfully the breeze wasn't too strong (though we were running into it), and it was daylight so there was some hope of drying out. Beyond that, and the clag on the tops, it was easy to get to Margery Hill.
Margery Hill- post Bog monster

 Margery Hill to Back Tor

A bit of a reverse of the line we took for the HPM earlier on this year. Didn't really help though, I mean- when you do something backwards it always seems considerably different. A bit of compass work took us to a grough that led us to where I hoped we would get to- alongside a minor twisted ankle. Then over to the main track where we belted along to Back Tor at a ridiculous speed where my hipflexors really started to complain, and I began to wonder just how intelligent an idea it was to do a 55 miler when not really having trained for it.... (how annoyed would Chris be if I said I can't do it, how annoyed would Lynne be at coming to get me/us and how annoyed would I be about not doing it)? Don't be silly- it's just a minor ache. Get on with it.
A glorious picture of Chris's best side, scrambling up to Back tor

Back tor to Emlin

Off back tor and down into the hollow below it for a quick food break. Pizza! Glorious. Eat when you're feeling good and you'll digest it well. Eat before you need to. So we did, and wow did it taste lovely. Washed down with some haribo we headed north with the wind behind us into the clag to find an indistinct point on the map where we would turn east and vaguely bearing our way across 3km of bog to the next trig. Great fun.
Using cunning and artifice- well, map and compass- we made our way to the right place, took a bearing and used the trod that was going in the right direction. After a while it kind of petered out so we heather bashed, which was fine. Taking into account the hill profile etc we carried on- and then a break in the cloud- about 800m away was a hill that looked the right shape. Took a bearing, decided it was right and homed in on it. Bingo- Emlin moor.
Emlin- with a view

 Emlin to Rod Moor

This section seems so innocuous on the map, no-one ever really talks about it- but in truth, having battered your way there across bog and heather and everything else from Glossop, there are a fair few undulations that it is worth considering. I'm not going to talk about them though- go have a go yourself, you'll see what I mean.
Rod Moor- we decided to only take photos where we weren't looking tired....

Rod Moor to the Sportsman

Again, more undulations than I care to remember, a footpath that was closed due to sewage(?!) which meant a bit of a detour, and finally to the Sportsman.
Crikey- that took longer than we were expecting! I was hoping to be there about an hour earlier, but slow conditions underfoot combined with having to be a bit more involved and careful with nav meant that progress had been a little slower. Not a problem, but it was fairly inevitable we were going to be running in the dark at the end of the day... should still have enough time to get home for the Christmas Party though.... We'd done about 30 miles and had covered all the more challenging ground of the route. From now there were a couple of (by Peak District standards) big ups, but it was mostly decent running.
In the Sportsman we were served by a lovely lady wearing a Dark Peak Runners Hoodie who asked where we'd come from "Glossop"..... oh.?- and where are you off to? "Well, we're running back- can we have a couple of Cokes please?". And when we tried to pay, she declined, saying we'd certainly earned them.
On asking if we could please also get some water, I realised that I'd only drunk about 300ml all morning. Not good. Need to remember to drink more this afternoon- but only had capacity for 500ml. I was sure it would be fine.
Ah! More than halfway! (but no pint.)

Sportsman to High Neb

Another section where we looked at Tom Savilles line and thought "well- if you're fresh, and it's dry, maybe- but for us... the path". We took the road and then the path past Stanage Pole and along to High Neb with visibility coming and going all along. Navigation easy, though there was one point where I thought a lady wearing a white coat was the trig point which could have ended embarrassingly.
High Neb- best pic of the day

High Neb to Winhill

There is a line that goes across to Bamford edge and drops off the hill- again, if you're fresh and know the (dry) ground, then maybe. We weren't and didn't. So with increasingly sore legs we took the reverse of the HPM route along the road and down to the crossroads by Bamford before taking in the glorious ascent that is Parkin clough. For the first time since we started, I took off my waterproof as we sweated our way up the hill before topping out to a lovely clear day over the Hope and Edale Valleys. Sun was dappling Bleaklow. Kinder- where we were headed next, was encased in clag. Nice.

Winhill- looks like some cheeky sod has painted it in Dark Peak Colours...

Winhill to Blackden

Easy run down Winhill, contemplating the grimness of the terrain on Kinder, coupled with the route finding amusement of Blackden trig in the clag. It was only about 2pm but it felt like darkness was already drawing in and we were having a discussion as to where we might get to before we needed headtorches again. Up onto Kinder- all uphills had turned to walks a long time back and we looked at water rations- holding up ok- which was good as we needed water in order to finish, but also not good as it probably meant we weren't drinking enough. Up to madwomans stones and then a bearing through a series to groughs in the clag through some pretty rough and crappy ground to attain Blackden trig.
Blackden trig. Turning for home

Blackden to Brown Knoll

No view. A bit darker, haribo being eaten as main courses, and running through aching legs. We turned south immediately after getting to the trig, with Chris putting on a third layer as protection against the increasingly grim conditions.... "where did this rain come from? certainly wasn't forecast". Along the southern edge of Kinder, not really needing to nav now as we're back on common ground, but racing against the daylight. Down and round past the woolpacks and to the Pennine way and out to Brown knoll as it drops dark. Twilight proper as we go along the out and back- now completely paved, touch the trig, and it is definitely time for headtorches.
Brown Knoll. Time for headtorches. The camera makes the light seem deceptively light

Brown Knoll to Kinder Low

A jog back to Edale Cross and then a slog up past Edale rocks to the top. Nothing much to say about this apart from finally the wind is behind us- the clag is heavy, but we nav direct to the trig which looms out of the darkness to greet us. The final stretch beckons.
Kinder Low... let's get this over with

Kinder Low to Kinder Corner (Sandy Heys)

Backwards along the Kinder Downfall route- just ticking off features in the dark, knowing we don't need to concentrate until the fenceline after the Downfall. The funny little steppy bit, red brook, the crazy rocky bit, downfall, the annoying uphill bit, along, and then- the fenceline. Follow up, around, what is that in the mist? Bingo. 14 down, 1 to go. We've been out of "real" food for a while and are down to gels and tangfastics (which, btw I class as real food, but some don't) so we have a short tangfastic break and then carry on.
Sandy Heys- ok so the photos haven't been that bad, have they?

Kinder Corner to Harry Hut

Down the fence line for quite a while (its longer than you think)- before the long awaited downhill section and up to Mill Hill where all but the last 4 Tangfastics are consumed- a shuffle down the slabs towards and past the Liberator wreck continues, we pass the muddy turning to the Grouse butts and the shooting cabin, and take the next right down the final bog section to Harry Hut. I text Lynne to let her know we're on the final bit by Harry Hut and promptly drop my phone in the bog. Arse. Luckily it is a waterproof phone in a waterproof case- but that doesn't mean that I can use the screen when it is covered in bog mush. The reply will have to wait.
Harry Hut with Chris lurking in the background

 Harry Hut to home (via Royal Oak)

Down off the final hill, head torches shining against the fog, we finally come out of the clag about 50 metres from the road. Onto Derbyshire level- well, the climby bit that isn't Level, and the final 4 Tangfastics are shared out. We shuffle along the road and down into Glossop, past the Royal Oak and round the back of the Football pitches, back home.
Quick- make it look like it was easy!

Home- 13hours and 12 mins after we set off- about 57.5 miles.
A fantastic day out! Good bogs, good nav, good food. A bit more than we were both bargaining for in terms of the physicality of it, but neither of us is broken. It isn't a particularly fast time, but hey, the idea was for a decent day out, and we certainly got it. Props to the guys who have done it in close to and sub 10 hours though- that is some going!
I got back in time for the party- but spent most of the time drinking water to rehydrate.
Thanks to Chris for suggesting the idea- I suspect it might be a bit easier when you can see exactly where you're going!

Ok- she's not looking- we can sit down now.
If you're interested- stuff I was using:
Inov8 Xtalon 212
Rooster sock and a pair of hilly thin socks
Running shorts- just random ones that have been sewn back together a few times.
Warm Helly hansen top (helly base with  merino bonded to the top)
OMM Aether smock
Montane prism mitts with Extremities tuffbags goretex over mitts
Petzl reactik headtorch
buff and hat
salomon sense3 racevest (in which: compass, warm top (berghaus hypersmock), Sol Bivvy Bag, Gopro, small powerpack and leads, 500ml soft flask, a handwarmer, a tenner and some food).
Suunto ambit vertical- which is utter crap and stopped recording gps about 3/4 of the way through, but still said it was recording. I HATE suunto at the moment, but am not prepared to spend more than £500 on a Garmin Fenix 6, so I'll just continue to chunter on about how crap the ambit is).

Monday, 16 December 2019

North York Moors Bike Packing Dec 2019

We'd decided a while ago that this weekend would be a good time to head out for an adventure. Friday looked clear on the diary front from mid-morning, the only minor problem was the weather, which was pretty unapologetically rubbish. Wall to wall rain. Unremitting grimness.

In a fit of intelligence, Phil looked at the rain radar map and the weather forecast (the most optimistic one we could find), and it seemed that the only place in striking distance that might work was the North York Moors. A short amount of research brought up a couple of gravel biking routes like the Moors and Shores, and a 3 day bike packing route that Phil had seen online somewhere.
Armed with both routes that kind of did a similar route, but with various variations, we drove through the rain and sleet until somewhere just East of York the rain stopped, blue sky appeared and things began to look up.
What a jolly good idea!

We started at Lockton, 2 mountain bikes and me on the Fairlight Secan- a gravel bike. (the reason for this was because I haven't bikepacked on the Secan before, and thought this would be a nice break in for it). It was about 1pm, so 3 hours of light left - not a whole lot of time, but enough to get a few kilometres under the tyres and try to find somewhere to camp.

Despite the fact that couple of routes that we found both went clockwise around the moors and the Cinder track, we decided that anti-clockwise was the best idea. It would mean cycling towards Scarborough and a bit beyond on the friday. There was a variety of road and track as we made our way towards the coast. The main thing we noticed was a significant downshift in temperature at about 2pm. Nothing drastic, but a certain change in ambient temperature.
Sunny afternoon riding

Onward towards Scarborough, and then a skirt around the outskirts took us onto Cycleway Number 1- the Cinder track, which is essentially mostly an old railway track going from Scarborough to Whitby. Looking at the map, we could see a couple of pubs in towns on the way where we might find some solace, a beer, and potentially somewhere to sleep. The problem was, by the time we got to the pub in question, it was already pretty much dark- at 4pm, and they didn't start serving food until 5:30.
Out feet were cold, it was only going to get colder, so we locked our bikes up outside and wandered in.
The post election analysis was on the big screen TV, there was a lot of "politics" talk going on around us and it cost more than £11 for 3 pints of Taylors Landlord. I was not keen to stay.

A quick google showed another option just a couple of km away, and that was next to a wood which might provide shelter for camping. If that didn't work, we figured dropping back to the trail to see if we could get into a field for the night. If the worst came to the worst, we could come back to the pub for a bite of food, but it might be intelligent to scope out campsites now- especially as it was now 4:45 and it was pitch black.

Lights on and up the road to the next pub. Which was very very closed.
Dammit. And the wood wasn't much cop for camping either. Right- the decision was made to go down the next road back to the trail and see what we could see.
Descent... right into... another pub. An open one.
With a roaring fire, a selection of ales, a decent menu.... and, could we possibly camp anywhere please?
I think they thought we were mad- but they had a paddock which was regularly used as a camp ground in the summer, so on the condition that we would drink their beer (I mean, come on... we aren't savages)- we pitched up for the night and trooped in for the best double burger I think I have had since Poco Loco in Chamonix.
The beer was excellent and the atmosphere convivial. If you get a chance, go to the Hayburn Wyke Inn. It is blinking amazing.

Full of food and good cheer, we retired to the tents and slept well. It was a little chilly, but nothing severe.

Awake at 730 just as the sun was beginning to show signs of dawning, breakfast in bed (as it were), and a pack up of all the kit. Luckily the paddock had a little shed which we locked the bikes up in, so they were dry and ready to go. The tents had a lot of dew on them, (and it might have drizzled for a short time in the night, but I can't remember).
Dawning breakfast
Up and off for bang on 830 with the moon still high in the sky.

All packed and ready to go

We trundled up the Cinder track towards Robin Hood bay, fairly delightful and non-complex cycling for an hour or so, with speeds ranging from slow to fairly fast. The views onto the North Sea were spectacular, but crikey it was cold. Even with neoprene socks and overshoes on, my toes were like ice. The hands were fine, with a set of Primaloft sealskins lobster mitts on, but my feet!
The Cinder Track

Up to Whitby and then inland- the bit we were slightly concerned about as there was a fairly vicious wind coming across from the west, everything from this point on might get a little more challenging.
Just as we left Whitby I noticed a bit of a problem with my steering- something wasn't quite right. Then there was a spongy feeling as I was cornering- ah. Flat.

So we stopped for a few minutes to change tyres and find the culprit (a thorn wedged into the tyre) before carrying on- ideally to find a coffee shop to warm our feet up at. We'd been on the go for a couple of hours, but it was still too early for coffee shops to be open- so we thought.
When we finally came across one, our suspicions were confirmed, except we were out not by minutes, but by months.
Closed til April.

Through Ruswurp and into Sleights and a most welcome sight. A bunch of carol singers standing outside a Butchers that was selling coffee and mince pies.
We stopped and partook of the food (but not the singing) and stood around trying to get some kind of life back into our feet. It didn't really work, but we felt much refreshed as we contemplated the different routes back down to Beckton. It wasn't all that far, to be honest, so it wasn't like we were going to need to hoon it, but what with the prevailing wind, it wasn't going to be a great idea to go over the tops of the moor if we could help it.
Coffee! Mince Pies! Carol Singers!

A plan formed and off we went, down into Eskdale and before we knew it, Grosmont, a tearoom at the station and a roaring fire. Cups of tea, a cornish pastie and lunch was declared. Feet still cold, but became a little less numb as we sat in the corner of the crowded cafe. A couple of steam engines were puffing away outside, so there must have been some kind of do on.

After a short while we peeled ourselves away from the fire and went to carry on the riding. Bad timing meant that we then stood on the wrong side of the level crossing for about 10 mins while the trains did their moving around business. Not great- as we chilled off a bit, but then, within about 200 metres of starting, Fords.
Not one, not two, but three of them in quick succession. So much for any semblence of slightly warmer feet. Not any more.
Top of the hill above the fords
Off down the valley, with a few ups and downs, and a very picturesque shot of Phil and Chris with a steam train thrashing down the tracks behind them.

Across the way we could see the huge buildings of RAF fylingdales, and the main road that led straight back to Lockton. There was still a couple of hours of light left, and a straight beeline down a ridiculously busy main road was not what we really had in mind, luckily there was a bridleway across the road that would lead its winding way around the back of the RAF base to drop us onto the road a mere 2km from the car. A much better option....
This looks like a good place to ride a bike....

This is the best the track got.

So we started out on this bridleway which quickly turned into a quagmire. Still cycleable. Just, but all in super low gears (which I didn't really have) and with not a lot of grip- (which I certainly didn't have). It took us a fair amount of time to get across the next few kilometres, and it was probably the hardest work of the entire trip- but entirely good fun. Once we hit hard ground, we refueled on haribo before heading around on decent gravel tracks to the base, and then around again until we made it back to the main road.
Haribo stop.

Lights on for safety as we cycled back along the main road to the car, pretty pooped, and well in time for last light.

It took an hour and a half in a warm car with the heater on and me massaging my feet until I had any kind of feeling back in them, and now a couple of days later, my big toes are still a bit numb and tingly. Not great. I might have to invest in some Goretex cycling shoes as most of my miles seem to be in the cold over winter.... never had feet do this before though.

Back at the car.
All in all, a great, short trip. Yes, we could have done the whole route in a day- easily, but the idea was to have a bit more of an adventure. The Secan held up well to the bikepacking thing, I was on 700c tyres, but would love to have a bit of a go on 650bs as an experiment... not going to buy a set just to see if I like them though.
The other thought was to get a dynamo front wheel. If we were out for a few days the Anker powerpack that I use would have powered the phone and the Wahoo enough- but for any longer than that I'd need another one... hence the thought about a dynamo.
We shall see.
Strava routes below: