It appeared that Wednesday night was going to follow the serious weather pattern we have grown to love. In the morning there was some heavy rain in Sheffield which lead to some local flooding so things were building up nicely for a wet evening from King's Tree. By 6pm however, there was no rain and an orange moon was rising over the east of Sheffield. This misty moon was to stay largely in view for the whole of the evening outing. Driving up the valley, over the bumps and through the car washing puddles we reached King's Tree having heard on the way of the adventures that Tom, Mark and Bob had in the wilderness of Knoydart at the weekend. A trip from the Derwent valley must have seemed a little tame after their experiences. There were two suggestions for the run, one over to Westend and beyond or the one actually chosen, up to High Stones, Margery Hill and, possibly, Bull Stones. As is traditional, the first climb was up to Cold Side Rocks having first had a refreshing semi-immersion whilst crossing the now swollen River Derwent. The relatively high temperature of about 10⁰C, the lack of wind and the steep climb all mitigated against any serious chilling. The 16 of us regrouped at the rocks before heading for High Stones. There was a fast group of 6 (Tom W, Rob C, Tim H, Willy, Tim Ray and the SO) who sprinted off, found a trod, allegedly all the way along the full route and were never seen again by the remaining 10 who did not find the fast trod (it's half an excuse for our lack of speed). At least, we 10 did have the pleasure of finding a couple of curious stone structures built into the hillside. What were they for, who built them and could they be used as a check point in future races? Then, over the usual tussocks, heather, rocks and some oleaginous peat, we reached High Stones where refreshments were taken. As we left High Stones on the obvious track, the Cap'n presciently warned that though the route may appear to be straightforward, care was needed on the final approach to Margery Hill. Sure enough, having left the track on the final approach, we were diverted to the left, i.e. west, by a large gulley (with caterpillar tracks?). With an adjustment of 90⁰ to the north and a bit more heather, the trig appeared out of the thick mist. The newish fence from Margery then guided us down towards Cut Gate for the final rocky descent to Slippery Stones and on to King's Tree where the group of 6 were waiting, all fully changed and ready to go to the pub. At the Ladybower, there was excited talk of next Wednesday's run using the train (!) to Chinleyand, from there, heading via brown Knoll (?) to Edale for a drink, if there's time, and then back to Sheffield on the 9.30 train. We will see!
And as a post-script, since the safety officer, ex-chair and young Rob were so obviously delighted by their little ruse, the two Tims and I must admit to having happily trotted on past the clag-bound Bull Stones with nary a backward glance, whilst our (mostly) elders and (occasionally) betters hid themselves giggling behind said features. Unlike the pond last week however, I had at least clocked the presence of some vaguely familiar stones and wondered absent-mindedly whether they might be significant.
Penny's idea to run a linear route has found a slot in the calendar at last. The plan is to get the train to Chinley from anywhere convenient on the Hope Valley line, run back to Edale, grab a swift pint at the Ramblers and be back on the 21:29 train from Edale. There will be a backup broom wagon at Edale should it all go horribly wrong, as the ex-chairman seemed to think it would last night - can't think why, after all the Warts' runs always run exactly to time don't they?
Train times, according to Network Rail:
(The train back leaves Edale at 21:29).
It is remarkable that the planners of the Warts' calendar are able to consistently choose a night with grim, challenging, ….choose your own description…., weather for the annual Doctor's Gate outing. So far they have managed three or four (?) outings where mist, wind and rain have all contributed to the general ambience and excitement of the evening. There was no exception this Wednesday when we had driving drizzle and thick mist from start to finish. About twenty of us (honestly, the Safety Officer (SO) did have the accurate count) went south across the road and over a low wall. It was low on the road side but as all in front of me disappeared over the wall, it made me slightly suspicious especially when the SO, siren like, enticed us over with the words "it's not too bad over here". This literal leap in the dark into the head of the Snake proved to be deep but, thankfully, survivable. There was then a climb to the summit of Featherbed Moss. Any aspirations anybody may have had to an alpine type summit, were quickly dispelled as we clustered together, emperor penguin like, on a windswept flattish moor to sort out the bearing for the next check point. The pond below James Thorn had been chosen with the proviso that Penny's scree was to be avoided. (Who was James Thorn and why was this hill named after him?). So we headed back to the road but, what motorists must have thought can only be imagined, as they saw a string of small lights heading across the Snake summit; aliens, aircraft, sheep, too much drink…… but surely not humans in this weather!
Continuing across the moor, we descended via a small stream (Birchen Orchard Clough?) into Doctor's Gate, which, according to a notice in Glossop, was closed until March 2016 for a replacement bridge to be built. There was no one stopping us so we continued for a little down the path before climbing steeply and interminably (most steep climbs go on forever!) towards the pond. As is traditional, despite entreaties to the contrary from Tom W, the group split into three or four groups, left, centre, right and some left and right of centres all aiming for the pond. We did all eventually congregate somewhere and refreshments were taken. Questions were asked of where we were and why had we missed the pond.
Pete G helpfully came to the rescue and pointedly pointed out some water and rushes at our feet; we were actually at the pond! The Shelf Stones summit (better than Featherbed!) was reached en-masse for a descent due south, this time not en-masse, to the Devil's Dike path followed by a touch of left to finish at the car park. Leaving here for the Snake Inn, the mist cleared and clarity was restored on the eastern side of the Pennines.
Once we'd finished, it had yet again been a splendid Warts' outing. Can the Warts' calendar planners repeat the conditions next year?
Complaints to Andy H about the easy weather conditions on the Hunter Wreck race and the forecast for more easy weather on this Wednesday's Warts alternative run, prompted Andy to suggest the more challenging outing of Ouzeldon. In John D's absence, Willy was volunteered to put the venue on the Warts calendar. Recollections of last year's trip to Ouzeldon reminded us (about 20) of the primordial nature of the area so there was a collective will to avoid that part of it at the end of the run.
At least three leaders, Andy, Bob and Ian, took us up the track from the start up through the woods to the Birchinlee Pasture. Over the years I have learned not to be misled by areas named "pastures" which imply smooth and closely cropped grassy fields. Birchinlee proved to be no exception as we wobbled over the tussocks and deep heather. Compensation for the bumpiness, however, was made by Lucy's flights of imagination on future Olympic events, including backwards running which was deftly demonstrated by her for 50 yards. Clive and I both struggled to keep up!! After this athleticism, Lucy disappeared into the night towards the edge path above Alport Castles.
Our descent down the northern end of the Castles led us into its rocky and steep terrain and up to the Tower where refreshments were taken before making the now routine head torch light show on the descent to, and the climb out of, the boulder field.
Regrouping on the edge path, plans were made for the optimum return route to Ouzeldon, avoiding last year's previous excitements. So, a dash was made on the edge path paving stones, causing Toria to twist her ankle. When the time came to turn off the path for Ouzeldon, calls were made by Tom to wait for Toria and Fi F generously became her guardian angel. The terrain returned to the heathery tussocks and the group, including newcomer Fiona (what a first run!), headed towards Ouzeldon. As the way started to become suspiciously steep and rocky, Andy declared we'd cut off from the edge path too early. We then crawled, slid and staggered down through the heather and bracken covered rock garden of the landslip (?) outcrop in Alport Grain. It became increasingly apparent as we waded through the undergrowth that tonight's "run" was neither far nor fast at 3-ish miles and 2 hours! Whilst Andy wisely chose to cross Alport Grain and into the forest, the rest of us ploughed on through the jungle to reach Ouzeldon and, eventually, the track to the cars. Andy arrived at about the same time (slightly smugly??). After a decent wait, concerns were growing for Fi and Toria who were still "out there". Both Tom and Lucy went back up the track looking for them but to no avail and questions were asked about what our health and safety procedure was. As the emergency mobile phones were being brought out, Fi and Toria arrived, smiling, having used the Andy route through the wood.
Will we ever find the optimum route? Should we recce the route in daylight? Who will become the chief pathfinder? Will Ouzeldon generate a Pertex winner? So many questions, but at the moment Ouzeldon wins again!!
Fully 25 warts, including newbies Simon and Richard (I think) x2, enjoyed rather too much running from the Snake Inn over Kinder's freshly sown pastures, in vague search of the ammo box. Having spoken darkly of the need to go suitably equipped onto the hill with map and compass, Cap'n Harmer and Big Bob promptly called a route featuring at least two landmarks for which you will search in vain on any OS or Harvey,s map. Bob's Spring, below Seal Stones, proved relatively straightforward, following which we ascended to the plateau watershed in anything but single-file, with runners strung out across half a mile of grassed-over cloughs and groughs.
With the staller of the warts (Messrs Harmer, Berzins, Berry et al.) performing something of a flanking manoeuvre off to the north, this left the Safety Officer in occasional command of the larger group weaving its merry way in and out of a succession of groughs, heading haltingly westward into the setting sun. For those of us in the know, this was always going to end in tears; and so it proved, as we somehow managed to plough straight across the Kinder River without a pause, simultaneously losing the Safety Officer off the back. So disorganised were things, indeed, that we effected that rarest of fell-running phenomena, separating Sarah B from Penny C for fully twenty minutes of running.
A short while thereafter, a halt was called as it became clear to our international orienteers that, in blindly following the ever enthusiastic Fi, we were now in fact rapidly descending to the western edge of the plateau, having evidently by-passed the ammo box. Sadly, since we had neither a name on a map, nor a map reference, nor indeed (in the absence of the SO) any clear idea as to where said object lay, there was little option but to descend to the edge path, head north to the Downfall and thence east to Kinder Gates, before finally striking out once more over the plateau pastures towards Fairbrook Naze.
In substitution for the setting sun, we now followed a slightly erroneous bearing directly on the rising moon. Knowing no better, one of our new recruits innocently asked what made the moon red, to be met with a volley of more and less probable explanations. It was at about this point that we espied the torches of the earlier splitters group strung out ahead approaching the Naze and lurched drunkenly to our left in hot pursuit. Both parties were more or less reunited for the descent off the Naze, before Lucy struck out on a final heathery line to the left, affording us the classic picture postcard descent into the Snake Inn via river crossing and wood.
The final tracks reveal that we passed only a hundred metres or so north of the ammo box, leaving the field open for our elders (and Penny, and the Safety Officer) to visit the box unaccompanied. Ships in the night, indeed.
It was Fi's choice of route from Broomhead on an initially light evening. The usual conditions of wind and rain prevailed for a Warts' Wednesday night so the waterproofs were very much to the fore. Also there was predominance of yellow Mudclaws, six out of the group of ten (ten of "the usual suspects") were wearing them. Refreshingly, Fi had no plan to battle through the rhododendrons and over the girder crossing of Ewden as we headed off in the opposite direction towards a walled enclosure marked on the OS map but not on the Harvey map. The wall was found and it was reminiscent of but even less distinct than the John Field Howden enclosure.
The wind and rain continued though there was some relief as we sheltered behind the Broomhead cabin, Fi's next check point. The rain had persisted most of the day and on previous days so streams and rivers were well topped up which made for the first of four interesting river crossings as we headed for Fox Stones across Oaken Clough and Ewden Beck. By now, the ten had become two groups, of four and six, who then raced to the Stones (the six group won!). Another indistinct wall was crossed as we went to the next crossing of Ewden Beck and then of Stainery Clough, also in full spate. Advice about which way to face when wading through the rushing water, upstream or downstream, I forget, was helpfully given by Ian W before we made for the new bridge over Oaken Clough, no more semi immersions! The groupings had now become five and five with the other group crossing the old footbridge at upper Oaken Clough. The wind and rain were now behind us on the climb to Flint Hill via a bit of the quad track but the light had faded so torches were now in use to the finish.A grand and classic Warts' adventure! Thanks to Fi and all
Dark woods, tussocks, rocks, a little snow, a bit of a wind, a string of lights and some uncertainty are characteristics of a Wednesday night Warts' run and tonight was no different. Immediately from the start at Fairholmes, the uncertainty of the route to Lockerbrook (yes to Lockerbrook!) appeared as we headed off on an easy going trail. There was a correction by one group taking a direct route through the woods and brashings before the whole group recombined for more forest leading to open country at Lockerbrook Heights.
From here on there was a touch of serendipity, although this was not recognised at the time. The intention was to reach the wood on the east of Alport Grain and then tip toe through the rocks on the opposite bank before heading off to Alport. However, there was a drift to the left (west!) which meant we only crossed the upper reaches of Alport Grain. A decision was taken to go directly, via tussock and some snow, on to the edge where we would now happily have time to visit The Tower which never disappoints, with wind, vertigo, whisky, jelly babies and a view of a string of lights staggering around. For a bonus, the pond was also visited before a stiff climb back to the edge.
The route back was then straightforward on the flagstones apart from the strong wind. However, Andy and I thought we could carry out a devastating Worsell (for younger members, a short cut!) by using a direct route from the start of the official descent path (south of Lockerbrook Farm) which had often been used in days gone by. This proved useless! Undergrowth had now developed into overgrowth and more saplings had grown so not only did we not catch up the front group (fat chance!) but the group previously behind us (Fi, Steve and Tim) were already at the car park and well on the way to being changed and ready to go to the pub. Oh well, it was still a great adventure!!!
And due to a tear in fabric of spacetime I can reveal that a week later a select group of Warts will spend considerable time going round in circles not finding Low Tor.
Moz, snow and snares were all part of his Warts' race on Wednesday 28th January. Getting to the start at Dennis Knoll was enough of a challenge with the snow falling and covering the road there. Eight check points had been selected by RO Moz although in deference to the conditions, number 8 was withdrawn, so only seven remained and which could be done in any order! About a dozen people started, into a blizzard, with most opting for the clockwise route. Newcomer Richard chose the anti-clockwise direction. For the rest of us, heading for the quarry (first checkpoint) there was drift (in both senses) to the left along a faint track when suddenly a shout went up and Andy was on his back having being caught in a snare. On balance, it was thought worthwhile to get him out and after a bit of wire manipulation, he was released. Then, I realised that my compass had disappeared and even after a return to the snare and a search, no compass. Here, reinforcements arrived in the form of Matt H and the three of us headed for the Bamford Edge path to arrive at the wall which took us to its corner (no. 2). The blizzarding was now becoming intermittent so there were occasional views of the Hope valley which was vaguely encouraging leading to an increase in pace and a general warming feeling (wearing two thermal vests and two Buffalo tops!). The Pillar (no. 3) eventually emerged out of the darkness after following the wall for a while. After the Jarvis Cabin checkpoint (no.4), we met Richard on his anti-clockwise route. He seemed cheerful and confident. There were distant views of head torches on Stanage where we arrived having missed the shooting butt track which Clive had sprinted up earlier. It needed a short diversion to the left on the edge to reach the cabin (no. 5). To reach the High Neb bus shelter (no. 6), we enjoyed a bit of a battering from the wind and some semi frozen peaty ponds (thank goodness for neoprene socks!). Off the edge towards Buck Stone (no. 7) we discovered that the bracken still shows some spirit of resistance even in deepest darkest winter. Moz was a welcome sight at the finish. There was a little concern for Richard who had not arrived back but thankfully a light was seen on the horizon from the direction of the quarry. Richard was on his way to the finish. Many thanks to Moz for the maps and for a great race which was nowhere near the infamous Friar's Ridge!
P.S. Pete G also had an encounter with a snare and some blood was spilt!!!!!
P.P.S. Moz, John and Tim Ray also chose the anti-clockwise route but retired in the first major blizzard on Stanage Edge, so well done to Richard for getting all the way round.
Given the snowy conditions and an apparent splitting of the group, with a lot of folk doing their own thing, Jim Twohig and I decided to dust of our skis and head out for some touring. After an eventful journey which included getting held up by a stationary and struggling 4 wheel drive police car on the burbage road just outside ringinglow (incidentally during this hold up a long wheel base land rover possibly belonging to another, unnamed, club member ploughed past us through the verge at high speed!), we eventually parked up at Odin Mine and donned our skis and skins. We followed tracks up the side of the road before turning uphill and zig zagging our way up the hill towards the ridge between Mam Tor and Hollins cross. The snow was good, with between 6 and 12 inches depth, and continued to fall for the duration. Upon reaching the ridge we were hit by the cold icy winds, which had stripped all but the lightest dusting of snow from the summit of Mam Tor. En route we passed a lone mountain biker working his way along the ridge. After a pause for photos, we dropped off from the summit down the ridge and then to the north east and removed the skins ready for the descent. The snow was deeper on northern side, as we had hoped, allowing some good turns on the descent. However progress was slowed briefly when we strayed into deep undergroth which proceeded to lock itself around our skis making retreat somewhat awkward. The skiing was good in spite of the poor visibility, which added an extra layer of excitement, with obstacles such as fences appearing at high speed and with little warning. The rest of the decent was pleasant and uneventful, aside from a spectacular fall from one of the party, mentioning no names. Thankfully Jim survived with damage only to his pride and we re-fitted our skins started our climb back up towards the road corner west of the summit. From here we descended direct(ish) back to the car at Odin Mine. We tried to meet up with others at the Ladybower but were surprised to find it closed, but thankfully refreshments were found closer to home in The Union. Jim won the style prize in his all over buffalo gear in blue and purple. All in all a fine night was had by all, just a shame it's all melted now!
Blackden layby this week, and a very cold wind on top. The 20-odd hardy souls split at the top of Golden Clough, where 5 of us decided not to take the descent and climb. I am including the short route here as a warning - if you have two people navigating, try to arrange for them both to be aiming for the same point - tonight we had one going for Druids Stone and the other for Madwomans. I think the track speaks for itself.
Plenty of mud and slippery slopes, and I used more road than necessary to get back, but not as bad as I remember from the last time, maybe Willy would like to expand on this, it's all you're getting from me.
It was good to see Guy back for a visit from the far West of Scotland, and all went well as we left Strines through the woods that were, and headed towards Berristers Tor. We got the chance to run along the latest blot on the landscape, a strip of "road" across the moor, presumably to make it easier for shooting parties to blast the grouse out of the air. Anyway, rant over, Peter, John & Steve persuaded Guy that we didn't want to go up Berristers just to come back down again so we would go on a short route.
No problem until we left the track to Foulstone Delph and headed home, where we managed to turn about 90 degrees right and hit Blackhole. As a route to Blackhole it's really very good, but as that wasn't our aim we refused to believe were we were and headed off in the approximate direction of Cutthroat Bridge. It was a long time later when commonsense was restored and we arrived back at the cars just as the last of the long route runners was heading pubwards. Just shows what can happen when two people each think the other knows what he is doing, and in reality neither of them does (Peter & John in this case).
A good Pertex bid, but I've no doubt it will be either forgotten or improved on by the time it is needed.
AKA Snake Inn Race, Bob's Night Race - results here
A grand night out, as Bob's report below tells:
Despite all the talk of safety, it's never been the intention to restrict our running in any way. So I thought it was a good idea to have a night race over some really challenging terrain - Kinder in thick clag.
Doctor’s Gate at 18.50, an extra 5 minutes being given to reach almost the summit of the Snake. As is routine at this start, it was cold and dark, all the more reason for signing in to the book. Sometimes the book, sometimes the sheet……. one day I will understand which is to be used. An unknown number of us set off directly for Shelf Stones trig taking in a bit of Doctor’s Gate, the Pennine Way, thankfully only a short bit, and Crooked Clough for the climb up to the Stones. By this time we were well enveloped in the mist which seemed to have continued from Saturday’s Club Champs. Does this part of the world ever see the sun?
Once gathered at the trig, the shout from Bob and Tom was Wain Stones on a bearing of 20⁰. Through various groughs some grassy and some not, we skirted near Wain Stones and then made a dash for Beaklow Head. On the way, there were two lights to our right and they declared themselves to be at Hern Stones. The two lights did not reach Bleaklow Head so a lights-out was ordered (it really was pitch black) and a few halloos were called but no reply came nor were there any light sightings. A retrace of our steps (with torches on) back to Wain Stones was made with the same result. Who were the two and were there only two? After some discussion, it was decided that Fi and Jinx were missing but all agreed that they could look after themselves though we continued with some degree of concern for them. Though we didn’t know at the time, they were very much in control because, as Fi declared in the car on the way back, she had “established Jinx’s credentials” (we don’t know quite how Jinx felt about this). He had completed various events including the OMM and the LAMM. Not knowing this, we continued to worry and we also descended from Bleaklow Head to the Swamp which truly lived up to its name as we enjoyed watching a couple of semi-immersions.
The next point of interest was the Upper North Grain hut which gave us the chance of doing a limited (very) recce of the birthday race on the 6th of December. Back to the cars where there was some shameful behaviour with the road apparently being used by some. Another quarter of an hour later, Fi and Jinx arrived in good form from Doctor’s Gate so everyone was accounted for after much ticking of the book. The outing was completed with a visit to the welcoming Snake Inn where a detailed analysis of Fi and Jinx’s route was made. Also, as other discussions progressed, Moz declared he was fortunately able to solve the world’s energy problems with a piece of rubber tubing (ask him, he’d be keen to tell you the details).
How many other clubs could combine mud, mist, meanderings and global energy management all in one evening?
You may have noticed that Peter Gorvett has not been Warting for a couple of weeks now, well he's in Brazil at the Orienteering World Masters. I'm pleased to say that he came a brilliant second in the "Sprint" race earlier this week, and will be competing in the "Long" event on Saturday - good luck to him in that - update - Peter came a creditable 5th in the Long race.
A significant group turned out for another Warts' adventure. The book was signed and the count revealed 14 of us but, as another Wart appeared from the misty gloom, it became 15, I think. The group welcomed back Penny, just returned from New Zealand to start her third winter in succession, what a stalwart! Cap'n Harmer was on Majorcan sunshine duty (and suffering a jelly fish sting) though no doubt he would have been missing the glorious drizzle being lavished upon us in the Ouzledon. His route responsibilities were taken over by Tom and Carl and Kirsty and Lucy and Tim.
With excited anticipation, we sprinted (it felt like that to me) up the main track before branching (this word would come to haunt us later) to the left up through the woods and up Alport Grain, though there was a hint of doubt over whether we had gone up the right stream. No matter, there was a concerted effort then to reach the paved (!) Alport edge path. Yes, despite years of the Cap'n's dire warnings, “road runners!”, we trod the paving stones to regather at the start of the descent to Alport.
It was then that the chickens came home to roost as Graeme limped along after slipping in the gaps between the paving stones and twisting his ankle. Maps and advice emerged, the “smooth” and longish route down to the Westend and then back along the road, was recommended. Tom gave up his map and we left Graeme to fend for himself. So then we were about 14.
The plan was to cross the Alport and head for the dark, dark wood but by now we had been out for an hour so, at the river crossing, we decided to go up the valley and then to the Tower in Alport Castles. Tim led us up and across the river again for a pleasant climb over pasture then an unpleasant tramp through wood brashings to the lower rocky slopes of the Tower. Kirsty and Lucy took us up the rock climb to the top where whisky and jelly sweets were gratefully taken. Looking back from the top, the string of lights never fails to impress.
Onward and upward, we reached the edge path and it was now only a short direct hop across the moor and through the woods to the cars. But, but, spectacularly deep heather (there were a few fallers) were only a taste of things to come in the Ouzeldon wood. As Tom remarked, the wood was the place that time had forgotten with fallen trees and branches, helpfully covered in slimy moss, and swamps laid out for our enjoyment, all whilst we contoured on a steep hillside. To generate any sort of pace through this Amazonian jungle, we developed a stooped, hurdling style. The sound of a stream appeared to be fading from us, so, on the basis that all streams went towards the cars, we descended back into the stream, crossing it a few times before reaching open ground (a relative term) for a disappointingly short time though rewarded with the sight of an owl.
Back to the broken branches and fallen trees, when a sort of embankment running suspiciously parallel to our direction, was spotted on our left. This was the track! It seemed that, in a few minutes on the track, we covered the same distance as we had made in the last 30 minutes of jungle. By this time, and, almost as usual, the group was no more, having split up into two's and three's. However, back at the cars, everyone was accounted for in the book, including Graeme who had by now, not only limped back from Westend, but had driven home! It was generally agreed that the night's outing ranked highly on the Harmerian index of warting.
Ten of us set off from the Sportsman, with Rob leading. There was an interesting route to the Headstone, with Jim and Peter separately peeling off to head down to the Rivelin track and up the ridge via the Reddicar Clough path to wait for the rest there. Then along the conduit to the little reservoir. JF headed off to Redmires with the excuse of the Round Rotherham at the weekend, taking five with him (we had been out nearly an hour by then). Tom, Sam, Julian and Peter were the only ones up for the Full Monte. It took us about 15 minutes to "navigate" across the marsh, but it was straightforward up to and along the shooting butts and it was great to be able see the lights of Hope Valley through the gaps in the clag once we reached High Neb, it was breezy but not the threatened 20mph plus winds. But despite a straightforward return via the Pole the whole run took us very nearly 2.5 hours, not helped at the end by "roadworks" on the conduit back to the Sportsman which have turned it into a rubble-filled quagmire.
A most convivial of evenings with some pleasant autumnal mauves in the sunsetting sky, a balmy 11 degrees on the hill, and a remarkable consensus over route choice. Moz was magnificently straight-faced in delivering the new safety monologue, and not one voice was raised in protest. It would appear that these straightened times of austerity have taken all the fight out of us, if not our appetite for the fells. All-in-all, the good Cap'n's honour was once more restored, and it is always good to visit the Nether Moor Quarry. Good also to see a few more unfamiliar faces.
Not sure whether it's the extreme excess of material generated or simply post-traumatic stress which has kept me from the keyboard for so long. Whatever the explanation, you know you've got a job on relaying the sheer folly of a 'run' when Cap'n Harmer himself is heard to opine less than an hour into his own 'route' that "... the consensus is the bracken perhaps makes this not the best line at this time of year". I think this constituted an apology from our esteemed leader; though it may just have been dizziness induced by loss of blood, having cut his finger on a thistle or similar in the first half hour of pointless scrambling. The safety officer will be pleased to learn (as will Chairman Woe), that between the two dozen warts present (our Warfarin imbibing leader amongst them), not one plaster (or first aid kit) could be found ... suggesting we may need to wrestle those shiny orange sacks off Tom and Mark before next we venture on the hill. Through rhododendron, across girders, through bracken, brambles, hedges backwards, a barbed-wire fence or three, heather, some tussocks, more bracken, on all fours through gorse, past a miasmatic pond, through a lot more bracken, then some more and finally thigh deep in more heather, we made our merrily shell-shocked way to Fox Stones.
At this point I would not have been moved to mention our favorite Deepcar Mountain Leader at all for fear of being accused of picking on the delicate flower once more, but I'm told he grumbled about the clag-challenged nav of those in front of him to the Fox Stones, making him entirely fair game for what follows. In a nutshell, young Mr W lead us first to a 'hand rail' wall which he proceeded to lose again within a dozen metres; then he took us down a precipitous descent (most appropriately named 'Gallows Rocher'), across Ewden Beck and back up an equally precipitous and rather hazardously holed bank to regain the heady heights of Bruston Croft. Having singularly failed to locate the small footbridge on Oaken Clough (looking at the GPS track we must have just passed to the west of it), our Ian then tried to pull off the kind of deceit few indeed have the front to attempt, claiming that a newly refurbished vehicular bridge was in fact a replacement for the foot bridge we sought. Thrice he made the claim, each time meeting justifiable disagreement, whilst we downed a fruit jelly or two, and shared whisky (like the first aid kits, in limited supply). Along the quad bike track to the east we thence traveled for fully three hundred metres, before inexplicably veering north - ignoring Clive's protestations that we had inadvertently left the track - whereafter IDP briefly reclaimed control of operations. I say briefly, because in reality we never properly recovered the situation, in the end completing the outing with fully two miles pounding along a vehicle track.
Upon reflection, I should clearly have taken more careful note of Graham B's decision in the pub on Monday night not to pitch up at Ewden (" Andy'll have you floggin' through all manner of **** "), and indeed the webmaster and Moz's decision to put roughly five hundred miles between them and this sorry expedition. All of which said, we happy twenty-four had a ball ... although it remains to be seen how many of the handful of newbie warts will ever return to the hills with the cream of Dark Peak. The more that defect, no doubt, the happier the good Cap'n will be.
At the webmaster's request, a few summery words to accompany the most eloquent of tracks provided by Messrs Last and Lund respectively (see below).
On a gratifyingly well attended evening from the Westend, some 30 or 40 runners, complete with a number of newbies (welcome Sam, Clare and at least one other I neither recognised nor spoke with), headed out en masse up through Fagney Plantation, down and up the Alport Valley and across the tussocks to Oyster Cabin. All went without incident, aside from the fight some of the more senior members of our party picked with at least one unhappy wasp near the head of the first climb. Even Brother Holmes was on best behaviour, safely tethered to young Rusty; that is until we hit the no-man's land of Birchinlee Pasture on the return leg where, lines of sight briefly interrupted, our cheerful party split asunder, with rag-tag bands of runners disappearing off in various more and less ill-advised directions.
Your correspondent knew on which side his bread was buttered, following Big Bob on the racing line beside Ditch Clough. Others fared rather less well, particularly where they chose to follow Messrs Lund (track below), Holmes (obviously) or Saville. As it happened, no-one can have been following our Kev, since despite his admirable resurgence in fitness, he nonetheless pitched up in splendid cussin' isolation, five minutes later than even the latest of the several Pertex-seekers who returned in dribs and drabs from utterly the wrong direction, along the tarmac via Howden dam, at least fifteen minutes later than the main party.
We fretted just a little whilst a number of the newbies remained unaccounted for, relaxing only once all but Kev were accounted for. To be fair, there was one member of the remaining party (pretty much everyone else having already repaired to the pub) who was actively considering returning onto the hill in order to assist our potentially crooked hero home; and this was not a family member, young Tom having much more sense than to consider such folly.
All in all then, a most enjoyable evening, finished off with an almost 100% turnout in the Ladybower, where Tractor Boy Ray, Barnsley Betts, and Kitmeister Hakes were found prematurely ensconced in the corner with a beer or three. Roll on the wartin' season says I..
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