I fully intended to attend the officially advertised run from the Sportsman this Wednesday evening past, not least to support Ian Fitz's Skyline debrief, but with my car having just failed its MOT earlier that afternoon (even more of a death-trap than its driver, apparently - which may, or may not, come as a surprise to those privileged enough to have ridden in it), I found myself somewhat vehicularly challenged. A series of panic phone calls to all the usual suspects ensued, including one to David McG, who I'd be glad to report was happily sunning himself in Majorca were it not for the fact that this particular conversation will very likely have cost me considerably more than I had initially anticipated. Anyways, the upshot of said calls was the realisation that no other b****r I knew within a three mile radius of Crookes was traveling this particular evening to the Sportsman, and it was now too late to make it in time for the off under my own human steam. I was left, therefore, with little alternative but to call the Chosen One to see if a lift might be available to the (now here's the controversial bit, folks) Guerrilla Wart from Ouzelden Clough. There was some hesitation on the line as the Chosen One consulted with his chauffeur, the Safety Officer*, before the response came that they were just passing Crosspool and that I had 5 minutes to be ready and outside. This left me with very little faff time, but much to my best beloved's surprise I just about managed to keep to the prescribed deadline, emerging a little haltingly into the Crookes slush accompanied by a selection of kit and vaguely hoping some of it might be appropriate for the adventures ahead. Taking my place in the back seat alongside Big Bird, we descended to Malin Bridge to pick up Ernie, only to find that he had arrived with Bert in tow (or rather had somehow contrived to get Bert to give him a lift), so the decision was taken to travel in convoy to Ouzelden Clough, the SO determining that four passengers in the rear of his vehicle probably constituted an unwarranted risk. Upon arrival at Ouzelden, we were pleased to be joined by Long John Silver and Cabin Boy Jim, together with the ever glamorous Ms Lesley Ash, all kitted up and ready to go - which is precisely what we did. Up Ouzelden Clough and thence via three alternative lines onto a crisply snow-cloaked Rowlee Pastures, we were rewarded with some stunning views of all the surrounding fells, bathed in the white stuff, and some particularly dramatic skies (Ms Ash was to be heard later in the pub opining on the "four different types of light" we'd witnessed; so it seems we can add Constable's eye for aesthetic landscapes to Lesley's many other hidden talents). It should also be noted at this juncture that, whilst Big Bird, myself, the Chosen One and Lesley all took more or less the natural line toward Alport Castles, Ernie led the rest of our merry gang via a more oblique route to the flags which, notwithstanding his subsequent protestations that said flags were covered in a significant depth of snow, only goes to further support the gathering view that he is increasingly gravitating towards road running in the (early) twilight of his otherwise most distinguished fell running career. Having all gained the edge path above the Alport Valley, we were now treated to the sight of a series of spectacular cornices (for this, the Chosen One assures me, is the correct technical term used by real winter fell-types and mountaineers). The temptation to slide forty feet off the lip of one such cornice soon proved too much for the Chosen One who, demonstrating his leadership credentials admirably on this occasion, first gingerly then with gay abandon hurled himself off the edge, closely followed by the rest of our party (with the honorable exception of the SO, who chose a rather more cautious traversing line to the stile to the south-east of Alport Castles). A little whooping and excitement later, we regained the edge path, with Long John Silver and our Lesley demonstrating their own very particular mountain-craft abilities by spending a full five minutes burrowing their way back up the sheer face of a second cornice, to the collective hilarity of the rest of the party. Once back on the edge (or perhaps this was prior to our first cornice slide?), we briefly inspected the jerry-built hide overlooking Alport Castles - erected for the viewing nesting Osprey, I am told, though this would have been difficult to achieve this particular night as the snow had somehow managed to find a way into the hide and fill much of it three-quarters of the way to the roof. It was at about this point that Big Bird announced he felt like staying out in the snow all night ... to which I quickly responded by donning most of the remaining kit in my bag, thick gloves in particular, whilst the rest of the party sped onward to Birchin Hat. The reddening sunset behind Alport Tower, offset by dark and brooding clouds, was truly one of those glad-to-be-alive moments, which may explain why the option to free-sledge down a second cornice on the somewhat longer slope to the north-west of the Tower was ultimately passed up. Furthermore, as the sun began to drop behind the horizon, the temperature rapidly dropped, so we began to turn for home, wading through often knee-deep snow down into Fagney Clough, with young Jim's superior speed soon becoming apparent on the few occasions when real running became an option. As we traversed out of Fagney - or perhaps it was Ditch Clough - our Lesley took up the lead, showing off her beautifully botoxed behind to full effect, whilst the Chosen One and Big Bird, with the occasional intervention from Ernie, haggled over whether the bearing was 130 or 135 degrees. Fortunately they didn't quibble for too long, alighting upon the eminently sensible solution of telling Ms Ash simply to "head for the moon" (which was, like most other elements of the natural world this fine night, looking rather splendid). It was at this point that I did, I confess, begin to regret not having donned neoprene socks for the outing. Fortunately the running began to pick up a little once we'd crossed to the east of the spur of Birchinlee Pastures, and a memorable evening's running was completed with a fine descent to the plantation fringing the reservoir and, with half of the party finally unfurling head torches, a short scramble through dense conifers to the track beside Ouzelden Clough. As the Chosen One observed back at the cars, it was quite a good line upto about a foot and a half off the ground. A magnificent evening was made complete with two (in my case, three) pints in the Ladybower, with a good deal of reminiscing, particularly it seems about DP dogs we have known and loved, and most particularly about Tansy (is that how we spell it?) who, in Ernie's opinion at least, appears to be the finest fell dog that ever bestrode the Dark Peak. My thanks to my fellow renegades - I'm no longer an entirely virgin guerrilla wart** - though whilst the temptation to join the GWs again may upon occasion prove too great, as maintainer of the Calendar I remain honour-bound to frequent the Sportsman on official nights back at the club. After all, it's hard to deny one gets a superior degree of sartorial elegance at the Sportsman (something very close to my heart, you understand), and I've even been known to enjoy the company of a road-runner from time to time ... * whilst some might argue this title does not constitute a name change, I've taken the view that the SO has been so conspicuous by his absence for almost the entire Wartin' season past that no-one within the club will surely remember who he is ... others (including the SO himself, very likely) would no doubt argue that it would, in the current context at least, perhaps be a little disingenuous to include the SO under the innocent-and-to-be-protected category ... ** having said which, in my hurry to get out of the house in five minutes, I forgot to take my trusty Garmin, which means I have no track to post here and, as consequence, there is no concrete evidence that I ever did go Guerrilla Wartin' ... so if I'm ever accused of having done so, I will naturally deny it.
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