My mother-in-law's 95th birthday party was not to be missed. It was to be held in Cambridge on Sunday the 8th of May, the day of the 57A race. So in the interests of family harmony and of still submitting a race time, Tom Westgate (RO) was duly informed of my proposed Saturday attempt. The 57A bus no longer goes to Langsett so a bit of delving showed that the National Express coach to Liverpool, number 350 (?), left Sheffield bus station from platform E2 at 8.45 and arrived at Langsett at 9.15 on Saturday morning. This half hour trip was posted as "Fastest" by National Express and indeed, it was punctual, calling in at Stocksbridge on the way. The mountain forecast was for early mist to dissipate by mid-morning followed by some cloud, sunshine and a north easterly breeze. Temperatures were expected to be about 6⁰ initially and then rising to 15⁰ or so. With my experience of hypothermia in the latter stages of last year's 57A and the forecast 6⁰, I decided to wear my medium weight Buffalo with a thermal vest underneath. The benefit of this was appreciated going up Cut Gate, having left the Barn and gone around the northern edge of Langsett reservoir towards Mickleden Pond. However, it was the only time this clothing was appreciated and later, all the ventilation flaps were opened and the thermal vest removed. From Cutgate, a small trod conveniently took me across Mickleden Beck and then to the stream which lead to the Pond. Number one check point completed, only eight more to the finish!
Over the largely featureless moor to the next pond (CP 2) behind Outer Edge, spirits were lifted by three sightings of hares, wonderful. On the basis that climbing was to be minimised, a contour was taken to the next check point, above and around the Cranberry Clough tributaries. Initially, this was reasonable going but later turned into a mixture of deep heather and swampy reeds, slow! However, the Long Edge rocks (CP 3) were reached without any late "adjustments", to provide a wonderful view over the Derwent and beyond. There was a steep descent into the river which provided some welcome cooling to the slight astonishment of nearby fishermen and walkers.
By now, I needed to turn over to the next half of the Harvey map and after some complicated refolding (there must be a better way), a steep climb and a contour I arrived at the wall stream junction in Ridge Clough (CP 4). It was now sheltered from the wind and it was hot, even for me. The crossing into the Westend provided a bit of cooling wind and the shade in the woods leading to Westend Moor gave some relief from the sun. There was more moor to reach the Alport river which gave a degree of refreshment. Climbing out of the Alport and up the ruined wall in the heat, thoughts turned to the four Scouts who died of hypothermia near here. Their memorial plaque (CP 5) is a sad and sobering reminder of the possible dangers of bad weather in the Dark Peak.
On this trip, I had been watching when a phone signal became available so a text could be sent home, usually from hill tops. There was no signal at the Oyster Clough hut (CP 5) and the door was secured with a twisted wire or rope so I assumed there was no Richard Hakes cake. Instead, however, my marmalade sandwich substitute was helpful after a precipitous descent into the Snake Inn (CP 6) which felt busy after a largely unpopulated crossing from Langsett. The good weather had encouraged many people to explore both Fairbrook and Kinder so the remainder of the run was not lonely. So far, I had carefully noted all the bearings needed for the moors or critical sections but had not bothered to do so for the crossing from the top of Fairbrook to the Kinder river. The combination of this, the much transformed terrain, now all grassed over and the possible magnetic effects of the couple of pound coins in my back pocket (!), I managed to overshoot the river and needed to carry out an "adjustment" to recover. Just after reaching the Kinder summit cairn (CP 7) by following the Kinder river, I received a text message from my wife asking whether I was anywhere near civilisation; "Near Edale" I replied. Following a stream bed to Crowden, I then had an uncomfortable section on the paving stones towards Grindslow Knoll and then, thankfully, turned off them towards the two ponds (CP 8) and the final steep descent into Edale and to the hubbub of the very busy station (CP 9). The train was late but it gave time to savour the last drop of water in my bottle and the last jelly baby.
Thanks to Tom for creating and organising the challenging 57A race which never disappoints. The routes and the variations in the weather, from snow through driving rain and heat waves, is testament to Tom's creative spirit. Long may the race continue and its name should remain despite a challenge from National Express 350 coach. Later, I learnt that it was even hotter on the following day of the race so my congratulations go to all those who were brave enough to set off in those extreme conditions.
Well done to all!
© Dark Peak Fell Runners 2018
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