running on steep snow

Running in Snow

There is something special about running in snow.

Maybe it’s because our winters tend to be wet and windy with muddy conditions underfoot that I relish the chance to run in the snow. It brings a welcome change to the ordinary, a different challenge, a break from the routine. When snow is falling the world shrinks, visibility drops and the sky loses its form. The boundary between earth and sky blurs and the horizon disappears. With paths obscured even the most familiar of trails become alien as the landscape becomes uniform and it is difficult to judge distances.  The only colour that exists is on my clothing, the rest of the world is monochrome. Falling snow muffles sound, the only ones I hear are the ones I make; my footsteps creaking in the fresh snow, my breathing, my heartbeat on the hard uphills.

running in snow

the only colour that exists is on my clothing

After the snow comes a different challenge. The well trodden paths that I usually take become buried and there is no such thing as an easy run. I struggle to lift my feet clear of the drift, gratefully find a patch of hard snow that takes my weight and tentatively begin to run, trying to make myself light. A few metres gained and crunch, I’m up to my thighs again and the process starts over. Who needs the gym, this targets muscles that are rarely used – and it’s free!

running in snow

no such thing as an easy run

There is something rewarding about breaking a trail. Of standing there with virgin snow ahead of me and being the first person to set foot on it – being my own pioneering explorer.

And when the weather system has passed leaving its white blanket covering the landscape and high pressure brings clear skies and freezing temperatures, those are my favourite conditions. They are a complete contrast to when snow is falling, now colour returns and the sky is impossibly blue, the horizon stretches for miles and sound carries on the still air. Shapes and shadows appear where snow lies, sculpted by the wind.

running under winter skies

the horizon stretches for miles

I long for conditions like this and on those rare, precious days when they occur I head out into the depths of the Peak District. In midweek it is possible to spend a day out without seeing a soul, being more likely to encounter a mountain hare making the most of one of the few days when conditions suit its winter coat.

mountain hare tracks

shapes, shadows and the tracks of a mountain hare

All too soon the mild air returns, the snow thaws and the landscape reverts to its customary winter condition – damp and grey. But the memories remain long afterwards of those few precious winter days and my adventures of running in snow.

running on steep snow

adventure running

fell running guide

The Joy of Winter Running

“In his autumn before the winter comes man’s last mad surge of youth”

What on Earth am I talking about?

It’s mid November, the sky is monotone, the landscape leached of colour as if nature is restricted to a drab palate with which to paint her surroundings.  Heavy rain and strong winds sweep in from the south, the ground is heavy, sodden and summer’s golden rays have long faded.   Running on a day like today just doesn’t inspire me, there is little aesthetic pleasure to be had, no urge to linger and drink in the sights and sounds around me.  Instead I speed up, not wanting to spend any more time than absolutely necessary in this environment. My gaze is restricted to the few metres immediately ahead of me, head bowed into the wind, squinting against the lashing rain.

But winter running can be a joy.  Some days sparkle like bright jewels glittering amongst the oppressive grey.

winter running in the Peak District

winter running in the Peak District

Clear nights lead to crystal blue days and the first hard frosts bring firmer ground.  The crunch of ice crystals replaces the squelch of feet in mud.

winter running

hard frost and the crunch of ice

On high pressure days the air is still, sounds carry: the tinkling of the icy brook, the dripping as a weak winter sun thaws icicles on gritstone boulders, the frosty remains of the bracken expanding as they slowly warm.  The landscape breathes.  These are my favourite days, when piercing blue skies seem to overload the senses and the clear air brings the distant horizon into sharp focus.   On such days I love to explore the remotest parts of the Peak District, making the most of the few hours of daylight to enjoy the solitude of the harsh environment.

running under a piercing blue sky

winter running under a piercing blue sky

On some winter days a layer of cold air in the valley bottom condenses forming a sea of cloud.  When conditions are right the hills above enjoy clear skies and sunshine whilst all below is shrouded in grey.  It’s a joyful experience to emerge from the cloud into the sunshine and enjoy the colour and long winter shadows.

winter running

above the sea of cloud

Even on cloudy days, there are rewards especially after heavy snow when running becomes a real adventure!  Then the landscape softens, sharp edges are smoothed by the snow, paths disappear and what was once familiar takes on a different aspect.

running in snow

adventure running!

Somehow snow brings on a surge of youth, the urge to “play out”, to explore and experience adventure!  The once tame trails of summer become a playground.  Nature offers up the challenge of running through deep snow and on ice.  The challenge has to be accepted!

snowy run

running or climbing!

So whilst all is wet, windy and grey, running is done simply for training rather than for any other pleasure.  But we can hope.

the joy of winter running

the joy of winter running – that’s what I’m talking about!

Winter is around the corner and maybe it will bring joy to running on the trails and fells.  That’s what I’m talking about!


Running or Playing?

I have a little playground in the Peak District that is perfect for trail running.

Trail Running

between the boulders

Some days I don’t want to train hard, I want a recovery run or an easy session. Sometimes the weather is just too good to waste!

On days like this I exercise my inner child; boulder hopping, avoiding puddles, balancing up steep rocks trying to avoid using my hands, dodging shadows and hurdling fallen trees as I run through the woods.

trail running over boulders


jumping over bouulders


trail running, boulder hopping

..and away!

trail running over puddles

avoiding puddles

steep running

steep stuff

steep running on boulders

going up!

trail running through trees

shadows and tall trees

So get out there, find your playground and release your inner kid.  Trail running is fun!

Many thanks to for the fantastic photos.




Sparkling Autumn Day

The weather forecast for the Peak District promised a “sparkling autumn day”.

And so it turned out, clear blue skies with just a hint of cumulus building on the western horizon – perfect weather for fell running.

fell running under blue skies

fell running under blue skies

I usually record my runs: distance, heart rate, average pace etc and upload the data for further analysis later.  Today however I wanted to be free from all that, untethered from technology, I simply wanted to run, to enjoy the crisp air, the warming sun and the beauty of this little part of the Peak District.

I trot across the short stretch of moor leading to Higger Tor and up the short, sharp climb to the summit – easy pace today focussing on short, fluid steps.  Then hop-scotching the gritstone and puddles I cross the plateau and drop down the well worn path to Carl Wark.

climbing Carl Wark, Higger Tor beyond

climbing Carl Wark, Higger Tor beyond

The flat summit of this once inhabited prominence is a mix of gritstone boulders, heather and sheep cropped grass and I work my way southwards, relishing the warm November sun on my face.

gritstone & grass on Carl Wark

gritstone & grass on Carl Wark

I drop steeply off Carl Wark finding a faint path, newly accessible as the bracken dies back for winter and head down to the wonderful old packhorse bridge crossing Burbage Brook.

Descending off Carl Wark

descending off Carl Wark

crossing the packhorse bridge

crossing the packhorse bridge

I love this spot and pause for a moment to take in the view, tracing the line of my descent back up to the rocky outcrop, proud against the blue autumn sky.  Refreshed, I press on upstream winding my way between the plantations and making the steep, short drop to cross the brook.  I notice the sudden drop in temperature as I enter the shade and reach the stream.

crossing Burbage brook

crossing Burbage brook

What goes down must go up and it’s time to climb back out of the valley into the sunlight and I take the rising path northwards then divert towards the isolated boulder high amidst the bracken,

climbing past the boulder

climbing past the boulder

A spot of “bracken bashing” brings me out on a vague rising path and I leave the valley behind and head back towards Higger Tor.

leaving the valley

leaving Burbage valley

A final steep few metres through the rough grass brings me out at the road where I began.

leaving Burbage valley

the final push

A sparkling autumn day, perfect for fell running in the Peak District.

What I wore:

Montane Litespeed windproof
Ashmei 2 in 1 shorts
Gloves (cheap fleece ones)
SealSkinz waterproof socks
Inov8 Race Pro 4 bumbag
Inov8 Roclite 285

Summer’s End

The sun sets early now on my Peak District running adventures.

The long evenings and long shadows a fading memory, the warm evenings replaced by a noticeable chill in the air.

sunset run

sunset run

All is not lost; an evening run over Stanage Edge is rewarded by the Grouse’s cackling conversation, the calls and replies carrying far in the still air.  There is no breeze, the puddles between the gritstone boulders mirror the fading light, subtle pink hues and shades of stainless grey in a high sky.

evening run

dusk reflections

The light fades quickly and I slow the pace, cautiously picking my way along the uneven path.  It will soon be time for head torch running and although I am carrying one I resist using it, straining to pick out the path in the gloom, reluctant to accept that the summer is over.

If you would like to book a guided run in the Peak District, visit


It’s Not Always Hard Work

Some days I run hard.

Race training: maximum efforts, hurting, oblivious to everything except the pounding in my temples and the battle between body and mind; one screaming “stop” the other willing a few more moments of effort.  I am enveloped in my own little bubble of pain.

Thankfully I also like to run easy.  Long steady trots when I can appreciate the scenery around me, when I can stop to gaze at distant blue hills or focus in on the minute details close by.  As the seasons change so does the view and it is seldom the same even on the bleak moorland.  This summer a vast sea of cotton grass covered the moors transforming them into a shimmering silver sea.

Cotton Grass

Cotton Grass transforming the bleak moorland

The heather, turning purple under a summer sky shows different hues and closer inspection reveals subtle differences between Bell Heather, Cross Leaved Heath and Ling.

Purple Heather and Blue Skies

Purple Heather and Blue Skies

Hidden away on the moors other plants can be found; the tiny Tormentil with its four bright yellow leaves, delicate Heath Bedstraw with minute white flowers, slender pale blue Harebells, Bilberry its crimson globes beginning to form the Autumn’s bounty and Cladonia a tiny lichen fantastically named the Devil’s Matchstick.

Tiny Tormentil

Tiny Tormentil

Whilst the Grouse and Meadow Pipits are ever present some birds are less common and thus grab my attention.  The Curlew has arrived and circles me, crying.  A Skylark’s constant conversation makes me look upwards to spot a tiny hovering speck that suddenly silences and falls back to the ground, camouflaged, unseen.  The Kestrel hovering, wings working, tail twitching, head stock still seeking out its unwary prey and the Wheatear, startled into undulating flight from its ground nest, a flash of white in its tail as it goes.

I spy a lizard camouflaged on a mossy wall and stop to take a closer look at its intricate markings.  It stares back at me unflinching, unmoving save for a rapid pulsing in its neck.

Lizard Lounging

Lizard Lounging

A Peacock Butterfly flits by me as I run and settles in the path a few metres ahead.  In no rush today I slowly approach, getting close enough to inspect its delicate iridescent beauty.

Admirable Admiral

Proud Peacock

A damp path offers a rare treat, a Slow worm lies across my way.  I stop, wary at first until I see no diamond markings then creep closer and admire the shining, almost polished bronze beauty.

Slow run, Slow Worm

Slow run, Slow worm

And when the colour fades from the day I run lazily towards the sinking sun on the blazing western horizon, happy to appreciate the beauty of easy running.

Sunset Run

Sunset Run

Come Run With Me

The beauty of running in the Peak District is that the Peak District is beautiful.

15 minutes.  That’s all it takes to escape the tarmac and traffic of Sheffield for the woods, trails and hills of the National Park.

Wide open spaces, fresh air and the sounds of nature greet me as I climb from the urban bowl and leave the city behind.  Driving west I crest the Ringinglow road, passing Lady Canning’s Plantation and the Ox Stones and the vista opens before me; the beautiful Burbage Valley, the magnificent gritstone edge of Stanage and the remote, rugged, distant uplands of Kinder and Bleaklow whilst to the south the White Peak stretches away lush, green and wooded.

It is a fantastic place to run – so forget the tarmac and escape to the trails and come run with me.

Cumulus and Cotton Grass

One thing I love about fell running in the Peak District is how the scenery changes with the seasons.

The last couple of weeks has seen an explosion of Cotton Grass, turning parts of the moors into a shimmering, silver sea.

A sea of Cotton Grass

A sea of Cotton Grass

Although it is now fading, the cotton heads being blown away on the wind like huge dandelion seeds, there was still enough to provide a pretty backdrop for the recent Introduction to Fell Running course held in the Goyt Valley.

Cumulus Clouds and Cotton Grass

Cumulus Clouds and Cotton Grass

Four intrepid women wanted to improve their fell running skills and the varied terrain and hills was a great location giving lots of opportunity to practise running downhill…

Practising downhill technique

Practising downhill technique

and back up again!

Making the uphill look easy!

Making the uphill look easy!

Watching each other’s individual styles gave us chance to discuss running techniques, race strategy and fitness training; (I delivered the unwelcome news that the best way to get good at running uphill is to spend lots of time running uphill!)  Some map and compass work saw us leaving the path and heading across the moors on a bearing and tough running through the deep mix of bilberry and heather.  Smiles all round when we found the path we were aiming for.

Where's the path gone?

Where’s the path gone?

The grey cloud of the morning gradually gave way to fairer weather as we reached the valley bottom and the pretty stream but it was lunch time for the midges and so we didn’t linger!  Escaping the woods brought respite from the voracious little things and we spend some more time looking and listening as we took turns at playing “guess the runner”

Guess who it is?

Guess who it is?

The runners all had a go at estimating distance covered – a vital skill for navigating – by counting the number of paces they took.  Backing this up with map work; interpreting the contour lines and other features we ran through the Cotton Grass under high, Cumulus clouds until eventually we arrived back where we had started.

Fell Running in the Peak District

Fell Running in the Peak District

Happy runners, friendly faces, lovely scenery – another great day fell running in the Peak District.

Spring, Sun and Snow

Fell Running in the Peak District has been difficult of late.

But this weekend Spring showed her long awaited face and warmth returned.  Blue skies, sunshine and a respite from the nagging, bone chilling easterly wind that we have endured for weeks made for perfect conditions to get out onto the hill.

Snow still lay, deep in places too and consolidated into steep banks but this enhanced the conditions adding an element of interest to the run.

My route took me along Derwent Edge, picking up the route of the Ultra Tour of the Peak District to Lost Lad, then headed off to the beautiful Abbey Brook before climbing back up to rejoin the race route and follow it towards Derwent Moor.

Consolidated Snow Drift

Consolidated Snow Drift

 Equipment I used:

Montane Featherlite Jacket
Inov-8 Roclite 285
Helly Hansen l/s merino mix base + thin polyseter T
Ron Hill leggings
Windproof beanie
Rab Powerstretch gloves
Inov-8 Race Pac 4 sack containing:
OMM Rotor Smock
Montane Featherlite trousers
Heatsheets Emergency Bivvy
Emergency phone & food

Food & Drink consumed

4 cubes of Cliff Shot Bloks
I tend not to drink except in hot conditions even on this 3+ hour run, preferring to hydrate before & after.  (I was starving & thirsty at the end though!)

Hopefully this will give you a feel for the stunning scenery and give you a taste of fell running in the Peak District:

Winter Lingers

A year ago I sat in the sun on Grindslow Knoll, marshalling on the Edale Skyline fell race.

This year I had planned on doing the race and was looking forwards to a gruelling 20 odd miles of running, however Mother Nature had other ideas.  The stubborn area of high pressure to the north dragged bitter easterly winds from Siberia and where these met the warmer, moist Atlantic weather fronts it snowed..and didn’t stop.  The race was inevitably cancelled; main roads were impassable let alone getting to remote hill tops.

Edale Skyline 2012

Edale Skyline 2012

So a year on finds me running (or at least attempting to) on one of my favourite routes in the Peak District; the Burbage Valley.  No vest and shorts this year, I’m in full winter kit vainly trying to cover all flesh, to avoid the icy daggers that the cruel wind picks up and flings against my skin.

winter kit needed

winter kit needed

The going is tough, unpredictable, sometimes runnable as, scoured by the wind the ground it bare of snow yet in other places it is piled up and blown into deep drifts.  The run is a constant stop – start, just as I get into a rhythm I am abruptly halted as I flounder knee deep into a drift, then firmer ground – running again then flounder…and repeat.

difficult running conditions

difficult running conditions

Over Higger Tor I drop down to the road to avoid the deepest of the snow, no traffic today.  I am amused to see a temporary sign warning drivers of hazardous conditions.

road sign

you don’t say!

Past the twin bridges I take the main path heading down the valley and here gain some respite from the wind.  At last I can run relatively unimpeded as only a thin layer of snow covers the path.

Burbage snow

easier running: Burbage Valley

I cross the road and follow the brook for a while before cutting right, back towards the car park where I started.  I follow a sheep path for a minute, the snow only ankle deep.  Just as I am thinking that the conditions over this area are better than expected the path disappears.  I have a choice: the sunken path to my left which has collected at least 5 feet of snow or the open moorland ahead of me which seems to vary from shin to thigh deep.

snow wading

tough going

The lesser evil is the moorland route and I wade across it.  Exposed tufts of heather stick out but these islands are a false hope offering little to assist my progress.  The moor is exposed here and the wind picks up spindrift and sends it swirling in small vortices into the distance – beauty and malevolence combined.  I am glad of the ski goggles that I am wearing but as I tug at my face mask and try to cover my nose it slips down immediately.  I hold it up momentarily but realise that I need both hands to assist forward motion and prevent face planting in the deeper drifts.

deep drifts

deep drifts

Eventually I reach the path leading to the road crossing.  Here a huge drift has formed forcing me to detour to gain the road but within a couple of minutes I am safely back at the car park.

Five miles, not the Skyline’s 20, but a different type of hard.

Equipment I used:

Helly Hansen merino mix baselayer under short sleeved polyester T shirt
Montane Featherlite jacket
Lowe Alpine powerstretch tights
Inov8 Mudclaw 300
Inov8 Debris socks
Buff, Rab powerstretch gloves, cheap windproof beanie, windproof face mask
Decathlon ski goggles
Inov8 Race pro rucksack

Taken but not used:

OMM Rotor smock
Montane featherlite trousers
Spare fleece gloves
Kahtoola MicroSpikes
Heatsheet Emergency Bivvy