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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Heatsheet Emergency Bivvy