Dig Deep

Here’s a little taste of what you can expect to see on this year’s Dig Deep races!

Whether you choose the full 60 miles Ultra Tour of the Peak District or just the 10k – we can’t guarantee sunshine (or snow!) but we can guarantee some fantastic Peak District scenery.

What’s in the Bag?

Winter conditions can be fantastic for fell running in the Peak District.

But with cold winds and snow & ice on the hills, the remote fells can be inhospitable places, surely not the best place to run? However with a little skill and knowledge and some sensible precautions there really is no reason not to continue training on the fells and enjoy some fantastic winter landscapes.

winter fell running
Winter fell running

Here I talk you through some of the extra things I take with me on a remote winter run.  These are in addition to hat, gloves, wind/waterproofs and food for the run.

Hope this helps you stay safe on the hills.  Happy running!

fell running guide

View from the Hill

Fantastic winter conditions whilst fell running in the Peak District.

Nicely Icy

Snow; fallen and frozen, air; calm, cold, crisp, sky; blue & high cloud. Fantastic conditions for a run on the higher ground of the Peak District.

Stunning winter conditions
The Hope valley was wreathed in its customary cloak, the cold air, subsiding overnight forming an inversion and resulting in cold, grey conditions.  Climbing the flanks of Win Hill I emerged from the fog into stunning winter conditions.
Temperatures were sub zero but the climb proved sufficient to warm all but the exposed skin on my face.  Soon I was treated to a fine summit view – eastwards blue sky and high cirrus, westwards the distant high moors stretched away under a thicker, opaque cover.
Win Hill summit
Distant hills under opaque skies
Joining the route of the Edale Skyline race I dropped down toward Twitchill Farm, leaving behind the brightness to descend into the bank of fog again.
Into the fog
On reaching the railway bridge I decided to divert from the race route and take the scenic fields rather than road, then rejoining to climb Lose Hill.
And out again
In the valley away to the south, emerging from the fog the cement works chimney pointed a slender finger towards the sun.
Slender finger to the sky
A few minutes hard work and the summit was achieved.
Last steps to the top
The view south showed the Hope valley, the remnants of the fog mirroring the pearly opalescence of the sky.
Lose Hill under a pearly sky
The ridge to Mam Tor gave good running, the snow having been scoured to leave a crisp, icy crust and good grip.
Leaving Lose Hill for Mam Tor
I descended the steep icy path on Back Tor with caution.
Descending Back Tor

A cold wind greeted me on Mam Tor and I paused just long enough to drink in the view before I descended quickly into the shelter of the Edale Valley, leaving the race route for now.

Mam Tor looking to Kinder
Through Edale and into Grindsbrook to tackle the steep zig zags up Ringing Roger, back on the “Skyline” route, this being the start where fresh legged runners begin their gruelling struggle.
Climbing Ringing Roger, Grindslow Knoll behind
Ringing Roger gave fine views across Grindsbrook to the edge of Kinder.

Right turn, homeward bound now I followed the sinuous path, contouring round the head of Jagger’s Clough and dropping down towards Crookstone and the solitary fingerpost.

To Jagger’s Clough
Above Crookstone heading for a distant Win Hill

 The old gritstone way-marker of Hope Cross has withstood many a harsh winter and I wonder who passed this way, mapless, relieved to see it reaffirming their location.

Hope Cross marks the way
Back to Win Hill

 Hungry now, my snacks long since eaten and beginning to feel the cold I pushed on to Win Hill, pausing briefly at the trig before descending through the trees to emerge at the reservoir.

Tired, that satisfyingly tired feeling after another wonderful run in the Peak District.

28km 1475m climb

 To join me for a guided run or navigation training visit: www.fellrunningguide.co.uk

Burbage Snow

A couple of hours of heavy snow followed by clearing skies made for an interesting fell run in the Peak District.

To join me for a guided run or navigation training visit www.fellrunningguide.co.uk

Return of the Sun

A ridge of high pressure extended a friendly finger across the UK making running in the Peak District a pleasure once more.

The drab, grey skies were replaced by blue and a bright sun enticed me to take to the hills in eager anticipation of splendid views, something that I had missed over the last month.  The weak sun was fighting to burn off the remnants of an inversion as I passed Surprise View and mist remained over Froggatt, however the skies above Bamford were crystal clear.
Parking by Ladybower reservoir I headed for the high ground to the west, passing Crookhill Farm onto access land and onto the delightful subsidiary to Crook Hill.  Cold valley air was soon left behind as I climbed the hillside and up the grassy flank.
Crook Hill with Ladybower and Bamford Edge behind
The reward for my effort was a fantastic panorama and I stopped to take in the view, there was no need to rush today, I wanted to drink in the sights, satisfy my craving, to scratch the itch that had been growing for weeks under leaden skies.
Away to the south-west the Great Ridge along Lose Hill and Back Tor, to Mam Tor and Rushup Edge was etched sharp whilst the northern flanks of Kinder stretched to the west under a line of thin cirrus.
Lose Hill, Back Tor and Mam Tor
Northern Flanks of Kinder
My route took me north-west along the thin ridge, bordering the woodland on my right until reaching the bridleway leading to Hagg Farm.  Crossing this I headed for Lockerbrook Heights.  A quick look at the map and I decided to “handrail” a wall, down through woodland, heading east-wards to the valley.  The open ride between the conifers, runnable at first, was blocked by fallen trees in a couple of places but a little ducking and weaving saw me emerge on the bridleway.
Down through the trees
Straight ahead a well maintained track led down through mixed woodland and allowed good running for a few hundred metres before it popped out of the trees at Fairholmes with its visitor centre and cafe.
Good path through the woods
Good running terrain
No tea and cakes for me, a brief pause to admire the view of Ladybower; the tranquil waters unruffled and highly reflective in the still air before I pressed on, heading for the eastern shore and the more remote hills once again.
Still reflections on Ladybower
Crossing below the dam wall a short climb on the road led me to Jubilee Cottages and the smell of woodsmoke.  Although the next stretch is a popular walking & biking route it is quiet in midweek and I met only a couple of walkers.  
Ladybower’s eastern shore
The road fades to track and the easy running ended abruptly as I chose the bridleway climbing steeply up Grindle Clough.  As I reached the old barn I looked back to the west, across the reservoir and saw on the skyline the outline of Crook Hill again.
Crook Hill, high to the west
A lovely narrow, walled track led me up the hillside and onto access land where it gave way to a rough path across rough moorland.  Ahead of me the rocks of  the Wheel Stones stood proud against the blue sky on the near horizon, their profile resembling an ancient stagecoach and horses. 
Rocks or a coach and horses?
I was heading for the skyline and the final uphill effort again gave stunning views as a reward.
The final climb
From the high ground above Hurkling Stones the view reinforced why the Peak District is such a fantastic place to run. 

I stood a while, taking in the glory before heading off along the rocky path to Whinstone Lee and down into the trees before meeting the main road at the viaduct.
Run with a view
The last woodland
Ashopton viaduct
Taking the path alongside the reservoir I ran the last leg enjoying the warmth, the light, the colour in the landscape, tired yet somehow invigorated by the return of the sun.
16km and 800m climb

 To join me on a guided run visit www.fellrunningguide.co.uk

Grey Festive Days

Christmas week, bleak.  

Not the bleak mid-winter of tales and imagination with deep snow and icy winds, the landscape frozen in nature’s frigid grasp.
Just wet, windy, dark.  Incessant rain, water levels rising.

High water

Days that didn’t seem to grow light as if the sun, hungover on festive excess, found the effort of rising beyond midday too much and slumped once more, dragging any vestiges of brightness with it.
Days without sky, just a low, wet fog blurring the boundary of land and air.
Days when colour drained from the landscape; land, water, sky all monochrome.

Running continued despite less than inspiring conditions – a couple of days on the high fells with map and compass in hand, enclosed in a grey world extending 100 metres, sometimes less.  Good practice.
Sub hour runs fighting wind and rain.  Returning cold and wet.
Short hill reps on a day when I couldn’t face battling the elements on the higher hills, hoping the effort would overcome the strong wind and rain and keep me warm.  A vain hope, cold and wet again.

A day with a little respite, a brief hour when the sun tried, weak shafts reaching tentatively through the grey, a fleeting glimpse before the sky’s steely grey shutters slammed once more and the rain returned.

A brief snatch of sunlight 

And now the rain has finally stopped, its mark has been made, the land sodden, rivers swollen, fields flooded.

Swollen stream

But at last, now that the year has turned, for a short while at least there is a little ray of hope.

To join me for a guided run or navigation training visit www.fellrunningguide.co.uk

Hill Forts and Limestone Ravines

It was a dull, damp and dreary morning in the Peak District – not at all inspiring for running in the hills.

Cloud capped Peak District hills
With the air in the valley full of fine drizzle and the higher ground cloaked in wet hill fog the only positive was that the weather was much better than yesterday’s deluge and than that predicted for tomorrow.  I decided on a high circle of Castleton, with a sharp climb from the valley to gain height followed by the undulating ridge.
Heading out across the fields towards Losehill Hall the evidence of the recent rain was clear, sodden fields and footpaths awash as ditches struggled to remove the rainwater from the saturated ground.  Past the farms by muddy rights of way, glad of the aggressive tread and waterproof socks, rising, gently at first then more steeply to gain the narrow spur to the south-east of the summit.  Over the stile onto the access land, side-stepping the slippery slabs, preferring the grass in order to maintain traction on the final steep section leading up to the cairn on Lose Hill.
Approaching Lose Hill summit
Heading westwards the route undulates, first dropping then rising over a number of cols and tops along the Great Ridge: Back Tor, Barker Bank, Hollins Cross before the final pull up to Mam Tor.
Along the Great Ridge towards Mam Tor
Eschewing the slippery, flagged descent off Lose Hill to the stile then onto an unimproved section, weaving between rocks and puddles, crossing the broken down wall, focussing, in the zone as I subconsciously seek the best line. 
At Back Tor my pace is briefly broken by the short, steep, rocky descent before I pick up again to Hollins Cross, feeling the cold now I work harder, along the flag-stoned approach to Mam Tor.  Bleak and windswept it is hard to imagine that our ancestors inhabited a hill fort here 3000 years ago.
The ancient hill fort of Mam Tor
Approaching the summit with the ridge to Lose Hill behind
A keen, cold wind greets me at the trig point, deterring me from any sojourn and turning sharp left I drop steeply down the southern flank of the great landslip.
The unstable east face
The rotten, crumbling east face clearly showing the horizontal bedding of shale the instability of which lends the name “shivering mountain”
Steeply down off Mam Tor
An exhilarating couple of minutes sees me down to the old road, once a main route between Sheffield and Manchester, regularly repaired after falling further down the hillside before engineers finally admitted defeat in their battle with mother nature.
No through road
Passing Blue John cavern, named after the semi precious stone found only here, I cross grassland to the abrupt drop into the limestone ravine of Winnats Pass and look down onto the sinuous road way below.
High above Winnats Pass
I spend a few moments here, taking in the fantastic natural spectacle, the towering limestone castles above the impossibly steep grassy slopes.
Limestone towers above Winnats Pass
Making a mental note to return and exploit these slopes for training and exploration I head off, running down the steep north spur to Speedwell Castle and my starting point in the valley below.
The last drop, into the valley
11km and 650m ascent

To join me for a guided run or navigation training visit www.fellrunningguide.co.uk

Howden Reflections

Not a breath of wind disturbed the surface of Howden Reservoir.

Reflections on Howden Reservoir
The air was cold and still, the glassy water mirroring the trees and hills on either bank, the sky a pale blue showing through the milk of high cirrus and aircraft contrails and a low, silvery winter sun reflecting brightly off the surface.
Reflective Running

Perfect conditions to explore the high moors of the Peak District where even in summer the ground can remain wet and after this year’s weather is particularly sodden.  Today, after the recent sub zero temperatures the peat would be frozen allowing easier progress across the usual mire.

Despite the cold nights and recent flurries of snow the hills were surprisingly bare with only a few patches of icy snow remaining in north facing hollows.  Now the landscape’s colours are subdued, dormant after the purple of summer and autumn’s blaze of gold.
Subdued moorland colours
I headed uphill following a rough compass bearing and picking the easiest lines through the heather and exploring anything that caught my eye.  A group of gritstone boulders catching the winter sun looked significant from a distance but were actually little more than 8 feet high.  Hands on rock: rough, coarse, cold – no boulderer’s chalk here despite the challenge.
Gritstone boulder
A short distance away something stood out, silvery amidst all the brown.  Water trickling over rock had frozen causing smoothly ridged ice with irregular icicles fingering down to the peaty ground.  Replicating flowstone and stalactites nature had contrived in days to produce out of water what it takes millennia to do with Limestone. 
Icicles or stalactites?

Further on I startled a mountain hare which dashed off zig zagging through the heather, its winter coat ironically conspicuous against the browns and visible long after it would have been in its summer colours. No predators were evident on the moor today and as if to celebrate a brace of grouse flapped away cackling, safe from the guns for now.

The sun was fading now, dimmed as the milky white cloud thickened and the sky became opaque.  The landscape flattened and the cold seemed to increase.  I turned for home, again taking a rough line across the moor to pick up the valley that would lead me back to the start.

Back at the reservoir the mirror remained intact.

Reflections on Howden Reservoir

To book a guided run, walk or navigation training visit http://www.fellrunningguide.co.uk/

Winter Coming

The high moors of the Peak District have had their first dusting of snow.

Winter comes to the Peak District

And with a cold, crisp winter’s day giving an ideal opportunity for a run I decided to visit some less frequented parts of the Peak.  Starting at the turning circle at the northern end of Derwent reservoir I immediately noticed a keen wind.  The water, glassy and mirror like on my last visit now rippled under the northerly breeze.

Thankful of the meagre heat from a wintery sun in an almost cloudless sky I set off along the woodland track towards slippery stones and the ancient bridge spanning the river Derwent.  Icy puddles and a frosting of snow fringed the path as I ran over a carpet of needles beneath the trees.  After crossing the old bridge I took the path up Cranberry Clough, suddenly in shadow the air was colder, harsh against my face and I pulled my Buff over my mouth in an attempt to banish the numbness.  The higher, south-facing slopes, kissed by the low sun showed their usual hues of bronze whilst those in shadow and on the north-facing slopes retained a thin dusting of frost and snow.
Climbing Cranberry Clough

Emerging from the shade as I climbed higher, the sun and exercise battled with the sharp wind to determine my temperature and once I gained the plateau the wind prevailed.

Bull Stones

Leaving the main path and picking up a faint sheep trod I headed for the Bull Stones, a lonely gritstone outcrop high above the infant Derwent, stark today against the snow and sky.  Atop one of the boulders a solitary grouse had walked, leaving in the snow its arrow print trail as if to point the way.

Walk this way

From there it was on towards Outer Edge, the notoriously boggy ground just frozen enough to prevent sinking into the underlying morass.  

Outer Edge, firm for once

My route now took me westwards across pathless heather to the splendidly named Rocking Stones.  These weathered outcrops present a fascinating natural sculpture, their gargoyle visages facing the elements, defying gravity, enhanced today in profile against the harsh winter sky.

Rocking Stones

Onwards across bleak moorland I headed for the Horse Stone, checking the compass before contouring round Stainery Clough, seeking out the line of least resistance, a faint trod petering out into deep heather, hard going and warm now with Howden Edge giving temporary lee from the north wind.  Then as I crest the rise of the hill the stone is before me, bleak and solitary, a lonely sentinel on the bare moor.

Horse Stone

Today she stands in a moat of ice, horizontal beddings tilted slightly and on the southern side, incongruously, lies a vertical slab of gritstone, a relic of an ancient top perhaps that finally succumbed to millennia of weathering.  This presented a tantalising invite to climb the stone, as if placed there deliberately offering a foot up, bridging the icy water.  The view from the top was worth the risk of an icy bath.

Horse Stone – invitation to climb

I dropped on a compass bearing south-eastwards now into a small plantation and crossed the clough at a stream junction following it downstream to emerge on the track by the infant Derwent.

Track alongside river Derwent

Turning left, I was on easy terrain now and was soon back at Slippery Stones, aptly named today.  It was only here that I saw my first human beings since starting out, startling the couple as I overtook.

The lovely, low sun created patterns of light and shade as it filtered through the pines along the track, the snow and frost remaining where the weak, warm sun had failed to penetrate.

Sunlight & Shade
Out of the reach of the sun

Emerging from the woods I ran alongside the reservoir in full sunlight, warm again to the car.

Journey’s end
13km 660m climb

To book a guided run or navigation training visit http://www.fellrunningguide.co.uk/