Thursday, 8 April 2010

Calderdale Hike 2009

Calderdale Hike 2009 - 36 miles of Pennine Trails

So, by now you've worked out that i'm taken by the long, slow, hilly stuff yet this, the third race in the Vasque series is only classed as being of "medium" length - the longer routes start coming within the next few weeks starting with the Fellsman 61 miler but fear not; no report will be forthcoming this year!. The calderdale starts at Sowerby Bridge and we pad out of the cricket ground as the clock struck nine on a clear blue morning complete with survival bag, map, compass, waterproofs and other paraphenalia (there are walkers doing this route today with even bigger rucksacks but they left three hours earlier, hopefully most will be overtaken!) and within four miles we've dipped into the valley and up onto the moors to the second checkpoint on a wind blown Crow Hill Nook.

The views are spectacular, as they will be all day, but over my left shoulder I see Stoodley Pike in the near distance yet it is the location of checkpoint 13 - some 30 miles into the race! So, we steer away for the next seven hours or so until we're back under its shadow much later (for me) in the afternoon.

After many ups and downs of moors and reservoirs we're at the far extremity of the race and my steady pack of five becomes four as we lose a runner with cramp in both calves, he's last seen limping down towards Holme Chapel and he's done 18 miles (Well done Gavin!, great to see you got to the finish) . The steepest climb in the race now takes us straight up the face of Thieveley Pike, some 450m up from the valley floor to checkpoint 8 where we stuff bananas and copious amounts of water, this is a proper climb but the worst is over and we plod away along the skyline back homewards.

In the far, far distance Stoodley Pike, now a mere 11 miles ahead of us, looks very small but we're heading directly towards it and even though sometimes we are reduced to a shuffle we are still moving. The consensus has been to keep going without sitting at the checkpoints, we all learned from the previous race that time is lost and knees do stiffen if you remain still for any length of time and actually I'm not sure that I'd be able to get up.

On the fast descent to the village of Lumbutts our gang is strung out and I pause to pick up a lost tally card! someones about to be disqualified at the next checkpoint! and as I head into the church yard to have my own tally stamped, one of our troop is emptying his rucksack looking for his lost tally, with the promise of a "good drink" he gratefully receives my find and we're away again. After Stoodley, we're now on the final descent passed Withins Clough reservoir - very dusty, peat stained and frankly exhausted but the final push up to the last checkpoint is a feat of endurance, rewarded by a graceful tarmac road meandering downhill into Sowerby and the cricket ground. As we appear into the field a motley group in the ground applauds and we've done it - where's the bowl of chili and the mug of tea!. Must be getting better at this as I've stuck with the Calderdale fell runners all day and the cameraderie has been great ..and ... we never got lost once!, the icing on the cake being that they haven't yet taken down the flags although I have missed the awards ceremony by an hour or so, oh and its 8 hours 25 since I left the ground this morning!. These races cost about a tenner each, are fully supported by such helpful volunteers and marshalls, St Johns Ambulance staff and the Mountain Rescue teams that everyone is in very capable hands, if nowt else they are "a grand day out!" .

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