Saturday, 26 March 2016

Time to stop and smell the roses

We have plans to travel for some more of this year later so I persuaded Bob to enter Haworth Hobble, Calderdale Hike and the Fellsman. He would then only have to find one more race in the Runfurther series. He took a fair bit of persuading on the Fellsman but I pointed out that although tough and long it did have the merits of long cut offs for walkers and lots of food on the way round. Then of course was the issue "I need to know the way". We agreed that the first bit is straight forward and there will be plenty of people around so no need to worry until almost Dent.
Our first attempt to check out sections of the route was in early March. Yep that's right immediately after the snow. You get a false idea of the weather and snow on the hills living in Preston! We parked in Langstrothdale, one of my favourite valleys.

 The plan was to use the lanes to reach Fleet Moss and then test the route to Cray before heading back to the van on the Dales Way. It was quiet in the valley as even the day before the road over to Hawes had still been blocked by snow. All was well until the Oughtershaw Road where the road was not quite clear and a car was stuck. We stopped to help. A new fence at the top coupled with lots of snow caused some confusion but then we found the line and were off.
Some sections were fine
It was tough going and even on the sections where I stayed on the surface Bob kept falling through. It also hid the features and made him think it was pretty pointless as a reccee unless we had a metre of snow the night before the race.
Buried paths by the walls
Well, it could happen. Below Jeffrey Pot I fell down a deep hole and got a very wet foot and leg. Even dry socks don't work in knee deep water. I was sort of enjoying it but by Deepdale Haw and the blue cup Bob announced he had had enough.
Sudden deep bits
He headed for the valley and the van while I carried on to Cray wit the agreement we would meet in Buckden. I couldn't find the wet land-rover track under the snow but found Middle Tongue CP area OK. After that the peat and tussock area was impossible so I dropped down to grassier terrain and cut the corner back to Buckden where Bob collected me.
Great day to be on the tops
We spent a cosy evening in the van and tried to plan a route for the next day. It was cold over-night although we only noticed when we got up and found a tiny layer of ice on the inside of the front windows. This was a blessing in disguise as the snow now had a much better crust. We parked in Kettlewell and set off up Cam Gill beck for Hag Dyke farm. I had never been this way before and had no idea the farm was a Scout outdoor centre. It was beautiful in the valley but by the farm the wind was fierce.
Firm snow at last
Climbing up from the farm the spindrift was like needles and I worried for Bob's eye as he had undergone a cataract operation very recently. We had also forgotten out kathoolas. We reached the cairn on Great Whernside without mishap and sheltered between the stones.

Then we could not believe our luck. As we moved away from the western edge and over to the fence line the wind all  but disappeared. The fence was buried and the wind had carved some amazing sculptures.

We saw nobody else and had a great time all along the ridge heading south.There was one short tricky steep section and then easy running to below the snow and down to Capplestone Gate and Bycliffe Road.

I pointed out where the Fellsman route then heads off towards Yarnbury. I run faster than Bob so he now headed back and I ran on to just before Yarnbury. The plan was we would meet if I caught him up somewhere on the Dales Way before Kettlewell.

After the snow on the tops the path through the pastures was easy although I did have one anxious field of very big cows that were guarding a gate.

Not sure that Bob gained much in terms of Fellsman route but we had a good time.
Fast forward three weeks and the snow has mostly gone.
We spent late Monday afternoon exploring Dent and had a very leisurely walk up Flinters Gill and a look at the route off Great Coum.

 It's amazing what you can see when you have the time; the Wishing Tree, Dancing Flags, an 'Open Barn', a Lime Kiln and a topo-view thingy.

We kept dry feet by stopping before the bogs below Great Coum but Bob now knows the way down and over the increasingly wonky bridge to the nice grassy lane before the less pleasant stone track to the village.

A peaceful night in Dentdale (what would we do without the van) and a leisurely start to the next reccee. A wooden footbridge led from our lay-by over the river and onto the lanes. We jogged west and warmed up before joining the Fellsman route near the Methodist chapel near Whernside Manor.

 Many many years ago we had cycled up this track and back over to Horton but Bob claimed no memory of it. We plodded uphill and I did my puppy dog thing of running on and then running back. Once it levelled out and became grassy it was a lovely run eastwards with views of the viaducts.

Having identified the point to leave the track we followed the wet and faint trod to the fence and then tackled the bog. It was drier than usual but I doubt the bottom near Little Dale beck ever really dries out. The false summits of Blea Moor were soon passed and we stopped to admire the view from the trig.

 Turning north I was surprised to see how much forest had been felled but we headed for the air shaft and picked up the paths no problem. Near Dale Head farm we met the owner struggling with a dog determined to pull him over. At the farm the turkey is no more but there are some impressive hens and a cockerel.

The path to the Stonehouse Lane was almost dry and we were soon running down the lane admiring the river rocks. The bridge had been decorated with 17 moles- I guess the mole catcher wanted to be sure of being paid for a job well done. A quick pointer to Artengill Beck and the location of the CP field and we were off along the Dales Way and back to the van. Not bad and it was only lunch time!
We moved the van to Redshaw and ran down to Swineley House farm. The mud here was deep! but improved once we reached the track to Cross Pits. I had expected it to be a well maintained and cobbled way like the route up from Artengill but this side was rutted, eroded and rarely used. After showing Bob the stile and beacon position we decided the day was too nice to hurry so we included the out and back to Great Knoutberry. It's all miles in the legs and climbing practice. Crossing the moss was wet as usual but  we were back at the Redshaw CP in quick time. I had not realised what a busy road this was and am sure that when I cross it on race day I rarely see any traffic? We stopped to chat to some cyclists and again having the time to spare I spotted previously unnoticed landmarks like the old milestone and boundary marker. A short run down the grass verge brought us back to the van.

Next stop Fleet Moss CP ready for the next day. We parked no problem but the van heater started to play up and kept cutting out. In the morning we headed back to the Snaizeholme CP but decided there was no need to trek across the bogs to the road. The line back to Cam High road was easy and very runnable. I know I cut across the rough terrain last year. It did look shorter on the map but the big path seemed faster.
Then came Dodd Fell. I have done this section at least two different ways and now know which one I prefer. Leaving the summit trig point proved more of an issue than I expected. Last year Oz took me 'his way' so today I tried to revert to the hole in the wall route. I think the holes have gone.We decided round the end of the wall would be easiest. After that it is easy and we were back at the van for lunch. Nice to have a hot drink. We ran back to Dodd Fell that afternoon and confirmed that the only hole in the wall was too far west to be very useful. There was still plenty of daylight so we set off across the Fleet Moss to Blue cup bit. Without the deep snow it made much more sense to Bob and he had remembered some of it anyway. The weather was changing and it was cold, windy and getting damp. Section sorted and for me a quick scamper back to the van to get warm. The heater was still cutting out but never mind, it was cozy compared to outside. The forecast was not great for the next day but we have known them be wrong before and I love being away in the van. We dropped down to Yockenthwaite to camp but as we turned into our layby the power steering went. Time to head home whilst there was still some steering. At speed and revs it was sort of OK but at slow speed Bob was only just able to turn the wheel. My puny arms would have been useless, At least we made it home and the forecast was correct- Thursday was wet.
The van is booked into the garage but we went back for a day trip in the car as Friday was so glorious.

The valley was deserted as we arrived early and were parked at Cray before the car parks had any visitors at all. First job was up the hill to the Hell Gap CP.

The sky was an amazing blue at it was warm in the sunshine. Our aim was back to the blue cup but I also wanted to experiment and try some different lines. It has confirmed for me that the northern side of the old walls above High Pasture is the only sensible route and I think after two goes I now have my preferred route from the Middle Tongue CP to that wall.

Some new fences and gates could confuse some people on the day perhaps. I showed Bob the wet quad bike track back to the blue cup and collected up the remains of a very broken tent on route.

We sheltered behind the wall to eat and then two runners appeared. I ran back with Stu and his mate to the Middle Tongue CP and then waited for Bob.

In the meantime they had climbed way above Cray Moss tarn. Oops, not the best way. Back at Hell Gap we met Darrell and Debbie and stopped for a quick chat.

The weather seemed to be changing. It was now windy and much cooler.

A quick bite to eat in the car and we decided we had time for me to show Bob the best route up Buckden Pike before the journey home.

Walkers coming down seemed surprised how little we were wearing but it was fine so long as we kept moving. A quick photo call at the top and we turned round.

The way along the top is easy. Running down we met Darrell and Debbie again and it confirmed my route is the more runnable.

We escaped the valley before the Easter holiday traffic became an issue. All the pubs and cafes were crowded until we got beyond Skipton where we stopped for a cup of tea and cake.Hopefully Bob is now happy that he can find his way.

 All he now needs to do is keep making forward progress and complete the 61 miles. Easy ;)

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