Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Disoriented on Winter Hill

Saturday night I had a post from Emma on Facebook asking if I fancied a run up Winter Hill on Sunday morning. I had planned to go up anyway so was happy to get an invite and some company.

5 of us (Emma, Al, George, Richard (I think) and me) met at 08:30 at the Top barn and headed off along with Dave (Emma's dog, complete with cow bell) along the Winter Hill race route. The morning was wet, the clouds were in and the rain wasn't too heavy. Young Al Fowler was along for the ride and I have to say that he seems to target puddles and mud, almost detouring to splash through them. It was near impossible for me to get muddy as by the time I got to all the puddles, young Al was already wearing most of the must they contained.

Past the pigeon tower and round the Pike then you head over the wet boggy top towards the shooting hut. By now the visibility had been reduced and whilst the other 4 runners ran ahead it wasn't so bad that I would lose sight of them. Even if I did I would still have been able to hear Dave with his cowbell ringing constantly for nearly 3 hours. We crossed the road to the mast and just after this we must have crossed the small path that I normally use that goes from the road near Two Lads to the mast. I don't like running in the mist unless I know the exact path I am following and today I didn't and not being able to get a visual bearing on anything threw me. I must have missed the path and we ended up climbing a stile I didn't expect to see but then I assumed that I had just never seen it before and still waited to cross the path. Running at the back it seemed as if we kept bearing right and after a few minutes I was convinced we had turned through 180 degrees and we were heading back for the fence we had just crossed. Emma had been leading and she was looking for a path but was unable to locate it and we all ended up clambering over the tussocks. I asked someone to get a compass out as I was completely disoriented by now when we never came up on the path or the fence I thought were nearby. Emma told me the mast was over to our left (north) and that threw me even more because where I thought we were I expected the mast to be more east of us. Anyway being as Emma seemed really confident in her general direction and I basically had no idea of where I was on a hill i am normally very happy running around I followed the crowd.

It got quite funny at one point, Emma would take a step and then fall and disappear in to the tussocks and then somebody else would. Eventually we reached a road which initially confused me even more as it was a road I didn't recognise and didn't understand where the hell it had come from. I had by now convinced myself that I should never run in the hills and mist EVER again. A sign on a post said private road and suddenly I knew where I was. I had run down this road once before about 4 months ago; if you follow the road to the right it takes you to a farm and then on towards the part of the two lads race route that passes the quarry near Matchmore lane. No I knew where we were my bearings had come back and I lead the way for a short distance back to the shooting hut.

When we got to the shooting hut somebody commented that it wasn't that impressive, I joked asking if they had expected a tea room or something. The path now continues back towards the mast but we only followed this for a short way before Emma took us off on a path to the right which takes us across wall from the mast and then on down to bottom of the 'ramp' (that's how I know it; it's the path to the kissing gate next to the woods and the road through Belmont). On this descent there isn't really a path all the way, one minute you are on what seems link a faint path and the next everyone was spread out.

After a Jelly baby stop at the bottom of the ramp we started the steady plod up the ramp. I don't mind this climb but can't keep up with the others on the ascents yet so just plodded on and met them all at the top where, when I arrived, they seemed to be taking photos for the Fell runners calendar 2010. The next section heads back down to the road from Belmont over Winter hill. I have only ever been this way once with my mate Chris (pretty much my first time up Winter Hill, he started me with a nice easy climb!!) and just remember it being very boggy. As we ran down I took a bad step and went right over on my ankle then about 30 secs later Emma did the same thing. We stopped for a minute and George and Richard decided they were going to head back now so only 3 for us remained. By now the ache in my ankle had started to ease and we continue down the hill towards the bracken. At one point not long after Emma ended up knee deep in a boggy area. Al and I being the gentlemen that we are just stopped and had a break whilst Emma tried to pull her leg out. Eventually though she managed it and we carried on, me personally glad of the brief rest.

Before we entered the bracken Emma tried to point out a path but I'm not sure if she found it as the bracken was so overgrown we couldn't really identify a path and seemed to be making our own. We reached the point that was identified as Checkpoint 5 in the race and then headed back up towards the trig point on top of Winter Hill. I didn't see Dave for about the next 5 mins, all I could do was hear his cowbell in the bracken somewhere around me, eventually though the bracken ended and the climb flattened out before the steep climb up to the trig point. Young fowler darted up this next climb so quick that by the time I reached the top he was saying he had started to cool down.

Next we headed down the scar towards the cobbled road and had decided that we would miss out Noon hill on wards and start to head back for the pigeon tower and the top barn. As we ran along the cobbled road in mid conversation we passed a few cows besides the road where the fence allowed them to get out. As Emma was in mid conversation she hadn't noticed them and all of a sudden she gave a shriek and darted off screaming about the cows, it was so funny (You had to be there I guess). It was about 100 meters further on before she stopped and turned around to check they hadn't stampeded both Al and I to get to her.

Were the race crosses the cobbled road to go towards Noon hill we turned off the cobbled road and made our way back through the farmers fields past car park and back to the barn. It was an enjoyable run with some good company on a route I have not done before. I could have done without the disorientation early on as that really threw me but I'll look forward to getting out in a group again when the chance arises.

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