The utter joy of the Dark Peak 15 Trigs – An Epic by Ian C.

I’d been eyeing the Dark Peak 15 Trigs for a while.  A challenge devised by Dark Peak Fell Runners, visiting all 15 trig points on the Harveys Dark Peak map in 15 hours (55+ miles and about 8300 ft of climb).  Glossop sits almost exactly halfway round the official route, which starts over at The Sportsman in Lodge Moor.  However, as Glossop’s very own Royal Oak sits directly on the route, quite a few have set off from there.  But to legitimise this, one must veer off to visit the Sporty, obviously sitting about halfway round for us.

 It’s much better done during the summer for the longer days, but this did mean interfering with my steady diet of AS fell races.  I genuinely had no clue when I could fit it in, but was certainly not prepared to compromise the race season with boring distance training.  So it’ll fit where it fits, and I’ll just have to grind it out.  The chance came to go on Sunday 14th July, this being cleared just 3 days before.  At 05.05 I set off from the Oak in an anti-clockwise direction.  Here’s the summary/ earnings/result:

Lubrication: Always ensure all sensitive areas have been properly lubricated prior to big distance.  If you forget one such area, it WILL let you know sooner or later.

Solo or accompanied? : Before: “Solo, I want to immerse myself in the task, and with my own thoughts”.  After: “What utter nonsense”.  You need somebody else to share some of the misery, particularly toward the end. 

Kinder Clag x Edge Path Sand:  The clag on Kinder was thick, averaging about 50m vis from Harry Hut to Crookstone Knoll, where it mercifully cleared.  The clag and forays off the edge path meant my feet were soaked, and the constant kicking up of the sandy Edge Path made for a highly efficient “in shoe” grinding paste.  My feet are wrecked, and the career as a foot model will have to wait a little longer.

Heather Bashing: Plenty.  The worst section of it was from Emlin to the Back Tor ridge.  Perhaps 3 miles of gradual up, picking your way through a patchwork quilt of heather, all at various stages of burn-back/re-growth.  Take your pick from either: thigh deep heather – very slow and hard work.  Or freshly burned heather – its quicker, but literally death by a thousand cuts (why do the “branches” of heather not burn!?!).  Soul destroying.

Bag Drop:  Drop the bag for any out and back sections.  Absolute bliss.

Weight Loss:  Ladies, drop 2 dress sizes in a day.  Lads, lose that paunch alarming quickly.  Seriously, this is not a healthy weight loss strategy!  I lost ½ stone in 15 hours. 

Recces:  Highly recommend recceing the ground between the Sporty and Emlin trig point, as it’s a bit fiddly.  Spending hours looking at maps, google earth and reading peoples accounts is highly recommended.  You really can’t spend too much time doing this!

Water:  Glossop tap water is much better than Sheffield tap water.  Abbey Brook near Howden Edge is completely undrinkable.  Hern Clough isn’t too bad.  The best by far was out of Bull Clough, next to Cutgate.  The nicest water I ever had.  Maybe.

Navigation : By and large the nav went well.  Ironically that is, until the final section from Higher Shelf to Cock Hill.  Very familiar turf, but I was so tired, befuddled, and stressed about the cut-off, I just couldn’t concentrate.  I went wrong 3 times in the home stretch! 

High Point: That glass of Coke at the Sportsman.

Low Point:   The climb up the back of Alport Moor.  It’s incredibly steep, I was completely done and the maths was telling me that a 15 hour finish was now pretty much impossible……

Time Schedule:  Helpfully, somebody from DPFR has created a 15 hour schedule for the route.  However, I soon learned that this works well when you start at the Sporty, but not so well when you start at Glossop.  You see, the leg times are biased taking into account that you will start fresh and slow down later on.  That’s fine, but the official first half, is our second half!  So the bias is the wrong way for us!

Result:   As a result of this time schedule issue, I was 1.5 hours ahead at the halfway point – “this isn’t so hard!”  However, that was quickly eaten away in the second half.  At Cock Hill I had 24 minutes remaining to get to the Oak.  With fresh legs that would be fairly easy.  55 miles down, and its unthinkable.  Somehow I got to the bridge in Mossy Lea with 5 minutes to go.  The only thing standing between me and glory was about 500m of distance, but that horrific climb over the corner of Shire Hill.  I ditched the bag and muscled up, all or nothing, and somehow produced 6 minute mile pace through the woods and down to the Oak.  God knows what the group of drinkers thought as I flew around the corner, and immediately collapsed on the floor.  Watch stopped at 15.00.02, but was probably 10 seconds before I thought to stop it.  I did it, but scraped in with the most ridiculous of slim margins.  A great day out, success (just), but it was hard work (and I made hard work of it) in the final few miles.

More info on the 15 trigs here if anyone’s interested, including a nice account from Tim Budd and a few GDH co-conspirators, from their completion in 2011.  The above collage of “Trig Selfies” was compiled whilst I was incapacitated on Monday.   Various states of misery/ confusion / euphoria on offer here.  https://www.gofar.org.uk/DarkPeak15Trigs.html

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