This week saw me grow another year older and, with a day booked off work and no other plans, I decided to take a day out in the hills.
Anyone familiar with this blog will be aware of the fact that I enjoy both running and hiking. I love the mountains and I genuinely mean it when I say that Snowdonia is my favourite place in the world. But living in Rugby, there’s not a mountain for quite some distance.
I’ve got a number of days off work coming up, in case of take them or leave them, and the plan is to spend a few of those running in the hills/mountains. I had chosen destinations of the Peak District, the Brecon Beacons and, of course, Snowdonia. With it being my birthday and wanting to get home for a reasonable time to spend the afternoon and evening with my family, I chose the Peak District for this outing, as it is the closest of the three. I invited some of my fellow club members along but, with it being such late notice, they all had other commitments, namely work. So I set off on my own.
One of the gifts for my birthday, which I cashed in early, was a years Premium subscription to OS Maps. Using their National Park Pathways feature, I created a 13.2 mile route which started and ended in Hope, taking in peaks Lose Hill, Back Tor, Hollins Cross, Mam Tor and Rushup Edge. I had carried out a bit of research on the area not so long ago and liked the look of Mam Tor and the Great Ridge, so this was the centre piece of the route that I constructed.
I then exported the route as a GPX file, uploaded it into Garmin Connect’s courses feature, saved it and then downloaded it onto the Fenix 5X before setting off. All very easy.
I arrived in Hope and set off at around 8:30 am. The run began with a very short section on the road before heading off onto a track in between two fields. It was a lovely day with the sun just starting to rise, but I was aware that there had been some heavy rain the day before and so expected a bit of mud. My expectations were met within the first half a mile as there was no where to go on the track except straight through the puddles. This continued for almost the entire run.
Although I have a fair bit of experience now in the mountains, I have never ran in them, only hiked. So one thing I wondered prior to setting off was just how much of the route I could realistically run. It really wasn’t long before I found out, as the gradient became too steep for me to continue running, although I did try to power walk.
Although the mapping feature on the F5X was impressive, there were a number of times throughout the day that I lost the track that I was supposed to be on. As time went by, I learned to look out for the gates and stiles as I passed through the fields and just head for them. Even this was tricky at times and I wondered if I had made the right decision around a mile in when I was walking around a rather nice looking house trying to find the bridleway that passed it.
Finally past it, and through some more mud, I was on top of the first peak of the day, Lose Hill.
From here, it was relatively good going under foot and was very runnable. It wasn’t long before I was on top of Back Tor, with the Ridge now in full sight.
As was suggested to me by a runner from the club with experience of the area, the Ridge was very runnable, and very enjoyable too. It was very muddy but quite rocky so you could almost bounce from rock to rock. Good fun.
Towards the end of the Ridge was a steep incline up to Mam Tor, a section in which I walked. More impressive sights welcomed me at the top. I didn’t stick around for too long though as the wind was bracing, almost strong enough to knock me off my feet. One side of my face became numb so it was a few photos and off on my way again.
A steep downhill followed before crossing a road and heading up to Rushup Edge. Another section that I was resigned to walking. After this though came a long downhill, and it felt great getting a bit of speed up, bouncing between rocks and around puddles. This brought me out onto a country road with no path, but a steep grass verge on one side. I stuck to the road and hopped down the verge, stopping, when I heard/saw a car coming. After almost a mile, I veered off to the right into a field full of sheep. There was no sign of any track and so I relied entirely on the GPS track on my watch being on top of the pre-planned route. At was at this point that I started heading straight for the stiles, crossing five fields before arriving at another busy country road.
This time was due to be shorter though, before heading off to the right onto a track which would take me around a quarry. The next challenge arose when a sign and notice from Derbyshire Council stated that the path was closed due a collapsed section. I hadn’t planned for this. I hadn’t taken a map but luckily enough I had my phone on me, so I opened the OS Maps app and found a way around the path, which rejoined my route further along. The only issue with this was that it was a further mile down the path-less road. At this point, I stuck to the grass verge and to walking.
Once back on track, I began to pick up the speed again as I found myself heading into Cave Dale. The GPS had a few issues at this point, but the scenery was marvelous.
From here it was pretty uneventful, just more fields and more mud, although there was one final scene worth capturing.
With the re-routing, the total distance ended up just over 14 miles, which was covered in around 3:30 – 3:45. Total moving time, taking off the time taken to take photos and figure out the alternative route, was around 2:45.
It really was a great day out and a great way to spend a birthday. It did come at a bit of a cost though, as I have been unable to train since due to a groin issue. I have planned to meet up with an old work colleague of mine on Saturday for a parkrun so we will see how it feels then. I’m not yet sure if it will be a social 5km or a raced one. We’ll see how I feel during the warm-up.
Once again I ended the day feeling impressed with the F5X. Despite the inability (that I am aware of at least) to re-route once off-track, it guided me with ease around a part of the world that I have never been. Presented with a cross-road of tracks and paths, a quick glance at the watch clearly showed the way to go. I believe I’ve mentioned before that, as a standard running watch, it really isn’t any better than any other. But for mapping and routing, for me at least, it has been worth the additional outlay.
I plan on something similar for the Beacons and Snowdonia.