Before his arrival Ellie and I perched ourselves over the Dark Peaks map, which is basically like looking at a map of a theme park. Contours cover the page like a bowl of spaghetti, peppered with footpaths in every direction possible. Ellie and I have only been living in the Peaks a couple of months so we had some local knowledge but there was still plenty more to explore. An unfortunate injury meant Ellie couldn't join us on the runs but she helped out find a route that would tick the boxes.
The day before we'd taken a walk up Mam Tor, one of the highest peaks in the area and it seemed like a great place to start. The route took the shape of a broken figure of eight, covering Mam Tor, heading over to Grindsbrook Clough on the other side of the valley. Then swiftly cutting back down to the start of the Pennine Way, following it all the way up onto the Spine's Back (at the top of Jacobs Ladder. Heading south we intended then to pass the summit of Brown Knoll and follow the ridge all the way back round past Mam Tor to Lose Pike Hill before breaking off down through Hope and back to our house in Bradwell.
It all looked good on paper, plenty of up and down and at least 35kms. The second route was intended to be straight up Bradwell Edge, over to Hathersage and cutting across north-east to the edge - with a great deal more foot paths in this area nav could slow us down a little. Checking the weather was the next thing - good conditions expected for Saturday and occasional showers for Sunday. Knowing that the Edale route would hold better views and visibility would be a big bonus on nav we decided this would be the best for Saturdays blue sky weather.
Emre arrived kitted to the teeth, with some shiny new Salomon gear to test out we both were itching to get out on the trails. Another friend, Ed, had joined us too although he would not be joining us this time - many thanks to Ed for some cracking photos! We had a quick catch up, talking through the races we had planned and geeking out over kit.
After some faffing (mainly me) we were suited and booted. Jumping in the car Ellie and Ed dropped us of at the entrance of Winnats Pass - an incredible feature that looks like it's straight out of a Lord of the Rings film set. It was fairly cool but the sun was high and we warmed up quickly. The climb up to Mam Tor was reasonably steep - Emre commented that in the first kilometre we had already done more ascent that he would normally do in a 30km run in London!
The Peaks really is one of the best trail running spots in the UK and I really wanted to show it off to Emre. From Mam Tor you could see almost the all of the route we had planned, the vastness of the National Park stretched out in front of us. No hanging around though! Back off the north side we went and through the village of Edale, which some might say is the Mecca of Fell Running. Naturally it wouldn't be a proper adventure without some kind of mishap so we probably did another 1km to retrieve the map which I had dropped whilst chugging down a gel.
The path up Grindsbrook Clough has to be one of my favourite trails I've found so far, with ever steepening sides and a fast flowing stream right by the path you really do feel like you're in the wild. There are some sections that are quite rocky and require attention but plenty where you can happily run along taking it all in.
When we reached the top we found plenty of others enjoying what was an extraordinarily good day, a short run along the top lead us to our path back down, onto The Pennine Way, which is also the start of The Spine Race. A well laid path of large stones the Pennine Way stretches 268miles to Kirk Yetholm but we would only follow it a short distance past the top of Jacobs Ladder.
I knew the next part would be tricky, it involved Passing Brown Knoll to the ridge line... sounds easy... but the area is basically a giant peat bog. We tried to follow the path for a bit but every time we tried to avoid the boggy parts it took us further and further away from the path. Eventually I was just navigating from a target point in the distance... what I hoped was a path. I was wearing Salomon SpeedCross 3's and Emre had a pair of the FellCross 1's, both of us were pleased to have substantial grip as there were some dips in the bog which were a bit tricky to get across.
Once we had reached the ridge things were back on track.. the views were sensational! Making quick progress we quickly got past Mam Tor and on our way to Lose Pike Hill where we saw the sun disappear over the horizon. Putting on an extra layer and getting ready our head torches we dropped off the hills towards Hope (no pun intended), after which we passed an old Roman Fort before getting back home.
With a less time to play with on Sunday we had to shorten our route a little - neither of us complained, we had such a great time on Saturday and the weather was pretty grim. All the same a good chance to test out some more kit! Don't forget to check out Emre's website, www.geziyorum.net
As you may have noticed it's been a while since I've las posted - Ellie and I have moved house and started a business doing Outdoor Sport & Race Photography, Summit Fever Photography, in the Peak District. There's some interesting plans afoot for 2013 so watch this space!