I was course checking for a route set by John, my sort of brother in law, who wants a friendly Man versus Horse race in June 2013. He rides and hunts, I run mountains and so the idea was born. We know of a Man V Horse race in Wales, the famous one where you win £25k if you beat the horse, ours is similar, but you don't get the £25k!!
Anyway, I set off route checking, but because of the weather I instantly headed onto the ridge of the Pennine Way, of course!! Oh well, what would you do faced with a snowy ridge or wet valleys? So my course checking was in the bin, but I was in heaven. As I progressed up the ridgeline onto White Law I entered the snow line proper and was to stay in this wonderful winterland for 4 hours, or there abouts. What a way to spend your time, running ridgelines in snow, sun, broken cloud in the sky and cold wind blowing away any ill feelings you could muster. The pleasure was in the solitude. Scratch, Pepa and myself did not see anyone on our entire travels, we followed the odd foot print here and there, but never saw a single soul.
Schil summit behind us and we descended to Red Cribs and the mountain refuge hut that is there. I didn't know it was one until I saw it and consulted the map. I had thought it was a grouse hut, for shooting. I was getting cold, the wind was bitter, so I figured, dip in here, get my Berghaus Vapour Jacket out, eat some little snacks and check out the hut. In the hut there was a log book, so as curiosity killed the cat, so I opened the book. The last entries were from Spine Racers and as I read my head tingled, my hairs raised and I flooded with adrenaline. What a crazy time they must have had, enduring that weather, day and night for 7 days. Mid winter, on the Pennine Way, 268 miles, 11,759m of Ascent and some seriously cold weather. See the full stats here - The Spine Race 2014.
I left the hut buzzing and my route took me over Archope Cairn and down to Kings Seat, this was by far the hardest bit, my legs were energyless on the climb and the bog/snow field tried to swallow me on the way to Kings Seat. I continued on until a left turn is taken to follow the
I ran down a wide snow road, hard and good to run on, but my legs were feeling the previous 9 miles, they felt pretty toasted to be honest. I ran through lowlands and gained height again, into forrest and wished I had cross-country skis on. I puzzled at my map, as a sheep pen came by that wasn't on the map and my head realed, as I didn't want to have taken a wrong turn, Nicola, who had dropped my hours earlier at Kirk Yetholm, bless her soul, was picking me up with a van full of clobber and 3 kids around 17:30 in Alwinton, it was 17:15 and I couldn't work out the features on the map to the suroundings I saw. So is the beauty of a tired body, cold head and lack of food. I marched to the next hill, got my shit sorted and worked out I was completely on route and I would be in Alwinton in 10 mins, in the pub, having a quick pint in the warmth, by a fire...
When I got to Alwinton, what did I find?
Pub closed, no Nicola and van and nobody around. Thankfully Nic was only 10 mins late. What an afternoon, amazing views, beautiful snow, a complete contrast since I was last in the Cheviots, when I did the 2000ft round.
Martindale is a great valley, cut off from the rest of the Lakes by the col between Hallin Fell and Steel Knotts, its like a hidden valley. Granted everyone knows about it and its most likely a busy little place in summer, but in mid February, you can go there and forget about the rest of the world for a while and most likely see nobody.