Monthly Archives: August 2015

The Wild, Wild Moors

IMG_20150818_221606 The family went away for a night, without me, which is something that almost never happens, so I took the opportunity to get outside and do something interesting. Time was a bit limited so to make the most of the chance I decided to pack some kit and head off for a bivouac in the local hills. It was blowing quite a bit on the tops but it didn’t feel likely to rain much, and for all it looked more like October than August it wasn’t too cold either. I traced my way along the Pennine watershed, up to the motorway junction at Windy Hill, where I scuttled quickly past the corral of looming overnight HGVs beside the transmitter mast. I dimmed my lights to avoid attracting the attention of the figures engaged in furtive activities around the various attendant cars parked up among the trucks and kept them low until I was well away over the footbridge. About and hour and a half after I set out I reached the top of Blackstone Edge, where I scouted about for a likely spot to shelter from the wind. There was a perfect little corner just north of the trig point, with a gentle slope, dry rock to lean on, and even some complementary reading material.IMG_20150818_222045Settling down for the night with my hipflask, I watched the occasional cars passing on the road below until the clouds drew in and hid most of the outside world from view. I think I dropped off at around midnight, and slept well enough through a dry night. When I woke the wind had died down considerably and the clouds were clearing up nicely. I watched a pair of kestrels hunting for their breakfasts whilst I sorted my own out. It was a wrench to leave the bivvy bag, and I lay wrapped up for quite a long time, but I was on my way by 6am, crossing the already seething M62 and dropping back towards home shortly after 7.  I didn’t see a single other person more than a few feet from tarmac during the whole trip.IMG_20150819_054758Whilst reading the section on Blackstone Edge in the bouldering book I found, I came across a quotation from a poem by a chap called Edwin Waugh, who I’d never heard of before but who seems to have had the right idea:

My heart’s away in the lonely hills,
Where I would gladly be—
On the rolling ridge of Blackstone Edge,
Where the wild wind whistles free!
There oft in careless youth I roved,
When summer days were fine;
And the meanest flower of the heathery waste
Delights this heart of mine!
Oh, the lonely moors, the breezy moors,
And the stormy hills so free;
Oh, the wild, wild moors; the wild, wild moors,
The sweet wild moors for me.


(Dont worry, I’ve posted up on UK Climbing to try to reunite the book with its owner.)

Ard Rock Enduro 2015

Photo by C SchweizerAugust means it’s time for the ‘Ard Rock again, so Rik and I headed back up to Swaledale to chuck ourselves down hills with hundreds of other lunatics. I entered the enduro proper this year, after having a go at the course as part of the ‘All Mountain Challenge’ last time. There were a few changes to the stages, 1 and 4 in particular having much longer lower sections, and the additions were excellent, challenging bits of trail. Riders got the opportunity to preview these on the Saturday as part of an entertaining practice course, the other three stages being tied up for a mini-enduro event. Saturday’s weather was glorious, sunny and calm, and we finished off the course reconnaissance with a pint at a very local pub.

The rain mainly held off on race day in spite of threatening clouds and wind, and I was most glad of this in the wooded section at the bottom of stage 1, which would have been horrendous in proper mud. As it was the piles of dusty earth covering the steep chutes in this part of the course hid an entertaining selection of lurking roots, and although I managed to get down cleanly both in practice and the race itself, I didn’t manage it with any great style. The rest of the course was much more to my taste, crossing open, bleak moorland quarries on trails of loose rock and grass, through spoil heaps and gullies with the odd hairpin and occasional fearsome cliffs to keep you on your toes. All the stages were brilliant fun, and I reached the bottom of stage 5 positively buzzing (although I was annoyed to discover afterwards that I’d somehow completely missed a really entertaining little jump halfway down).

Outside the tapes we made our way round at an extremely leisurely pace, walking most of the steeper hills to conserve our energies for the racing, and clocked up a total lap time of over 5 hours. Rik was unlucky enough to suffer a puncture on stage 4 so he came in a few minutes behind me in the overall, but was faster on all the other stages and would have beaten me had he not had his mechanical. My timed stage total came to about 22 minutes and I ended up about 2/3 of the way down the field, which is respectable enough for pack-fodder like myself. The fast lads were up around the 16 minute mark and frankly I have no idea how they achieve that level of skill and speed.

The event itself had clearly grown considerably from the previous year, with around twice the number of riders in the combined events, and a much bigger, better organised event village, with almost the feel of a little festival. There was a better choice of food to be had, more easily, and a proper mobile bar too. It was busy but not unpleasantly so, and they had hired enough toilets this time. We saw quite a few people we knew, the weather was much better, and overall we had an excellent weekend. Oh, and we also made it into the official video – blink-and-you’ll-miss-us but we’re at about 4m59s, me and Rik doing a cheesy but (honestly!) spontaneous high-five at the finish line.