The Marsden to Edale race, currently known as the “Trigger”, is one of the classic Dark Peak races. 23 miles over the toughest, highest terrain in the Peak District in the depth of winter makes for a pretty challenging, committing event. James Fletcher and I entered independently, and then agreed to run together. We reccied part of the race, and I did the same for another section. The length of the race requires a 9am start, in Marsden which is west of Huddersfield. James’s dad offered to take us, which was great. We arrived on a frosty but beautifully clear day, had our kit checked and were away.
The first few miles follow the Pennine Way, at first a broad track and then a good path to Wessenden Head on the A635, from where a short descent is followed by a 2km climb to Black Hill and the first trig point. The path, stone slabs for much of the way, was icy. A few hundred metres more of the Pennine Way and we swung left to follow a narrow trod and then steep descent to Crowden Little Brook, with a good track all the way to Crowden and check point two. Across the A628 and the real work began.
A steadily steepening climb, with hands required for a few scrambling moves, took us directly onto Bleaklow. On our reccie the clag had been right down, and compass bearings were essential. Today was mercifully clear as we made our way across the peat hags and groughs to find the Pennine Way again and hence Bleaklow Head, the high point of the race at 633m. The snow cover thickened, and icy stretches were treacherous.The next objective, Higher Shelf Stones trig point is easily reached, as is the summit of Snake Pass. On our reccie we saw several mountain hares, wonderful animals in their blueish white winter coats. We saw none in the snow.
As we approached the Snake road, Janet from Totley AC offered us much needed fruit cake – and then we saw James’s dad and daughter, who cooled us down with snowballs! From the Snake, we used the Pennine Way, the stone slabs like a skating rink so we dodged from side to side, all the way to Mill Hill and then a final ascent to the north western tip of Kinder Scout. As we approached we could see the clag descending, and by the time we arrived at the final checkpoint we were in thick mist, with a strong, cold wind and much snow underfoot. Our winter kit was essential now. The race line follows the same route used by the Kinder Downfall and Kinder Trog races to the Kinder Downfall. Then the fun began.
We followed the Kinder River into the heart of Kinder Scout. The river, about ten metres wide, shallow and almost flat, has paths occasionally, but much of the time we simply ran along the sandy river bed, breaking through the ice into pretty chilly water. The river ends in deep peaty groughs, and for about 1km we worked our way across the Kinder plateau. There is always a moment on this traverse when doubt creeps in, and this time was no different despite the compass confirming we were heading in the right direction.
Almost without warning, we arrived on the southern edge of Kinder and picked up the broad path towards Grindslow Knoll, which we passed on its right, and followed a good path to the top of the steep descent used on the Edale fell race. A bum slide was the quickest way down, and very soon we were crossing the field to Edale village, and hence the finish at Fieldhead campsite, to be welcomed by James’s dad and daughter.
We’d had a great race across these iconic hills, to which our right of free access was hard won. Running with James was a pleasure, and the support of his dad and daughter much appreciated. The race was brilliantly well organised by Woodhead Mountain Rescue, whose team members were at all the checkpoints, offering encouragement and jelly babies. Thanks to all of them.
So to the results. 191 finished the race, which was won by Simon Harding (Macclesfield Harriers) in 3:25:16 and Jasmine Paris (Carnethy), who was 8th overall in 3:52:28. James and I finished 121st and 122nd in 5:25:03. We were two places ahead of the legendary Yiannis Tridimas (Bowland) – now MV65. Check him out at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yiannis_Tridimas
. The last 0f the 191 runners was MV70 John Ashby of Pennine who clocked in at 7:34:38, fully justifying the 9am start.