I’ve done this walk a few times, most recently on 18 April 2009, when I reported on it here.
This year’s 27 mile ‘short’ route was the same as that in 2009, though we varied it a little between the checkpoints.
Assuming that the ‘fastest walkers’ would probably actually be people entering as walkers but running a fair amount of the course (my assumption was correct), I decided to enter a team of four walkers this year. (And we did walk – all the way.) So Alastair and Steve joined Robert and me to form a crack team of engineers and pensioners.
The description of the walk I did in 2009 with Robert could mostly be copied and pasted here….
This year’s weather was similar to that of 2009 – a lovely summery April day.
After a bacon butty and a rather rudimentary kit check compared with some that I can remember (the need for a triangular bandage has been deleted, for example), our laminated tags were clipped, there was a brief ‘briefing’ with a request that ‘walkers’ should not run, and off we set with about 100 others at 8 am from Sowerby Bridge Cricket Club. Some folk recognised me from the TGO Challenge, but they set off at a dawdle, so there wasn’t opportunity to catch up, so to speak.
This year there were apparently some 340 entries in total (there’s a limit of 350), split between the four categories of 36 mile walkers (setting off at 7 am), 27 mile walkers (8 am) and runners for both those distances (9 am).
We took our usual route directly down a path to the Rochdale Canal whilst most others took the shorter road route to join the canal at Luddenden Foot. That put us way down the field, the header image being taken after we had moved ahead of a long snake of dawdlers.
It was a lovely morning for a stroll along the towpath.
We ascended quite smartly to the checkpoint at Crow Hill Nook, then wandered along behind another group of four. Tussocks featured strongly here, but it wasn’t too boggy. Approaching High Brown Knoll my camera failed for a while - ‘lens failure, please restart’, so there are no pictures of this scenic section, which featured the group of four youths ahead, apparently constantly looking back at us, which puzzled us a little. Anyway, by the time a steep tussocky descent with bog had led us to the next checkpoint at Keighley Road they had long gone.
The Calderdale Hike is very well supported, and the water and sweets provided here were most welcome.
It took us just under two hours to walk to Keighley Road, which is followed by a narrow path down to Crimsworth Dean. We knew from previous experience that the first runners would come flying past on the slithery stones down here, and so they did. They were bashing on at nearly twice our pace.
The route over Shackleton Moor to our next checkpoint at Walshaw Hamlet is familiar as it also features in October’s annual Calderdale Mountain Bike Marathon. The checkpoint was busy with runners, but the walkers ahead of us – who had still been looking anxiously back to us as we crossed the moor - hadn’t lingered. We enjoyed a good snack here. We were in no particular hurry, it being a great day for a long walk.
Whilst he 36 mile runners headed off towards Widdop Reservoir, those of us on the short course slithered down a steep field to a wooded gully from where a breath sapping haul led to High Greenwood Farm and the lane to Clough Hole Bridge, site of the next checkpoint.
The group of four ahead of us reappeared here, leaving the checkpoint in an unconventional direction, whilst we headed up to join the Pennine Way at Mount Pleasant. Looking back from there, the four of them were about a quarter of a mile behind us. We didn’t see them again.
I had a sense of déjà vu as we passed a dead lamb on the sunken path.
Careful navigation – there is no set route, part of the challenge of the walk being to navigate your way between the twelve checkpoints – took us to the next checkpoint at well-named Great Rock, and on to Todmorden along the Calderdale Way.
On the way we passed through a location of minor interest to Steve.
“Steve Blackshaw, this is your home village.”
We stopped on the descent to Todmorden to deal with an injury sustained by Alastair. Steve had some suitable tape. 'Walker's Nipple' – I suffered from it last time…
There’s a plethora of available paths, and numerous tarmac lanes. I prefer to stick to the paths; this is not supposed to be a road walk.
However, the ascent from Todmorden to Todmorden Edge is a bit tricky to navigate, and on this occasion it proved easier to walk up the zigzaggy road. As we reached a junction where the road drops back down to Todmorden two runners jogged past. The leaders of the 27 mile walk!
Today we decided to take the direct route down the lane back to Todmorden, rather than wrestle with the intricacies of the Calderdale Way, which we rejoined after fumbling around in the centre of Todmorden, where I struggled to prevent the others from dashing off in the wrong direction.
Once out of the town – remember to go up past the church! – you can relax as the route to Lumbutts is pretty clear. The hike's most impressive support point is normally located in the foyer of the church, but today a wedding had driven it outside, saving us the 25 metre diversion through the church yard. Sustenance was taken on board for the 220 metre haul up to the Pennine Way and the path north to Stoodley Pike Monument.
“We made good time on this beautiful day and here we encountered some of the 36 mile runners who had passed us before Walshaw Hamlet. So they had continued to speed along at almost twice our meandering pace.” I said that two years ago – easier to copy and paste than to write it out again!
It was quite busy from now on, with 36 mile runners regularly passing us all the way to the end. Here, a runner overhauls Steve and Robert as they descend to Withens Clough Reservoir.
A diversion at the Reservoir, due to substantial construction works, didn’t cause more than five minutes delay.
The easy lane to Cragg Vale was followed by our final 200 metre ascent, following the Calderdale Way with care after a bad experience last time, then along pleasant paths to the final checkpoint at Shaw's Lane.
The half hour's road walk back to the finishing point at the Cricket Club saw us travelling at our fastest pace of the day, according to Alastair’s Garmin 405 gadget.
“It was a lovely afternoon, and we all finished at around
3.35 pm, to applause from the assembled masses outside the Cricket Club. These 'masses' were runners who had finished, and various hangers on enjoying the sunny afternoon.”
…Another quote from two years ago. We actually beat that year’s time by a minute, completing our 43 km route, with 1750 metres ascent, in 7 hours 37 minutes. For a small entrance fee we had enjoyed loads of support (food and drink) during the day, and now we could enjoy the mugs of tea and excellent baked potatoes and chilli, etc, etc, laid on in the clubhouse.
More alcoholic rehydration fluid was also savoured, but we were surrounded by folk training for ultramarathons, taking advantage of the low entry fee and the excellent support that this event features. They appeared without exception to be tea-total.
I think our little group looked out of place, especially as we appeared to be the only walkers who had finished apart from the running walkers who had already grabbed their trophies and left the scene of their crime.
Nevertheless, we did receive modest applause as we collected the ‘Bernard Hynes Trophy’ for the fastest short walk team of four walkers.
The trophy appears to be carved out of wood from a loch gate on the Rochdale Canal, in memory of Bernard Hynes, a supporter of the Calderdale Hike who sadly died before his time.
Well done, everyone, that was an excellent team effort.
Here's today's route outline - 43 km with 1750 metres ascent in 7 hours 37 minutes.
Here’s the outline – perhaps more readable:
* I notice from the results that these two runners quite rightly declined their trophies, although Jan Hill (“I can’t walk down the hills, so I have to jog”) did take the veterans trophy, though she may have won it anyway had she walked all the way. Our little group of four was the fastest team by over an hour, and we quite easily beat the fastest individual walker home. Well done, everyone!