With Robert in Mallorca, and others lacking energy or interest, I’d set myself a modest target of eight and a half hours for this year’s Calderdale Hike, along a new 26 mile route.
That was until a call from John at the Austrian Alpine Club suggested we arrive at Crowden by 6pm for an evening I’d expected to start at least an hour later. With Calderdale and Crowden both not much less than an hour’s journey from Timperley, that created a little time pressure.
So, with plans to travel directly to Crowden from Calderdale and meet Sue there if necessary, I jumped out of bed at 6.30, scraped the ice of the windscreen, and made it up to Sowerby Bridge in time to hand back last year’s trophy and get my kit checked before the 8am start for the short (26 mile) course walkers.
Here we are, milling around on the sunny morning before the 8am start of this year’s Calderdale Hike.
Philip Whitaker (who I may have mistakenly maligned in the past for running – I apologise if that was incorrect, I don’t think he ran today) set off at a blistering pace. He has very long legs.
“Hello, I’m Richard. Are you Martin?” asked a complete stranger. He turned out to be a ‘blog stalker’ who had found my previous scribblings about this event, which he was entering for the first time. Richard had reconnoitred some of the route, and he could match my pace, so that was very helpful.
Here he is on the descent to Hoo Hole near Mytholmroyd.
Philip disappeared ahead into the far distance. We would never catch him – he finished over twenty minutes ahead of us, regaining the Veteran Walker trophy that he and I have both won on several occasions. On the other hand, two youths and a couple were on our tails as we ascended to Stoodley Pike Monument, and a short cut on the way down from there took these four ahead of us until all six of us were held up for a few minutes by a farmer moving some sheep along the narrow path. He got quite frustrated with our perceived impatience.
After excellent refreshments at Lumbutts we negotiated our way through Todmorden and up to the golf club for the next checkpoint.
We nearly made the mistake of following the runners on the long course – they had started an hour later than us – but then realised we should turn in our tracks and return past the sad looking church at Hole Bottom, where the clock face has been replaced with an alarm box.
Across the valley, Stoodley Pike Monument already appeared quite distant.
By now the weather had changed, and we narrowly missed some sharp showers on what was now a rather grey day. But it was good walking weather and we sped on at an admirable pace, leaving the young lads and the couple behind. We didn’t see anyone on the 26 mile walk after Hole Bottom, about a third of our way along the route, but we were regularly passed by runners, including Richard’s doctor.
With a vast choice of routes between the checkpoints, we chose a blend of country lanes and moorland trods. The latter were quite boggy as we crossed Heptonstall Moor to reach Blake Dean, where Richard had a longer than usual wait for me due to my longer than usual ablution stop on the moor, which thankfully was vacant at the time.
Moving quickly on, we enjoyed the very pleasant stroll past Hardcastle Crags to Gibson Mill, a National Trust property well known to Richard.
After failing to spot that the New Bridge checkpoint was hidden up a hill in the upper car park (we eventually found it) we continued, partly along the Calderdale Way, up to Delf End checkpoint, where the long course runners rejoin our shorter route, so from here we saw more people.
Here’s the support point at Delf End, putting on happy faces especially for the camera as Richard takes on board some liquid. He was suffering a little up some of the hills by now, but still keeping up a good pace, and he had recced the route from here so he knew the way home.
Manning checkpoints wasn’t the most pleasant of jobs this year, as the intermittent cold drizzle must have been a bit tiresome. It was a day for down jackets if doing that job.
Nevertheless, by the time Richard and I reached the steep haul back up to Sowerby, the day had improved a bit and Richard had changed his leaky boots in favour of some nice clean trainers for the last few miles, which were largely on metaled lanes and a canal towpath.
The sun attempted a reappearance as we passed Sowerby’s church on our way back to the cricket ground, completing the 26 mile route in 7 hours 11 minutes, with Philip the only short course walker to finish ahead of us.
Luckily our unexpectedly speedy pace left time for a meal and a beer at the cricket club – a tradition that I’d have been disappointed to have missed!
Here’s our route - 42 km, 1350 metres ascent, 7 hours 11 minutes.
All in all an excellent day out. Thanks for your company, Richard, it certainly enhanced the day, hopefully for both of us, and I hope you can find a place in your office for the Clayhouse Shield that you won for being the fastest (non-veteran) walker to finish. Well done!
My Garmin gadget (not turned off for a few minutes after we finished) recorded our route as follows:
PS I did manage to get home to pick up Sue and get to Crowden by 6pm.
PPS Greetings, Michael! Fancy doing this next year?