This is the fourth report I’ve written on the Calderdale Hike, since starting this blog in 2007.
In 2009 I walked a slightly longer course with Robert, in seven and a half hours, winning the ‘fastest veteran walker’ trophy some ten years after I first got it.
In 2011 I walked with Robert again, in a team of four with Alastair and Steven. We finished the same 27 mile route in just over seven and a half hours, winning the team trophy.
In 2012 I walked the current course with a complete stranger, Richard Green, finishing with him in 7 hours 11 minutes. He got the fastest man trophy (and kept it in 2013), but there was a quicker veteran (over 50 years old) than me. This year Richard, now a veteran, was absent due to an Achilles problem – I hope you recover soon.
Yesterday I fancied a lie in, so I entered as a runner. Runners start at 9am, whereas walkers start at 7am (long 37 mile route) and 8am (short 26 mile route). My plan was to walk the route, jogging some downhill bits so as to use different muscles and be fresher at the end compared with walking all the way. [Walkers are not allowed to run.]
You can see from the pictures taken at the start that, dressed as a hiker, I looked a little out of place amongst the runners, many of whom were competing as a result of the event being on the ultramarathon running event programme.
In the foreground of the above picture is Howard, from Calder Valley Search and Rescue Team, with whom I walked the last third of the walk.
This year there were more running than walking entries amongst the 230 or so participants. It was just twenty minutes from the off to the first checkpoint at Nab End. The vast majority of ‘runners’ had zoomed off into the distance and had already had their tallies clipped by the time I went through, just ahead of the final stragglers pictured below.
Soon the familiar sight of Stoodley Pike Monument* came into view, and much to my surprise I came across the trio of Rebecca, Carly and Neil, in whose company I’d spent much of the recent Two Crosses walk. We seem to travel at a similar pace.
They soon jogged off up the hill, part of a long line of people ascending to the monument….
….but my walking pace is faster than theirs.
We descended to the excellent support point at Lumbutts by different routes, this being a sort of orienteering event in that you choose your own route between checkpoints. Then I selected the off-road path to cross the Rochdale Canal to the east of Todmorden’s centre, and I climbed steeply up to Cross Stones checkpoint. Here the longer route splits from the short route, which doubles back a short way, so I met Neil, Rebecca and Carly as they approached the checkpoint before they headed off on the longer route. “Good luck” was exchanged, and I may never see them again as they hadn’t finished by the time I left for home a few hours later. I hope they enjoyed a good day out.
After helping out some lost scouts, I made my way up to Great Stone, then over to Blackshaw Head and Colden, passing a few folk who had started walking an hour before I’d set off. Luckily, a bit of drizzle came to nothing, but the overcast conditions and lack of companions dulled my enthusiasm for any photography.
The path across Heptonstall Moor was surprisingly dry, though others seemed to have missed this path and were spread all over the moor. After this an easy track leads past Hardcastle Crags and an old mill, with increasing numbers of day trippers, to the excellent support point at New Bridge.
Then I caught up with Howard, the mountain rescue man, and spent the rest of the walk more or less in his company. The longer route rejoined our route at New Bridge, and by the time we reached the finish line five of the ‘ultra athletes’, who we referred to as ‘the professionals’ had passed us despite having travelled eleven miles further.
Midgley Moor was boggy and route finding was tedious. Any chance of finishing within six hours was lost here. Not to worry, we soon reached the lane to Jerusalem Farm, and the descent to Luddenden Foot was hampered only by a long wait at a pelican crossing to negotiate the busy A646 road.
Howard was ahead at this point, but his local knowledge didn’t include familiarity with the walking route back up to Sowerby from the canal. Here, he’s some way ahead of me, consulting his map.
Eventually Howard gave up and waited for me to guide him back to the finish, near where the fifth of the long distance runners passed us and found a short cut that I didn’t know about. Never mind, we finished in a most acceptable 6 hours 11 minutes, and were soon tucking into baked potatoes with a variety of fillings, together with rehydration fluid provided by the barman at the cricket club.
Here’s the short route that we completed, 42 km with 1600 metres ascent. It’s the third time this route has been used, so there will be a new one next year.
Thanks to the organisers for putting on another well organised and brilliantly supported event, and congratulations to all those who took part and finished.
Shame about the veteran’s trophy that I’d have got if I’d entered as a walker and taken a little longer – I think the fastest veteran took well over eight hours to finish. I’d expected Robert to enter in that category, and he’s rather quicker than me these days, but he was busy putting bikes in boxes for a trip to Mallorca! You missed out, Robert. I think that Robert and Richard may vie for the veteran’s trophy in years to come – I’ve missed my last chance… but I did enjoy the chance to do a bit of jogging.
*Stoodley Pike is a 1,300-foot (400 m) hill in the south Pennines, noted for the 121 feet (37 m) Stoodley Pike Monument at its summit, which dominates the moors above Todmorden. The monument was designed in 1854 by local architect James Green, and completed in 1856 at the end of the Crimean War.
The monument replaced an earlier structure, started in 1814 and commemorating the defeat of Napoleon and the surrender of Paris. It was completed in 1815, after the Battle of Waterloo (Napoleonic Wars), but collapsed in 1854 after an earlier lightning strike, and decades of weathering. Its replacement was therefore built slightly further from the edge of the hill. During repair work in 1889 a lightning conductor was added, and although the tower has since been struck by lightning on numerous occasions, no notable structural damage is evident. There is evidence to suggest that some sort of structure existed on the site before even this earlier structure was built.
The monument contains a spiral staircase of 39 steps, accessed from its north side. During repairs in 1889 a grill was added to the top step, allowing more light in, so that only 6 or 7 steps are in darkness. There are no windows. The entrance to the balcony, the highest point that can be reached, and some 40 feet above ground level, is on the west face.