Calderdale Hike 2022

Nick has kindly supplied a write up for the Calderdale Hike. Apologies for the delay in posting it, this was due to holidays and the Fellsman.

Since the first running of this route in 2019 I’d been thinking about possible further optimisations. I assumed I’d be getting out on the trains to run a section or two between stations. That never happened of course for the obvious reason, so with time running out I contented myself with a few hours at the computer checking Google Street View where necessary, and staring intently at Tracklogs digital mapping and plotting alternative options to compare distances and height gains while recalling the principal rule of Calderdale: not all footpaths on the map exist on the ground.
Sometimes it’s better to take a slightly longer route on a better trod. Whichever way I looked at it, though, I knew the shortest practical route was at least 37 miles instead of the claimed 36 miles. (I find the digital mapping to be very therapeutic and beneficial because it helps to imprint the route onto my brain, so I can visualise the map as I move across the land for real. This works for all events up to the LDWA 100.)
I arrived at Sowerby in good time for the 8am short distance walkers’ start (I’d be starting at 9am with the runners). A few 37-mile slower runners had requested permission to start at this time to make it easier for the later marshals as well as themselves. This has worked well in the past, but I was taken aback by a late pre-race notice issued by the organisers that such runners starting at 8am would not get an official time. It’s as if they regarded them as cheating walkers undeserving of a published result. They had become more flexible with distance choices and allowing ‘hikers’ to change down in distance mid-event, yet they had become less flexible in accommodating slower runners.
Thankfully, the above concerns eased a little as I wrote this with the publication of the results: the 8am runners were given their own non-competitive category with results published in numerical order (as opposed to finishing time order). At least they get a published result so we can recreate a full set of runners’ results as they should be, for updating of the Runfurther leader-board.)
At the runners’ registration were familiar faces in the Runfurther champs: Kevin Hoult, Lawrence Eccles, Adam Worrallo, Kevin Smith, Ken & Jenny Wyles, Janet Hill, Steven Jones, Darren Graham. Fraser Hirst, someone I’d not seen in quite a long time, was looking like the wild man of the mountains. David Cremins from Hardmoors country was another one not seen in years. Karen Nash was sadly missed due to injury.
During the 9am pre-race briefing we were told that the Cricket Club had been double-booked, so later returnees after 5pm would be redirected to the back of the club. That would be me, then. As a worst-case scenario I was expecting to take 10 hours. I would simply go as fast as the ageing body allowed and see what transpired. We were also warned of the closure of the steep downhill lane after the final checkpoint – something about cobbles being up. I assumed (hoped) we’d be able to squeeze around the barriers.

After the race briefing we were sent on our way at 2 minutes past 9. The day was cool, sunny and dry. I got into the groove of the sustainable shuffle uphill to Checkpoint 1. Matt Hutchinson was overtaking me as we left the CP and was pulling away right along the track as I veered left over the stile with a select handful of others with ‘the knowledge’. Mick Cottam and I showed similar powers of memory recall as the navigation went like a dream, as if we last ran it three weeks ago instead of three years. On the climb up the other side of the valley, having avoided the detour and extra few feet of descent to Mytholmroyd, we joined the track climbing from the right where those who had been in front were now behind. They would soon be overtaking me again. I wondered when Matt would catch me.
After checkpoint 2, the Pennine Bridleway winds its way around the base of the hill upon which stands Stoodley Pike. There are always wet and muddy patches where water drain-off flows. As I approached one large sloppy patch, I made the mistake of running along the narrow muddy ridge to the right in a delusional effort to keep my shoes dry (yeah, right). Oh so predictably, the narrowness of said ridge resulted in my left foot slipping off it quite violently and launching me sideways into the middle of the liquid mud and rolling onto my back. My shoes might have remained dry but the remainder of my entire being was now soiled to buggery. I got up and wiped my left hand back and forth on the grass to free it from the worst of the muck and proceeded with the survival shuffle in the direction of Lumbutts Church (CP3), relying on the drying breeze to take care of the rest. Every subsequent human interaction would elicit reference to the filth. My tally was tied to the back of my pack so the checkpoint ‘clippers’ were aghast every time I presented.

Leaving CP3, as I seemed to be running well I chose to take the road route after cutting through the woods even though I had the footpath alternative marked on my map, remembering that the footpath is not all runnable. I’m not sure if it gained me anything because I think it’s marginally longer.
Through CP4 at Todmorden Golf Club comes the long climb on the reverse of the Haworth Hobble route. Kevin Smith caught me up at CP5 at the top. The rightful order was asserting itself. The climb from Cornholme is long and tough. Much map-mauling had taken place here. I ended up taking a new route, which went pretty well. I saw other runners across to the right on an unnecessary ascent of the flanks of Flower Scar Hill. I gained on them and just about caught up, but they pulled away again as nature took its course and I maintained survival mode.
The observatory (“Astronomy Centre”) was looking resplendent in the sunshine, but where was CP6? Up the road is where, before the wicket gate through which we had to pass. A few bite-sized squares of flapjack were left. I had two. (Not every CP had these. There was no substantial food available enroute, which is disappointing for such a long event aimed traditionally at walkers. Runners can manage because they have to run lean, but walkers out for a very long day need their sustenance. There was nothing in the instructions stipulating the need to take your own food for the day.)

Over the top of Trough Edge End with its perpetual hilltop lake, Coolam (old ruin in middle of field) hove into view in the distance below. CP7 would be beyond this, by which point it was getting very warm out of the wind. As usual I would not be wasting time and effort going back onto the moor; much better to continue downhill to the valley and pick up the canal towpath over the summit of the locks and down to CP8, where the marshal was more concerned about my bloodied knee than my mud ensplatterment, now dried. I did not know where it had happened and had forgotten about it anyway. I had more important things to worry about, like putting one foot in front of the other at a pace that was just on the sustainable side of reckless.
From CP8 came the sometimes relentless climb to CP9 at the White House, where again there was little food. They had run out of bananas, apparently. From here I took the nicely runnable water drain, except that I couldn’t run much by now, before veering left over the moor after Blackstone Edge to pick up the Pennine Way. However, in an effort to avoid going too far right into boggy areas,
I went too far left and too high. I lost time as a result compared to those who went over the top. There would be an enforced out-and-back across the M62 footbridge to CP10 at Windy Hill, the road being out of bounds. I passed Ken and Jenny leaving as I approached. They had started at 8am.

Back across the motorway and along the waterlogged and muddy drain path towards Green Withens Reservoir, I was struggling to even shuffle now. I was getting overtaken and wondered when it would be Matt’s and Steven Jones’ turns to overtake. I daren’t look behind in case I saw them breathing down my neck. Once up onto the moor I enjoyed the glorious solitude and massively expansive views of dead-grass-orange and sky-blue as I proceeded along the Blackwood Edge “Road”. On the descent towards CP11 at Ryburn Reservoir I caught up with a group of 7am 37-mile walkers, one of whom was Carmel Keary. I slowed for a chat and catch-up after such a long-time-no-see. Marvellous.
On my way to the final checkpoint, on the contouring path along the tops of the fields below Moor Bottom Road, I was shocked by the amount of running water and mud in several places. I don’t recall that from 2019.
Final checkpoint CP12 was in a new position in the car park on the right opposite the pub. I was out of water and gasping, having elected not to refill at CP11. I looked behind but no sign of any more overtakers, the last ones having been just after Green Withens Reservoir before the climb onto the moor. I set off running down the steepening and narrowing lane, looking out for the closure. Sure enough it was possible to get through, countless other ‘hikers’ having pushed the metal stakes aside. It was nothing to do with cobbles, though. It was the rebuilding of the stone wall, and a very nice job they were doing too.

On the final descent to the valley bottom I looked out for the zig-zags instead of continuing ahead and turning right to the same river crossing like I did in 2019. I think I prefer the 2019 route – less going out of your way back on yourself.
The final climb up the steps to Beechwood was as brutal as ever. I trudged upwards on the verge of blacking out, then reaching the top of the steps still isn’t the top. Once up onto the road I forced a pitiful shuffle up the final bit to the finish, where I was guided around the back to the emergency exit, since preparations were starting for the party double-booking. I was awarded 8:53. They were adding 2 minutes to 37-runner finishing times through not accounting for our late start. I was not able to catch Ken and Jenny, while Matt and Steven surprisingly did not catch me. I went into the baggage room to access my bag and change into clean clothes, where I discovered that it had been taken over by the disco man setting up his sound equipment. The loudspeakers faced the room through the open hatchway. I never knew that was there.
Back in the rear corner of the clubhouse to where we had been banished, I tucked in to the large helping of baked potato and chili while watching someone filling a number-shaped balloon from a helium bottle (my attention had been drawn by the loud hissing and squeaking). I watched transfixed as she adjusted the evidently excessive pressure to inflate it just right. Just another tweak to get it a bit firmer. POOF. That’s that then. Shredded plastic tatters remained.
Then the music started – the best from the 70s and 80s. Carmel was back. I thought about suggesting she ask for a bit of Tony Monopoly as she’s a big fan. As for the winners out of sight way up at the sharp end, Kevin Hoult finished first in 5:22, second was Lawrence Eccles in 6:08 and third was Adam Worrallo in 6:25. First female and equal 17th was Victoria Mousley in 7:56. Well done to all of them.

The rest of Nick’s photos are here