Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Night Running Around the Chew Valley

The following report is from the Night Running section of Saddleworth Runner's Club.

This week, eight Owl's set out from Bin Green for a night run above the Chew Valley. Arriving at our start point we watched the police (and possibly some Mountain Rescue?) searching the slopes of Alderman in the dark. Their torches scanning the rocky hillside as they ascended, with a search-dog out in front.

Dropping down through the woods we came across another empty Police vehicle parked on the track by the reservoir. Whilst the night sky was clear and a frosty chill hung in the air, we had to remove our cags and some warm layers of clothing, as we made way along the shores of Yeoman Hey Reservoir. Hand-railing Greenfield Brook, the cathedral-like ebony black walls of Ravenstones Brow towered high above our heads, with a bright moon seemingly perched on the rim of Raven Stones Rocks.

Heading up Birchen Clough, we enjoyed a nocturnal scramble on the rocks that have to be traversed when following this narrow path above the stream. Caught in the beams of our head-torches the fast flowing river and dramatic waterfalls were a spectacular sight.

Upon reaching calmer waters, we crossed the stream and turned north-west to make our way to the three-pinnacled tower of rock, known as the Trinacle. Now on the open moor we became exposed to a bitter cold wind and made the sensible decision to don cags. Earlier in the run I had swapped head-torches with Bruce, to try out his new Petzl Nao. Flitting along the precipitous edges, the beam clearly illuminated the route far better than my other torch. When glancing down into the vast open space of the valley below, the 'Intelligent Reactive Lighting Technology' instantly switched to full beam and I could clearly identify objects in the far distance. So far I was impressed but the real test would come when we made the rough steep descent of Ashway Gap.

With the banter free-flowing, throughout the whole group, we continued to Ashway Rocks, from where we could still see the blue lights of emergency vehicles flashing on the Holmfirth Road. The night-time search was clearly still underway upon Alderman Hill, and in the valley bottom below.

Dropping off from the rocks, we descended Ashway Gap. Finding a narrow trod, we made good progress over the rough ground and soon picked up the main path. Being a natural down-hiller I'm always looking for the thrill of a rapid descent. However, in recent years I've noticed that my eyesight no longer seems to be at its optimum operating level and, on night runs, I have become more cautious when in descent. However, with the new Nao strapped to my head my foot placement had become more precise again and I once again had the confidence to let go and move up through the gear ratio. Halfway down I again swapped torches with Bruce. Going back to my old trusty companion would be the real test. Within only a few metres, I had discovered the answer to my quest. Running with my old head-torch again was like having tunnel vision, and the ground wasn't illuminated as clearly as with the Nao. Try descending Ashway Gap at speed with one eye shut and the other looking through a Smarty tube and you will get the idea. I made my mind up there and then that I was having one of the Petzl Nao's. They're not cheap but if you're really into your night running these seem a great piece of kit. Anyway, I've already ordered one from Mountainfeet, in Marsden. Si, the shop's owner, has promised to bring it over for me next week, to the Janapar film night.

After reaching the valley floor we made our way back along Dove Stone Reservoir to return to Bin Green. Returning to the club, we enjoyed a few beers and plenty more banter and laughs, with the rest of the club.

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