Hello, I'm Stuart and I like to run a long way.
Welcome to my blog, here I'll try to keep you up to date with my challenges, adventures and training.

I competing in Ultra distance running, adventure racing, and a variety of other events. I hold a few records in the UK, and in 2012 ran 1100 miles over the Alps, from Vienna to Nice.

I am raising funds for Water for Kids, a small charity with the simple purpose of ensuring that the world's poorest communities have clean water.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Your first Ultra

Hi everybody,

This is a jolly special blog - it's specifically aimed at you ATR runners who are getting ready to tackle your first Ultra. Maybe you're reading this yourselves, or maybe Stu, Debs, Darryl or Lee are reading it out to you.
If so, I would like to request it is read in a big boomy Brian Blessed voice.

HEEEEAR. WHAT IIIIII. AM SAYING. TO YOUUUU
I'm sure that you don't actually need me to tell you any of this, as in those four people you have a great deal of experience and knowledge, but since I said I'd come then realised I'm away, it seemed rude not to participate. I'll try to keep it short and vaguely interesting. If you strongly disagree or have any really difficult questions please direct them to any (other) member of the panel.

FOOD:
I think this is one a lot of you are worried about, so let's deal with it first. Yes, food for running longer is different to what you might eat on a short run. There is no single answer that works for everyone or every race, but it's not too complicated. Here are three things:

1. How much to take?
Don't get too swept along by it being an ultra: If you run a marathon on 3 gels, forcing yourself to eat four Scotch eggs and a baked potato on a flat 30 miler won't do any favours. To get an idea of how much you'll need, think about the amount of stuff you would take with you for a long training run (say of half the distance of your race), then double it and add a bit.

2. Take a little bit too much. This will stop you worrying that you're going to run out and not eating when you need to. This may appear to disagree with point 1 about not stuffing yourself, but you don't have to eat it all.

3. What to take?
The absolutely most important thing is to take stuff you will want to eat. Take a mixture of flavours and textures so you don't get sick of one thing and stop eating. I take a mixture of chocolate bars, liquorice, fruit, boiled eggs, crisps, salted nuts, and gels. Test it out on your training runs and find out what you like - if you spent half your last long training run craving a banana omlette, take one with you next time. The mixture of sweet and savoury will also help by giving you some protein and carbohydrates as well as just sugar (I'm no expert on the science of this)

If you want examples, for a 30 miler like the Peakrunners 30, I ate something like 3 gels, two chocolate bars, and a medium-sized bag of nuts and dried fruit. In a ten hour race I'd expect to eat maybe 5 bars of some sort, a mini pork pie, an apple, a bag of crisps, more dried fruit and a couple of gels.

Mid-race omlettes on the 3 Peaks Yacht Race

TRAINING:
I don't know how far off anyone's races are now, but I'm sure you're well into training for them already. I don't think I have a lot to add to this section really, since Stu is a highly qualified coach, and Debs, Lee and Darryl have years of experience.

As a mere FLiRF, I would just point out a few obvious things:

- Training for ultras is not just about lots and lots of long slow runs. These are important, but variation is good and helps avoid injury.

- If your muscles hurt after a long run, that's good. If something more acute hurts, or one bit hurts for a lot longer than the rest, you need to work out why. Give it a bit of rest and see what happens. If it continues, get it looked at... If only there was a running shop nearby with an attached performance centre with physios and that sort of thing.

- It's taken me a long time to accept, but core strength and running technique are worth working on. I do think we all run a little bit differently, but core weakness and bad technique tend to make the rest of you work so much harder just to keep going.

- If you'll be racing with a big rucksack, train with one.
- Ditto for poles
- Ditto at night

Mmmmm night time practice

PREPARATION:
You can make your first Ultra a lot easier by doing a few simple things to prepare yourself. Things like...

Learn about the race. Are there feed stations? What food or drink will they have? If it's stuff you will like, factor this into your food calculations. If you're not sure, treat them as a bonus.

Kit lists - Lightweight kit is great, but if you think you might actually need it, check it will do the job it's supposed to. By all means take the tiniest pen and pencil you can if that's on the kit list, but however light they are, a useless waterproof or hat will be just that if you end up stuck on top of Crib Goch in a thunderstorm.

Sleep well the night before. This is more valuable than tweeting photos of your kit :)

Carb loading - we all have opinions on this. Mine is not to force a massive dinner down the night before, or a massive breakfast. Starting bloated is not a strong move. I eat a bit more in the week coming up to a big race then just a normal meal the night before. Again, stick with what feels right for you.

Taper. For longer than you think you need to.

Vaseline. Is your friend. Those little pots for your lips hardly weigh anything and if you suffer chafing in the middle of a race you'd wish you packed one. Just don't use it on your lips later.

Navigation. I'm not really the one to ask about this. If you see me, go the other way!
If your race requires navigation, get the route drawn on a map early and look at it as often as you can. Recce if possible. Write down important compass bearings. If you're going to be wearing a watch with an altimeter, consider noting some altitudes (but make sure you know the altitude at the start so you can calibrate accurately! https://www.freemaptools.com/elevation-finder.htm)

Darkness. If you're racing in the dark, do some training in the dark!

The golden rule which applies to all of these...
DON'T CHANGE THINGS ON RACE DAY!

Stick. With. What. Works. For. YOU.
Finally...
I've done all of these things wrong, as I am sure the rest of the panel have. At least I hope they have. Maybe it's just me. Anyway, I've started a race after two hours sleep in a multi-storey car park and a Christmas pudding for breakfast, worn brand new shoes from the box, not taken enough food, not taken enough water, overtrained, started injured, etc. etc.

None of these things are recommended. Leaving aside starting injured, none of these will make or break your race. If you get them wrong, you will be slower and less comfortable, but if you really want to run the race you will. At the risk of getting all philosophical on you, if it means enough to you, you will finish it, but it makes sense to be as prepared as you can be.

You're there to enjoy yourself - get out there and do it.
Good luck.



Secret final bit about PAIN.
So, your first Ultra. It's further than you've run before, so it's going to hurt. But you like running, so running more is better. You are probably in a beautiful place, and you are doing a really cool thing... Remember to enjoy it!

If it does really hurt and you need to keep going, remind yourself that it won't hurt forever. You are allowed to think of the finish line. Stop looking at your watch and look around you. You are not the most in pain person in the world. You are probably not even the most in pain person in your race. It will pass and in a few hours you'll wonder what all the fuss was about...

If it gets really bad, remind yourself that the pain will pass with a temporary tattoo

Monday, 15 May 2017

Breaking 5

On Saturday 6th May, an audacious attempt to make sporting history took place. Some people didn't like it, saying it was all just a big publicity stunt. Others admired the technical advances and the precise data capture.

I just thought it sounded like a good day out.

I speak, of course, about Willy Kitchen's 50th Birthday party. Being that great chap that he is, Willy decided that he would like to celebrate his birthday by organising a mass run around the infamous Kinder Dozen route. A race you might say, but a special, one-off type of race.

The route of the KD is similar to that of the Kinder Killer I ran a few weeks ago, and is another invention of the (clearly sadistic) Ken Jones. The idea is that you run around Kinder, zig-zagging your way between the the summit plateau and the surrounding valleys 12 times. This gives over 3000m of ascent in a bit over 20 miles.

Ken's original map
Willy had arranged a series of start times based on predicted speed. The first started at 8am, then at half hour intervals till 10 o'clock, then billy-no-mates on my own at 10:15. Billy-no-mates suits me, but the navigation on the dozen is not easy and I'd have to concentrate in order not to mess it up. Records are sketchy, but the consensus seemed to be that the previous fastest time was around 5:20. I hoped to have a crack at beating this, and wondered if 5 hours might be a good target time.

I messed up the first climb up Grindslow Knoll, going to far along the valley before taking a weird and inefficient line up to the summit, then made not much of a better job of the second climb to Crowden Tower, finally reaching the summit after 44 minutes. Out of interest, I had covered 5km. At 2 hour marathon pace you'd have covered 15.6km.

On a route like this which takes you away from major paths, deflated helium balloons  are sadly a common site and I collected the first of the day on the descent from Crowden.

Kinder Dozen rubbish haul
Fortunately, it was a lovely "Happy Birthday" balloon, so made a mental note to attach it to Willy's car later. After nipping up and over Edale Cross, soon came the highest point on the route, Kinder Low trig at about 640m. The running around this western side of the course is tough, with plenty of heather and tussocks to scratch your legs and break your ankles. I was feeling a bit knackered already, which after less than 90 minutes running was not ideal! I tried to tell myself I'd already done a good amount of the overall ascent, but as the shark's tooth profile shows us - 7 and 8 (Seal Stones and Kinder East) are the real killers!

Spiky one you are.
By 3:40 in I'd ticked off these two, and my legs were definitely feeling it. I'd make a few more little navigational mistakes, and a couple of times had to stop to check map and compass to make sure I was heading in the right direction. Just before the out-and-back to Upper Ashop farm I made another error, missing the turning off left to cut the corner and instead joining the main track much further up than necessary. Here though, for the first time since some returning half-dozeners on Jacob's Ladder, I saw people! As I descended there were loads of people climbing back up, including the Birthday Boy himself, Sally Fawcett and Simon Mills, and Jon Morgan and Nicky. After a quick turn around I set off after them.



I'm not normally very sociable but it was nice to have a quick chat to a few people, and to be reassured that it wasn't just my legs that hurt. Simon even said a swear word about his legs! However, I stopped concentrating on the navigation, and once I had passed the group I was on my own again and had lost my focus on the descent off Crookstone Knoll. By Nether Moor (4:15) I was back in control of the map, but now keen to get this thing done! I wondered if 5 hours was still possible and decided it was if I ran well and didn't mess up the nav...

Down to the Youth Hostel was OK and I turned and headed for the Druid Stone. I could see someone running well in the distance, and assumed they must be a 10 o'clock starter. Jon had said that someone called Ralph had been going well, but I knew there were two people in the 10 o'clock gang and thought they were both probably still ahead. I caught the guy I'd seen in the distance around the Druid Stone, but followed him rather than trusting my own bearing, ending up taking a longer line than necessary. Damn! 20 minutes to go down, up Ringing Roger, and back down to Edale.

Then I did this...
Bad.

Instead of descending Ollerbrook Clough, then climbing to Ringing Roger, I descended Ollerbrook, then climbed back up Ollerbrook and set off back the way I'd come. Only when I saw Jon, Nicky, Sally and Simon coming down and asked the slightly embarrassing question "Where's Ringing Roger?" did I see what I'd done and adjust my line to climb the right hill. 5 hours was gone. Silly boy.

Anyway, I eventually did make it to the top of Ringing Roger, and thus eventually (via a painful crash on the descent) back to The Nag's Head. My time was 5:16, ahead of the previous (known) record but slower than Ralph Skrimshire's 5:12. Well done Ralph!

Despite the disappointment of messing it up, I had a great day out and with hindsight can appreciate the delights of the route. I will certainly have another go, Willy tells me I ran two miles further than necessary and has promised me a Kinder Dozen masterclass before my next attempt. I also need to make sure I know which rocks are the official top of each of the dozen summits, as it's not always clear on the ground!

Awesome artwork by Beth Kitchen

As well as one of Ken's original certificates, we were all given a limited edition print by Willy's daughter Beth. These are amazing, thank you so much Willy and Beth! Prizes were also given out (I didn't realise and had left, so cheers Jon for bringing mine) and I was chuffed to win a really nice ceramic coaster with the line up Crowden on it (2nd place = 2nd climb).

And a lovely coaster for 2nd place
All that remains to say is Happy Birthday Willy, and thanks for selflessly organising such a great event for your big day!

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Scotland: It's no'baaad

I hope everybody had a fantastic bank holiday weekend. I was lucky enough to spend it on the West coast of Scotland with Lorna and my Mum and Dad. We were in a place called Tayvallich, a little village on an inlet of Loch Sween. A mile's walk takes you to the other side of the peninsula, where from the even littler village of Carsaig you have a direct view across to Jura. It's a stunning place.

Tayvallich Bay.
After a monster 10 hour drive north (though a stop at Mungrisdale was well worth an extra hour or so), we arrived and set about preparing ourselves for a weekend of adventure. The first step was to inflate my funny old blow-up kayak. I bought it originally to practice for using inflatables at WARC 2013 in Costa Rica, but it has far outlasted my predictions and has been great. There are numerous patches, the non-return valves have died, and it's short fat shape means it waddles around the sea rather than carving swiftly through the waves as a fibreglass boat might... But I love it. However, this weekend saw a pretty stern (boating pun intended) test: I decided it was time that Acer and Maggie experienced the joys of the high seas.

Scrabbling claws: Surely the end for Sevy?!

After persuading them into the boat, we pushed off and had a nice paddle around the bay. Normally braver than his wife and definitely a better swimmer, Acer was surprisingly not keen, but Maggie loved it...
They see me Roooooo-ooooollin'
As well as the water, I had fun on the land too. Due to the strength work I'm doing at the moment, my long runs aren't all that long at the moment, but I was allowed out for a couple of hours on the hills on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday's run took me along the peninsula between the Sound of Jura and Linne Mhurich. It was an awesome run, even the road for the first section was so spectacular I didn't object to the tarmac under my shoes. After a quick chat with a friendly farmer (with a full quad bike: Two children, one dog, a ewe and a lamb!) I left the road and climbed above his farm up to a trig point.

Hill. Trig Point. Sound of Jura. Isle of Jura.
It was great to run over some proper rough trackless Scottish ground, and I wondered for a moment whether there is a Scottish equivalent of the Accelerate Performance Centre "Hills Made Easy" - "Tussocks Made Easy" anyone?!

On Sunday I headed out on a mountain bike, around the top of Linne Mhurich and down the other side, then left the bike for an hour or so for another fantastic run. More of the same sheep tracks, raging little burns to cross (it was quite wet...), tussocks and heather. Oh, and ticks. By the time I rode back round the top I was knackered and soaked, but very very happy.

Soon it was time to head home, which we did via another couple of high quality picnic stops...

Not messing about.
So that was my Bank Holiday weekend. I hope yours was as good!

- - - - - - - - - -

Finally, a quick shout to my brother Graham, who spent his weekend completing a 272 mile charity bike ride from South Wales to Southend in memory of his friend Arran. A group of Arran's friends completed the ride and are fundraising for Bloodwise. If you want to, you can still sponsor them here.

Well done South Wales to Southend bike riders!

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

A week in the alps

A combination of work and adventures in plasterboard means it's taken me longer than intended to get round to writing this, but I wanted to write a quick piece on one of the best skiing holidays I've had in a long time.

The season didn't start well. Even compared to last year, when it didn't really snow till mid-January, the start to the season was bad. A March trip sounded like a bad idea, but frankly we needed as long as possible to save up, so March it was!

The Daily Mail - for all the best celebrity weight and skiing stories
In fact, the snow was not a problem. We stayed at Le Praz, in the Courchevel valley at about 1300m. This worked brilliantly for me, as there was snow above us and sunny valley below us. I skied on Sunday but on Monday decided to take advantage of the weather and headed out for a long run.


It was a great adventure, like the long runs I used to do on days off last winter. As then, the speed was low but the climb pretty high! I clocked almost 3000m in 45km, including one very snowy summit where I left a trail of blood in the sharp crusty snow! I forgot that ski socks can sometimes be useful. when running through this sort of stuff.

After a day's alpine ("proper") skiing on Tuesday, on Wednesday and Thursday I returned to another favourite from last winter: Ski touring. Courchevel was a great choice for me as it seems to be the most Ski-tourer-friendly resort in the area... There are marked trails from 1300 up to 1800m and to the Col de la Loze at 2300m, and lots of options to deviate on your way up. On Wednesday I did the shorter route with Lorna in the morning, and again on my own in the afternoon. The lack of snow did make itself known here, and made the trail tricky in places where there ground cover was more pinecones than snow...

Squeezing through on one ski's width of snow!
The other advantage of Courchevel for the ski tourer are the weekly races, on the 500m and 1000m trails I mentioned. These start from Le Praz, so I really had no excuse to particpate. Sadly the 1000m race season had ended before our trip, but I had entered the final 500m race of the season, which would take place on Thursday evening. I had no expectation of the race, so made no special preparations. On Thursday morning I had a great skin up the 1000m course, then down into Meribel and back up to meet Lorna and the family in La Tania for lunch. It took me 1:16 to complete the vertical km, including a walk for the last few metres up to the top of the Col de la Loze!

Summit of Col de la Loze
At 6pm it was time to race. I was ready, I had Dark Peak vest on, my flowery tights pulled up high and my Sombrero tight under my chin. The last minute addition of a cape was a masterstroke by Lorna. It was a fancy dress race, by the way...



350 of us set off up the hill. The race was brutal despite the jovial atmosphere at the start. The guys at the front would attempt to finish the course in under 25 minutes so set off with a running motion I have yet to master. I hoped for a sub-40 minute time, so positioned myself in the middle of the main group, just ahead of a character from Avatar and behind some sort of Christmas Elf.

The race start
The Sombrero was not as restrictive as I thought it might be, and I soon forgot I was wearing it as I tried not to stand on anyone else's skis or stab them with my poles, at the same time trying to avoid being on the receiving end of a similar experience. The area of mostly pinecones from the previous day had expanded further, and as we all gingerly crossed it I was reminded of crossing a cattle grid during a fell race. I eventually reached the top of the course, with only a 50m descent to the finish line. However, skins are great for climbing but not so good for descending, and I lost four places in this section. I think those who passed me had race skis and skins, meaning that their skins were not the full length of their skis, so by sitting back they were able to ski "normally".

Still, it turned out I was 47th of 350 in a time of 36 minutes something. I'm pretty happy with that for my first Ski race since drunkenly hurling myself down a slalom course at Sheffield Ski Village about 10 years ago! That was in fancy dress too...

On Friday I headed out for another great run, and before we knew it it was time to head to Geneva, Manchester, then home.

Au revoir beautiful!
So there we have it, a fantastic week, and proof that a skiing holiday can actually be three holidays in one! Family holiday, running retreat, and race trip. Now, where can I get some of those race skis before next December..?!

- - - - - - - - - -

Post script:
In response to some comments made on a blog I wrote on the Runners against Rubbish blog, I've recently been reading about the environmental effects of the Ski industry, and I know it's not necessarily as cuddly and environmentally positive as as it appears. However, without digressing too much from the point of this blog, skiing does have a number of advantages in environmental education, health, and jobs, and is a massive part of life in the Alps. As with many negative human influences on the environment, it's not going to go away, so we must do the best we can to reduce its impact.

But this blog isn't about all that, it's about running and skiing and racing and having fun and that sort of thing.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Learning to run again

***NEWSFLASH! I learnt a new muscle! Thanks to Laura for pointing out the existance of something called a "Ham-string". I have updated the main picture...***

So, apparently there are lots of muscles in your legs, and spending a few months running up mountains at a constant speed is great for some of them, but less good for others. Since we came back from Europe I've not quite been able to tap into the fitness and form I felt like I had in 2013, and it seems the reason is that I've forgotten how to run properly.

This is where being part of Team Accelerate is great; yesterday I spent a couple of hours with Stu Hale and Laura Inglis, talking about what I need to do to re-learn how to run efficiently, and how we're going to do it.

Mt Fuji 2013: Pre-quad dominance?
It seems that over the summer in Chatel I have developed a strong quad dominance, to the extent that my glutes are very weak. I am pretty bad at anatomy, but fortunately these are two of the only three muscles that I know the location of. As I understand it, the quadriceps are at the front of your upper leg, the hamstrings on the other side, and the gluteus around the back up into your bum. Here is a picture (though please note this is my understanding and does not necessarily bear any resemblance to a real leg).
A leg with normal sized muscles
So, how to these mysterious gluteus thingies help us run? A few months ago, Olympian Eilish McColgan ran the Percy Pud 10k in Sheffield. The Team Accelerate facebook page was soon alight with photos of her and comments on her "amazing" and "perfect" running style. Looking at one of these photos, it's quite easy to see what they were on about...

Eilish McColgan shows us how it's done
I have absolutely, categorically, never looked that good when I run. There are obvious reasons, but leaving those aside, my running form has never looked that good either. The first I can do little about, the second we can work on.

Back to the picture we saw above (slightly simplified, but you get the point!), helped this time by Eilish and some jam:


As we can see, Eilish (left) has big muscles at the front and the back of the top bit of her leg (told you I was good at this), whereas mountain-plod boy on the right has big'uns on the front but little bits of weak elastic band on the back. This means that plod boy is unable to produce the push off his hind legs as we saw Eilish doing so beautifully earlier. Looking at that photo again we can also be unfairly rude about the man in the background, who as well as looking distinctly unhappy with the whole situation, perhaps needs to lift his head (yes yes I know, people in glass houses and all that, thank you).

Anyway, now we know what I'm doing wrong, the actual hard bit turns out to be correcting it. "Learning to run" may sound silly, as running seems so natural a thing to do we should all be able to do it. I used to agree, but I now understand that although we can all do some sort of run, with coaching and help we can make ourselves more efficient, and eventually quicker, runners.

In my case, I can use my glutes to produce more of a push when I run...
= I am more energy efficient
= the load on my quads is reduced
= my quads are still there when I need them
= I can therefore run at the same speed for longer
...or faster for the same effort.

Sounds good!

Do as I say, not as I do!
I also recently became a qualified UKA "Fell Leader in Running Fitness", and as part of the training we had a great session with two UKA coaches where we asked "how does an elite runner run?". We drew lots of pictures and all seemed to be in agreement that the Eilish McColgan method was the best way. This demonstrated that we all knew the most efficient way of running, even if we didn't do it. As potential coaches and very keen runners, isn't it a bit mad to think that we all know we're doing it wrong but haven't done anything to correct it?

This brings us to the crux of the matter... change is hard.



This is why it's great being part of Team Accelerate. After our planning session yesterday, last night I joined Stu's band of really fast youngsters for a hilly session in the Rivelin valley. The session sounded easy - take the distance you'd normally race on the fells and half it, then do that number of reps of a 1km hill loop, at race pace for the longer distance, with 3 minutes between reps... But while trying to focus on keeping the front of my pelvis up, my head up and looking forward, landing with my feet under me and basically clenching my bum all the way round, it was not easy! This morning I ache in places I haven't ached for a while, perhaps since 2013, which can be no bad thing.

So, change is hard, and I suspect over the next few weeks and months there will be times when I want to forget it all and go back to quad-dominated mountain plodding, but with the help of people like Stu, Laura, Pete and Colin, I think we will eventually get me back to proper running, and I look forward to being a better, stronger, FASTER runner.

Here's to strength (in running and in coffee)...


Thursday, 2 March 2017

World Book Day! I wrote a book once....

...and you can read it here (it's free, short and there are pictures)!


That's it really. Happy World Book Day everyone.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

The Kinder Killer

After a successful and beautiful early-morning 3 hour outing last weekend without much more than a little niggle of the adductor pain I've been struggling with for a month or so, I decided to up the ante this weekend.

Ox Stones sunrise last weekend
One of the many fantastic things about Dark Peak Fell Runners is the wealth of experience in the club, so when you fancy a hilly 30-ish mile route to make your Sunday more interesting, a quick visit to the DPFR facebook page or website will give you a few options. I decided on the "Kinder Killer", a route invented by K Jones and currently marketed by Ian Winterburn. The idea is similar to another classic route, the Kinder Dozen, involving a zig-zaggy loop of Kinder Scout, alternately visiting the plateau and the surrounding valleys. There are seven climbs as opposed to the (obvs) 12 of the Dozen, but the Killer route is different and I think slightly longer overall. Ian also suggested that it's a nicer route, so I took his advice and plotted the Killer on my map.

Something like this...
Sunday's weather looked pretty good and I hoped to get cracking early-ish in order to be back for at least some of the day at home. Sadly, due to a flat van battery and then losing the bolt which holds the battery cover, it was after 9 by I left home. Further faff ensued when I remembered I'd need £5 in coins for the Edale car park, which seemed tricky to arrange despite visiting multiple shops and garages. Though one failed cashback attempt did result in three bottles of beer waiting for me in the van later in the evening - not a complete disaster! Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that it was nearly 11 by I left Edale, meaning running darkness was certainly probable and probably inevitable. My emergency torch was looking small and weak...

Hmm...
So, off I went, leaving the Nag's head towards Grindsbrook Clough and the first ascent. It was cold, I carried a thin down jacket as an emergency layer and although I didn't need it I wore everything else. The snow was falling as I climbed up towards the plateau and continued to do so above 400m for most of the day. I was surprised to see so many people walking up the first climb up Grindsbrook Clough, but all seemed to be enjoying themselves. I was actually amazed at the number of people out walking all day, the conditions weren't great (not even as winter conditions - a bit grey!) but only on the northern section did I feel much solitude. After the climb I bimbled my way around to the Druid Stone, which I can never find properly. I eventually did and headed off down Lady Booth to the Youth Hostel. Another minor detour down their drive before I realised I wanted to contour round the moor and I was on my way to the second climb...

I won't describe the ins and outs of every up and down, because that would be boring, but at risk of them becoming huge tracked out motorways when the hoardes of people who read my blog head over there (yeah, right) I will mention a couple of them. First, Blackden Clough, which is a beautiful little valley with a babbling brook trickling over moss-covered rocks. I've never been up there before but I will certainly be back. I also enjoyed the climb from just above the A57 up Fair Brook, particularly the scrambling at the top! This was actually a feature of many of the climbs and I think adds a lot to the route. Finally, the climb up to Kinder Downfall was pretty spectacular. After the downfall I only had two climbs left and it was starting to get a little dark, but the frozen waterfall looming in front was a memorable sight! I am slightly ashamed at this rubbish photo, but it's the best I could manage... Trust me, it was spectacular.

Kinder, Kinder, we all fall down!
The climbing of the downfall was another matter though. The ice made the rocks a bit dangerous and I had to climb a long way round. What would normally be lovely grippy gritstone became icy rocks of death and I lost quite a while messing about here. Not that it really mattered, but I was a little worried about the light. After eventually making the top of the downfall I pressed on to the Kinderlow trig, then dropped down to Kinderlow end, then steeply down via Jacob's Ladder where I saw other people for the final time. The penultimate climb up to Crowden Tower was short and steep. I could feel the 2000m of climb in my legs now but I was still moving reasonably well and jogged a bit when the angle lessened near the top. The worst part of this climb was finding a beer bottle half way up! I picked it up and carried it home to recycle, but how it got there I don't really know!

At Crowden Tower I turned my torch on and headed downwards in its slightly pathetic little puddle of light, eventually reaching the final turnaround near Broadlee Bank Tor. The climb up Grindslow Knoll is mercifully short and after the steep first section not really too bad. I hit the top in about 7 hours 10, and 15 minutes later was back at the Nags Head.

Kinder Killer is a cracking route, with lots of interesting scrambling and visits to places you might not normally go. I'd heartily recommend it. I clocked it at 46km and 2800m of ascent and it took me 7:23. To be honest, it's a good bit longer than I'd wanted to be, but that's not the point at the moment.


Thanks Ian Winterburn for the route advice, and K Jones for inventing it!

P.S. I don't know who K Jones is, but I don't think it's superspeedy Fell runner and orienteer Kris Jones.

Movescount - http://www.movescount.com/moves/move139552829
Strava - https://www.strava.com/activities/840974653