Chasing a ghost...

The 15 trigs is a Dark Peak classic... 55 miles or so with around 8500ft climb, taking in all the trig points found on the KIMM map from 1984. The route was first run in 1985 and Andy Harmer set a record of 10:04 in 1987, which stood until 2009 (!) when Simon Bourne of Calder Valley Fell Runners became the first person to run the route in sub-10 hours, lowering the standard to 9:58.

Attempting the record in November was always going to be ambitious, and probably foolish. I’d love to say that I waited on purpose, but in reality the reason was purely a lack of time. Either way I would need all the available daylight, so at 7am on Saturday morning I left the Sportsman pub and set off down the road, over the remains of the bonfire at the Three Merry Lads and onto the edge path...

I had written Simon's split times on a post-it note in my pocket, and at Rod Moor I was already a couple of minutes behind: It was going to be a tough day! From here the route takes you on a well-trodden “trespass” via Gibraltar Rocks to Emlin, before a long plod over to Cartledge Rocks for the out-and-back to Back Tor. At Emlin I was only 1 minute behind Simon and had a good run across the moor to emerge at Back Tor five minutes up. The sun had not started to warm the ground yet though, and I cursed the temperature for being cold enough to turn flagstones into an icy ribbon of death, but warm enough to leave the bog monster hungry for unsuspecting prey.

From Back Tor it’s a bit soggy underfoot for a good few miles. Despite some stomach difficulties I had a pretty good run to Margery Hill and on to Outer Edge, staying 4 or 5 minutes ahead of Simon’s times. At one point I did lose my whole left leg for a while, but eventually wrestled it back from the bog. I dropped down off Outer Edge and clambered through some very large bracken (there must be a better way!) to eventually join the edge of Howden Reservoir. I filled up my bottles and tried to run hard along the firm tracks, knowing that my bracken faffing had probably lost me a few minutes.

By the time I reached the Alport trig and dropped down into the dale it was about 10am and the sun had finally emerged. This is one of my favourite areas of the Peak and I had a great time along the narrow little track up to Grains, despite my legs now letting me know they weren't best pleased. As I climbed the steep ascent to the trig I tried to force some food down into them... At Alport my time was 3:35, exactly the same as Simon’s, but by Shelf Stones I was three minutes down again.

This is Rod Moor, but they all look pretty similar!
I tried to follow Ian Winterburn’s route to Cock Hill via a line of Grouse Butts but messed it up slightly and ended up plodding across Harrop Moss. 10 minutes down, damn! I had recced the line down to Old Glossop in the middle of the night the previous week so hoped I could remember it in daylight and pull back a few minutes. I was feeling slightly rejuvenated now and pushed hard down the track and through the slop around Shire Hill, but then stupidly stuck on the recce route for too long and ran a dogleg through Old Glossop which cost me valuable time. I joined the road south towards Harry Hut, ate my peanut butter sandwich and considered my options – direct by Worm Stones or via the Shooting Cabin? I decided on the direct route and forced myself to run all the way up the steady climb to the trig.

I pulled back a few minutes to be six down on the record, I was now heading home, back on good tracks and felt focussed on my target. Mill Hill arrived quickly and I was soon at trig point 10 at Sandy Heys, but my invisible competitor was still six minutes ahead. Again I tried to push on and took some more food, but my stomach was revolting (in both senses) again and by the time I reached the Kinder Low trig I was another minute behind... As I climbed Brown Knoll I began to think that I might not be able to catch Simon, but completing the leg two minutes quicker than he had gave me a boost and I charged off the summit with renewed vigour! As it happened, in completely the wrong direction. Quite embarrassing as I the stile I was looking for had been my marshal point during the Skyline in September.

The stile I should have found off Brown Knoll (taken during Edale Skyline)
Anyway, back on track and on the Skyline route. The weather had been looking a bit dodgy for the last hour or so and now it broke. Looking back the sky over Glossop was black. There were a few good rumbles of thunder in the distance and now the hail began. The conditions alternated between hail and snow for the rest of the run, it never felt quite heavy enough to stop and put my jacket on, but I was soaked by the time I finished. The weather and lack of people in combination with the amazing wind-shaped rocks along the edge gave this section a good epic feeling and I was enjoying myself.

The next trig was Blackden, 11 minutes down due to my Brown Knoll cock-up. I decided I could either give up or give it absolutely everything and see if I could last till the end. I knew the route from here so put the map and compass away and went for it. The long drag up to Win Hill was a tempting walk but I was having none of it and ran all the way, gaining three minutes back. My legs knew there wasn't much running left now and felt surprisingly good, I ran down Parkin Clough as well as I have ever done and hit the road. Over the main road at Yorkshire Bridge and up towards Stanage, it was starting to get dark now and I could see the lights of Bamford below me. Again walking was banned and I gave myself a good talking to about how “we” would not be giving up. I continued up the road and over the cattle grid, over the stile and up the little track towards High Neb...

Looking down the final descent off Stanage (on a sunnier evening)
I ticked off the final trig at 9:27, now only three minutes down with just the run down from the ridge to the Sportsman remaining. The familiar run along Stanage and down the sharp rocks of the Long Causeway was hard but I did feel like I was moving fast. At the bottom I turned right and went around the three dams, then along the edge of the woods and eventually onto the playing field, crashed through the ditch and sprinted as fast as I could across the football pitch to finish in front of the pub.

It was too dark to see my watch so I didn't know the time until I stopped and sat down outside the pub – 9:56:57. Simon’s time was 9:58:42, I had held on to my last minute charge and just beaten the record! I was a bit of a mess though, and soon realised I was soaking, freezing cold and completely shattered. I went inside the pub for a drink and tried to warm up. It seemed silly to have worked so hard to finish so close to the previous time, but I was very pleased to be inside the record and I'm honoured to have "re-claimed" the record for DPFR.

The 15 Trigs is a fantastic route. I would fully recommend it to anyone looking for a great day out, even in November!

Congratulations to Simon for a great time and a really tough challenge, and thanks very much to Alan Yates, Ian Winterburn and Willy Kitchen for your route advice and encouragement. Finally, as always, thanks very much to Accelerate for your continued support.


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