The irony of trees
Friday: Running on Dartmoor.
Risks: Stuff to fall off, fall over, get stuck in, get lost in, get bitten by, lose my shoes in, or be arrested for being too close to.
Monday: Trimming a couple of overhanging trees in the garden.
Risks: A few spiky bits of branch.
So if one of them was going to cause an infection and make me totally useless for 48 hours (and counting), obviously it'd be the bloody trees. The reason I am writing this at all is that I must keep my left foot above my hips, which makes life very boring. So thanks for reading this, writing it has kept me sane for a few hours at least.
Right, enough whinging: Dartmoor! I'm starting to love it. I had a totally fantastic day up there during the cold weather in December and would've broken the unsupported record, but I missed one tiny Tor. Still a wonderful day though - and a lot more photogenic than this time.
The 500s is a challenge which involves visiting all the Tors over 500m, as per the list in Ken Ringwood's Dartmoor's Tors and Rocks book, from the Warren House Inn. After running 15:13 last time, I knew that even with adding the missing Tor (a couple of minutes at the most) I should be trying for the 15:10 record set by Jack Edwards in 2021.
I left home at 5 and left the Warren House a bit after 7:30. The forecast was foggy to start, then dry but not particularly sunny, which was correct.
I forgot to check the ranges the night before, but quickly checked them before leaving home and was relieved to see no firing on any. This was clearly explained once I got going and saw Army chaps on every big Tor and helicopters coptering around all day - turns out it was Ten Tors the day after. Disaster narrowly averted!
I only had two timechecks, about 4 hours at Cosdon Beacon and about 10 hours at Princetown. This time I was sticking to the official route, so no detours off to Whitehorse Hill. I hoped I would be well under 4 hours by Codson. It didn't start well.
I should've taken longer to get myself sorted out before leaving the Warren House, but I wanted to give myself as much daylight as possible later. Anyway, it took me a few miles to get myself sorted and get my bearings!
After I got into the navigation things started to go a little better, but I lost a lot of time on the way to Cosdon. In the end I made it there for 4:02. Not glorious but it was still possible, if I got on with it. I won't drone on about every last tussock, particularly as I don't have any photos, but I had a tasty lunch of cheese and lettuce wrap going up Yes Tor, which was nice. Next comes one of the twisty bits over Steng-a-tor, Kitty Tor, Hunt, Gren, Little Links, the Dunna Goats and Green Tor. There's some pretty shoddy terrain in these sections. Charlie has explained a little about the Molinia grass problems on the moor to me in the days since, but at this point all I knew was that there are a heck of a lot of massive tussocks. Proper leg-swallowers in places.
After the long drag down to Lynch Tor things improve slightly, then after Great and Little Mis you are treated to a delightful track. This time I avoided the disastrous wrong line that saw me floundering near Rundlestone (surely that's a folk song somewhere), and decided to avoid the hard track up to the mast and used the footpath, which I would recommned. I remember checking my watch as I crossed the road and realising it was exactly the busiest time of day, so that was just before 5pm, 9:09 from the start. This meant I made it to Princetown before 9:30, which was pretty exciting! It was OOOOOOOOOOONN! But only just, and I'd need to not mess up that final run in like last time.
Out of Princetown there's a couple of miles of road to Two Bridges, from where we turn up towards the Beardown Tors. At the top of the farm track I encountered the cows that are often there, but they were in a good mood and before too long I was on the Beardowns. Another twisty bit to take in Lydford, Conies Down, Rough Tor, Devil's Tor and Crow Tor. The down and up between Conies Down and Devil's Tors is tough at this point but went well this time. Then the missing one from last time (Little Whiten), a few others and a loop round some more rough ground to join the track to Postbridge.
At Postbridge I felt positive about the record. I passed through at 12:19 and hoped I could get back within a couple of hours. I reckoned 1 hour to the bottom, 30 mins up and 30 mins down... The run in to the bottom of the Hameldowns was a long drag. At the end this time I cut the corner. I'm not sure it's worth it. Finally, the lovely Hameldowns! Beacon was reached in 13:48, then the Tor took ages to arrive as usual but eventually I was descending. I slowed right down towards the end to avoid the quarry disaster of last time. I still found the paths really confusing and nearly went wrong a few times, but by keeping a bearing for the pub I survived. Back to the Warren House in 14:32:29. Woohoo!
I do think with better lines there's probably a chunk to take off that, but I'd probably need to be supported by people who know where there's a trod and where you just have to take a bearing across the tussocks. At the end I was quickly freezing, but warmed up in the car and after a nap I headed home.
I was sad not to be at the Fellsman this year (Congratulations Oli on another great win!) but this was a worthy alternative. It's a really tough route but I do enjoy it and would encourage you to give it a go. Be careful if it's really wet, some of the river crossings can get a little dodgy.
Right, time for my antibiotics...