After last year’s unsettling experience on this event it was with some trepidation that Kate Boobyer and I lined up for this again on Saturday night in Glossop, in the High Peak, particularly with some pretty wild weather around.
Still, in for a penny in for a pound and we entered the long score course. Dark Mountains is a typical mountain marathon event with four linear (elite a,b and c) courses each in turn with slightly decreased distance, height gain and navigational difficulty.
Score classes are run on a time format and you have 10 (long) or 8 hours (short) to find as many points as you can (with the general rule of thumb being the further away, biggest hills and most navigationally challenging ones being the highest scoring controls).
The key difference is, of course, there is no overnight camp and the two days are rolled together into one long night! You still have to carry all the usual clobber, and more, as it can turn pretty serious pretty quickly as we found out last year.
As it was it wasn’t a repeat of last year (phew!), yes it was dark so that makes everything navigationally challenging in my book but we enjoyed some relatively benign weather. A cold wind at times on the tops and some patchy fog but not the wild weather that was lurking for early this morning!
What the race lacked in weather it made up for in mud; hell it was a mud bath up there which made going pretty slow! The courses started in Glossop and we headed first up to Bleaklow where we picked off a few pretty hard controls running constantly on a bearing across some desperate terrain of enormous peat hags; I’m amazed we hit each control without too much drama (although I have discovered a new sport of peat hag surfing!).
This boosted our confidence and we headed out on a pretty ambitious loop eventually encircling Kinder to pick up some of the higher scoring checkpoints. The underfoot conditions were horrific (I had several thigh deep swims) and the, sometimes, featureless terrain made this a race that favoured the strong navigators (and good bog snorklers!) over the strong runners, although the elite winner Steve Birkenshaw is certainly both, and thus played to our advantage.
We stuffed up one control near the end through lack of concentration, following the wrong stream, and had to abandon attempts to find it kicking ourselves for not paying attention (but hey, it was 5am and I like my sleep!). After that little drama and much swearing we were 20 points down on what we set out to do and now had a long desperate race against the clock (you rapidly lose points if you are late) back over Bleaklow down to Glossop.
We finished with 2 minutes to spare and no light left in the torch, relief! So, pleased to discover we were first ladies (not totally unexpected since there were only two ladies teams in the long score) and totally gobsmacked to see we were second overall which earned us a small trophy (hoorah!).
Yes only 15 teams started the long score but I’m dead chuffed we beat 13 of them! Absolutely fantastic event, well organised and very friendly if you are a good navigator I heartily recommend giving this a go.
Long score winners Ben Stansfield and Pat Bartlett with 345 points. Kate and I were second with 265 points.