Perfect weather, cool, blue skies and no wind, so expectations were high as Mike Bennett and I headed down the A19 for the next race in the Esk Valley Winter fell series. Surely even on the tops of the Cleveland Hills there would be no more snow and ice to contend with?
In reality it turned out to be one of the most pleasant fell-running experiences I have had so I would strongly recommend this race to others. Registration at the Pinchinthorpe Railway Station, in the carriage opposite the cafe, parking in a farm field nearby so no hassles, competitors seemed very cheery and enjoying the sunnier weather, many wearing just vest and shorts, with a relaxed attitude to kit requirements, though Mike and I both stuck to the trusted “bum bag and extra gear just in case” approach.
The run started on the old railway line, now a popular mountain-biking route, before cutting steeply up through the woods on the first of only two significant hills. A long,dry trail along the ridge/tree line followed, great views across and before a steep dip and ascent no.2, then a stretch across the moor edge, rather bleak where forestry has recently been ripped out, and clearly very muddy in recent times, but fortunately not so today!! A sharp left and a descent to the Hanging Stones came next. Pre-race instructions had included time penalties for taking short-cuts and the fact that we had to touch one of the said stones, all sounded very significant, possibly complicated and taxing, but in reality you couldn’t miss them and giving one a pat in passing was straight-forward. It was then a steep descent through woods, including some very greasy bits, some wiggly ‘where does the route go’ next bits (some folk did get lost too: I came across a couple from NYM club who had gone completely the wrong way) then a lovely, gradual downhill through woods past the Blue Lake, and finally a couple of miles on farm tracks and old railway lines to get us back to Pinchinthorpe.
It was about 10k with 900 feet of climb, very runnable overall. Mike had a storming run, I plodded round at the rear. Great stuff and only £6 a head. Bring on the summer series – keep an eye out for car sharing to mid-week races if you fancy it.