Not long now, if you’re off to try the High Peak 40 Mile Challenge on 20th September, then here – for what it’s worth, is a description.
Look at this map. Leave it open while we discuss the route in a little more detail:
Start 8am, and run steadily without over doing it. You’ll catch those over enthusiastic sorts soon enough when things bottle neck at a stile on a steep hillside about 1 mile from the start line.
After a nice little downhill and disused railway section, you reach CP1. Drink.
Steep downhill almost immediately, DON’T GO TOO FAST, there’s no such thing as free speed and damage to quads so early will destroy you by the afternoon.
Amble along the trail beside the Fernilee Reservoir and down another steep-ish drop past an old works and onto a wooded path next to a river. EAT here, it’s been the best part of an hour and you need to keep the energy topped up for the miles ahead. Try to eat every 45mins or so for the entire day.
CP2 comes and goes as you start the first significant climb, into Shallcross Rd and straight out the end into a field via another stile. When you reach the top of this next hill……
The route changed a few years back and I published a detailed description of the new version, just in time for them to change it back, so when you reach the top there will be directions to turn left and descend Cadster Clough to the main road, passing Rookery Farm(roughly) at which point you’ll cross and enter a few steep field and cross several stiles until coming out on Eccles Rd.
CP3 arrives after you’ve taken in the delightful Eccles Pike, one slow steady ascent for those running the ups, or a speed march for those conserving energy. When you’ve grabbed the first of the food on offer at Digleach Farm (usually flapjack and bananas), off you go to the bottom of the hill. TURN LEFT at the crossroads. Right onto Charley lane, left at the end, right under railway bridge and right again past cottages onto a narrow road toward Beet Farm (CP4). Ahhh free Jaffa Cakes, nice.
Uphill again, as the road turns into a rocky track and emerges on a sandy track. Turn right and follow through some of the nicest country so far. Views of the trail in the distance as it winds down into a shallow ford and back up for what becomes a very intense slog to the next checkpoint. Earning your cup of squash, you’ll reach a roadside CP5, but are directed back into uphill once more for the climb onto Rushup Edge. Ouch.
By now you’re reaching the 18 mile mark, and at height, potentially exposed. Depending on the weather you may be glad of an extra layer. The views across Edale Valley make the climb worthwhile, before you drop to Mam Tor and climb that while overlooking Castleton instead. Then you turn right from Hollins Cross (one of my favourite sections) and drop into Castleton via CP6.
Now, this is Cave Dale. Approach with caution. Limestone slippery hell, with steep climb and 20 miles into your day. Don’t be silly. Most will walk this section regardless. Just sayin’.
Once at the top of Cave Dale it’s grassy and fairly level and some good running via Hurdlow – under which is Titan, Europe’s deepest chamber at 141.5 meters, but don’t let that put you off. Continue until you reach my favourite stile (not). Over Bradwell moor and through the checkpoint (CP7), you turn right onto the road, first left onto Manchester Rd and weeeeeeeeeeee, downhill for the next couple of miles. Actually pretty miserable if your legs are already tired, as tarmac for that long is very unforgiving. Best to take it easy, remember the quads (bet you can’t ignore them by now). It’s here, through the beautiful village of Tideswell that a young boy once yelled at me “you’re very far behind”. Cheers kid.
Your reward? CP8 marks a Marathon, 26 miles down. 14 to go….into Millers Dale along the River Wye until you run out of path and cross a wooden bridge to climb into the ex railway route of the Monsal Trail. A quick glance to the right reveals a tunnel, but we’re going left (shame), still another mile and you reach the amazing Monsal Viaduct, but we’re not crossing that either, since the route takes a right turn at CP9 at the near end of the bridge and drops to the edge of the Wye once more. When you emerge onto the A6, straight across is the entrance to Deep Dale, a kind of Cave Dale revisited, but without the firm ground. Lots and lots of cattle prints leave this thorn infested gully pitted and horribly unstable. That said, it’s green and is about the last of the savage climbs you’ll face, so chin up.
CP10 – Did I say chin up? Sorry that should read ‘brace yourself’. This is the infamous 3 mile road section into Chelmorton Village. Endless, unwavering, demoralising, cruel. It winds away across the landscape ’til it reaches the horizon and when you get there – it does it again. I actually once fell asleep standing up on this section while losing the will to live.
Anyway, once you’re over this bit (whether wrecked, or enjoying some proper running on even ground while you can), you’ll cross into another rough track, then into a couple of fields via more stiles and suddenly happen upon what feels like a cruel joke from God. A giant limestone ravine. Seriously. Take care, gently does it on your way down and even more care if the light is fading. You can see the next checkpoint across on the far side, it’s just a 60 foot drop and back out again to get there.
Right CP11 is in your rear view. Farmer’s fields await, and some lumpy bumpy furrows here and there. Just as you approach farm buildings, stay right and there’s a stile over the wall. Right along the road briefly and you see a corner building on your left where it’s very easy to miss the gap in the fence and start up someone’s driveway. Once into the correct field, you hoof it up a slight incline, but at this point your legs should be okay thanks to the knowledge this is almost over. Past a crazy carnival house with fairground rides parked outside and onward (you are not dreaming).
A brilliant downhill overlooking Buxton shows your route under the viaduct this time, then up the main road into town. At the brow of the hill, on the opposite side of the road you can see the entrance to a park and when you follow the tree line on your right, down a narrow footpath at the far corner, it comes out right opposite the school where you registered in the first place. Don’t forget to run up the drive so it looks like you ran the entire thing. ;)
Things to remember: This route is mainly tracks and paths, therefore road shoes might appeal if you favour cushioning on long days. Limestone deserves respect as it’s slippy at the best of times and deadly when wet. Food and drink are plentiful on this route, with water every 4 miles on average, so don’t over burden yourself with gallons of drink. Exposure will be a hidden danger, whether wet or dry. If you’ve run in the sun for hours and the cloud moves in, you’ll get cold very quickly. If it’s raining and/or windy that goes double, so take a spare layer. Take it easy early on and walk steep ups if not already a veteran of such events. You’ll want plenty in the tank for that last stretch and the dreaded Chelmorton area. Parts of this course are often populated by cattle, so if nervous around cows, factor in the odd (sensible) detour. Oh, and you get your t-shirt at registration, so don’t be a **** and just go home – complete the event! If you’re prone to chafing I’d advise you get a stick of body glide and apply it wherever you expect trouble. I used to have one hell of a time on this route with red raw thighs, but have since gotten a pair of Inov8 3/4 tights that fit well enough, it’s much less of a problem.
I honestly can’t think of anything else that will spare you from a challenge one way or the other, but there you go. I will be using GPS this year for the first time (to record my movements, not as navigational aid), so it’ll be interesting to see the actual mileage, since the map provided says 39.31 miles, but people report nearer 42 on their devices. Whaaaaaat?
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