Time flies, it's been a month since the Nine Edges and I still haven't written up about it! Time to fix that.
The Nine Edges is a fell running and walking event organised by the Edale Mountain Rescue to raise money to fund their equipment. It also has a climbing category, in which the entrants have to climb one route on each edge. The event begins at the Fairholmes outdoor centre, from where entrants make their way up to Derwent Edge and then along Stanage, Burbage North, Burbage South, through the Longshaw Estate to Curbar, Froggatt and Baslow, before passing Gardoms on the way to Birchens and the finish with complementary pint at the Robin Hood pub. The distance is roughly 21 miles, largely depending on the choice of route across the open access land up to Derwent Edge. It is a lovely event, with many of the walkers treating it as a fun day out. It is not unusual to see entrants enjoying a picnic on an edge, or icecream at the Longshaw cafe. There is a mass start for runners at 10am, with walkers setting off between 7.30 and 9.30am. The atmosphere is always friendly.
I always recommend this event to my running and hiking clients; the views are wonderful, after an initial steep climb the route has a pleasing quantity of downhill and the route finding itself is fairly straight forward as you mainly follow good paths. Mid September is usually blessed with wonderful weather, too. Usually. This year the Friday and Sunday were indeed gorgeous, clear, golden days. On the morning of the event I lay in bed listening to the torrential rain. It eased off briefly about 7am as I ate my breakfast, inspiring hope that it would indeed lift as the weather forecast predicted. After a 9am start I followed the longer way round up to Derwent Edge as the mist made getting lost all too easy. I was overtaken twice by someone, once by the reservoir and again halfway along the edge; she had tried the short cut only to lose her way in the poor visibility.
The mist limited visibility on either side to around 12 feet, so there were no magnificent views to lift the spirits and put a spring in my step. Even the standing stones were visible only briefly as they loomed up out of the clag to be swallowed up again as I passed. I gave silent thanks to the people who had laboured to lay the stone path that gleamed damply as it curved along the edge, a shining line that Hansel and Gretel would have appreciated. Initially I was upbeat; it's atmospheric, I told myself, trying not to think about the expanses of flowering heather I couldn't see, or the hills and reservoir. It certainly was atmospheric, and it soon became the wet kind that hits you horizontally. The rain lasted three hours. Three hours where I reminded myself to stay positive; 'negative thoughts impede posture and movement efficiency, think positive!' was my refrain.... but it was horrible. 'Why am I doing this,' was the recurrent thought going through my head that would not be banished by all the positive thinking in the world. My back hurt. If I'd passed a cafe or pub, that's where'd I'd have headed. The main thing keeping me going was the thought of all the people on the waiting list for the event who would have loved to have taken my place. Wait, they were probably all still in bed, listening to the rain and sighing with relief at their escape. For once, I needed most of the kit the event insists that you carry. My brother, in the running category, passed me as I climbed up towards Stanage; he says I was smiling and chirpy, but I was just pleased to see him doing so well. He'd fallen in with a friendly group and ended up knocking twenty minutes off his previous time.
Towards the end of Stanage the clouds parted briefly, giving a glimpse of the valley and hills with pillars of mist and rain sweeping along them. Then it closed in again. I gritted my teeth and kept going. In fact, I was making excellent progress in my enthusiasm to get off each edge as quickly as possible. I'd seen a few people I knew; I probably seemed rather grumpy. Do it again next year? No way!
Finally, the sun was glimpsed over Burbage. Would it wait for me? It did indeed; the mist lifted as I came down off Stanage, and as I arrived at Burbage North I saw a kestrel hovering over the crag. The vista opened out and my heart sang in response. Five minutes stretching sorted my back out and I continued at a brisk pace that I kept up until the end, finishing in six hours twenty minutes, still feeling fit. It was great. Do it again next year? Of course I will!
Finally, total respect to the climbers. I spotted two emerging out of the clag on Derwent Edge, coiling their rope. To climb in those conditions, and carry all your gear along twenty plus miles, is an awesome achievement. I hope you relished that pint at the end!