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Fell Running – Hill Forts and Limestone Ravines

Walk Posted on 07 Jan 2013

It was a dull, damp and dreary morning in the Peak District - not at all inspiring for running in the hills.
Cloud capped Peak District hills
Cloud capped Peak District hills
With the air in the valley full of fine drizzle and the higher ground cloaked in wet hill fog the only positive was that the weather was much better than yesterday's deluge and than that predicted for tomorrow.  I decided on a high circle of Castleton, with a sharp climb from the valley to gain height followed by the undulating ridge.

Heading out across the fields towards Losehill Hall the evidence of the recent rain was clear, sodden fields and footpaths awash as ditches struggled to remove the rainwater from the saturated ground.  Past the farms by muddy rights of way, glad of the aggressive tread and waterproof socks, rising, gently at first then more steeply to gain the narrow spur to the south-east of the summit.  Over the stile onto the access land, side-stepping the slippery slabs, preferring the grass in order to maintain traction on the final steep section leading up to the cairn on Lose Hill.
Approaching Lose Hill Summit 
Approaching Lose Hill summit
Heading westwards the route undulates, first dropping then rising over a number of cols and tops along the Great Ridge: Back Tor, Barker Bank, Hollins Cross before the final pull up to Mam Tor.
Along the Great Ridge towards Mam Tor 
Along the Great Ridge towards Mam Tor
Eschewing the slippery, flagged descent off Lose Hill to the stile then onto an unimproved section, weaving between rocks and puddles, crossing the broken down wall, focussing, in the zone as I subconsciously seek the best line.

At Back Tor my pace is briefly broken by the short, steep, rocky descent before I pick up again to Hollins Cross, feeling the cold now I work harder, along the flag-stoned approach to Mam Tor.  Bleak and windswept it is hard to imagine that our ancestors inhabited a hill fort here 3000 years ago.
The ancient hill fort of Mam Tor 
The ancient hill fort of Mam Tor
Approaching the summit with the ridge to Lose Hill behind 
Approaching the summit with the ridge to Lose Hill behind
A keen, cold wind greets me at the trig point, deterring me from any sojourn and turning sharp left I drop steeply down the southern flank of the great landslip.
The unstable east face 
The unstable east face
The rotten, crumbling east face clearly showing the horizontal bedding of shale the instability of which lends the name "shivering mountain"
 Steeply down off Mam Tor
Steeply down off Mam Tor
An exhilarating couple of minutes sees me down to the old road, once a main route between Sheffield and Manchester, regularly repaired after falling further down the hillside before engineers finally admitted defeat in their battle with mother nature.
No through road 
No through road
Passing Blue John cavern, named after the semi precious stone found only here, I cross grassland to the abrupt drop into the limestone ravine of Winnats Pass and look down onto the sinuous road way below.
High above Winnats Pass 
High above Winnats Pass
I spend a few moments here, taking in the fantastic natural spectacle, the towering limestone castles above the impossibly steep grassy slopes.
Limestone towers above Winnats Pass 
Limestone towers above Winnats Pass
Making a mental note to return and exploit these slopes for training and exploration I head off, running down the steep north spur to Speedwell Castle and my starting point in the valley below.
The last drop into the valley 
The last drop, into the valley
11km and 650m ascent 
11km and 650m ascent

To book a guided run or navigation training visit my website

This blog was brought to you by Fell Running Guide

Area: Castleton, Edale
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