Sunday, 7 April 2013

End of the Tunnel?

I don't know if there is a geographical equivalent of anachronistic, but if there is then that's me. I was born in the wrong climate. I don't like the cold. Give me thirty degrees and sun any day over minus ten and snow. Now don't get me wrong here, I've been happy - maybe prepared would be a better descriptor - to put up with my fair share of low temperatures to access some of the more worthwhile experiences our little planet has to offer; I've camped on high glaciers and climbed big ice faces in the starlight; I've counted the minutes through long, cold bivouacs and spent weeks exploring the deep gulleys, scarey faces and shrieking plateaus of the Scottish highlands in winter. But not any more. 

I guess it's probably an effect not unconnected with my birth in the first half of the last century, something that I'll probably have to factor into my running plans at some stage but not for a year or two yet I hope, that of late I just feel the cold more. Cold hands, cold feet, cold face. I wrap myself up in layers to get through trips such as the recent Hardmoors 55 run, amazed at how little clothing many competitors seem comfortable in, but unless there's a special day out involved I can't do it any more for fun. The only way to enjoy snow is on skis in the sunshine, with a vin chaud waiting at regular intervals. The photographs I see of long runs over snow-covered hills that so many runners seem to enthuse about just leave me, well, cold

This mis-location of mine is not normally too much of a problem. The English winter only lasts a week or so, time that can profitably spent enjoying a cosy fire and a glass or two of whisky, then everything warms up and we can go outside again.  The Scots can enjoy their special climate for a while longer but I don't have to these days. But, you will have noticed, not this year. In my wanderings over the Wainwrights that started last year, I look back and see from my diary that I set out from Mosedale for Carrock Fell and its neighbours on 30th November 2012 in a valley temperature of minus five.  In the four months since, the Lake District hasn't warmed up. I've looked hopefully at the Met Office mountain weather forecast every few days to be met with continuous tales of freezing temperatures and gale force winds. Other than one or two miserable half days, I haven't been back since. Even my runs nearer home, once off the roads, have been more on snow than not. Last weekend there were still drifts several feet high in places on our local sandstone ridge - and it never snows in western Cheshire.

Then earlier this week it seemed that things might be looking up. We've friends with a place in the Lakes, and they said the snow was starting to go. The winds were looking lighter. So after a fairly leisurely breakfast I took myself up to try a little circuit of fells on my list in the area generally known as the Back o' Skidda. I found the one remaining parking spot at Longlands Bridge - it was still school holidays  -  and set out. It was still fairly hard going, over and through snow and into a sharp wind, and I wondered if I had still come out a week or two early. Up the wonderfully-named Great Cockup, over Meal Fell and the pull up to the somewhat pretentious Great Sca Fell (all of 2135ft high!). But from there I turned away from the wind and was rewarded with three miles or so of snow-free springy turf, gently descending over Brae Fell and Longlands Fell all the way back to the car, great running, the best this year so far.  I picked off the lone Raven Crag, a gentle 900ft of up and two miles from the road, on the way home to celebrate.

This morning for a change I ran a completely flat race. But the winter still isn't giving up quite. On the 7th April I drove up to Blackpool on a perfect February morning, blue skies, white fields and the temperature a couple of degrees below freezing. By the time the Ron Hill set us off at 9.30 it had just about struggled up to zero. But there was no wind, the sea was calm, and after a couple of 13 mile laps on the prom it started to feel like a real Spring day. As I drove home the temperature was up to eleven degrees.

We finished off our winter coal last night. I'm not going to buy any more; a confident move maybe, but I think I can see the end of the tunnel.

1 comment:

Richard said...

I had to go out and buy a few more bags of coal last week - more a function of my kids' inability to understand that we don't live in Hawaii- than any real cold. I have found myself running a bit less recently due to my hip but also because of the constant cutting wind. I get reynaud's in my fingers from years on motorbikes so I enjoy the cold even less now!