Gary Tompsett gives a few insights into the terrain – he has spent a few days up on the Pennines after all!
Gary Tompsett (right) with Gavin Miles (left). They finished the infamous first Marmot Dark Mountains™ 2nd on the Elite Course.
© James Carnegie
Shape: As you ascend, traverse and descend the scarp flank of the Pennines you will see lights of numerous villages below, and dark silhouette horizons above: Many of use to your navigation. This flank also has several notable incised valleys, notably High Cup, which will require some cautious negotiation or circumnavigation. In the east, the plateau descends into the true darkness of the lands around the Upper Tees (Maize Beck) river.
Runability: Expect the same delightful mixture of sheer grass, tussock, peat and rock that you would like to expect from open mountainous moorland! The Pennine Way and some other Bridleways and footpaths will give you some relief. On steeper ground, where the grass is short, the newest and gnarliest treaded footwear will aid traction.
Watercourses: There are three stream extremes: Bigger unmistakable rivers in clear valleys, smaller sometimes disappearing becks – into the limestone, and haphazard meanderings through the peaty terrain in the east. Only the former provide consistently reliable navigation handrails. The others are somewhat ‘interpretive’ at times. The map is good though – if you can stay in touch with it. One tricky feature would be a Sinkhole, a Sink, Swallow hole or Resurgence. You might wonder whether we have used any as checkpoints…
Stone features: For the sake of simplicity, it is best to consider the following items (many named as such on the map) as very similar to the eye, in the dark: Cairns, Piles of Stones, Curricks, Shelters and Ruin. It is only when you get very close that you will discern the differences, unless it is a large ruin. Ok everyone, Google a Currick!
Safety: Look out for: Cliffs and Crags – the map depicts these well and accurately, but when you are on steep ground, and descending convex sheer grass slopes be aware that these slopes may turn vertical. Shakeholes – these deep and sometimes steep-sided holes in the ground might have micro-crags and ponds in the foot. Mine Workings – small and sudden areas of broken and steep ground, perhaps along with built architecture such as walls, dams, adits, shafts and metal equipment. Something else to Google – a Hush, Hushes and Hushing.
Courtesies: We have gone to great lengths to overprint Out of Bounds, Uncrossable Boundaries and their respective Crossing Points, by consultation and agreement with local stakeholders. Please adhere to the plan! Also, please be excellent with gate closures, and NEVER climb over a wall. If you take passage through a residental or farm area, then please be quiet with gates and silent with voices. If you are confronted, please take the opportunity to talk... rather than run away. In my experience farmers do not want to be ignored. I’ve probably met all the farmers. I even know their dogs’ names. Let me know if you meet a collie called Billy Elliot. I am NOT joking. Have an amazing event.