Thursday, 8 September 2011

Buxton High Peak HACK

The day of the HACK had arrived and it was an early start for us. We had to get up before 4am to get ourselves ready and drive to Buxton in time for me to start my duties as soon after 6am as possible.  My first duty was on the 3rd marshalling point which was about a mile and a half into the walk so people setting off at 6am could be there before 6:30 and I needed to register, pick up my high visibility jacket and drive to the marshalling point before anyone reached it.  When we arrived at Grin Low Cottages I was told that I had been changed to marshalling point 2 which was a few hundred yards before point 3 so that was fine, I knew where the early marshalling points were because we'd done this part of the walk back in August.  I took Lynne around to the walkers registration point in the car park and then went to pick up my jacket, new instructions for the marshalling and my partner volunteer for this first stint, a young man called Guy.

The weather was set to be quite good for the walk, dry and not too warm with a possibility of showers later in the afternoon.  When we arrived at the marshalling point it was looking as though we could could have some early rain with big black clouds out to the West, but it never materialised.  The early starters began to appear over the brow of the hill just around 6:30 as expected and there was a fairly steady stream until just before 8am.  The last registrations were at 7am so we knew we wouldn't be here very long.  This first photo is some of the walkers heading up the short stretch on the roadside between marshalling points 2 and 3.  Part of our duties was to advise the walkers to stay on the  left side of the road and try to keep off of the road.  The edge of the grass had been trimmed a bit since we'd been here in August so it was possible to walk off of the road in single file. The sun was shining where we were stood but the clouds up on the hill still looked a bit threatening.

Buxton High Peak HACK

After we had been instructed to stand down by the sweepers I had quite a long gap between my next official duties at Checkpoint 3 at 13:00 so I took Guy back to the control at Grin Low Cottages and then headed to Checkpoint 1.  I had told Lynne that I would try to track her progress around the course and walk with her when I could.  Checkpoint 1 was at the Cat and Fiddle pub, which is the second highest inn in England and was almost 6 miles into the walk.  In this next photo some of the walkers are arriving at the end of the path to cross the road to the checkpoint.

Buxton High Peak HACK

I walked back along the path and found Lynne a few hundred yards from the road and she'd found herself a walking partner called Paul.  He was a Geordie who was currently living in the East of England.  I walked with them to the pub where they registered and picked up some nice energy bars and more water before setting off on the next leg of the walk.  I walked with them  as far as Shining Tor which was one of the highest points on the walk where there was a lot of low cloud obscuring the view, which was a pity because views are stunning on a clear day (see my previous blog from the 12 August).  I left them to continue towards Cat Tor and Pyms Chair while I headed back to Checkpoint 1 to pick up my car.  I told Lynne that I would probably see her next at Checkpoint 2 which was just over half way around the walk. In this next photo are a couple of walkers just arriving at Shining Tor after climbing up the long a fairly steep hill.

Buxton High Peak HACK

Lynne was still with the early walkers so as I headed back down the hill there were many of the walkers on there way up.  Quite a few of them recognised me from marshalling point 2 and were surprised to see me walking towards them.  Many of them remarked that I had a twin brother and one person asked me if I'd been helicoptered onto the top of the hill.  In the next photo it was a bit dull with the low cloud but everyone still seemed quite happy.

Buxton High Peak HACK

As I continued down the hill the mist cleared a little but as you can see from this photo the visibility was still only a few hundred yards.

Buxton High Peak HACK

As I past by the bottom of the dip before the climb up to Shining Tor a couple of the walkers told me that some people had gone the wrong way at the gate which they needed to come through and had gone straight ahead instead.  I rushed back to the gate and on the way someone else told me that one of their party had gone after the ones who'd gone the wrong way to get them back.  I met him back at the gate and he said that he thought everyone had been called back so hopefully we hadn't lost anyone.  I rang control to let them know what had happened and I stopped at the gate to make sure no-one else went the wrong way.  Here's some people in the dip.

Buxton High Peak HACK

I set up an unofficial marshalling point by the signpost and I was amazed that even with me stood there that some people wanted to go straight on.  One of the organisers arrived after a while to put up some extra signs and most people had gone through this point by now so I walked back to checkpoint 1 and set off for checkpoint 2.  I had rung Lynne to let her know that I was held up but was still hoping to see her at checkpoint 2.  Here's the signpost to Shining Tor pointing to the gate.  The clouds had lifted a bit and the sun was quite bright and warming.

Buxton High Peak HACK

I arrived at checkpoint 2 just a few minutes before Lynne got there.  They were making very good time and only a couple of dozen people had set off from the checkpoint so far.  Lynne was keen to get on with the walk so after registering picked up more water and energy bars before setting off again. I walked with them for about a mile and then left them to continue onwards.  Here's Lynne waiting to register.

Buxton High Peak HACK

Most people seemed to be taking checkpoint 2 as their lunch break so I after walking back I hung around for a while to take some photos.  Here's one of the Raynet men wanting to get in the picture.  They perform a vital task to radio back to the control with all numbers of the walkers that go through the checkpoints to make sure no-one goes missing.

Buxton High Peak HACK

Here's one of the volunteers handing a hot drink down to one of the walkers who is sat having a rest while other walkers look on.

Buxton High Peak HACK

Lots of the people coming through the checkpoint recognised me again from earlier and I hope they were pleased to see me wandering about.  One man said he'd been trying to count the number of marshals and said that I was totally throwing out his calculations.  Here's a group of walkers stood around having their lunch and there were many more sat on the grass doing the same.

Buxton High Peak HACK

After I left checkpoint 2 I headed for checkpoint 3 and stopped on the way at a viewpoint that was marked on the map.  On a full screen view of this next photo you can can see walkers coming out from behind the trees at the top centre of the photo, along the road going right to left in the bottom third and then across the reservoir wall. If you click on the photos they are a bit bigger but not quite full screen. Checkpoint 2 was at this end of the reservoir wall, but we can't see it from here.

Buxton High Peak HACK

Before checkpoint 3 there is a fairly steep hill up through the field which Lynne and I found very hard going when we walked it in August.  In the next photo there are some people just reaching the top and looking a bit red in the face.  In the middle of the photo there are some other walkers heading down into the valley which is at the bottom of this hill.  We decided that it must take about 40 minutes to get from the marshalling point on the road (which is the line about two thirds up this photo) to where we were standing near the checkpoint.  We were trying to encourage people by telling them they were at the checkpoint ant there was only four miles to go.  Many people asked about what the rest of the course was like so I was able to tell them what was in store.  It's by far the easiest part of the course as the first bit is flat on an old railway line then a small rise, a steep hill down and then flat again until the woods near the car park where there's a short but steep climb over the brow.

Buxton High Peak HACK

Lots of people recognised me again at the checkpoint and I was very pleased to see how well everyone was doing.  I walked a bit of the way down the hill to meet up with Lynne and carry her backpack for a while up to the checkpoint.  Again she didn't want to stop for long at the checkpoint because she was afraid she'd seize up and not be able to carry on.  Poor Paul was struggling a bit by now but he carried on with her for a bit longer.  Here's some of the later walkers leaving checkpoint 3 on the last stretch.  As predicted it did start to rain a little at about 4:30pm but checkpoint 3 was getting ready to pack up by then.  We were just waiting for the sweepers to come through and let us know everyone was past this point.

Buxton High Peak HACK

Lynne had rung me from the finish and she had completed the course at 3:35 which meant she had a great time of about nine hours twenty five minutes.  She'd left Paul a couple of miles out because he kept stopping and she didn't want to stop. In the end Paul came in about twenty minutes after her.  She'd had her soup and roll at the final checkpoint and was waiting for me to pick her up and take her home.  Apart from her hips and knees aching she said she was feeling OK but starting to get a bit cold.  When I got back to the car park she was ready to go so I didn't get any soup.  There was also a tent with a band playing but we didn't stop.  I just had to check out at the control before I left and return my jacket.

It was a good day and everyone I spoke to commented about how well it had been organised and how friendly everyone had been.  Lynne says she's looking forward to walking again next year and I will be volunteering to marshal.  It will be the same walk next year and I might see some of the same people with any luck. As in my previous post, if you want to contribute to the NSPCC for the Hike Against Cruelty to Kids there is a green Donate button at the top of their page, Thanks.
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