Sunday, 15 September 2013

British Preoccupation with Weather

Well I don't know about what it's like where all you readers are based but here in the Peaks it's a little soggy.  As in torrential downpour soggy!  That probably comes as no surprise to everybody who is familiar with the UK, especially those in the North of the country.
In fact it is pretty much a worldwide joke that the UK is a very soggy place to live - we should have been born with gills,  I wonder if in thousands of years time, evolution will take control and we will begin to sprout gills... By the way interesting fact for those who aren't familiar with the start of the Pennine Way in the Peak District, over 350 million years ago the Peak District lay under a shallow subterranean sea as a coral reef - maybe I'm not quite so off the mark with my evolution theory!

It's not just the British preoccupation with the weather that is provoking this mini-rant - in a very round about way this brings me back to The Spine Race.  One of the huge difficulties with The Spine Race, in my mind (as a mere mortal working on the race), is the weather.
The problem is that you don't have the guarantee of snow like you do with Arctic ultras, or the scorching dry heat of the MdS, there is no way of knowing what you will have to contend with on the course.  How on earth do you prepare? It could be waist deep snow, or mild, raining and misty.

This makes packing your gear very complicated - do you want to travel light and fast?  Or heavy and prepared, or can you be light and just as fully prepared?.  This is one question I will be certainly putting to Andy Mouncey in his Q&A session tomorrow night.  This seems to be sparking quite a bit of debate at the moment, especially following the recent rescue of Kilian Journet and Emilie Forsberg by the MRT, who were caught out a little unprepared in the mountains.

Having the Peak District and the Lake District as our playgrounds here at Cracking The Spine it certainly makes us very aware of the dangers of the British weather, which I believe can be underestimated.
Photo kindly provided by John Bamber, photographer and helps with the running of The Spine Race  -
The Spine Race fount of knowledge.  The photo was taken of his checkpoint just below Pen-y-Ghent in January 2013

So what could the competitors be faced with ?  Here are the opinions from Matt Green, our tame ultra runner, from his experiences of Winter running in the UK:

1. It's very rarely a dry cold, it's mostly a wet cold so it will cut through the most fancy of technical jackets, gloves and covering that you choose to adorn yourself with.

2. When you're fighting your way over large expanses of peat and moorland a thin layer of ice is all that stops you from getting wet, muddy feet and legs.

3. If you're lucky it will snow, if you're not it will rain... heat sapping droplets will cling to you and your kit like a slug munching away at your energy.

4. If a freezing mist sets in you're in for a treat, not only will you get increasingly damp inexplicably quickly but every direction will look the same.  Moorland stretches out for miles in every direction, the path that was so clear a minute ago vanishes.  The exquisitely carved peaks that you've been using to navigate become a hallucination and the moss grows on each side of the trees. Even the most experienced of navigators struggles, as anyone that follows the Mountain Rescue Teams on Facebook will know!

If you have similar questions for Andy, then please check in to Cracking The Spine Facebook tomorrow night at 2000hrs GMT.  The more the merrier!

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