Running the Skyline
Running the Edale Skyline - I'd been dreaming about it for months, plucking up courage to attempt it. Today was the day. Blue skies, day off work - no excuses - just do it! I'd studied the route, read blogs, agonised over the best direction and decided on clockwise (I'd found a strava segment) - all carefully researched and planned. I had my map marked up and kit packed.
I park in Edale just after 7am, across from the station (£6 for the day). I like an early start to enjoy the solitude and early morning light. Feeling nervous, I get myself ready; it's 2 degrees, there's a frost on the ground, clear skies - it's going to be a beautiful day.
I set off, up the road, past The Old Nags Head, then turn right to follow the zig-zag path up to Ringing Roger. There's mist in the valley and spectacular views from The Nab - it's a steep climb and I run, walk and scramble to get to the top.
I turn right and follow the rocky moorland track along the Southern edge of Kinder plateau. Edale valley is down below and I'm looking out for a path on my right at mile three. I run and it's amazing; just me, moorland birds and the bright blue sky. I keep running; there are some criss-crossing paths but I have the valley on my right so I think it's ok.
Still running, I've now covered 4 miles and it feels like I'm going in the wrong direction. I check my compass - it doesn't settle; is it broken? I can't see where else I could go, and I don't want to go back, so I carry on, following the path, admiring the beautiful views.
I'm beginning to feel worried, my breathing becomes more laboured; this isn't right, no sign of Woodlands Valley or Win hill and I've almost covered 6 miles. I see a white trig point to my left - that's not supposed to be there! I see a small tent (surprising) and a man getting up, ready for a hike - I hopefully ask if it's Edale Valley we can see in front of us - it's not! I'm not too surprised. He explains where we are - Fairbrook Naze, off my map and far from the Skyline route. He gives me some options. I don't have the stomach for turning back and I've come too far wrong to be able to complete the skyline route. I'm disappointed, but it's so beautiful up here, I will still have a great run. "Keep going on this path" he says "and you'll come to the Pennine Way, you can't go wrong". "Can't I?" - I think. I can follow that path to Kinder downfall, then I'll know where I am and can get to Brown Knoll and back on track. I set off again in good spirits, I can run to Mam Tor and cut across back to Edale - it's a good plan.
I run on along the uneven path, it's hard going and it's taking a while to reach the downfall, I still feel a little panicky, but the views are amazing, I try to relax. Eventually, I see Kinder reservoir in the distance, and then the downfall - now I'm on familiar ground and I'm confident I can reach Mam Tor. I can see what I can salvage from this run.
From the downfall (fairly empty, it's been so dry), I run to Kinder Low trig point and then on to the cross road of paths (I've been here before) and take the route straight ahead towards Brown Knoll. This is easier running and I remember to turn left, over the field boundary, towards the trig point.
Leaving Brown Knoll, I follow a line of paving slabs, stretching out across the moorland. I pick up my pace and run on, looking out for the path junction to turn left along Rushup Edge, for Mam Tor. I realise I've been out for a couple of hours and have a gel to refuel - the time has passed quickly. After the road crossing I climb the steps up to Mam Tor. It's a lot busier here with walkers out enjoying the sunshine. I reach the summit and take a few moments - relieved to have made it this far.
What to do next? I could cross the valley back to Edale and end the run, but I really want to run the route over Win and Lose hill. I can see Lose hill along the ridge and I feel ok - I've covered around 16 miles, I decide to go on along the ridge. I pass Hollins Cross and reach Back Tor, climb the steep steps up to Lose hill to reach the trig point. Now what? I can see the peak of Win hill across the valley - it's tantalisingly close, but I'm getting further away from Edale and I will need to get back to my car somehow. There's a train from Hope back to Edale if I need it - I'll go for the Win hill summit.
I descend from Lose hill and find the left turn I need alongside a stone wall, this isn't signposted, but I'm really concentrating on the map after my earlier mistake, and I'm pretty sure this is right. I turn right onto the road into Hope and find the turn to the left that takes me over the river to the crossing under the railway. It's steeply uphill from here and, approaching 20 miles, I'm even finding walking a struggle. I press on, turning to enjoy the skyline view. I'm beginning to worry I'll run out of water, I should have asked to fill up at the pub in Hope - too late now - I keep climbing and reach the ridge. I attempt more running towards Win hill summit, and am very satisfied to make it to the trig point - I can see Ladybower reservoir to the North East, and the elusive Roman Road I was looking for early this morning can be clearly seen heading North West. Decision time again - it's 6 miles along the skyline route back to Edale - can I make it? It's also a couple of miles to the station in Hope. I'm going to keep going - I'm here, today, and I want to finish the skyline.
An easier downhill section, thankfully, and I follow the Roman Road to run along the edge of the forest. Passing Hope Cross (a guide stoop to direct travellers), I study the map carefully (I would cry if I got lost at this point) - I need to turn to the left to get back onto the Southern Edge of Kinder Scout and retrace my steps from earlier on. I look at the field boundaries and a farm in a clump of trees, I need to be above the farm and find the right path. This time there's a footpath sign - reassuring! I check with a couple having a picnic by the gate - yes, I'm going the right way!
I keep going, I have to walk at the slightest incline now; my legs are very tired and I'm down to my last few drops of water. I get back up on the top and press on, jubilant to eventually see Ringing Roger again. I head back down the zig-zag path, passing 26 miles (feels like a huge achievement), and return to Edale. I run down the road and sprawl on the grass by my car. An exhilarating, surreal experience that pushed me to my limits!
Edale - 22nd April 2021, 43.79km, 1341m elevation, 6h 50mins total time