Sunday, 26 February 2012

Christmas Gill Harris Round - 25/12/2011

As I didn't have any responsibilities to please anyone other than myself this year, I thought I'd celebrate by spending some quality "me time" on the Long Mynd, doing an anti-clockwise Gill Harris Challenge Round. Rising early meant I could enjoy a cooked breakfast and open my presents over coffee before heading over to Church Stretton to start.

Glad the men in white coats didn't arrive at this point. What the *** do I
look like?
The weather was mild, but quite windy, as I headed up onto Stanyeld (via the road up to the golf clubhouse this time). I'd soon got over to Novers Hill where I wondered whether to knock it on the head in view of the strong southerly wind which would be in my face all the way along the highest part of the route. I decided to press on and tried to discipline myself to focus on the next objective rather than the whole of the round, which seemed a little daunting at the time.

In this way I made pretty good progress until just after Calf Hill, where I turned off the Portway a bit too soon and gave myself a few hundred yards of unneccessary heather bashing on the way over to Wild Moor. I soon got my spirits back up with good lines over the very indistinct tops of Long Synalds and Round Hill, before the long trot out to Knolls. One advantage of a Christmas Day round was that there was no flying at the Glider Club, so I was able to run the lovely grassy Portway in both directions on this leg.

Looking very uncertain, not sure why, at the summit of Knolls.
Back at the Glider Club gate, I forked right and ran along the Minton Hill ridge down to Shooter's Knoll before retracing somewhat and joining the Valleys race for the descent from below Packetstone Hill and the climb of Callow. I took a poor line up Grindle from about half way up the path and gave myself more heather bashing, and another bad line off Nills (too far right) and had to traverse through deep bracken to reach the path down to the footbridge in Ashes Hollow.

I climbed Ashlet via the Callow race route ascent which was tough going at the bottom and windy towards the top, but the summit did eventually come. The traverse around and up to Yearlet was very windy and this was the only time I was reduced to a walk on relatively easy ground. It's strange, but it seems to me that the wind can often be very strong on the Grindle, Yearlet and Haddon Hill, and in Cardingmill Valley, and yet quite gentle on the main spine of the Mynd…

I looked at the watch on top of Yearlet and realised that I would probably break the five hour mark, so set off fairly rapidly down to the col at the top of Townbrook. The wind was mostly behind me as I streaked round the easy ground towards the Devil's Dyke, really enjoying the running. A little rise over Burway Hill, and the one an only fall of the day just above the cattle grid got me to the road for a quick final effort into town. I was back in the square 4 hours and 44 minutes after I started, 58 minutes faster than my previous effort!

As I sat on the pavement panting and a little emotional, a lady came over looking concerned and asked me if I was ok. I think she was a little non-plussed when I smiled up at her, said "Never better", and wished her a Happy Christmas.

Thanks as ever to the creators of the route, and also to the friend who's gift of a "We can do it" mug for Christmas gave me the inspiration to stick at it when things got a little tough early on and again on the Callow and Ashlet climbs.

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