January 2010 will probably be a memorable one. Pretty challenging at times in the UK, but for many the snow is already forgotten. Its traces in Hull, gone for over a week. But its still there, and the connoisseur trail runner can sniff it out.
Sunday 17th - MIUAYGA Gold, Ilkley Moor B'tat, 9:25am
For the unitiated, MIUAYGA is the art of Making It Up As You Go Along this was a gift imparted to me by a runner of great wisdom but poor direction. I'll set the scene, bored of off-road events being cancelled due to icy car parks, a disparate band of runners negotiated there way to the jewel in West Yorkshires crown, Ilkley. Nestled between two high moors, neither of which we knew much beyond the tourist trails, this seemed like a perfect place for MIUAYGA - and MIUAYGA = happiness and nourishment for a restless soul.
With a crack team of what average Joe might consider to be crazy people we set off from Ilkley station, wrapped up in underlayers, windproof tops, hats gloves and with backpacks full of water and other goodies to fuel our pursuits. Mark led the way more often than not, which was ok for us as it meant we didn't follow him if he found a hole to fall down, I drifted around somewhere behind, often enjoying a fall of my own and never crying - not once. Claire was reliably more sure footed and sensibly let us do the falling. Claire had also brough Andy - who is quite a handy road runner with fell experiance - for his initiation on Ilkley moor.
We started up the north moor, trying to follow the Ilkley trail race route. This went well at first with Mark and I knowing the route through the woods and along the roads and trails uphill. Once we were up there, it was just white, white and more white, with occasional evidence of tundra poking out. So we plowed through a few miles of snow upto and occasionally beyond knees.
Scenic moment of the day was seeing sunbeams breaking through the low clouds over Rombalds moor, making an ice-covered path appear as a winding golden stairway to the heavens. Heavenly views aside, we were soon lost, following what we though might be paths as they were straight, snowy lines undisturbed by vegetation. These often turned out to be streams. Several comedy falls followed, at one stage I lost my entire left leg in a snow drift on top of a stream. Not easy to pull yourself out of a snow drift as your other limbs just sink in too as you apply pressure. Needless to say nobody followed me that way. After a while we cut our losses and hurled ourselves cross moor in a south-westerly direction to get somewhere more runnable away from this wild place.
We negotiated minor roads, paths and field edges for a while attempting to head south to the river Wharf, cross it and head up the southern moor, or collection of moors - including Ikley moor, collectively known as Rombalds Moor (I believe). This naturally meant we headed up going north again for a while! At one stage we hit a road of sheet ice and I did a cartoon style, both feet from under me slip on sheet ice, briefly airborne before landing on back and elbows.
When back on track I treated the others to aged Jelly babies (possibly from FLM 2009), so pretty much Jelly toddlers. I snacked on buttered malt loaf which is much better than a cereal bar, but Marked trumped me revealing a large pasty from his tardis-like backpack. No doubt the energy from the running had an oven-like effect to warm it nicely.
We passed through Addingham and headed up onto Moor v2. Claire was looking at the farms in envy around dinner time wondering if anyone would like 4 snow/mud covered runners to join them. Onwards and upwards Claire and I nearly fell into a snow obscured mini-crevasse whilst we clambered hand on knees over boulders onto the ridge of Rombalds Moor. I guess this is why most people use the less direct paths to climb the ~600ft up from river level. But once up the top we were on paths made familiar to us from previous LDWA event exploits including the Rombalds Stride and Burley Bridge Hike.
Several people's toes were near freezing on a long, snow, ice, and freezing melt-water soaked path from Windgate Nick masts to Twelve Apostles (Druidical-stone circle) on the top of the moor. Then, again great fun near the end as a few of us slid down the heathery-hillside mostly on our arses to avoid the iced-over steps down towards "rocky-valley". It just started raining as we got inside for Copper Dragon and guiness in the pub afterwards
About 19.5m and over 5 hours on feet. Oh and hundreds of sheep, should sleep well tonight. Mighty God of MIUAYGA.... has accepted our sacrifice and smiles down upon us.