Sunday, 19 June 2022

#067 Your trail to the PB270 - Part 1

A couple have months have passed since the inaugural edition of the Ranger Ultras' PB270km Pennine Bridleway Trail Challenge when a pioneering group of trail runners stepped forward to the start line on a sunny April morning. From an organisers perspective, the race delivered everything we had hoped and planned for. Whether finishers or not, the athletes praised how fresh and special this event felt.  Comments which were echoed by volunteers on the Ranger Ultras Safety Team (RUSTies).

I love running in Ranger Ultras events, the team and the routes are great. - Ray Poynter (2nd place)

We're delighted to say that the build up to the 2023 edition is well under way. 

In this blog mini-series, we'll talk about our vision for the PB270, which may not be what you'd expect from a trail running events company. As well as hints, tips and topics to help you arrive at the start line yourself - prepared and ready to enjoy the adventure.

Trophies worth taking home

Why the PB270?
We've already gained a lot of experience of the Pennine Bridleway organising trail running races which use several sections of this national trail. So, a couple of years ago, considering ideas for what our next original race concept would be, a multi-day on the Pennine Bridleway was the next logical step.

A Race Of Many Firsts - Run Ultra - Katie Allen (Editor)

The PB270 concept.
First and foremost, as with all our race routes, the Pennine Bridleway trail has a inspiring mix of picturesque scenery, a real sense of journey, varied terrain and some decent runnable sections which are at times challenging. 

Also in common with our other trail races, the PB270 offers reasonably generous cut-offs so the event is accessible to folks with walk-jog strategies. Yet to cross the finish line still retains the feeling of an achievement which is earned.

As it's a national trail, the route is well marked with fixed finger posts, so navigation is straight forward. We don't add additional waymarking so participants still have to think about the route and engage with the environment. We work closely with National Trails people in planning the event. Ranger Ultras' were the first trail running event company to be awarded the 'Proudly Supporting National Trails' badge. 

All our PB270 checkpoints offer tasty meals which are wholesome and home cooked with fresh ingredients. The checkpoints themselves are a combination of short-stay, longer-stay, bunkroom and floor sleeping. All have a kitchen, showers and toilet facilities. 

Creamy pasta with vegetables & cheese

'The food and drink in the checkpoints was great and well thought through'. - Bobby Cullen (winner)

'Best checkpoint food I've ever had' - Katie Allen (safety team & Run Ultra Editor)

African rice & beans

Then at the finish, PB270 completers are rewarded with lovely, spacious, hostel accommodation, which we exclusively hire. And a themed meal, deserving of your success.

Wholesome & fresh ingredients

But if a participant doesn't make it all the way to Kirkby Stephen, there is no less appreciation of their efforts. 

'a superb coordinated event and a big shout out to the amazing crew of volunteers and all they do for us both on the course and at the checkpoints' - Dave Wright (dnf at CP2)

So while we're not big on overhead gantries and lots of razzmatazz, participants on the PB270 and other Ranger Ultras trail running events can see that their entry fee has been invested in offering great value. A spirit which gave rise to our tag line:

low-key, great-value, big-enjoyment, trail-running

Lets not forget, the Pennine Bridleway is so much more than a horse and bike trail. It offers superb and varied, runnable surfaces. Amazing big-sky scenery, expansive moorland and picturesque riverine valleys. There are lots of real local history gems to spark curiosity and 'wow' moments. The trail truly has something for everyone and enjoyment for all trail runners.

'This is new race is certainly going to be a classic one that’ll soon be on many racers year planner'. - Al Pepper (safety team) 

The PB270 for 2023
The success of the inaugural 2022 PB270 has guided our thoughts on how we'd like the event to develop.

We really like the idea of keeping the event a manageable size and certainly not growing it into a mass participation horror show. A maximum of 40 participants means we can offer many excellent benefits...

  • Unobtrusive numbers which is respectful to local communities
  • Minimal impact upon the National Trail and ecology
  • Participants are not lost in a sea of other runners
  • The team has time to give each runner a level of service which is supportive but not too intrusive or detracting from the adventure.
  • We can confidently continue offering generous cut-offs to suit walk-jog strategies.
  • Quality home cooked food which is nutritious and appetising for hungry runners.
  • Sufficient participants to ensure a sense of competition among the front runners, journeying comradeship in mid-pack and mutual support among the rear markers.
  • The reassurance of a bed, hot meal, refreshments, shower and rest at the finish, in comfortable surroundings.
  • A price point which offers quality and great value. Yet is fair and reasonable to trail runners wallets in these economically challenging times.
  • And not least, our usual warm welcome, thorough planning and organisation for all runners and the race safety team volunteers.
Quality finish comfort

'It was a great experience for me to watch a hugely experienced and professional event team in action and to be a member of such a close-knit team'. - Katie Allen (safety team & Run Ultra Editor)

Bunkroom beds at the finish

Your trail to the PB270
We have a super selection of trail running races which are both excellent preparation for the PB270 as well as great day's in their own right. More details for each are on Ranger Ultras race pages:  http://rangerultras.co.uk/   

Here they are in upcoming date order

High Peak 100km 
(using 25km Pennine Bridleway section between Middleton Top and Chelmorton)

Pen Y Ghent 50km
(using 7km Pennine Bridleway section)

Yorkshire 3 Peaks Ultra 70/100km
(using 7km Pennine Bridleway section

Peak District South & North 43/50/93km
(Stage 1 using 10km Pennine Bridleway section Parsley Hay to Chelmorton)
Also has accommodation options at the Peak Centre Race HQ)

PB18km & PB55km Pennine Bridleway Trail Races
(using Pennine Bridleway south of Hayfield)

Take me to my PB270 entry...
https://www.sientries.co.uk/event.php?event_id=9900










Saturday, 4 June 2022

#066 The changing faces of ancient Britain

Our previous two blog topics showed how echoes of the ancient past can still be experienced by observing and thinking imaginatively. We also introduced some of the latest academic findings on phenomena and change during the stone age. While researching some background to provide a timeline context, two incredible pieces of information came together in my understanding.

From studies of the Star Carr Mesolithic site (blog ref: http://stuwestfield.blogspot.com/2020/05/044-recreating-star-carr-mesolithic.html ), I was aware there has long been a debate about whether the incoming Neolithic people (around 4000BC) displaced or absorbed the indigenous British Mesolithic hunter fisher gatherers. This debate appears to be at least partially settled by DNA research showing that very little of the hunter gatherer genome was carried forward into subsequent populations.

Star Carr, 11000 years ago. Image by Dominic Andrews - york.ac.uk

This indicates that the hunter gatherers were marginalised and outcompeted. At least partly by the felling of forests and land clearance to make way for Neolithic farming practices. Thus taking away the hunter gather tribes traditional food sources. In addition, the Neolithic encroachment may have been accompanied by violence and hostile resistance. The two cultures could not practically co-exist on the same land and were fundamentally incompatible. This polarisation likely made any form of tribal integration unacceptable and taboo. And appears to go a long way in explaining the DNA findings.

We found that British Mesolithic hunter gatherer types were closely related to other hunter gatherers living previously in Western Europe, and shared some aspects of their appearance. Like their Mesolithic continental relatives, they had typically dark skin with light blue eye pigmentation. - Dr Yoan Diekmann (UCL Genetics, Evolution and Environment) ucl.ac.uk news 15 April 2019

Star Carr digital reconstruction
Image: Marcus Abbott, The Jessop Consultancy

However, hunter gather populations can only sustainably occupy country at a lower density than Neolithic farming communities with their more intensive food production methods. So even if there was some mixing, the relative population sizes would produce a significant diminishing of hunter gatherer ancestry over time.  

Recent genome studies of ancient European populations have enabled reconstructions with reasonably accurate estimates of skin, hair and eye colour. The Neolithic population that the Whitehawk Woman belonged to, for instance, generally had lighter skin and darker eyes than Mesolithic occupants, such as Cheddar Man. But were darker than Ditchling Road Man, who arrived with the first wave of light skinned, light eyed Beaker People from continental Europe around 2400BC. (ref:  National Geographic 24/01/2019 - These facial reconstructions reveal 40000 years of English (sic) ancestry. Kristin Romney)

The second connection I made was that the process of migration and population replacement appears to have happened again, 1600 years later. Signifying the end of the Neolithic period and establishment of the Bronze Age.

The Beaker culture originated in Iberia and spread to Central Europe without a significant movement of people. Skeletons from Beaker Burials in Iberia and not generally close to Central European Beaker skeletons. Beaker culture was taken up by a group of people living in Central Europe who's ancestors had previously migrated from the European Steppe. This group continued to migrate west, finally arriving in Britain. (ref: nhm.ac.uk - Beaker People A New Population For Ancient Britain, James McNish) 

Bronze Age woman facial reconstruction by Hew Morrison: 'Ava' Caithness,
circa 2250BC. She had no, or few, genetic connections to local Neolithic people.
Her parents or grandparents lived in the Netherlands before her birth. She was
possibly one of the Beaker People culture. Her straight black hair, brown eyes and a
Mediterranean complexion, compared with the fair pigmentation of Ditchling Road Man,
shows a marked variation of appearance across the Beaker culture tribes.
(Smithsonian Magazine)
 
DNA results of the skeletal remains from the population before and after the arrival of the Beaker People was astonishing. Only 10% of the Neolithic people's DNA was retained! Essentially, there was a near complete population turnover.


But what happened to the Neolithic communities that came together to build iconic megaliths, like Stonehenge and who's visible influence can be seen in the multitude of stone circles and chambered tombs across the British Isles and Ireland? 

Their organisational skills and ability to draw people together for a common cause had been amply demonstrated in their constructions. They also had grown into a large, cohesive, population so they were not at the same numerical disadvantage that the Hunter Gatherers had been. 

A number of theories abound, linked to worsening agricultural conditions and decrease in cereal production. Including, an increase in communicable diseases caused by people and animals living in close quarters. There is contemporary evidence of a plague like pandemic, occurring at various global locations. With populations weakened and perhaps questioning their beliefs and cosmology, the Neolithic culture rapidly collapsed.

Bell Beaker and other Bronze Age artefacts
Image: Junta de Castilla y Leon, Archivo Museo Numantico, Alejandro Plaza

Meanwhile, there were massive migrations from the Eurasian Steppe, into Eastern and Central Europe. These people brought the Beaker Culture and the ability to make superior tools from metal, like swords and daggers. If not passively filling the power vacuum left by diminished Neolithic societies, the Beaker People may have forcibly usurped them, accelerating the process of migration and acquisition of territory.
Hadza at sunset - Image: The Dorobo Fund

This made me question other periods of seismic cultural change and the impacts which are still being seen today. I was drawn to the great Bantu migration. Which, from its origins in West Africa, spread across almost the whole of the sub-Saharan continent. In particular, I wanted to look more closely at the Hadzabe and Masai tribes in East Africa and how they were affected by the great Bantu migration. And then to see how traditional ways of life meet with globalisation.

Masai - Image: Jimmy Nelson Foundation

And so in the next blog, together, we'll imaginatively journey to Tanzania. A country which, through people and places, I feel a deep spiritual affinity.

Stu Westfield
Ranger Expeditions - Trek Guide
rangerexped.co.uk





Sunday, 22 May 2022

#065 In search of the Stone Age - Phenomena

Situated on and around Kilmartin Glen is an astonishing concentration of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments, including standing stones, a henge, numerous cists and a linear cemetary comprising five burial cairns.

Indeed, there are so many that in trying to see as much as possible the visitor might flit from one to the next. Thereby missing a sense of place, the interrelation of monuments and how they fit within the environment. 

Image: Stu Westfield 

Anyone that has ever journeyed on a lower Nile cruise will understand. The week begins as a feast for the eyes, as you experience the wonder at what the pharaohs and ancient Egyptian society achieved all those millennia ago. By the end of the trip, it's all too easy to feel 'all tombed out'. To preserve the initial magic, its helpful not to cram too much in, but to pick and choose. Also to look away from the obvious eye-catching attraction of the monuments and enjoy the view.

With a relatively short time available, I took the same approach to Kilmartin Glen. Selecting a handful of accessible sites, each with a particular interesting feature or reason to visit and see.

We will also be looking at evidence of how monument style, culture and funerary practice changed within Kilmartin Glen from the late Mesolithic to Bronze Age. So it's worth sharing a timeline for additional context. It's important to remember when referencing any timeline to look at both the date and location. The Neolithic and Bronze age transitions, often called 'revolutions' occurred through migration of people, ideas, culture and portable items.

Credit: Kim Biddulph - Prehistory blog


Dunchraigaig Cairn
This was my first stop. Just across the road from a visitor car park. It was unusual in that it has three cists inside, each with a different style of inhumation. (A cist is a burial chamber made from stone).

Image: Historic Scotland visitor information board

The cist to the east contained only cremated bones. The central cist contained a full-length body on top of its cover slab, with cremated human bones inside and below this a layer of rough paving which revealed yet another body, in a crouched position.

Image: Stu Westfield

But the third cist, on the south-east side was the most unusual. Dug directly into the ground, lined with drystone cobbled walls and capped with a massive stone, it contained the remains of up to 10 individuals, some cremated and some not. It also held a whetstone, a greenstone axe and a flint knife.

Image: Stu Westfield

While cairns often became the burial place of more than one individual, it is rare to find so many individuals in one cist. Bronze Age cist burials, like this one, were usually reserved for one person – multiple burials are more often seen in Neolithic tombs. (source Historic Scotland)

Credit: Guillaume Robert, University of Edinburgh

At the time of visiting, the south-east cist had been sealed off to protect a chance rediscovery of deer carvings on the underside of the cap stone. Dating back to the early Bronze age, deer carvings are rare. Most rock art dating from this this period in Scotland is cup and ring marks. While prehistoric animal carvings are known in Europe, this fresh discovery in Britain offers new insight and challenges assumptions about culture and migration in this period.

Nether Largie Standing Stones
Stone circles and standing stones are an ongoing topic of research and debate regarding their significance in terms of celestial alignments. Stonehenge, for example, has long since been associated with the summer solstice sunrise. 

Stonehenge alignments: Source Stonehenge Tours

But archaeologists now believe that the diametrically opposite alignment to the mid-winter sunset was of primary importance, signifying the sun's rebirth and a new cycle of farming activity. 

Greater discussion of this topic is given in the Stonehenge Tours blog:
https://www.stonehenge-tours.com/blog.Astronomical-Alignments-at-Stonehenge.html

Image: Stu Westfield

Research on the the Nether Largie set supports interpretations as both a solar and lunar observatory. The stones mark where the moon rises and sets at key points in its 18.6 year cycle. They also align with the midwinter sunrise as well as the autumn and spring equinox sunset.

Image: Stu Westfield

The Nether Largie stones were erected about 3200 years ago. However, three of the stones are decorated with cup marks and rings, which typically date from 1500 years earlier. Indicating that the standing stones were probably cut from previously decorated rocky outcrops, like those at Achnabreck. A site which we shall return to later. 

Image: Stu Westfield

The slanted top of the tallest stone is a feature which we have seen in circles on Arran and Orkney. The pleasing aesthetic of this cleaving line as it points to the sky is undeniable. With such a detailed level of planning and intent for the purpose of the stones it would be remarkable if this characteristic was not particularly sought out in the selection of raw materials. 

Temple Wood Stone Circles
Walking among the various sites in Kilmartin Glen, they all share a significant sense of being rooted in the landscape. The surrounding hills, nearby river and flat valley bottom are all in common with other ancient sites I have seen in Arran and on the Isle Of Mull. These monuments are a projection of status, cultural identity and perhaps power. Acting as an influence upon the behaviour and compliance of the local habitants. As well to impress, even intimidate, visiting tribespeople causing them to think:

'Here is a well organised community. Look at their splendid interactions with the sky. Their reverence for those which have gone beyond to join the ancestors.  Our journey to this place is significant and meaningful. We should be friends with them. We wish to make our contribution to the celebration of ancestors. Our people could also trade with them. We should seek joining of relations for our sons and daughters. Together we will be strong.'

Or they may have coveted what they saw and with duplicity and guile, overcome and placed themselves in the ruling seat. 

Southern circle. Image: Stu Westfield

On first appearance, the Temple Wood stone circles have more in common with a kerb cairn. Like the Moss Farm Road cairn seen at Machrie Moor on Arran. The larger southern circle, has an obvious cist structure at its centre. Both have rounded cobbles graded to size as an infill. With larger cobbles added as an outer ring on the southern circle. 

Southern circle cist detail, dating to 4000 years ago. Image: Stu Westfield

Archaeology had given us a 2000 year timeline, during which the circles went through several phases of use. Beginning 5000 years ago with a timber circle on the northern site, which was soon replaced with stones and the second southern circle was built. Phosphate analysis, shows that about 4200 years ago a cist just outside the southern circle was used as a burial. The inhumation accompanied by a beaker and arrowhead. 

Temple Wood circles timeline. Historic Scotland information board.

The two cairns built inside the southern circle, around 3300 years ago, have small stone 'false portals' at right angles to their kerbs. Both these fake entrances face southeast, towards the midwinter moonrise. (Source: Historic Scotland information board). 

Northern circle, with a splash of spring bluebell colour. Image: Stu Westfield.

A similar false portal cairn is located near to the stone circle at Lochbuie on the Isle Of Mull. In our film Neolithic Mull we describe the lunar impression an infill disc of fresh, gleaming white cobbles would have upon those seeing the tomb, before it had weathered into the landscape. 

Link to Ranger Expeditions' Neolithic Mull film (false portal kerb cairn at 3min 14sec):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2gTPH8KER0s&t=592s

Nether Largie South Cairn

Image: Stu Westfield

This Neolithic chambered tomb is one of the earliest monuments in Kilmartin Glen, build around 5500 years ago. Typically chambered tombs were originally used as bone repositories, possibly after the body had been excarnated (de-fleshed) in the open. 

Historic Scotland information board.

Maybe with the aid of animals such as sea eagles, other birds or dogs, if the totemic evidence in contemporary Orcadian tombs can be translated to Kilmartin Glen. The bones were then disarticulated, sorted and interred within the chambers. 

Chamber entrance. Image: Stu Westfield

Chamber. Image: Stu Westfield

However, later ritual practice, is evident at Nether Largie South. Around 4300 years ago people reused the tomb for burial, also placing pots and flint arrowheads with the dead inside the chamber. Then, a few generations later in the early bronze age, they re-modelled the tomb. Converting it into a circular cairn like the others along the valley bottom. Two stone cist graves were added. (source: Historic Scotland, information board)

Nether Largie South tomb contents. Source: Historic Scotland

Cist structure. Image: Stu Westfield

Achnabreck Rock Art
Just 8 miles south from Kilmartin Glen is Achnabreck, the site of some of the most prolific and impressive prehistoric rock art in Britain. 

Image: Stu Westfield

The use of landscape at Achnabreck appears to be very different to the Kilmartin context. The monuments at the glen draw people in from the surroundings. Whereas the Achnabreck location is on high ground overlooking the valley between Lochgiphead and Cairnbaan. The cup and ring marks seem to project outwards.

The use of psychotropic substances in rites of passage is common among indigenous communities around the globe. It's not a great stretch to presume that our ancient ancestors used shamanism to induce trance and altered states of mind during ritual activities. They certainly would have had an intimate knowledge of which plants were good to eat, which were toxic and which could be used to produce hallucinogen like effects. 

Image: Stu Westfield

The designs at Achnabreck were created between 5500 and 4500 year ago, during the later Neolithic. They look the most remarkable when the sun is low. Among the most remarkable are seven concentric rings 1 metre across on the middle outcrop and the double spirals on the upper outcrop. Some designs seem to run in parallel to the cracks and fissures in the rock, which are naturally aligned to the midwinter sunset. (Source: Historic Scotland information board)

But what to these symbols mean? Why did people take time to carefully peck these motifs into solid bedrock? And why was it necessary to repeat the exercise numerous times? The lower Achnabreck surface contains 83 symbols, while there are more than 100 on the upper outcrop.

Image: Stu Westfield

More than 3000 panels of rock are have been found in Scotland, while thousands of prehistoric carvings are occur along Europe's Atlantic fringe. The common symbols hint at shared knowledge and beliefs among people that created them. (Source: Historic Scotland information board)

There have been many theories as to their meaning. Some more outlandish than others and quite a few which are frankly ridiculous and belong in the pages of science fiction comics. One of the more plausible which is backed up by experimental reconstruction, is that the symbols are an artefact of the mind, created when either under the influence of, or remembering, a shamanic type experience.

Image: Stu Westfield

We have explored this concept previously when looking at the the markings etched on a mesolithic pendant from Star Carr, Yorkshire. 

http://stuwestfield.blogspot.com/2020/05/044-recreating-star-carr-mesolithic.html

Mesolithic hunter gatherers and Neolithic farmers had different ways of life and culture. There is a possibility that shamanic etchings are a cultural carry-over, but this presumes the Neolithic revolution absorbed and integrated with hunter gatherer societies. The DNA evidence does not always bear this out. Comparative studies of ancient British hunter gatherer skeletal DNA with Neolithic remains, show that the immigrant continental Neolithic farmers replaced the indigenous hunter gatherer populations.

Interestingly DNA analysis of the next major cultural change - the arrival of the Beaker People, which signified the end of the Neolithic and beginning of the bronze age - showed that more than 90% of Britain's Neolithic gene pool was replaced by people related to the Beaker people of the lower Rhine at the start of the bronze age.  

Credit: D Lewis-Williams & D Pearce 

In their book Inside the Neolithic Mind, Professor David Lewis-Williams and David Pearce propose that the fundamental shapes stem from the deep consciousness of homo-sapiens as a species. Hence, they have commonality across continents and millennia, with stylistic differences influenced by and attributed to local or contemporary culture.

However, to us, the enigma is what did these symbols represent in the consciousness and cosmology of Neolithic people? Monument structure and styles, funerary practice and portable artefacts can lead us to speculation and a best guess. We are looking back as if through a frosted window and we may never know is what rituals, rites of passage or ceremonies, prompted the creation of these symbols.

The Stone Age Re-Crafted In Hayfield

I have recreated a range of stone age motifs from the ancient past. Inspired by the distant paleolithic, through the continental and British Neolithic, bronze age and into the Viking era. Some pieces are fashioned into tea light holders, all are distinctive and highly decorative.

https://rangerexped.co.uk/index.php/stone-age-crafts/


Stu Westfield
Ranger Expeditions - Trek Leader


Guided experiences & challenge walks

Peak District 3 Peaks Challenge
Edale Skyline Challenge
Kinder Scout Sunrise Breakfast Experience
Kinder Scout Supermoon Special
Kinder Scout Winter Wonders

Ranger Ultras
low-key, big-enjoyment, great-value, trail-running














Tuesday, 17 May 2022

#064 Ranger Ultras - Footwear and kit survey - PB270 Pennine Bridleway Trail Challenge

The inaugural PB270 Pennine Bridleway Trail Challenge is complete and we're delighted with how it went. There's been lots of great positive feedback, support and interest, for which we're hugely grateful.

The pioneering year 1 athletes enjoyed the challenges of the trail as well as the checkpoints, safety, hospitality and other infrastructure we put in place. Our take-away points from their feedback was that it was just the right amount of support and safety cover, but never too intrusive to diminish the sense of journeying and adventure. Also that the menu and selection of meals was very tasty.

The food selection was something I took a lot of time to get right. I wanted to offer something fulfilling and nutritious, whilst fresh and different in style. The East African rice and beans (mwali na maharage) was a nod to where the inspiration for Ranger Expeditions & Ultras all began, back in Tanzania twelve year ago. Next year, I've plans to upgrade the checkpoint coffee from instant americano to the proper stuff. 

Both athletes and the Ranger Ultras Safety Team (RUSTies) commented that the PB270 is certainly an achievable proposition. But the results show that it is a real challenge and definitely no 'gimme' or  foregone conclusion. With the generous timings it is an inclusive race for participants with walk-jog strategies as well as extremely runnable trails for athletes going for a place. The scenery is varied, with plenty of countryside and open moorland. 


When setting out our stall for the PB270, we aimed to offer an original, long distance trail running event on the iconic Pennine Bridleway. Striking a sustainable balance between quality, value and low key impact upon the environment and communities. We also wanted the finish to be worthy of athletes achievement with a celebration in a lovely venue accompanied by a hot meal and bed to rest.


In the current economic climate, where many hard-working folks leisure budget is being eaten away by ever increasing domestic bills, it seems even more timely that we should offer multi-day trail running which doesn't cost thousands of pounds to enter. 

It's these combination of factors which has guided us to set the 2023 entry at a maximum of 40 participants. With this number I'm confident, as a team, we can roll out the same level of quality, service and experience to each runner. While team members equally enjoy the camaraderie and a fulfilling time with fellow RUSTies. 


Si-Entries to the 2023 edition are now open...
We look forward to welcoming you to a great second edition of PB270 trail running.

https://www.sientries.co.uk/event.php?event_id=9900

In the media...
These excellent reports and podcasts featured the 2022 PB270...

Run Ultra - Editor Katie Allen, has collated reviews and thoughts from athletes (including the winner Bobby Cullen) and members of the Ranger Ultras' Safety Team (RUSTies) in the following feature A Race Of Many Firsts...

https://run-ultra.com/news/a-race-of-many-firsts/

Martin Slack (3rd place finisher) interview with Kev Robinson from Running Your Stories...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3KtHRZWtBoE


The Survey

We asked 2022 PB270 starters to share their thoughts behind kit selection and in retrospect what they might do differently next time. I've collated the answers from both DNF as well as finishers. Naturally, choice of kit, clothing and footwear is subjective and personal. Ideally, any item should be tried and tested in similar circumstances (eg prolonged wear, weather, terrain) before it is considered fit for purpose. The intention here is to help future PB270 participants develop their own race finishing strategies. 

For context: The weather during the 2022 PB270 was dry. Temperature ranged from warm during the day to cold at night. The trail is predominantly well defined with consolidated surfaces. Grassy sections were dry. Very little bog or muddy sections. Questionnaire respondents 1) 2) & 3) were finishers, 4) 5) 6) & 7) DNF. 

Footwear:
What shoe / sock combo did you use on the PB270?
Will you use these again in 2023? Or, if not will you be changing to something different?

1) Two pairs of Scott's, changed to larger half way. Socks, a mixture of Injiji merino and Bridgedale. I had waterproof socks with me but did not use them. I'd go with the same again next time.
2) Karrimoor trail shoes, anti-blister socks which I'd recommend.
3) I bought Scott Supetrac 3 as I'd imagined hard bridleway surface. I intended to use them for the whole PB race. At Hebden I decided to change to a pair of Inov8 road shoes for a change. They got quite wet in the fields after Gisburn but were otherwise good for the purpose. I changed back to the Scotts for the last leg. I'd wear then again next year.
4) Hoka Speedgoat / Mafeate with Injiji liner and med weight trail socks. This suited me on the harder Pennine Bridleway trail. If the weather was too warm, I'd not wear anything over he Injiji to reduce sweating.
5) Inov8 Rocklites with Injiji ultra socks and vaseline on feet. Never had a blister of foot issues.
6) Topo Ultraventure 2 with long Injiji and twin skin socks. Maybe slight overkill but feet were fine.
7) Inov8 Terra Ultra G270 with Injiji socks. I'll be using these again in 2023.

Rucksack:
Which did you use on the PB270?
Will you be changing this?

1) Ultimate Direction 30 litre, very happy with it.
2) Montane Trailblazer 18. My side pockets were not easily accessible without taking the pack off. I'd recommend at least a 20 litre backpack. 
3) OMM 25 litre. I'll stick with this in 2023. Good for the job.
4) Montane Via 20 lite. Good size and comfortable. I'd wear this again.
5) OMM Classic 25 litre. Will probably use again.
6) Geko 20. But too much weight on my dodgy shoulder I plan on using Raidlight with a waist strap next year. Wish I had a larger waist pack with water carrier and front carrier for charging, holding map, easy eating etc
7) Salomon XA25. I'll use this again next year.

Bivvy:
Did you bivvy out? How did this go for you in terms of kit choice and warmth?
If you didn't bivvy out did you wish you had done?

1) Two bivvies. First, 1 hour, shoes off, sleeping bag + bivvy bag, slept well. Second, 45 mins, shoes on, bivvy bag + extra clothes + mat. Cold on waking, but moving within 5 mins.
2) I took a basic Mountain Warehouse bivvy which worked well for the time of year and weight considerations.
3) I quite often sleep out on the course. My original intention was to get in and out of Hebden then bivvy for a sleep cycle around Gorple reservoir. But I was quite exhausted and decided to sleep for 1.5 hours at CP2. I slept for 15 mins not long after the Cam Road, just wearing my trousers and coat.
4) I never bivvy out unless it is an emergency
5) Didn't bivvy out but would have done if make it past CP2
6) Had a nap in Alpkit Hunka. Previously used in combo with 2 season sleeping bag and Alpkit mat, it was quite cool. I'm thinking that a bivvy at the end of the Cam Road (Pennine Bridleway - ed.) might be cold.
7) Didn't bivvy out. I didn't feel the need to and it's more comfortable in the checkpoints.


Generally:
What items of kit worked well for you?
And what items didn't?
Do you wish you had carried/brought more, or less?
If you were to change your strategy what would you do and why?

1) Generally very happy with choices. Macadamia nut mix, nice for days 1 and 2, but made mouth sore on day 3. Good points: Garmin Fenix 6 Pro watch, shoes, rucksack, lightweight poles. I had a transition checklist at checkpoints, that worked really well.
2) Haglofs insulated jacket was pretty lightweight, which was necessary given the size of my pack! I should have taken a baseball cap (for the sun - ed.) as well as winter cap and gloves. Also mittens for when my hands were swollen. Extreme cold gloves were overkill for the time of year. Having headtorches which were both battery based would have been a better choice. Not getting dragged into other runners strategies is hard not to do. I should have set off slower at the start. Given more time, I would have reccied more of the course.
3) Shoe change was psychological. In the cold high winds with full sun, I wore full length tights, shorts, base layer and a warm layer. Which also helped not getting too sun burned (hood up). It was very odd weather. This would not have worked if there was not the cold high wind. I had everything I needed to keep warm. I should have kept on top of my water intake, but was ok. I could have used streams. Conditions were such that I carried too much food, greater than the 2000 calories.
4) All my kit worked well and unlike the Spine I didn't feel my pack was heavy. GPS unit fastened to my shoulder strap and reading glasses around my neck. But this didn't work well as too much to get tangled. I believe GPS watches are much easier to use, but I'm not spending 6 or 7 hundred quid on a watch. My strategy was simply to finish, so I'm determined to have another go.
5) Inov8 mid layer and shorts. Comfy not issues. Montane Fleet jacket at night kept the wind out and warm. Black Diamond poles, highly recommended for those hills. I was happy with my kit, but will explore ways to lighten the load. I need to change my strategy to adapt to fueling on the run for a multi-dayer. If sunny, taking breaks in the shade to cool off and hydrate. At checkpoint, organise packs in drop bag into socks, food, batteries etc to change. Checklist, to charge phone & watch on arrival, before food & drink. Check weather forecast, sort clothes, change footwear and freshen up before the next stage. Hopefully this will keep me focused and ensure a smooth transition. In preparation, probably recce more of the course, although I do like an adventure into the unknown. Oh and request a stair lift is installed for the gentle hill up from CP2 
6) North Ridge merino top and technical tee, with Montane Icarus and Montane Goretex jackets. Perfect for warmth as far as I got. Grateful for Montane ladies running gloves at night. I did need all the water I was carrying as few water sources or shops open when I was passing. Safety team water and snacks were very helpful. Followed the kit list almost exactly, adding sun cream which was perfect.
7) Mandatory kit was spot on for the cold nights and warm days. Using long sleeves and trousers avoided sunburn, taking extra care with the sun (despite sometimes feeling a bit hot) and at night didn't have to change to warmer clothes. Carrying poles sometimes felt like extra weight which wasn't really needed most of the route. I was carrying Montane Icarus and a down jacket which I never used both at the same time, but did so as thinking about safety in case I had to stop for a long period of time. Next time I'd change my strategy to sleep less at Checkpoint 2, where I had my first sleep (7 hours felt a bit of a waste of time). 

Summary

Several useful themes come out of the survey: Centering upon how a little preparation buys a lot of time during the race: Having kit within the drop bag sorted into different stuff sacks to transfer into the race pack at each checkpoint. A crib sheet for efficient transitions. Testing kit in advance. And some selective course reccies. Speaking of which, we have published some reccie notes to help future participants. We intend to add more, so that the whole course has a written up recce resource...

Pennine Bridleway, walkers alternative route around Glossop (avoiding roads)
http://stuwestfield.blogspot.com/2022/01/061-glossop-recce-ranger-ultras-pennine.html

Pennine Bridleway, CP2 Hebden Bridge to Wycoller
http://stuwestfield.blogspot.com/2022/03/062-hebden-to-wycoller-recce-ranger.html

Regarding kit choice, a race pack of 20 litres or more is required. And also, Injiji socks are very popular.

A big thanks to all respondents for sharing their race experience with us. I'm sure this will be an excellent starting resource for future PB270 runners. For folks who didn't make the finish this time, all the team look forward to seeing you again and have the pleasure of celebrating a much earned and deserved finisher's PB270 eco-coaster medal.

Ranger Ultras' offer an selection of trail running events which are excellent preparation for the PB270 and several include sections of the Pennine Bridleway which give the two-for-one bonus of entering a race and reccying at the same time. Do check out our webpage for more details.

http://rangerultras.co.uk/

Happy trails 
Stu Westfield
Ranger Ultras, Race Organiser