Thursday 4 February 2021

#057 The Vikings - from Bronze Age origins to the Urnes Style

In this blog, I explore aspects of Scandinavian culture which have captured my interest and curiosity over the past few months. The stories I have read and listened to feature connections and threads which endure over millennia. From vague school recollections to the the latest archaeology and history. It's been a reminder that Scandinavia has been a formative influence on the British Isles.

In his book and television series, historian Neil Oliver describes the origins of the culture and imagery which readily comes to mind when we mention the Vikings.

"Connections between Denmark and Jutland and the rest of Scandinavia are not only revealed by the trade goods. Especially evocative are the numerous rock carvings - made during the second millennium BC - of what can only be described at long ships. 

Such imagery is common in southern Sweden, but also found in Denmark and Norway. The creation of rock art there seems to have been a preoccupation for hundreds of years and subjects include, people, animals, weapons, unidentified symbols and shallow circular depressions known as cup marks. 

The wheel is a recurring design, here with cup marks. Bornholm, Denmark.

Most common, however, are depictions of seagoing vessels with high prows and sterns, crewed by a score and more rowers. They appear again and again, pecked into outcrops of bedrock - sometimes single ships but often entire flotillas.

Rock art in Tanum, Sweden

By between 4000 and 3000 years ago, then, the ship was already deeply rooted in the psyche of the men who would be vikings".

Inspired by these icons of Bronze Age Scandinavian explorers. I have created these original and decorative objects, hand crafted in Hayfield. 

In total there are thousands of images called the Tanum petroglyphs, on about 600 panels within the World Heritage Area. These are concentrated in distinct areas along a 25 km stretch. While the region was on the coastline when the drawings were made, it is now at an elevation of 25m. (Ref: Douglas Price, Theron (2015). Ancient Scandinavia: An Archaeological History from the First Humans to the Vikings. Oxford University Press. p. 196. ISBN 978-0190231972.

The Vikings were supremely successful in their feats of exploration and conquest. Their culture revolved around acquisition of wealth, highly valued silver and other finery. Social bonds and alliances were cemented by the giving and receiving of gifts. To be redeemed for favours, warriors' services and reinforcement in times of dispute, conflict and acquisition. 

Archaeological artefacts show Viking trade network and influence extended as far as the middle east, perhaps even China. Swedish 'Rus' Vikings plied trade and exerted their power along Baltic routes and were the genesis of the Russian nation. Danish and Norwegian Viking raids on the coastal settlements of western Europe were feared at a time already characterised by brutality. Their influence also penetrated the heartlands of the continent. Vikings' seafaring consolidated their place as founders of Icelandic culture. For a time they even farmed in Greenland. 

Five hundred years before Columbus, a daring band of Vikings led by Leif Eriksson set foot in North America and established a settlement. A feat which continues to inspire: A favourite contemporary author, Michael Ridpath, weaves this into The Wanderer and the modern saga of Icelandic detective, Magnus Jonson.

My Urnes Hound insipred carving is featured in Halcyon - a Ranger Expeditions short film. 

The Urnes (c1040 - 1150) style is the last phase of Viking art. It takes its name from the remarkable carved wooden doors of the stave church at Urnes, Norway. The style is a refinement of the Ringerike style and depends upon interplay of gracefully curving lines for its effect. The animals are still curvaceous and one or more snakes are included with the quadrupeds. The spiral hip is still used, but it is not as large as in the Mammen and Ringerike styles. The animals have large almond-shaped eyes and often bite one another. Ref:

One cannot talk about the vikings for long without acknowledging their contribution to the literary arts. The sagas of Icelanders are narratives mostly based on historical events that took place in Iceland in the ninth, tenth, and early eleventh centuries, during the so-called Saga Age. Originally passed down as oral history, they were recorded around 300 years later, by unknown authors, in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries

The sagas focus on genealogical and family history. They reflect the struggle and conflict that arose within the societies of the early generations of Icelandic settlers. Classics like Njals Saga make for engaging listening in unabridged audiobook format. 

The vegvísir (Icelandic for sign post or wayfinder) is an Icelandic magical stave intended to help the bearer find their way through rough weather. The symbol is attested in the Huld Manuscript, collected in Iceland by Geir Vigfusson in 1880 (but consisting of material of earlier origin). A leaf of the manuscript provides an image of the vegvísir, gives its name, and, in prose, declares that 

"if this sign is carried, one will never lose one's way in storms or bad weather, even when the way is not known"

The vegvisir is mentioned in two sources, the Huld Manuscript compiled by Geir Vigfusson in Akureyri in 1860 and The Galdrabok, a magical grimoire.

Viking icons are still strongly evocative in our modern lives. The Highland Park whisky distillery in Kirkwall draws on Orkney's enduring viking cultural references for its marketing.
Leif Erikson, the Urnes Hound and other Norse iconography have all featured on Highland Park single malt bottles. The archipelago is also the subject of it's very own written saga - The Orkneyinga Saga (also known as the Earls Of Orkney), which shares character connections  with Njals saga.

The success of the Vikings was not just a result of pillaging and raiding. Where they settled, they assimilated themselves into local culture. They even forsake paganism and converted to Christianity. Not out of revelation for the teachings, but with motivation to gain access to fresh lucrative markets and trade. 

Many history texts conveniently cite 1066 and the Battle Of Hastings as the end of the Viking era. The vikings of this period were vastly changed from their early cultural roots in the Bronze Age. The more subtle reality is that by they gradually became different. So when the raiding stopped, Norsemen continued to live in Iceland and the north countries. They had become something else at the same time as leaving their legacy among us. And in this respect they remain unconquered.

Link to more Crafted In Hayfield

Stu Westfield

Ranger Expeditions

Tuesday 2 February 2021

#056 Spine Race Footwear Survey 2020 - Part 2

We continue the 2020 Spine Race footwear survey with a focus on the full distance race.
My sincere thanks to all respondents.

If you haven't read Part 1, I recommend a brief look, so that there's no need to repeat the introductory notes and overall survey aims again.

  • 42 respondents from the Full Spine
  • Spine 2020 conditions included heavy rain, saturated muddy trails, wind chill. In summary typical January fayre, with a few days and nights of wild weather thrown in.
I'll hand over to Alan Cormack at this point, to share his boots-on-the-ground Spiner's perspective from CP2 to Kirk Yetholm in 2020.

After leaving CP2, it was raining a bit, but as I climbed higher up Great Shunner, quite a bit of snow was lying about, especially on the north side and the decent was horrible, water flowing down the path, sunken slab, very unpleasant.

Slow going to Thwaite, we pushed on but decided to get a rest at Keld in the Village hall, got a few minutes sleep and a brew, warmed up beside the fire before pushing on towards Tan Hill, don't remember or think that there was any snow, the path was very wet in places, got an hour at the pub and left. Immediately leaving Tan Hill, it's all bog and rough grass, very wet, some snow lying, cold but it wasn't raining or snowing.

Wasn't too bad getting to Middleton, sun came up and was quite a nice day. Left Middleton and had to use the road diversion until we reached the original path, cold but the path here is quite good underfoot.
Made it to Cauldron although it was very cold. On to High cup Nick, no snow, cold but no rain, down into Dufton. Leaving the CP it was sunny, no rain but as we climbed up to Great Dun fell and Cross fell, snow and very, very, high winds, bloody horrible.

A stop at Gregs Hut, no snow but heavy rain, on reaching Garrigill  I was socked through and got very cold. We pushed on. Very wet fields and rain. Stopped at Alston, leaving muddy fields, very wet and rain. Made a coffee in a barn at Slaggyford, mist and rain, very wet underfoot until we reached Greenhead, wasn't raining at this point. 

Pushed on to the wall, no bad weather, went through the forest before Horneystead, not too bad at all until Bellingham. Left very early morning, cold. I remember putting on another layer a few miles north, very cold and the path became covered in ice, I put on my spikes well before I took the wrong path missing Padon hill. It was sunny as I came into Bryness.

Hard going getting up the hill leaving Bryness, could hardly get up the hill because of the mud, but once on to the plateau it was quite nice, fairly dry and sunny, got to Hut 1 but getting to Hut 2 the wheels fell off. Again very cold, thick ice, no rain or snow, remember another runner falling through ice, difficult to move, I fell a few times and broke a pole, slipped and slide all the way to KY.

I'm sure you'll agree Alan's experience certainly paints a picture of the epic nature of  The Spine. He also superbly illustrates the day-on-day challenges every racer must meet and overcome. Many thanks Alan and proper well done on a thoroughly well earned Spine finish. 


1) What are the most common shoe types used in January 2020?

Note 1: The number of shoe variants here will not tally with the number of respondents as some respondents changed shoe model and type during the race. 
Note 2: It is possible that the numbers of GTX and Mid variants are underreported. The questionnaire asks for Make and Model. However some models are available in GTX/non GTX and/or Low/Mid types. Where a manufacturer is advertising these variants for a specific model online, but the respondent has not stated GTX or Mid, then their shoe type has been counted as non-GTX and Low.

7 Inov-8 low sided variants: 275, 315, 350, X-Talon, unspecified
5 Inov-8 mid sided variants: 320GTX, 335, 345GTX
4 Hoka low sided variants: Speedgoat 3, Torrent, Mafate
6 Hoka mind/high sided variants: Speedgoat, Tor Speed, Tor Ultra
2 Altra low sided variants: Olympus, MT King
7 Altra mid sided variant: Lone Peak 
2 Salomon low sided variants: X-Ultra GTX, Speedcross
3 Salomon mid sided variants: S-Lab Alpine, 4d GTX, GTX 
2 La Sportiva low sided variants: Mutant, Ultra Raptor GTX
2 La Sportiva mid sided variants: Blade GTX, Crossover GTX
3 VJ Sports low variant: Maxx
2 Merrell mid variant: Thermo Rogue
1 Merrell low variant: Other
2 Scott low variant: Kinablau Supertrak, Ultra RC
2 Columbia low variant: Custom, Mountain Mutant
1 Decathlon low variant: Kalenji MT2
1 New Balance low variant: KOM
1 Altberg high variant: Sneeker Aqua

Analysis: As with the Challenger results, compared to 2014, the 2020 Full Spine respondents uptake on wide variations of footwear is remarkable. There's little to separate the top 3 manufacturers in terms of numbers. Inov-8 claims the top spot, Hoka a close second and Altra third. Having held the top spot in 2014 when 50% of respondents wore Salomon, the brand now slips to a definite fourth place.

Generally there is also a greater uptake in Mid/High sided models across nearly all brands. This is also associated with respondents selecting GTX mid-higher sided footwear. Manufactures have certainly reacted to increased demand for lightweight all weather footwear driven by market growth in ultra-expedition, winter trail and fast-packing activities. 
  • Total low sided: 27 (51%)
  • Total mid/high sided: 26 (49%)
Greater choice means more shoe types to fit a wider range of foot shape. However, having personally tested several promising Mid type trail shoes, I'm still seeking the perfect Holy Grail (a lengthy and financially challenging process for participants who are not sponsored):
  • Salomon Sky Ultra Mid (no longer available): Nice wide fit and comfortable out of the box. Ideal last width to allow foot expansion over prolonged trail days. But, the lack of grip was like wearing slicks in anything other than dry conditions.
  • Salomon X-Ultra Mid (normal and wide fittings): Not as comfortable as the Sky Ultra. The wide fitting is certainly more comfortable for multi-day use. Rubbish grip in the wet. 
  • Hoka Tor Speed Mid: First impressions were comfortable and noticeably (visually and by feel) cushioned underfoot. All was well with these until around 30 miles when they showed their major design fault. Now I've hardly got Hobbit feet, but the toe box is so narrow on the Tor Speed that they might have well been designed for a ballerina. I suspect that the last used in manufacture was one set up for the far-east market, where sizing specification tends to be smaller that western markets. When a GTX liner is added, with no upsizing of the last to account for the extra layer in the structure, then the shoe ends up being an even tighter fit.
  • Altra Lone Peak Mid: I'm encouraged by the wide fit to box, but discouraged by the zero drop.
In summary: Personally, I'd like to see a Mid-GTX with decent grip, generous toe box and not-zero drop, offered by manufactures.

2) Shoe type worn at Start vs Finish / Point of DNF

52% of respondents finished in the same shoe which they started (without changing).

Of the respondents which went up in size;

  • 6 went up a 1/2 size
  • 6 went up one full size
The most common point at which respondents chose to change their shoe was CP2.
However, many also changed at CP1

Significantly fewer respondents changed shoe after CP2
This is perhaps because the weather conditions were so poor (very wet and cold) in the early stages of the race. Hence, a change up in size was necessary due to oedema (swelling) combined with taping required for early environmental foot attrition. 

3) Point of DNF:

Of the 42 respondents: 21 (50%) DNF and 21 (50%) Finished

Most DNFs occurred by CP1. In 2020 the early rough weather certainly contributed to this figure.
With a steady base rate of attrition up to CP4
However, as we normally see in each edition of the Spine. With the odd very unfortunate exception, most participants that make it out of CP4 go on to finish the race.

4) DNF reasons given by respondents
  • Fatigue (5)
  • Head not in the game (3)
  • Sleep deprivation (2)
  • Foot problems (5)
  • Sickness (3)
  • Injury (6)
  • Hypothermia (1)
5) What respondents would do differently next time
  • Better grip shoes (3)
  • Larger shoe size at start / or sooner (3)
  • More supportive shoes (1)
  • Use a Mid/High shoe (1)
  • Different shoes (1)
  • Less running in walking boots (1)
  • Tape feet at start / sooner (3)
  • Better type / use earlier, waterproof socks (3)
  • Spare straps for gaiters (1)
  • More sleep (3)
  • More efficient in CP (1)
  • Go slower to CP1 (1)
  • Go solo, not buddying up (1)
  • Worry less about nutrition (1)
  • Better food on the move (1)
  • Better wet kit (1)
  • Longer / more conditioning for race build up (3)
As with the Challenger, the fine details of why participant's race ended are varied. Several elements can be attributed to conditioning. Several racers allude to requiring more time on the trail in the build up period. Time becoming accustomed to self-management, efficient journeying, good bivvy craft and personal admin, is essential preparation for good execution of strategy. 

Written here in plain text, this seems intuitive, logical and perfectly sensible. But even now, 10 years into The Spine, with the huge range of blogs and shared experience in the public domain, as well as the excellent Spine Training event resource: It is astonishing how many participants arrive at the start line with minimal preparation. 

The optimum time to start preparing for your Spine Race is 12 months in advance. 

6) Respondents next Spine Race
  • Return to Winter Spine (26) - It's addictive. Of which 17 respondents would like to return and put the race to bed after DNF. We look forward to helping you on the road to the finish at the Spine Training events.
  • Summer Spine (2) - You get to see where you're going, saving a small fortune on batteries and the sun always shines (!)
  • MRT Challenger (1) - Short course fun, running for a great cause.
  • Maybe (8) - We look forward to welcoming you again in the future.
  • No (4) 
7) Yes (23) Interest in future Official Spine Training Events


Stu Westfield BEng (Hons) FRGS
  • 10 years progression as in the field team member, team leader, control room manager of the Spine Safety Team. Spine Training events Coordinator.
  • 10 year Ranger Expeditions guided treks and hill skills training.
  • 6 years Ranger Ultras  trail running event organiser.
  • Creator of the 'Complete Racer' training course format.
  • Former holder Peak District Boundary FKT
  • Spine Race Flare finisher
  • GS Stella cycling team
Ranger Ultras' trail running series offers an ideal preparation pathway for both aspirant and returning Spiners and Challengers. Many of the courses are in Pennine Way country and include mini-recce sections on the Pennine Way itself. As well as being excellent race days in their own right,

Including the new Ranger Ultras' 

#055 Spine Race Footwear Survey 2020 - Part 1

In a rare quiet moment on the SST HQ afternoon shift during the January 2020 Winter Spine. I thought it would be interesting to see how participants footwear selection had changed in the 6 years since my original Spine footwear survey.

Stu's 2014 Spine Footwear Survey

During the intervening years, the Spine has grown in numbers and international diversity of participants. A trend which is matched by the increasing popularity of expedition style races. Trail running manufacturers have responded by developing a wide range of footwear solutions for this market.

The general aim of the 2020 survey is to analyse how Spiners and Challengers have adopted the latest footwear choices and review them in the context of the race. The survey questionnaire was publicised on the Official Spine Facebook Group. I'm delighted to report that a total of 97 Spiners, Challengers and MRT Challengers responded. Thank you all for your contribution, it's very much appreciated.

Unfortunately, during the period when the completed surveys were coming in, Covid-19 arrived. Plunging us into a succession of lockdown, shielding, not lockdown, tiers, escalation of tiers, more shielding, another lockdown etc etc. The effect of this on race organisation, was adjusting to constantly moving goalposts, repeated re-working of plans, schedules, risk assessments and bookings. Alas for event organisers all over the country, this tsunami of additional admin work came to naught. Meanwhile, by necessity, our lives remain frozen in lockdown limbo.

Consequently, the results of the 2020 survey have been delayed far longer than I would have wished for. But, best foot forward! Spiners and Challengers entered in winter 2021 and beyond will a least have the benefit of these insights.

For our 2014 survey there were 37 respondents
This was greatly exceeded in 2020 with 97 respondents:
  • 10 MRT Challenger
  • 38 Challenger
  • 42 Full Spine
Note 1: Full disclosure. The survey and analysis was undertaken in my own time and is not commissioned by the Spine Race organisation. The survey sample is from the January 2020 Winter Spine Race. Therefore, any views, opinions, interpretations, conclusions and errors are mine alone.

Note 2: The online survey tool I used allows a maximum number of 90 entries to be interrogated in detail. To analyse the other 7 entries would mean subscribing to the commercial level of functionality at a cost of £300. Hence, I chose not to do this. 

I will split the survey report into two parts:
  • Part 1: MRT Challenger & Challenger. I've combined these to give a meaningful base of 48 respondents. The same race distance allows a direct comparison, but I am mindful of minor distinctions in the results. 
  • Part 2: Full Spine
Note 3: For the second half of the survey, I widened the scope beyond footwear. Offering respondents the opportunity to also comment on kit choices and their own race experience.

Note 4: It's important to bear in mind that even with the excellent response, the data set is small. Any results and conclusions are not presented as the only, or one size fts all, solution. Indeed, to read them as other than a starting point for your own ideas and inspiration, would be a mistake. The aspirant Spiner and Challenger should explore, test and refine these ideas to suit their own race strategy.

The 2020 January Winter edition was acknowledged by participants and members of the Spine Team to be particularly rigorous with heavy precipitation, strong wind, extreme wind chill and saturated ground underfoot.


1) What are the most common shoe types used in January 2020?

20 Inov-8 low sided variants: 250, 260, 275, 290, 300, 305, 370
3 Inov-8 mid sided variants: 325, 335
7 Hoka low sided variants: Speedgoat 2/3/4, Challenger, Mafate
4 Hoka mid sided variants: Tor
6 Salomon low sided variants: Speedcross 4/5, Ultra Pro
4 Altra low sided variants: Olympus, King
4 Altra mid sided variants: Lone Peak
4 La Sportiva low sided variants: Helios, Mutant, Raptor
1 La Sportiva mid sided variant: Uragano
1 Keen mid sided variant: Targhee
1 Scott low sided variant: Supertrac 

Analysis: In contrast to 2014 where 30% of Challengers wore Salomon Speedcross, there is now a huge diversity in footwear makes and models. Inov-8 also previously featured well. However the brand now dominates the overall numbers. 
The wide sample spread gives us no distinct trend in specific models of any brand. What we can say is that low sided variants are still the most popular choice in both starting and finishing footwear.

I did not ask what sock choices accompanied MRT Challenger / Challenger footwear. Anecdotally, there are recurrent threads of discussion on the Official Spine Facebook page and several mentions of waterproof socks in the 2020 questionnaire respondents comments. So what we can say is that waterproof socks were used in conjunction with low sided footwear by, at the very least, several Challengers. 

Thus, Challengers relied upon the waterproofness of their sock rather than footwear to protect and preserve the condition of their feet in the testing winter conditions. This is not unexpected, as the merits of low sided Gore-Tex (or other waterproofing) shoes is debatable, given the saturation of the ground, streams in spate and torrential precipitation. All quickly transforming low sided GTX footwear into buckets. Non GTX, being free(er) draining.

There is a perception that the Challenger race duration is too short for participants to suffer serious trench foot or other debilitating / race-stopping foot conditions. Given that, again anecdotally, most of the serious foot issues are seen from around CP2 onwards, there is a general truth to this statement. But, this is no reason for Challengers not to be vigilant with foot care. As there have been participants which have had to DNF with immersion foot. Which is highly likely to have been exacerbated by cold conditions. 

We shall talk more on this subject in the context of Spine racers and their footwear choices in Part 2.

2) Shoe type worn at the Start vs Finish / Point of DNF

Most (66%) of respondents started and finished (or DNF'd) in the same shoe they started off wearing. 
Of the 12 respondents which chose to go up a shoe size (at CP1 because this is the only drop bag access point for MRT Challenger & Challengers):
  • 7 went up a 1/2 UK size
  • 3 went up a full UK size
  • 2 went up two full UK sizes
3) Point of DNF
  • 4 MRT Challenger respondents DNF'd: All at or near CP1
  • 10 Challenger respondents DNF'd: 4 at CP1. 6 at CP1.5
  • Of the Challenger DNFs at CP1.5: 3 had changed up a shoe size at CP1
4) DNF reasons given by respondents
  • Hypothermia (3) 
  • Injury (3) - all injuries were to lower limbs
  • Respiratory (2)
  • Stomach upset (1)
  • Head not in the game (1)
  • Missed cut-off (1)
  • Broken kit (1)
  • Other (1)
The Spine Races are often described as a head, feet and eating game. While this is broadly correct, the respondents answers give a greater nuance to the range of factors which may combine in a less than satisfactory outcome.

5) What respondents would do differently next time
  • Use waterproof socks (1)
  • More changes of socks (4)
  • Bigger shoe size (2)
  • Better grip shoes (1) - Hoka respondent reported little traction on steep grass & mud
  • GTX footwear to prevent grit ingress (1)
  • Better foot care /tape feet (4)
  • More robust waterproof jacket (2)
  • More spare dry clothes (2)
  • Waterproof trousers from the start (1) - ref context of weather conditions
  • Lighter pack (2)
  • Better goggles (1) - Race HQ/SST received multiple DNF reports of blindness / vision impairment due to high velocity wind and driven rain. Many race participants delayed until too late or chose not to use goggles from compulsory kit at item was not accessible in rucksack. Some participants did not use the strap accompanying min-standard Bolle goggles and so the goggle did not make an effective seal around eye sockets.
  • Add knee support to kit (1)
  • Use more anti-chaffing cream (1)
  • Sleep less & more efficient CP turnaround (1)
  • More rest at CP1 (1)
  • Slower pace (1)
  • Eat more / more dried food meals (3)
The respondents answers here do tend to focus on feet and footwear, as the questionnaire leads in this respect. However, the selection of other answers given does indicate the many varied challenges that participants have to manage, absorb or overcome. Some of the things that participants might do next time are personal, such as go slower, or sleep less. Which may contradict, but not negate, another participants thoughts to go faster and sleep more.

6) Spine & Challenger Training 

You can also see how the above list easily fits with our opening slide at the Spine Training Session and 'Complete Racer' courses. Where we talk about working on your 'skills wheel'

The emphasis here is, as always, to use the information available and experience shared. Keep an open mind, take what is useful and develop it to suit your personal strategy. 

An interesting point to make: Feedback from a recent Spine Training weekend was that participants wanted less information about the 'elite' end of the race. This came as a surprise to the course instructors and guest speakers. As the throughout the weekend there was a strong emphasis that all the skills and tips were to help participants develop a personal finishing strategy. The course content was definitely not to make race winners. Perhaps this is a question of perception. In that when folks new to the race see the skills set that finishers have to deploy (all the way back to the celebrated lanterne rouge) and they think of this as just for the elites. 

Here we return to a thread which had been ongoing for almost as long as the Spine: 

New participants not knowing what is needed to know in order to maximise the potential to finish. And the relatively poor uptake (versus much higher rate of DNF in the Challenger and Full Spine) of the Official Spine Training sessions. Despite many, many, previous Spine Training Weekend participants advocating they would still be 'faffing at CP1' or the 'invaluable focus' the TW gave them for their Spine build up. 

Of course the Spine Training sessions will not guarantee you a finish, but what it certain is that participants who have attended have participated with greater confidence enjoyment and generally much further that they would have otherwise done so. Looking at it from another perspective, the Spine Training Sessions should be thought of as a planned investment in yourself, equal to that in kit and equipment.

The Official Spine TW's represent excellent value for money and an superb 'fast track' to Spine wisdom, shared by long-standing members of the Spine Team and experienced guest speakers, in an engaging, informative and inclusive environment. Where there's not such thing as a silly question. And new, returning and aspirant Spiners/Challengers are all welcome.

7) Respondents next Spine race
  • Return to MRT Challenger (5) - three returning to put the DNF to bed
  • Return to Challenger (4) - putting the DNF to bed 
  • Winter Full Spine (24) - most finishers now looking to step up to the full race
  • Summer Fusion (2) - long summer daylight and guaranteed idyllic weather (!)
  • Maybe (10) - Hopefully returning after a rest in January 2021
  • No (1) - Finished and done it.
9) Interest in Official Spine Training events
  • Yes (24) MRT Challenger & Challenger
We look forward to welcoming you to Open Group Official Spine Training or one-2-one bespoke Spine Skills days.


Stu Westfield BEng (Hons) FRGS
  • 10 years progression as in the field team member, team leader, control room manager of the Spine Safety Team. Spine Training events Coordinator.
  • 10 year Ranger Expeditions guided treks and hill skills training.
  • 6 years Ranger Ultras  trail running event organiser.
  • Former holder Peak District Boundary FKT
  • Spine Race Flare finisher
  • GS Stella cycling team
Part 2: Analysis of Full Spine Race questionnaire responses.

Ranger Ultras' trail running series offers an ideal preparation pathway for both aspirant and returning Spiners and Challengers. Many of the courses are in Pennine Way country and include mini-recce sections on the Pennine Way itself. As well as being excellent race days in their own right,

Including the new Ranger Ultras'