Montane Spine Race – Days 2 & 3
The Montane Spine Race isn’t labelled as ‘perfect in its cruelty’ and ‘Britain’s most brutal race’ for no reason.
Day 1 (10 January) of the 2015 Spine was hostile – severe weather pushed the start of the race back to 11.30am. Mountain safety teams were positioned shortly after the start of the Spine Challenger. Competitors faced gale force winds, snow in the borders, bogs and battering hail. Of the 91 brave Spine Race souls at the start line, after day 1 incredibly few had retired.
Day 2 (11 January) saw no less drama. After Marcus Scotney was forced to retire on day 1, 108 mile Spine Challengers Edward Catmur and Janson Heath battled with each other and continuing wild weather and strong winds to take 1st and 2nd respectively. Edward crossed the finish line in Hawes in 29 hrs 52 mins and Janson completed in 31 hrs 44 mins. Daniel Hendriksen finished 3rd in 33 hrs 20 mins. While the target may initially have been to chase the Challenger course record of 29 hrs 01 mins set by Marcus in 2014, simply finishing at all was a true testament to the grit and determination of the Challenger racers.
Day 2 of the main 268 mile Spine Race meanwhile saw Czech Pavel Paloncy continue to fight Catalan Eugeni Rosello Sole for pole position. That is, until Eugeni had to pull out at checkpoint 2 at Hawes at 14:55. The door was left open for Pavel and he stormed through – the only Spiner to clear CP2 during day 2 and continue on to CP3 at Middleton-in-Teesdale, reaching it at 05.53 on day 3. He was tailed by Eoin Keith and Damian Hall who overnighted at CP2. Pavel was set.
Snow began to fall in the Yorkshire Dales and the ever present gale force winds took their toll. The race organisers upgraded the race conditions to from ‘brutal’ to ‘savage’ and announced a route change between CP3 and CP4 at Alston, allowing Spiners to use lower level routes and avoid high fells, such as Cross Fell.
After few Spiner DNF’s on day 1, day 2 in contrast saw 26 forced to pull out.
Day 3 (12 January) was no less dramatic. The Spine Challenger racers were all accounted for by the early hours – the longest documented time to complete was 70 hours 53 mins. Later in the morning, due to continuing extreme weather, the decision was made to hold all athletes. Those at CP2 were held until 08.00. Pavel (at CP3 by this time) was held there despite his desire to push on. All the while with racers released from CP2 closing in on him…
With racers now arriving at CP3 and still no let up in the weather (indeed, reports were of dangerous conditions further north), the organisers held all athletes until 03.00 on day 4. We can only imagine what Pavel Paloncy must have been feeling, pent up like a lion in a cage at CP3, with other racers piling up around him, his lead now in tatters and nothing he could have done about it.
At the time of writing (morning of 13 January), five Spiners – Pavel Paloncy, Damian Hall, Eoin Keith, Beth Pascall and Mark Townsend were fighting to regain ground from CP3.
Absolutely riveting racing and many spectators are interrupting their usual day to track competitors’ live updates at the start of day 4 of the Montane Spine Race.