Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Dark & White MTB Orienteering, Hayfield, Peak District, Derbyshire, 13/10/13

Last Sunday I enjoyed my first foray into MTB orienteering and what fun it was too. Along with my girlfriend Deb, we entered as a mixed couple in the vets category in the first of six rounds of the winter series organised by Dark & White under the umbrella of the BMBO (British Mountain Bike Orienteering) who's membership you need to have to be able to take part.  So for a paltry some of £6 for an annual membership we were in and for a couple of weeks prior we eagerly kept tabs on the weather.  We had been enjoying quite a prolonged dry spell with the weather but our luck ran out when strong winds & rain were forecasted for the weekend.

Deb's dipping her dibber

Sunday morning arrived and the forecast was right, the weather was 'stinkingly foul' but we were both committed and there was no way we were going to be put off by a bit of bad weather, after all if you want to be a mtber in the UK then you had better not mind getting a soaking now and again.

That would be me checking the map on the homemade map board

It was an early start for us being about an hour and half's drive from the Scout Hut in Hayfield that was being used as the HQ for the event. The event was scheduled for 3hrs with a start time anytime between 9.00am & 10.30. We arrived about 9.30 and there were already plenty of mtbers, some very professional looking,  flying off in all directions undeterred by the monsoon like conditions.

My own little mighty atom - the indomitable Deb's

It was with a little nervous trepidation that we unloaded the bikes and got saddled up for the short ride from where we parked to the event HQ to pick up our maps and our electronic dibbers for checking in at the checkpoints.  I had been scouring the BMBO website for tips on what to do and about strategy and timing and as I have been able to use a map & compass since my army cadet days in my early teens, I was reasonably confident we would do ok or at least not get lost.

Muddy bums

So with our dibbers dibbed we were off and within minutes we were literally off and walking as we were in the bottom of a valley and as everybody knows when you're in the bottom of a valley all roads lead up and this valley was no different and with stiff cold legs it was just a bit too much too early and had us both wondering what we had got ourselves in to ?

We still managed a smile despite the weather

We huffed & puffed to our first checkpoint and with our first one in the bag we now took a little time to study the map for some semblance of  of a route. After all the effort it took gaining our elevation we decided to go after all the checkpoints that could be reached at our height. This turned out to be a good plan in the end as they were high value points.

The checkpoints are awarded points values dependent on how difficult they are to attain, be that in distance or elevation or if it's a particularly difficult track, which in the Peak District means very rocky paths and tracks.

We were plodding along nicely picking up a checkpoint every 20 mins or so which when considering the weather was getting worse by the minute we  weren't doing too badly for our first attempt.

I've got to give Deb a mention here because she really surprised me with how well she was coping with the technical nature of the course, as we were either bouncing down very rocky trails with rivers flowing down them or ploughing through deep rut's & puddles, which considering she has only been riding a few months and had been really struggling with her confidence of late after having a few falls, was quite amazing.

With an hour left we decided to head back and see if we could pick up a couple more checkpoints on the way back,  which we managed to do and finish within 2 mins of the 3 hr cut off time where you start to lose the points you've gained with every minute your late, and if you're half hour late you lose all your point's !

So all in all I think our first little foray into MTB orienteering was a success, we even made onto the leaders board finishing second in our category with 105 points which we got quite excited about until we realised that there were only two couples in our age category ! Oh well we'll at least we'll have a chance to finish first next time.

We have definitely got a taste for it now and I don't think the weather could be any worse for the next round in Matlock unless it snows,  so I think we can really go for it and see if we can do better.  We're both really looking forward to it.

Roll on round 2 !

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