#141– Two men and a dog, and the highest noodle bar in the UK (Having a fun time on ‘The Spine Race’!)

Two men and a dog ….

Two men and a dog ….

…. and the highest noodle bar in the UK (JB)

…. and the highest noodle bar in the UK (JB)

“Do you fancy a couple of days up at Greg’s Hut in January?”

Greg’s Hut in January, altitude 700 metres - outlook bleak!

Greg’s Hut in January, altitude 700 metres – outlook bleak!

If anyone other than John Bamber had asked the question, I would probably have answered with a reply that included sex and travel!  For those who don’t know it, Greg’s Hut is a bothy, high on the flanks of Cross Fell in the Pennines.  At 700 metres altitude, it can be cold and cheerless in summer, so the prospect of staying there in a Pennine winter was not on my short list of ‘Fun Things To Do’.  Why did I say, “Sounds like a good idea” ? … Ask the dog ….

Ask the dog ….

Ask the dog ….

Having fun in Snowdonia …. (JB)

Having fun in Snowdonia …. (JB)

…. with the man with the beard

…. with the man with the beard

Never just an ordinary day out! (JB)

Never just an ordinary day out! (JB)

Mist – “I’m getting used to the boss and his daft schemes, but I know there’s something going on when his mate John (the bloke with the big beard) turns up.  Don’t get me wrong, John is a lot of fun, and I’ve had some great hill days with him, but it’s never going to be just an ordinary day out.  I suppose that’s why the boss said yes to the Greg’s Hut trip – those two are both as daft as each other!  Mind you, when they said I could go as well, I was packed and ready before them!”

Setting out on the Greg’s Hut recce for the first Spine Race 2012

Setting out on the Greg’s Hut recce for the first Spine Race 2012

It was autumn 2011, and John had signed up as one of the Support Team for the first ‘Spine Race’ to be held in January 2012 – not having anything better to do, I said that I would join him.  We decided that it might be a good idea to do a recce beforehand – I hadn’t been to the bothy in over twenty years, and John hadn’t seen it at all, so a check on luxuries such as a functioning roof seemed to be a good idea.

Greg’s Hut – roof intact!

Greg’s Hut – roof intact!

Mist – “Haha … I still remember that walk!  I always think that the boss carries too much when we are in the hills – a bag of dog biscuits is all you really need if you think about it – but John turned up with this stuff called ‘coal’ in his rucksack.  It certainly looked heavy, and I was laughing all the way to the hut.  Humans never cease to amaze me ….!”

Spine Race start line 2012

Spine Race start line 2012

John sets up the highest Noodle Bar in the UK

John sets up the highest Noodle Bar in the UK

 Two happy customers – 2012 winners Gary Morrison and Steve Thompson

Two happy customers – 2012 winners Gary Morrison and Steve Thompson

Yes, it’s true, John carried about 10 kilos of coal in on that trip.  Just over a week later we were back again, with John setting up what was probably the highest ‘Coffee and Noodle’ bar in the UK – if it wasn’t the highest, it was certainly the most difficult to get to.  We had four visitors out of sixteen original starters, with the Hall of Fame including joint 2012 winners Gary Morrison and Steve Thompson, followed later by Mark Caldwell and Andy Collister.  Those guys had to work to get their noodles!

Having fun on the 2012 Training Weekend (JB)

Having fun on the 2012 Training Weekend (JB)

What the runners see on the training event – Rochdale by night (JB)

What the runners see on the training event – Rochdale by night (JB)

In November 2012, a training weekend was organised for those taking part in the 2013 race.  There was quite a lot of interest for this (optional) event, and all who attended seemed to have a good time – well, that’s if your idea of a good time is running round 72 kms (45 miles) of Pennine hill and moor.  At least it didn’t snow – we saved that up for the 2nd Spine Race in January 2013.

Spine Race start line 2013

Spine Race start line 2013

‘Mist’ search training in Snowdonia (DH)

‘Mist’ search training in Snowdonia (DH)

‘Mist’ and I were not at the start line for the 2013 event – we had a race of our own to run.  Whilst 47 elite athletes were starting the race at Edale, ‘Mist’ was completing her obedience and stock safety tests to begin training as a search and rescue dog with SARDA  (Search And Rescue Dog Association) Wales.  The two of us made the grade and were accepted as a trainee search team, and on the Sunday evening we set off from North Wales to catch the race up at CP 1.5 at Malham Tarn.

CP 1.5 at Malham Tarn (JB)

CP 1.5 at Malham Tarn (JB)

Life in the big dog kennel (JB)

Life in the big dog kennel (JB)

Mist – “Laugh!! I nearly wet meself! John (the one with the big beard, remember – pay attention at the back!) – John had brought this huge kennel along (I think he called it a tent, but I know what a kennel looks like – I AM a dog, after all).  Anyway, it snowed all night, and I had a great time chasing snowballs around, but it didn’t look like a lot of fun in that kennel, what with loads of cold, wet humans in there.  John was having fun, though”

2012 – backpacking the gear to Greg’s Hut

2012 – backpacking the gear to Greg’s Hut

2013 – traveling in style (JB)

2013 – traveling in style (JB)

Yet again, John showed the world that an extremely large dump of snow was not going to interrupt his new career of ‘extreme noodle chef’.  Having sent all the happy customers on their way, we then set our sights on our old friend, Greg’s Hut.  The previous year we had to backpack all our gear in, assisted by a group of porters who didn’t hide quickly enough when we went looking for help – this time we had a ride up the hill track in Phil’s 4X4.

‘Johnnie’s Noodle Bar’ open and ready for business (JB)

‘Johnnie’s Noodle Bar’ open and ready for business (JB)

Mist – “Yes, that was quite a trip – just as well we had the help, ‘cos I didn’t fancy carrying in two days worth of dog biscuits!  John must have had a brainstorm, ‘cos the week before he carried up twice as much of that black stuff (coal, isn’t it?!) to the hut – didn’t we all fall about laughing when we arrived and found that it had all gone!!”

 Racers leaving Greg’s Hut …. (JB)

Racers leaving Greg’s Hut …. (JB)

…. with a long, cold run ahead (JB)

…. with a long, cold run ahead (JB)

It’s true – over the space of a week, someone had either used or pinched 20 kilos of coal from one of the most deserted places south of the Scottish border.  If they burned it in the stove, they must have inaugurated the highest sauna in the UK – if it was pinched, I hope they suffered a hundred bad backs carrying it away!  A re-supply carried us through, and ‘Johnnie’s Noodle Bar’ was open for business once again.

A busy night at ‘Johnnie’s Noodle Bar’ (JB)

A busy night at ‘Johnnie’s Noodle Bar’ (JB)

All good things have to come to an end though, and in less than two days the surviving athletes had passed through ‘Greg’s’ – time to hit the road again.  After a day at Bellingham we set off for the finish line at Kirk Yetholm.  However, there was a cloud on the horizon – in fact there were lots of clouds, accompanied by a storm warning from the Met Office.  Our little corner of the UK was about to get a visit from Mr Snow!

Mist – “Snow? I should say so! Some of the time you couldn’t see your paw in front of your face!”

Just before the blizzard arrived (JB)

Just before the blizzard arrived (JB)

Heading for the finish (JB)

Heading for the finish (JB)

People who say that they have been in a blizzard in the UK are usually mistaken – a heavy snow fall with a bit of wind ‘doth not a blizzard make’.  However, having been in a couple of blizzards over the years, I can confirm that THIS was a blizzard!  What’s more, we still had two teams out on the final ridge of the Cheviots.  These are ‘little’ hills, around 500-700 metres in altitude, but sometimes latitude means as much as altitude, with the latitude of the Cheviots being about the same as that of Moscow.

Last group to finish, heads held high (JB)

Last group to finish, heads held high (JB)

The next day the storm had passed.  The two groups had done exactly the right thing, and had gone to ground in two different mountain refuges on the ridge (the term ‘refuge’ is used loosely – think more along the lines of garden sheds).  During the night Stu and Joe from the support team had gone up on the ridge for a welfare check, with John and I as backup, and found themselves looking out for their own welfare instead!  The ‘garden sheds’ were life savers though, and the next day the two groups mustered themselves and walked off the ridge with heads held high.

The loneliness of the Pennines in winter (JB)

The loneliness of the Pennines in winter (JB)

There’s a narrow line between adventure and misadventure, and these athletes know all about that – their performances are frequently heroic, often inspirational.  They make the week of the Spine Race an event to look forward to each year, and being a member of the Spine ‘Mountain & Medic’ Support Team is very special to me – that and my part time job as sous chef at the highest noodle bar in the UK.

Mist – “Couldn’t have put it better meself  – any noodles left, John?”

(JB - assisted by Naomi Dodds and Olivia Cheetham)

(JB – assisted by Naomi Dodds and Olivia Cheetham)

Text and images © Paul Shorrock.  Images tagged (JB) © John Bamber, and (DH) © David Higgs – For permission to use any images, please contact the blog author.

About Paul Shorrock

I've been mucking about in the mountains for longer than I care to mention. I started out by walking my local hills, then went on to rock climbing, mountaineering and skiing. Still doing it, and still getting a buzz. I'm now sharing the fun, through my guided walking business (Hillcraft Guided Walking) and by writing routes for other publishers, mainly Walking World and Discovery Walking Guides. Just to make sure I keep really busy, I am also currently a member of my local mountain rescue team.
This entry was posted in 4. Northern England, Bothy days and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to #141– Two men and a dog, and the highest noodle bar in the UK (Having a fun time on ‘The Spine Race’!)

  1. another excellent post Paul…when I see one of yours come up I get a coffee and just sit and read and imagine I am out there. I love the photos too – especially the second to last – I can just feel the cold. Just one question though, does ‘Johnnie’s Noodle Bar’ do takeaways – if so I’ll have a beef satay and chips and chicken fried rice for the Mrs…

    • Cheers SP, and thanks for the kind words. ‘Johnnie’s Noodle Bar’ does do takeaways, but there’s a small delivery charge for anyone outside a two mile radius 😉

  2. Well, it’s not just Noodles of the edible variety in that hut is it! 😉
    The pic of the tents in the snow looks distinctly arctic – not that I’ve ever been. More from Mist please – she’s got a very entertaining take on life

  3. Ah, someone who can recognise a noodle when she sees one 😉
    When I arrived at Malham on the Sunday evening the ‘kennel’ was pitched on grass – two hours later it was ‘deep and crisp and even’!! The Friday night blizzard was also impressive, but had completely passed through by the morning.
    As for Mist, don’t be taken in – I taught her everything she knows about blogging, and do I get any thanks …. ?!!

  4. Greg’s Hut in January sounds just wonderful! Dixie’s already packing……..

  5. Brill blog, Paul 🙂 See you up there in January

  6. The Spine Race definitely is NOT my idea of fun! Going to Greg’s Hut in winter WITH a fire would be though… That coal must have been burnt – you wouldn’t pinch it and carry it from so far away surely? Must have been a bit galling to find it gone within a week though…

    • There’s a Land Rover track to the hut, and there were fresh quad-bike tracks in the snow – my bet is that someone in Garrigill knows that we go there in January, and makes a trip up there for the coal.
      They won’t find next years coal quite as easily 😉

      • Ah – didn’t realise they could drive all the way up there!

      • There are locked gates to stop 4x4s getting up without permission (we have permission and access to a key) but there are smaller gates for walkers, just wide enough for a quad bike!

      • Glad they have locked gates to stop all and sundry driving 4x4s up there. I’m getting a bit fed up of quad bikes sometimes though, although they’re mostly used by farmers. You do see the odd kid messing around on them though. I just don’t really like diesel fumes on my hillwalks really…
        Carol.

  7. Great read! How does Mist’s feet stay warm? Both my borders feets just get full of packed snow. 🙂

    • Hi Ilex, and thanks for visiting my blog.

      If you feel the pads on your dogs’ feet, you will find that they are quite warm – in fact, that’s the only place a dog sweats, which is why they pant to cool down. So, the dog doesn’t get cold feet, especially hardy breeds like Borders.

      The snow-balling effect on the dog’s pads only happens at certain temperatures and with certain snow types – our UK snow is usually wet, which tends not to ball much. The answer is either to trim the hair between the pads (Mist hates me doing this, and there would be a riot if I tried!) or to smear Vaseline (petroleum jelly) between the pads, to stop the snow sticking = happy dog 🙂

  8. lanceleuven says:

    I can’t believe the coal was all stolen! (or used). Well, I hope you all took it in good spirits. I don’t envy John though, carrying all that up there. 🙂

  9. LensScaper says:

    Great Post Paul. It gives a real ‘feel’ for this event that I recall you writing abut shortly after it took place. It looks wintry certainly and this Post’s arrival just about coincided with a rather abrupt shift into more wintry temperatures. Brrr!

  10. Pingback: #148 – Here we go again! The Spine Race 2014 | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

  11. Pingback: #178 – Spine Race – the Movie | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

  12. Pingback: #193 – The Spine Race 2016, as seen from Gregs Hut | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

  13. Pingback: #194 – The Pennine Way in winter – twice as much fun for Javed | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

  14. Pingback: #216 – “I’ve sunbathed on Kinder, been burned to a cinder…” (from ‘The Manchester Rambler’ by Ewan McColl) | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

  15. Pingback: #223 – The Bothy – A very British institution | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

  16. Pingback: #238 – Back to the Pennine Way and the Spine Race | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

  17. Pingback: #249 – Invermallie Bothy and the Commandos of Achnacarry | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s