Alcomden Stones in a snowstorm

Last Friday I did one of my more extreme runs, a run up to Alcomden Stones on the moor above Top Withens near Haworth. This was a planned run as I had checked the weather forecast and knew that heavy snow was forecast. With Alcomden Stones being high up and exposed I guessed that this would be my last chance to see them covered in snow for a while as spring and warmer temperatures come closer. I wasn’t sure how much snow there would be but looking out of my back window there was a decent covering so I assumed there would be a bit up on the tops.
On the drive up to Penistone Country Park I could see the snowline on the moors and knew I had made the right decision in going for a run. For me there is something special about running in snow that other weather conditions don’t have. I think it’s the fact that we don’t get snow very often and the way it changes the landscape and what you thought you knew makes it so special to run in. Clag (fog) is my next favourite as again everything changes and takes on a new perspective when you can’t see very far in front of you.
I parked up and knew that this was going to be a very different snow run to the day before when it was bright sunshine and stunning views for miles. The wind was blowing hard and visibility was limited even at Penistone. The top of the moor was obscured in a snowstorm but this didn’t put me off as this area is one I know really well and I was confident of my ability to navigate in bad conditions and be able to keep going if the weather worsened.
Soon I was running along the trail and through ice cold water. It’s a shock for a couple of seconds and then you get used to it. You have no choice but to if you want to run off road in winter. On the trail that leads to the Bronte waterfalls the snow was falling heavier and I still couldn’t see Top Withens as I can on a clear day. I was running well but being careful as the path was wet and ice could be concealed anywhere. The thought of falling and injuring myself wasn’t a very appealing one. I knew that if I did it could be a long time before I was rescued, and the cold conditions would make things worse. I had packed my emergency sleeping bag just in case.
I stopped at the Bronte waterfalls and bridge to take some photos. The waterfall was in full flow which doesn’t happen very often, and the bridge was glistening wet even in the gloomy conditions of the snowstorm. Over the bridge and up the hill to the path at the top of the moor that takes you to Top Withens. At the end of the path I could finally see Top Withens coming into view. It was hidden in the snowstorm but was beginning to appear from the gloom. I ran along the path as fast as I dared but I was happy with my progress. At the end the final climb loomed into view and I walked up to Top Withens.
Top Withens looked very dramatic in the conditions standing out like a dark monolith against the swirling white backdrop. It took on a sense of foreboding that it doesn’t normally have in better conditions and I knew that this view alone was worth coming for as it’s not a view very many people get to see. I took some photos of the house before I set off climbing again to my destination, Alcomden Stone high up on the moor.
The trail to Alcomden Stones was just visible and I began my climb to the top of the moor in deep snow. At the top the moor levels, out and I was able to pick up pace and even run in parts. I was running on memory and hoping that I was going in the right direction. A dark, grey object stood proud of the ground against the snow and I had reached the trig point on the moor. Relived, I could now see the stones a short distance away and I began to run towards them.
The snow on the top was deep. Grip wasn’t a problem but moving fast was because it was deep. I made good progress despite the deep snow and soon I was at the stones and able to take in how different they looked with a layer of snow on them but still looking bleak and black against the white and grey surrounding them. I took some photos of the stones and had a look at the path that takes you down to Ponden Kirk. I know there is a path there, I have run it in the past, but today I could see a start and an end but nothing inbetween apart from snow covered heather. I decided it would be too dangerous to try and run across this today as one wrong step and I could be knee deep in freezing cold water and a sprained ankle or worse.
I turned around and started my run back to Penistone Country Park. The weather had noticeably worsened by now. The wind had picked up and tore my jacket hood off my head. I carried on with droplets of ice hitting my face and head. My footprints had already been covered by snow and I was again running on memory and instinct. I made it to the trig point without any problems but then I started on the right path back to Top Withens and then convinced myself I was going the wrong way and went back to the trig point only to realise I had been going the right way in the first place.
I carried on this path and soon I could see the tops of the two trees next to Top Withens and I knew I was safe and off the top of the moor. At the house I could see the weather was changing for the better and snow was already disappearing in the short time I had last been here. The rest of the run back to Penistone was nice but uneventful. I kept a steady pace watching out for any ice and soon I could see Penistone and knew my warm car was there waiting for me.
It had been a short, exhilarating experience. I had never run in a snowstorm as bad as this or in one where I was so exposed to potential danger. I carried an emergency sleeping bag and had the What Three Words app on my phone, but the element of danger is still there and had I fallen and injured myself anything could have happened. It was worth it for me though to see the moors in their most savage and brutal beauty.

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