The Spine MRT challenge

Clare Holdcroft, one of our team members, recently completed the Mountain Rescue Team (MRT) Spine Challenge event, which started on the 11th January. The race is specifically for mountain rescue volunteers and is part of the Spine race series, billed as Britain’s most brutal race! 

The MRT Challenge is 108 miles along the Pennine Way starting in Edale and finishing in Hawes. Staged in winter, the race is non-stop with competitors having to endure whatever weather is thrown at them. Most of the time is spent in the dark with only eight hours of daylight each day at this time of the year! 

The team had three members taking part in the event this year raising funds for the team. Alongside Clare were Kerry Clarke and Neil Stephenson. Kerry and Neil both covered a significant distance in a short time but both were forced to retire with injuries. Nevertheless, a great achievement from both of them in challenging weather conditions; well done! 

The race had earlier set off from Edale and as competitors ascended Kinder Scout they were met with windy conditions, which made for an impressive Kinder Downfall or should that be ‘upfall’ as most of the water was blowing back up onto the Kinder plateau.

The weather took a turn for the worse during the first night. Heavy rain and wind caused many competitors to succumb to hypothermia. The underfoot conditions were extremely muddy in places making progress slow-going and slippery at times too! A number of Mountain Rescue teams kindly provided welcome refreshments and support at various stages on the route, which was really appreciated by the competitors. 

The second night saw Clare falling asleep on her feet as she progressed across the muddy fields towards the village of Malham. It was just after midnight when she arrived in the village where she took a quick 15 minute power nap in the public toilets! This did the trick though as she powered her way to the top of Malham Cove under a beautiful moonlit sky. 

The final stretch of the race after the ascent of Fountains Fell and Pen y Gent involved a long section on the ancient Cam High Road, an old Roman road, which steadily ascends to reach a height of over 550m. It was during this section of the challenge that Clare encountered the full force of Storm Brendan! On the grassy descent into Hawes the gale force wind was that strong that on several occasions, Clare relied heavily on her trekking poles just to stay upright whilst the rain hammered down. Finally, after reaching the outskirts of Hawes she headed to the Market Hall in the centre of town to be welcomed at the finish by team members Kerry and Mike, Neil and Alyson as well as her partner, Darren, who was one of the safety coordinators on the race. She was proudly presented with her medal by Neil, who completed the event last year. 

The race lives up to its brutal reputation with a 55% drop-out rate. On this occasion, the competitors also had to deal with Storm Brendan. Throughout the race, Clare wore her Mountain Equipment team issue goretex jacket, and was grateful for the warmth and protection it provided from the atrocious weather conditions during the event. The team would like to say a big thanks to everyone who sponsored either Clare, who in the process of completing the Spine MRT Challenge raised £350 for the team

Clare, Neil and Kerry before the start of the Spine MRT Challenge

Clare proudly displaying her finishers medal

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