Montane Spine Race 2020 - navigating with a SatMap Active 20

Montane Spine Race 2020 - navigating with a SatMap Active 20

This weekend is the start of the Winter Montane Spine Race, the ultimate UK challenge for participants.

Within the race there are three events over two distances along the Pennine Way, the starting point being Edale, in the Peak District –

1. Montane Spine Challenger - 108 miles in length
Starts Saturday 11th Jan 2020: 8.00 am

2. Montane Spine MRT Challenge – 108 miles (open to serving Mountain rescue team members)
Starts Saturday 11th Jan 2020: 9.00 am

3. Montane Spine Race – 268 miles in length
Starts Sunday 12th Jan 2020: 8.00 am

You can view live tracking of all participants online here (starting 11th January 2020) -

Paul Freeman, one of the Shepherds Walks guides (parent company of GPS Training), who also leads our Map and Compass training courses for Shepherds Walks is participating in this year’s MRT Challenge, he is raising money for Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue, you can see his Just Giving page here.

Paul is navigating this epic journey with a SatMap Active 20 GPS unit with Platinum mapping (1:10k, 1:25k and 1:50k). He has been on both our SatMap GPS training courses (in the Lakes and Northumberland) and also has attended number of our online webinars in preparation for the event.

The day before Paul set off and headed south to the Peak District I caught up with him and asked him a few questions –

1. Why?

That’s what my wife keeps asking me. I worked on the safety team for the summer event last year and that really got me thinking, I could do this. It also gives me a great platform to raise money for the Mountain Rescue team.

2. Are you walking or running the 108 miles?

I am walking the distance; my knees are not up to running that distance.

3. Have you been out and walked the route?

Yes, in the first week in November I walked 85% of the route, the weather was awful, and I slept in my Bivvy Bag some nights and in a hostel.

When I did this, I took photos of key points and the lowland areas I perceive will be the hardest to navigate, especially at nighttime, as there are so many path alternatives.

I know during the recce Ian (trainer from GPS Training) helped be out a bit with a few problems i was having with my GPS, a big thanks you for that

4. Will you be sleeping or trying to do it in one go?

I honestly don’t know, I walked the Northumberland Coastal Path in one go last year and after 50 miles I started seeing pink Elephants, so I slept for 45 minutes.

I think I will do something similar during the Spine Race, checkpoint 1 is 45 miles in so I may sleep around there, but it may be worth just walking on a few miles further, it will be the early hours in the morning then and I can just Bivvy down and get 45 mins - 1 hour sleep.

5. What speed do you think you will be able to walk at?

In my training walks I have been able to walk at 3 mph, but I know this is dropping down to 2mph during the night.

6. Are you carrying your own food for the event?

You must start with 3,000 calories in your rucksack, this consists of dehydrated expedition food, fruit and nuts, cheese and pies.

You also must be able to carry 2 litres of water.

7. Do you have to carry everything?

No, but they do have a kit list of what you must carry with you.

You also have a ‘Drop Bag’ which will be at Checkpoint 1 and then at the finish. This bag does have a weight limit, but I have packed a complete change of clothing, 6 pairs of gloves and a second pair of shoes and lots more.

My pack I am carrying throughout the event I have got down to 8kg without water.

8. How will you navigate?

Part of the kit list is you must carry a GPS unit, so I have my SatMap Active 20 to compliment my map and compass.

9. How will you power your SatMap GPS for that length of time?

I tried using a battery pack to keep it charged but reverted to the AA battery cradle and I am carrying spare batteries in both my rucksack and drop bag.

10. Will you be relying on your GPS?

During night I will definitely be and also on the section I did not get chance to pre walk, the area around Black Hill.

11. One last think Paul said, I hope you realise I am walking in my Capricorn Mohair Socks, they are my ‘replacement’ socks in my rucksack, so I have warm dry socks to change into whilst taking part in the race. They are the socks ones I wore at Svalbard, 600 miles from the North Pole.

Post the Montane Spine race - I interviewed Paul for the GPS Training Podcast - you can listen to that interview here

Further reading

1. Montane Spine Race website

2. SatMap Active 20 GPS Unit

3. Interview with Lindley Chambers, the safety co-coordinator for the Spine races

4. Interview with Paul Freeman after he finished the Spine Race challenger event

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