I can distinctly remember the first time I saw Roseberry Topping. It wasn’t long after we moved to North Yorkshire and we were on our way (a long way I might add) to a dentist in Great Ayton. Suddenly I saw this great mountain piercing the skyline – my first thought: “I bet that’s great to run up”.
You can’t actually call Roseberry Topping a mountain. At 320 metres (or 1,049 feet) it falls way short of the UK Government’s marker of 600m for a mountain, and even shorter of the effective 2,000m summit that defines a mountain. Let’s just call it a very big hill, shall we?
A Burning Desire
Every subsequent passing of this rather impressive hill has deepened my desire to climb it. From and A173, the road running underneath it on the northern side, it looks impressively steep. This impression has meant a lack of interest amongst my family to scale its summit. So I’ve patiently awaited an opportunity.
Over time, I checked and re-checked my trusty Ordnance Survey OL26 map. I observed that the area around Roseberry Topping is crisscrossed with Public Right of Way (PRoW). This led me to mentally map out all the possible runs I could do around that area with, of course, a climb to the top included.
The Captain Cook Link
Captain James Cook was born in Marton, near Middlesbrough, in 1728. Eight years later, in 1736, his family moved to a farm near to Great Ayton and close to Roseberry Topping.
He made several expeditions to the summit of Roseberry Topping before he left for Staithes in 1745, then onwards to Whitby and the starts of his seafaring life 18 months later.
From the summit of Roseberry Topping, you can see the Captain Cook Monument as Easby Moor to the east.
Why Run Up It?
I love a challenge, especially where running is concerned. Running up hills is damned hard work but the sense of achievement you get from topping out is like no other. But there was something about this hill that made me want to get to the top. Maybe it’s the distinctive conical shape? Or it could be the location, how it seems to rise out of the landscape.
It could, of course, be that I am a nutter who loves running up hills!
Running Up Hills Is Hard Work
My opportunity to run up Roseberry Topping presented itself this past weekend. Helen had bought a Next snuggle chair on eBay that needed to be collected from nearby. When planning the mini road trip to do this on a Sunday morning I decided that I would stop off in the National Trust’s car park and do what I had always wanted to.
It was a grey day. Not raining but pretty grey and miserable. Not the best day to scale a high peak in the North York Moors. This was the first reasons I almost abandoned my plans.
The second reason for almost abandoning was that my knee was feeling iffy again. After a couple of very gentle jogs during the week, I had felt fine, but Thursday’s short trail run seemed to bring back the issues I thought I had put behind me. I maybe should have listened to my body and abandoned my plan – but I didn’t.
Having parked up and paid my £2.50 for 2 hours parking I set off. I had my rain jacket in my waist pack (it’s NOT a bum bag or fanny pack okay!) and an emergency life blanket (read orange bin bag). I also took a bottle of water, something I rarely do when running. It was uphill all the way from the off.
A gentle upward incline across a gravel bridleway so brought me to a gate.
From this point on things got a little tastier. And by tastier, I mean steep!
Beyond this first set of steps was yet another set of these glute busting monsters! It was a getting brutal before I even really begun.
Moving On Up
There were a few other people out on this grey morning slowly making their way up. And despite the early hour, a few coming down too. Once past the steps (aka glute busting monsters) came the trickier part of my accent – rocks. Often the rocks had been cut into to form steps or, I suspected, placed there. Either way, over time these have become uneven and tricky to run up. Add in the previous night’s rainfall and you can throw slippery into the mix too.
Once out of the tree line you realise you’ve already got up to a height that affords some fantastic views. To the north, I could make out the smoking chimneys Teesside Refinery through the clouds and beyond the fields and towns. Now out in the open, scaling the rocky steps also adds that sense of height. There are a couple of places where an ill-judged skip from me could have resulted in a nasty tumble in the downwards direction.
Reaching the summit meant scrambling up, through and over yet more rocks. Nothing too tricky but my running had by now been reduced to the equivalent of a brisk walk. I was done in! But once at the top, I soon forgot about the scream of the lactic acid in my legs when I saw the 360 degree views of North Yorkshire and Teesside. It was stunning.
By now my knee was throbbing a little. I wouldn’t call it painful but it was certainly enough to cause me a little concern at the prospect of going downhill. Running downhill places an awful strain on your knees and this would be a test.
After a short rest and taking on some water, I prepared to head down. Then I realised I’d forgotten to bring a recovery snack with me. Damn! I wonder what the (overpriced) ice cream van had on offer?
I was soon heading down the northern side of the topping, taking care on the rocks that adorned this face. Back in 1912 the hill resembled a sugarloaf until a geological fault, possible as a result of nearby iron-ore works, cause a partial collapse.
Soon I was on a gentler slope through a field, slightly soft underfoot, and heading to the cover of the woods. In there I was surrounded by bluebells in full bloom.
I felt a sense of relief on returning to the statuary of the car. The run was a little over 2.5km, but throw in the climb and decent and doing it in under 30 minutes was something I was pleased about. I think the relief was that I’d finally done it. I’d wanted for so long to get to the top of Roseberry Topping and I’d finally done it.
I shall return here. Maybe not for a run but in my walking gear with the girls and dog(s) in tow for a summer hike into the moors.
The knee held up but after sleeping on it it’s now stiff. As I write this I’ve already seen my osteopath earlier today. He wanted to see me about my running style. Keep an eye on the blog for that story……
Thanks for reading.