THE weather may have been brutal, and his sweets may have got soggy after he was swept off his feet while crossing a swollen river, but fell rescue volunteer Joe Parsons has just won his second Montane Spine Race MRT Challenge.

Joe, from Carleton, a member of the Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association (UWFRA) completed the 108 mile race, along the Pennine Way in a time of 32 hours and 16 minutes.

It was his fourth time in the winter spine races, taking part in the section reserved for mountain rescue team members - in 2020 he also came first, and in 2019 he was second.

The race starts in Edale and ends in Hawes, taking in Malham Cove, Fountains Fell and Penyghent. It also takes in Pinhaw, from where he can see his home.

Diversions on the day meant an extra seven miles added onto the route, while four foot snow drifts, thick fog and water-logged ground made for brutal conditions and the worst he had ever experienced.

In Craven, he was encouraged along the way by the Craven Energy Tri Club; in Gargrave, where he was so tired he walked into a bush, he started to see friends urging him on and at Malham Tarn, the ‘red mist’ descended and he knew he would make it to the end, with friends joining him to climb Fountains Fell and Penyghent.

Despite all that, Joe says he will be back again next year to beat the elusive course record of 32 hours and 10 minutes.

The Montane Spine events, known as one of the hardest endurance events in the world, began this year on January 8 with the Montane Spine Race, Challenger, Sprint and MRT Challenge.

The toughest, the spine race is a week long event covering the whole of the 268 mile Pennine Way, from Edale to Kirk Yetholm, and is not due to finish until Sunday. Spine races also take place in June.

After finishing the race, Joe in an interview with the organisers, said it was a big relief to have finished, with conditions the most brutal he had yet experienced.

After winning in 2020, he said did not really think about winning again, but what occupied his mind before the race that in 2020 he had only been six minutes away from the course record.

“ I really would have liked that, but I have not had time to train, and am probably a little bit heavier, and the way the weather conditions were, I think it probably would have been practically impossible,” he said.

“It was definitely the most brutal I have seen it. We really had absolutely everything. Starting off on Kinder with ice, then we had fog and high wind. The amount of water that is in Derbyshire is unbelievable, and some of the river crossings were naughty, they really were. But then it is the Pennine Way in winter, its going to be a little bit unpleasant.

“One of the river crossings of what is normally a stream of about four inches deep was probably something like four feet deep and flowing really quickly.

“I went to cross it and got swept away, 40 feet downstream later I managed to climb out and everything was wet, including my sweets, which I was really upset about.”

He said a high point of the race was the sense of community with all the other competitors.

“I think you probably get that with all the spine races, but it is probably more prominent with the MRT Challenge.

“We’ve all got little anecdotes to tell and on the start line there is always a bit of laughing and joking which is really nice.

“Out on the course, everyone is interested in everyone else, its fantastic, you have chats and if you see someone who needs help, you give help and if you need help, they give help. Its a really feel good event, apart from the wet bits. That feeling of belonging to the spine family is just brilliant.”

Joe ran the race as the representative for Grassington based, UWFRA and is raising money for the organisation, which is entirely run by volunteers, and relies on donations and what it and its members can raise.

He said: “The main thing that a lot of people don’t realise is mountain rescue is completely voluntary, we don’t receive anything from the government at all, we provide the service by raising money ourselves, that goes to buy the vehicles and the equipment and in recent years, that equipment has become more and more expensive.

“We always think we need about £50,000 per year just to stand still. The Spine MRT Challenge for the last four years has been a fantastic way to raise some extra money for the team .

“People have donated freely because it is such a good cause, you never know when you might need us.”

Asked by the event organisers whether he would be back next year to hang onto his crown, he said: “I do get to the point, probably at about Horton-in-Ribblesdale, when I think, I don’t know why I am here again, this hurts, its cold, its wet, its a bit miserable and I’m just ready to go home, but by tomorrow I will probably look on the website to see when entries open. “

People can make donations in appreciation of Joe’s efforts and to support UWFRA at: