Writing this was tricky, I didn’t absorb the feeling of being outside as much as I normally do. This was about one thing, and one thing only. Getting round as fast as we could. A new experience, and one I’d like to do again, but not so much as it costs me the feeling I get from walking and backpacking. As a result there’s lots about me being tired. Towards the end I don’t really recall much else. I just walked until we were finished. Sorry if it gets a bit repetative.
Distance: 42.8 miles
Ascent: 6700 feet
My phone alarm went off. It was 4:30am. There was no need to steadily rouse myself from sleep. I was already wide awake. Within minutes I was out my tent into the dawn. It was chilly and I was shivering a lot. I should have bought more layers. Whilst I was getting breakfast, Hamish emerged, and we quickly ate and packed our bags before setting off out the campsite to the Nags Head.
At just gone 5am we began the route proper, and headed down the road, past the train station and turned left at the junction with the Edale Road. Our first objective was Hollins Cross, and we quickly ascended up onto the great ridge. Adrenaline was pumping, we were ready for the challenge ahead, and to cap it all off there was a spectacular dawn being put on for us, a slight mist in the valleys and a weak sun trying to burn off the clouds.
All the way up the great ridge to Mam Tor we watched as the day unfolded before us. From the summit we ran down to the road, before taking the path up onto Rushup Edge. We followed the path up to Lords Seat, discussing the view before us, commenting on how ‘the size of that quarry is always bigger than I remember’ and suchlike. Soon the ground began falling away from us again, and so we ran once more, this time down to Chapel Gate.
The slope up to Brown Knoll then greeted us, with its never ending gradient. After what felt like and age, but was really only a matter of minutes the trig point came into sight, and with it, another hill to run down. We were soon at Edale Cross, where we saw a tent pitched, the occupants still inside. Strange, I thought, until I remembered it was only about 6:30, and not the 9am it felt like to my confused body.
We continued along the Pennine way, stopping briefly at Kinder Low to observe the still sleeping world. The mist in the Hope and Edale valleys was giving of a blue tinge, which was then illuminating them, making the grass look turquoise.
From Kinder Low we ran all the way to Kinder Downfall, a real sense of freedom building, I definitely need to do more of this. Just after crossing the riverbed we met our first person of the day, a rather nice fellow who had been out all night on a walk around Kinder. I have to say the overriding look on his face was one of confusion, probably due to sleep deprivation. He mentioned more layers would have been a good idea, he was stood there only in a jumper and there was quite a cold wind blowing on the western edge. We left him, continuing to the end of the plateau, and then down onto the boggy expanse of Featherbed Moss. Great slabs of stone wind across this bog down to the top of the Snake Pass. I never walked this way before the path was improved, but I imagine it was awful, the damage being done to the delicate ecosystem must have been on a grand scale. As much as I dislike the sight of stone slabs on our moors, I believe they’re better than the alternative.
Twenty minutes after leaving Mill Hill we arrived at the road, where we had a two minute rest to find food and get our breath back before setting outon the winding path to the top of Bleaklow. Soon enough though we were standing on Bleaklow’s summit, which was giving some of the clearest views down to Manchester I’ve ever seen from the Peak District. After some fumbling for the map we headed off into the interior of the moor, following the vague path and stakes to Bleaklow Stones. At this point we’d been on the move for 4 hours 15 minutes, and had a ‘serious’ rest of 10 minutes. Both of us agreed we could easily go to sleep in the warm shelter of the rocks, whilst ploughing through our food for the day. All too quickly the time for us to move again came around, and cursing we forced ourselves upright and onwards.
At this point I made a rather moronic error. We lost the stakes, soon after we set off once more. I didn’t think to consult the map to see where they’d gone (if I had, I’d have seen they’d headed off to the north). Instead we headed up to the Barrow Stones, through some very slow going terrain. As soon as we crested the hill I saw what we’d done. I swore a bit, realising we were going to have to cross the grough infested source of the River Derwent. Luckily it was dry, but our pace was painfully slow. We eventually re-joined the path, but our mile long detour had cost us almost 40 minutes. We’d also lost our momentum. I think due to a mixture of annoyance and disappointment at our mistake and the fact that we were not longer fresh we just couldn’t get back up to speed. The pretty much pathless terrain we were also crossing didn’t help one jot either.
After a period of time (I don’t remember how long) we reached the trig on Outer Edge, where sat down and once more set about eating more food. We were now just under 7 hours into our challenge, and the crossing of the wildest part of the Peak had definitely taken its toll. I was starting to feel the effects of walking and running a little in my legs, and I was definitely getting tired (the early start didn’t help). All too soon we were on the move again, crossing over the cut gate path, and onto Howden Edge, here the path once more becomes defined, and so we started to run again, jogging along the edge to High Stones.
From here we had to cut across moor to pick up the path running from Back Tor to Flint Hill. Never have I crossed a section of moor so difficult to traverse. I’ve been across this before, but at the time I wasn’t knackered. Every step was an effort, and at one point I very nearly broke my leg after sticking it down a large dip in the ground. This was the beginning of the end it terms of running out of steam for any serious walking pace. We made it across but it shattered us. After another quick sit down we tried to get the momentum back and ran a little way along the path to Back Tor, but stopped as it began to go uphill. Upon reaching Back Tor I realised that despite rationing, I was very low on water. We would need to keep a look out for some more. We’d yet to see a flowing stream on our travels so I wasn’t hopeful of finding any high up.
We started running, again downhill, managing to keep it up for a mile or so along Derwent Edge before needing to slow to a walk. Soon we came across the path to Moscar House, and we took it, again breaking into a run for the long downhill section. Somewhere along this section we came across a stream, and I refilled some of my supply, adding chlorine tablets as I didn’t trust the water so low down. We were quickly on our way again, but I was really feeling knackered now, we managed to run down to Moscar House, and then we both ran out of energy and will to force ourselves on. I just bottomed out. I ached, my feet hurt from the pounding, I was tired. I just wanted it to be over.
The walk up the A57, and then along to Stanage End is one of the most soul destroying I’ve ever participated in. Every step of the way I wondered what the hell we’d been thinking even contemplating this. But I was adamant we were going to finish. We forced ourselves to keep moving until High Neb, before dropping of the edge and finding somewhere to sit. We munched on chocolate for a bit and then got up. Which was took so much effort. So was moving. We decided stopping to sit down again wouldn’t be a good idea as we picked our way down to the road below Stanage.
We took New Road down the hill to just below the Ladybower Reservoir before crossing the main road and walking to the base of Parkin Clough. After more chocolate we began our ascent of Win Hill. This particular route is very steep and the woodland around is dense, giving a tropical feel. The humidity certainly made it feel like we were in the tropics. Bizarrely our pace didn’t alter as we climbed; we were able to maintain the same speed as we’d been doing along Stanage Edge. We soon emerged onto the summit, a cooling breeze springing up once out of the tree line. After a quick stop to observe the views, we realised most of the visible horizon was what we had just walked.
We slowly made our way down to Hope, before starting our ascent of Loose Hill. It was horrible, the path just seemed to keep on going up and up and every time I looked up I was no closer to the summit. Eventually I gave in and swallowed some glucose energy gel to give me a burst along the last stretch back to Edale. I don’t really remember too much about the last stretch, I just wanted to be done with it and go to sleep.
Upon reaching the Nags Head everything seemed to have a flat ending, there was no joy to finishing, more relief. After a bit of a rest I brightened up a bit as my body got some more energy and I started to appreciate the challenge again, and what we had just completed.
I’m ready to give it another go. And this time we’ll definitely do it in under twelve hours.