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Day Walks

Getting up to the Cairngorms is no mean feat in a minibus that is helpfully limited to 62mph. Luckily I managed to convince a bunch of the Imperial lot to pick me up from Derby as opposed to making me get myself down to London. This saved 3 hours off the journey up there. In the end we arrived at a reasonable time having had a startlingly good run up.

Upon arrival the sensible thing would have been to relax and get an early night in. We didn’t. Instead we set about creating a giant cake we dubbed ‘the beast’, made of cereals, marshmallows, flapjacks, brownies and biscuits; all of which was held together by 12kg of chocolate. Our ‘healthy’ snack for the week complete we finally retired for the night after the second bus arrived. Outside the snow was already falling.

Date: 03/04/12

Distance: 8.4 miles

Ascent: 1770 feet

As we got up the sun was shining and the ground was carpeted in snow. So we quickly got ready and were soon on our way. The going was slow as we trekked past Glenmore Lodge. Walking in a large group of a dozen or so people is always thus, especially as several of the club are more inclined to the ambling side of walking, but today the snow was slowing people down even more.

We eventually emerged out of the forest and immediately headed straight up the flank of Creag nan Gall. The wind had picked up and it was now very cold, even whilst walking. The views all around were simply stunning. It was fantastic to be out.

In the distance we could see large showers moving in from the east. Nobody stopped for long on the summit, the wind was far too bitter, and we were soon ploughing along with the intention of following the ridge up onto Cairngorm.

However soon enough we got caught in one of the showers we’d seen approaching and in the ensuing white out a lot people let it be known that they really wanted to head back down. Soon we were out of the cloud and down the flank of the mountain and the shower passed, giving lovely weather once more. I was a little fed up having suspected this would happen as we quietly plodded round the base of Cairngorm for a while before making the way back to Glenmore.

That evening over a few beers seven of us hatched a plan. It involved a bothy, and a nice long walk…

Date: 18/02/12

Distance: 15.0 miles

Ascent: 4500ft

Saturday looked crap as I stared out the window of the hall. The clag was down and the rain looked set in. So Jack and I decided to form a splinter group and run/walk the Helvellyn ridge as 4 Inns training.

As we pulled into Patterdale the rain stopped and the clag lifted, showing the snow covered tops all around. Only I’d purposefully left my camera back at base. Sod. We could have decided for a gentler walk for the day, but my mind was geared for a challenge, so we decided to do it anyway.

The path up Grisedale, was as ever, delightful. The route climbs gently and soon we were at the edge of Grisedale Tarn. We made quick progress up Dollywagon Pike, passing over the snow line in the process. Taking a couple of breathers we admired the frankly astonishing views down to Windermere and across to Langdale. This was not the day to be without a camera.

Two hours into the day and we were on Helvellyn. We had a brief chat with some climbers about the chances of those trying to cross Striding Edge. It was incredibly windy by this point. On the decent off Lower Man I almost came a cropper as I was caught by the wind on a steep patch of ice and almost blown clean over the edge. I took the remaining section down the pass very slowly indeed.

Up and down we went, getting blown over once or twice all the way to Great Dodd. Then  the weather turned and in came the cloud and the hail. Quickly we sheltered in the summit shelter, before covering our faces and braving the elements to somehow navigate off the correct side of the hill (using a compass with a buff completely covering your face is rather tricky). The mist lifted as we neared the summit of Clough Head, before a thrilling and speedy decent all the way to the A66. Four hours fifty in total. Then we went to the pub.

Date: 19/02/12

Distance: 5.7 miles

Ascent: 3000ft

Sunday was a beautiful day, one of those where words just won’t do my experiences justice. It was quite possibly the best days walking I’ve ever had in Lakeland. So I’ve skimped on words and just added lots of pictures. This time I made sure I had my camera.

The northern fells seemed to have the most of the snow, and so we had Skiddaw in our sights before heading back to London.

As we walked up through the woods around Dodd we were all in base layers in the strong sun. Winter is losing its grip to spring at last.

It stayed warm even out of the woods until upon cresting Carl Side we were forced into fleeces and waterproofs to keep off the wind.

The final stretch of hillside then presented itself to us, and I had to kick steps in the ice in one or two places to stop myself slipping. It was a good job I’d opted for my boots unlike the day before.

We had lunch just off the summit, and I spied one or two likely looking wild camp spots in the depths of the northern fells. The views in all directions were amazing, in the distance we could see the snow capped Pennines and to the north the snow covered Galloway hills. We then took a quick detour to Little Man before following the tourist track back to the road.

The Lakes beckoned, which meant a week of intense work and mild stress was in order to let this trip happen. Friday came and I hopped on the minibus north along with other members of Imperial Collge Fellwanderers. Saturday was spent in the clag and rain wandering round the Consiton Fells whilst Sunday was spent in slightly better conditions in Langdale.

 

 

A full report as and when I find time. I’m lacking behind somewhat in my writing now, although the first half of my Scotland report is almost complete.

Now it’s time to find somewhere in my room to dry all my kit out.

 


Monday saw my last day in the Peak District before I leave for Uni. Despite the fact I’ll probably be out and about in some mountains in a couple of weeks, this was quite symbolic for me, in the sense that as of Saturday I won’t have the chance to head out whenever I feel like it.

I leapt off the train at Hathersage to begin my ascent up to Stanage. All the way up I was pushing, trying to run the whole distance without stopping. Just below the top I stopped, gasping for breath, and sat by the path gazing out over the Upper Derwent Valley. I sat around for ten or fifteen minutes, taking in the solitude of a weekday morning.

Then I was off once more, up to the edge and then west, along the escarpment to a point a couple of hundred meters from High Neb. Looking back along the edge gives one of my favourite views on the Earth. I don’t care how many times I go up there. It’s just perfection. I stood there for a while, alone and happy, before making my way to the trig point and dropping down to the climbers path below.

Here I came across the spot I stopped to eat back in February on a day not dissimilar, sunny with a haze in the sky. Nostalgia gripped me for a while, as I fought with tangled bracken as I tried to cross Bamford Moor. After about five minutes of this I gave up and worked my way back up to the edge, my plans now changed. I took off once more, running hard until I reached Stanage End, where I stopped again, gazing north through south, and spying the campsite from April on the moor below.

I walked north to the A57, and then down the noisy, bustling highway to the Cut-throat Bridge where I took the track south back into the peace and quiet. Soon I picked up the path which leads round in a great arc, following the contours until it meets with Bamford Edge. The last major edge of the Peak I’d yet to walk. The views down to the Ladybower, Win Hill and the valley below were exceptional. A little further along and I spied a narrowing rock, overhanging into the abyss below. Daring myself, I shuffled to the end to look down and admire the drop, but quickly came back once I was nearly buffeted off by the wind.

I descended on a sheep track, running, barely in control down to the road, before leaping over a fence to stand on the tarmac. Heading east I found the track that would lead me down to Bamford and ran once more, this time really on the edge, when I tried to stop I found I could only slow myself down, my thighs were knackered, and so I spent three minutes in a state of extreme concentration to prevent a trip that would send me flying down a 3 in 1 track covered in patches of old concrete. A short walk led me to the station and a short wait before beginning my journey home.

All in all a mixed day really.

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.

Date: 05/07/11

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.

Yesterday, at 5am, myself and one friend set out to walk and run the 43 miles of the Derwent Watershed. Somehow, 15 hours later we arrived back at the Nags Head pub in Edale. Never have I pushed my body so hard, I’ve been more fatigued, after long backpacks, but I was so close to the limit yesterday. After about 32 miles, my body started packing in, I could no longer run downhill, and walking slowed to just above 2mph. It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, if I tried to push on at a faster pace, nothing happened.

Surveying the damage this morning I’m not in such a bad state, one blister, which I dealt with early on, and some very sore muscles.  Already my mind is erasing the pain I was feeling over those last 11 miles and I’m thinking of how we can improve our time down to the sub 12 hours we were aiming for.

It was worth it, without a doubt. Every agonising step.

Date: 03/06/11

Distance: 6.4 miles

Ascent: 1400 feet

We’d managed to hitch a free lift to and from Edale, but only had a 3 hour window in which to do a walk, so we decided on a short bimble up to the plateau via Jaggers Clough, with a descent down Golden Clough.

It was a brilliant day as we headed east, through the fields and Booths of Edale. We soon found ourselves following the track through Clough Farm and into Jaggers Clough.

Once in the lee of the hills the temperature rocketed and the sun was searing down on us. We followed the vague path up the clough a few hundred meters, before sitting down for lunch with our feet in the obligatory stream. However, whilst the sun was almost unbearable, so too was the water. It was so cold it hurt to submerge anything for more than 20-30 seconds, but relief non the less for the overheating hiker.

After our refreshing rest we started off one more, climbing higher and higher. The gradient is gentle, and it’s one of those ascents where you gain height without really noticing it. The final stretch is steep and scrambling is needed in one or two places. Breathing heavily from our final push (we raced each other to the top) the view to Win Hill and Derwent Edge was perfectly framed by the upper reaches of the clough.

Our route took us west, along the southern reaches of the plateau, giving views into Edale, one I never get bored of. We soon reached the top of Golden Clough, where we descended the steep and rocky path into the valley. A short stretch along the paved lower reaches of Grindsbrook lead up back into the village.