Sometimes the stars align, freak weather conditions sweep the nation and events build up from a normal Saturday bimble in the peaks to an epic winter experience that ballads shall be sung about for generations to come.
It’s a rare event working in the outdoors to have a free weekend, even rarer for my partner in crime Steve also to be free, so queue a fortnight of planning what to do with the 10 hours of release from work and family. We were adamant that “It didn’t matter what we did, just being out is good enough”, this of course was purely lip service as we both had our own agenda “to fit in as much to these precious hours as possible”.
Watching the forecast build we were treated with a solid days snow in the Peaks on the Friday, so as Saturday morning hit we bundled axes and crampons into the tiny Fiesta and tore off towards the Edale Valley.
The drive was dreary with little or no snow. “It will be fine once we clear Chesterfield.” I said with mock confidence, the building feeling of pre emptive disappointment. The prospect of trudging through slush or being knee deep in chilled bog was far from appealing. Rolling past Birchen’s Edge the streams were pouring out along the road and Stoney Middleton did nothing to appease the building frustration at the thought of a wasted trip. As we pulled into Hope there was a margin of white on the skyline, but we both struggled to differentiate between cliff and cloud. Along the Edale valley the jury was out, as tops were covered in clag and without a window.
We were the second car in the Barber Booth lay bye. As we kitted up a few others arrived, but there was a hushed feel of muted excitement as we exchanged nods and hellos. From this point we could see that winter had touched the hill, but had no idea what conditions would be like one we got up there.
We headed up a swollen Crowden Clough, the route is a winding one, with small patches of woodland at the lower end, when we emerged from the last patch as the snow began to fall we got the first glimpse of the Kinder Plateau, and it didn’t disappoint.
It was as if we had stumbled through the wardrobe and landed in Narnia. The stream has carved a steep path off of the plateau and other than the most perseverant rocks; everything was covered in ankle, knee to waist deep drifts.
Without a defined path, care had to be taken not to end up in the stream, hopping from rock to rock, clutching at heather tufts to gain headway. Then it gets steep!
We catch up with a man we had been seen in the car park. “There was too much water coming down the other day, it was impassable.” We opt for the steeper left hand bank and carve a trail, hugging the rock and making the most of natural gullies. That amount of snow can be extremely deceptive, nothing can be assumed, especially that the next foot hold is going to take your weight. After working around the main falls the ground flattens out into a frosted icicle garden.
We lunch at the edge of the Pennine Trail, enjoying the muffled silence aided by the blanket of snow. Barely a soul about. That is until a walking group of around 40 members march through, swiftly followed by a group of trail runners. We finish up and move on; just before the local dog walkers come tearing through.
The day takes a turn from this point on, as we work our way along the edges towards Jacobs Ladder. It’s apparent that everyone this side of Sheffield (Actually there were quite a few Liverpudlian accents about) had decided to hit the hills. We follow the massive furrow carved out by the walking group, and can’t go 2 minutes without greeting someone coming the other way. The conditions were perfect for a good days walk. And it was great to see so many people enjoying the hills, and not being put off. Everyone was having their own adventure. Us included.
What is normally a long knee jarring trudge down the steps of Jacobs’s ladder was actually quite fun, partly watching a pair of dog walkers slide down on their bums whilst chasing a giant snowball they were rolling down the hill.
Post by Chris Murnin.
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