Friday, 5 April 2013

A 2 day winter walk and wild camp

After an early Easter Monday pick up in Sheffield, 3 of us met at Birchin Clough car park on the Snake Pass (my favourite starting point for walks in the Dark Peak) with the plan of a 2 day loop of Bleaklow and Kinder.  The roads were clear but there was still plenty of snow around after the recent inclement weather and we knew that this would make for some testing walking conditions. At least the usual peat bog would be frozen so there was a silver lining of sorts.

We descended through the Pine Forest of Lady Clough and followed the path NW to the top of Doctors Gate, already building up a bit of a sweat and deciding to remove a layer of clothing despite the freezing conditions. After a short stretch on the old packhorse route we turned north on the  Pennine Way and started to really notice the strong, bitter easterly wind. Both Mark and Grahame are pilots and I thought it would be interesting for them to see the wreck of the B29 Superfortress 'Overexposed' on Higher Shelf Stones so we left the path and trekked across to the trig point and the nearby wreckage. It was bitterly cold by this point and I'd noticed that Grahame hadn't bothered with coat, hat or gloves. I thought he was just a 'hard as nails' ex-army officer but it transpired that he was just too lazy to get the stuff out of his pack!
The wind was biting on Higher Shelf Stones.
Wreckage of B29 Superfortress

Wain Stones, or 'Kissing Stones'
From the wreck site we took a bearing north to Wain Stones and began to notice that, while most deep snow drifts could be easily walked over, some swallowed your legs over knee deep. Funny but hard going. Stove out for a brew at Wain Stones while a bit of weather passed over us and then navigated to Bleaklow Stones and then followed the Alport Valley via Grains in the Water. The Alport Valley is beautiful and my favourite route in and out of Bleaklow but it was seriously hard going with frequent deep drifts and snow covered slopes that sapped energy and required careful crossing to avoid sliding in to the freezing river below.  The constant walking off-camber was also starting to play havoc with ankles and knees. We stopped for a rest and some lunch along here during which I managed to nudge my pack and saw it start to roll down the slope. Rather foolishly I instinctively hared after it and very nearly came a cropper! I resigned myself to retrieving it from the river :-( No real damage done though. The worst bit was climbing back up again.
Snow covered slopes in the Alport Valley
Ice curtain. River Alport
Alport Castles

One of the best aspects of this route on to/off Bleaklow is the splendour of the Alport Castles landslip and the lovely afternoon weather afforded us fine views of it.  Following the old roman road we returned via the Birchin Clough car park and then descended once again through Lady Clough towards Ashop Moor to find a decent place to camp. A sheltered spot near the river was clearly a spot that had been well used previously and we were a good way away from the road here.

Mark had managed to, ahem, purloin some MoD ration packs and I was impressed with how much they included and the quality of them. You can buy the equivalent of these for about £10 online which makes them FAR better value than the usual individual boil-in-the bag stuff costing up to a fiver in the outdoors shops.
My fave bit of outdoor kit. Primus Eta Packlite Stove
Some Jura Superstition single malt (lovely stuff) kept me warm before escaping the bitter cold and diving in to my sleeping bag. It must have been pretty cold during the night as the water in my bottle had frozen by the time I crawled out in the morning.

Day 2:
After breakfast, a brew and packing up we reclimbed the slope back up towards the Snake Pass and then joined the path through the pine forest to the bottom of Fairbrook. Although we encountered no other walkers, the climb up Kinder Scout wasn't as peaceful as usual as a helicopter made continuous trips over our heads carrying heavy loads (of what I'm not sure exactly) up on to the plateau.

At the top we  stopped for a brew and an early lunch before traversing across the plateau to Crowden Head and then Kinder Downfall. Once again the drifts often helped us by filling in the deep groughs but occasionally they managed to swallow legs up to waist deep.
Near top of Fairbrook, Kinder Scout

More drifts near top of Kinder Scout
From the downfall we headed west with the aim of descending at Mill Hill (Ashop Head) and on to the Snake Path. Inattention on my part meant we started descending near Sandy Heys and although we quickly realised we couldn't be bothered to climb back up so walked along the slope towards where we should have been. When we did get to the stake marking the crossroads of the Snake Path and Pennine Way we realised it would have perhaps been folly to descend where we intended as the snow and ice on the steep descent looked perilous. Certainly no-one was going up or down there anyway. From here we returned to Lady Clough and then the car park via the Snake Path. My right knee was starting to become quite painful along here and so it took a little longer than it should have.

Worryingly, my knee has worsened since the walk. I'm pretty sure it is tendonitis with tenosynivitis as I can feel grating in the tendon sheaths at the back of my knee. I was hoping to get out on the bike sometime during the Easter Break but rest and anti-inflammatories are the order of the day instead. Oh well.

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