Monday, 25 March 2013

Return to the Kinder Plateau...

Looking back on the way up to Crookstone Hill.
I had planned on going for a wild camp on this, Monday 18th March; but plans changed and I reverted to a days walking instead. Complete with my full 65ltr rucksack that was packed for camping. Despite narrowing my outing to just the one day instead of two, I still retained the plan of getting back to the Kinder Plateau and seeking out the trig point to the east of Edale Moor. The path to which is notoriously difficult to see and follow exactly, especially when coupled with the type of weather that I had to accompany me...

The day got off to a slow, stuttering start. The train from Derby to Sheffield was delayed by ten minutes, meaning that I only had six minutes to catch my connecting train to Hope. Shouldn't have been a problem. But then, at the ticket machine, just as I got to the front of the queue - silly EMT employee comes over and opens the machine up, emptying money while chatting to a colleague. Taking her sweet F time about it aswell, despite the fact that I was at the front of a strong queue. When I got to a machine, it failed to recognise my card a few times before letting me pay. I missed my connecting train by about twenty seconds. Excellent.

Two cups of tea, a sandwich, and a two hour wait later - I was on my way.

Here is the ViewRanger track of my route:

Following the footpath over the footbridge at the train station, I made my way towards the Roman road that leads to Hope Cross guide post. The path first takes you past Edge Farm, and then as you climb up onto the moorland, past Win Hill also. Once I had climbed onto Hope Brink, a huge blanket of fog had developed. The forecast was for rain and/or snow too, though neither had materialised yet. The fog was such that it was impossible to see the top of Win Hill, and as I worked my way along the brink, towards Hope Cross - it was becoming more and more difficult to see down into the Valley. There was a period of a few minutes when I was teased with a clearer view down towards Ladybower Reservoir, but the clearing never followed my path.

The most clear view of the day, across to Crook Hill and Ladybower Reservoir.
As I came to Hope Cross, I was finding it difficult to decide whether to go up Jaggers Clough or over Crookstone Hill/Crookstone Out Moor to arrive upon the Kinder Plateau. I hadn't walked either route onto the Plateau before, which is what made the decision so hard. I always enjoy setting foot on new ground. As I looked up over Crookstone Hill, the full extent of just how thick the fog was up on the Plateau became apparent. It looked as though the landscape ended about halfway up the hill, as if the Kinder Plateau wasn't even there. I double checked that my compass was still in my pocket, being pretty sure that I'd need it. Deciding to take the path around Crookstone Barn, I pressed onwards up and over Crookstone hill but not before passing guideposts that will always remind me of Dean Read's blog Peak Routes.

The guideposts on Crookstone Out Moor, that have become a sort-of logo for 'Peak Routes.'
As I made my way up and over Crookstone Hill towards the moorland above, the fog became ridiculously thick and blinding at times. Of course I could see the weather from when it was in the distance, and from below; but once in the weather - the full extent was revealed, and I checked again that my compass was in my pocket! I don't find myself to be easily intimidated, but the sheer disorientation that I knew this blanket of vision draining weather would bring was thrust firmly to the front of my mind. I don't consider the Kinder Plateau to be overly dangerous, given that you stick to the edges. But I was bound for the centre of the moors.

Challenging levels of fog on Crookstone Out Moor.
Since the last time I was up on the Plateau, I have wanted to get to another of the three trig points that sit on it. The first time, my friends and I stopped off at Kinder Low. Today, considering  where I had set off from (and because it is apparently the more difficult to get to), I decided to aim for the trig on Edale Moor / to the East of the Plateau. It could be described as being almost in between Madwoman's Stones to its north and Druid's Stone to its south.

Once on the Plateau, it became apparent that the best idea was definitely to take a bearing using the map and my compass. I had read quite alot online about the path that leads to the trig point is non existant at its worst, and a pain in the arse to make out at best. Considering recent rain, the snow that was still around, and the incessant levels of fog, the path was immensely difficult to follow. Using a combination of what parts of the path I could make out, my compass bearing, and the gps on my smart phone (which I had, until this point, never used for navigation) - I worked my way towards the trig. Another thing that made negotiating the route alot more difficult, were the peat groughs. Some as tall as about 8-10 feet, meant that I ended up veering away from the 'path' at times. I use the word 'path' VERY loosely. In summer, when the groughs are dry, I'm sure theyd be alot easier to walk down into, and back up the other side. But attempting that as they are coming out of winter, and all your left with is peat all over your boots. Peat in your boots. Peat all over your trousers. Peat all over your hands. Peat all over your face - if youre not careful! It is brittle and slippery at the same time. As I had to snake through alot of these tall groughs, the trip from the top of Jaggers Clough took alot longer than I anticipated.

If you're not careful, its easy to get lost pretty quickly!
In summer, or at least in conditions of better visibility; I think the trig point would be a lot easier to find. The last time I was on the Plateau, it was pretty easy to see across the moorland. With the trig point being in the middle of the moors, you could probably see it a lot sooner than it coming into touching distance. Possibly even from one of the paths that snake around the edge, if you know where you're looking. No such luck on this day, though. But eventually the trig loomed out of the mist just in front of me.

Edale Moor/Crookstone Out Moor trig point.
It had grown quite late at this point. The time was about around 5pm, and the sunset was due for about 6.15pm. I decided to sit on the exposed foundations for a little while and have a drink and plan where to head next, deciding on the head of Golden Clough. I had more or less given up on the established 'path' itself, but need to go roughly 350m to the east before turning and heading south. To meet up with the stream that runs down Golden Clough. Pacing has become quite a useful tool for me on this and my previous outing, and it helped me know when start heading southwards. I soon met up with the stream, following it to paved path that heads around the southern edge of the plateau. Finally back on a decidedly more solid path, I began to head east and think about getting back down into Edale.

Now, that's a path.
Having walked this path before, and the well worn nature of its unpaved sections - I could confidently put the map and compass away and follow the edge at my own leisurely pace. The mist still persisted over the valley, and nothing of Edale could be seen at all. Just the same as up on the moor, there wasn't much for the eyes to take in. Although, just before I rejoined this path; a mountain hare did its best at making me jump as it darted out in front of me from underneath the heather, most of its winter coat still clinging on.

The weathered gritstone rocks began approaching in all their oddly shaped splendour, and Nether Tor was the first named tor on my route back towards Edale closely followed by Upper Tor. With the extreme weather I had experienced, albeit not wind and rain, it brings it to be much more believable that the formations are wonders of nature. I mean, I do know that nature has sculpted the rock, but they do bring doubt with their significant shapes.

Weathered gritstone rock.
As I moved onwards, the fog did begin to clear very slightly and a bit more of a view down into Grindsbrook Clough was eventually permitted. I had contemplated descending the clough back down into Edale, but thought better of it considering how icy some stretched of path were. I decided that I would head over to Grindslow Knoll eventually, and walk back down to the start of the Pennine Way. Before I got there, I decided to sit at the top of Grindsbrook Clough for a while to have a drink, something to eat and asses the day. The fog had lifted just enough to be able to make out the Great Ridge across the valley. I always enjoy looking at paths and hills that I have walked before, from afar or from a different angle. Finally, I got my chance to do so right at the end of the day.

Grindslow Knoll to the right, and the Great Ridge can almost be made out in the distance.
As I headed to the top of Grindslow Knoll, the wind picked up a great deal - as I expected it might. Whenever I'm on Grindslow Knoll, the wind is always horrendous. Im starting to think that its an ever present entity on this hill. Not just because I am always nearly blown off my feet when I am there, but ice and snow could be seen all along the slopes as if the wind had forced it there.

The windswept western slope of Grindslow Knoll.
Getting towards the bottom of the hill, I saw the train to Sheffield leaving from the train station. I knew there was about an hours wait, so decided to mess around with the camera's settings again in the fading light and take some half decent 'night' pictures. It wasn't truly night just yet, but the dark was closing in. One day I'll be able to afford a DSLR, but for now, my camera will do.

Looking over towards Lose Hill.

Down into Edale, with Mam Tor towering above.
After a bit of messing about, I headed down to the train station. The temperature must have really dropped, because after a little bit of pacing up and down the platform, I came to take a drink and the water in my bottle had completely frozen! It wasn't a long wait thereafter for the train to arrive, but before it did, I took a picture of the platforms under the glow of only their own lights - which I seem to keep doing at whichever station I head back to Sheffield from.

Edale train station at the end of a long days walk.