Snowy Peaks in April

Saturday 16th April 2016

A week to the day since my last outing and I thought I’d best do the trip report whilst it is still fairly fresh in my mind. The trip had initially been penciled in as a solo trip but Marcus being Marcus had gotten his weekends mixed up. I’ll be lying if I said I was not a little disappointed. I crave the solitude of a solo trip nowadays but i was happy to accommodate my good friend considering he had had a pretty poor time that week. Not to mention the fact that he was bringing the whisky!

Saturday 9th April 2016

The morning was damp and cool as I set off from home for the bus. The forecast for the Peaks was looking slightly more promising with a possibility of light rain or snow showers later on in the day.

I ambled up to the bus stop my pack feeling nice and light on my back despite the tent and relatively heavy winter bag on board; looked up at the digital display to see when the next bus was due.

Those of you who have read of my experiences with the buses from our village will know how inaccurate the service can be. And how unlucky/ill-prepared I am with this initial stage of my trip where buses are concerned…

So I was pleasantly surprised and not a little dubious to see that the next bus was only 5 mins away. I’d left with an hour and a half to spare before our train was due to give myself ample time based upon previous experiences. I need not have bothered on this occasion it turned out. However, it would not have surprised me that if I had not set off early something would have gone wrong.

The bus arrived in town at 8:35am so I had just short of an hour to kill before the train. I ambled about the almost deserted shopping center window shopping, popped in the Pound Shop to see if I could spot something worth supplementing my meals for the next day and a half, came out empty handed, gave my last 70 pence in change to a homeless guy and went and bought myself a pastry to eat on the train later.

The rain had slowed to an intermittent drizzle as I walked into the train station.

Sitting on the platform I rang Marcus to see how he was progressing.

‘I’m on my way’, he told me reassuringly.

It was 25 minutes until the train was due. Remarkably it looked as though things were actually going smoothly for a change.

And they did!

We stepped off the train in Edale just after midday. It was cool, with a little wind, cloudy but not a sign of rain.

Time for a pint in the Rambler inn.

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Suitably refreshed and hydrated we set off along the Pennine Way toward the foot of Jacob’s Ladder.

There were a few people about but not so many as I thought there might have been. Probably just as well as there had been rain in the previous couple of days and the path was muddy enough in places where it was not paved. Negotiating some of the sections was a slippery business without the need to skirt around hordes of people, each one of us trying not to relinquish what little firm ground was available.

At Upper Booth we took a path up in to Crowden Clough. The way showed more footfall than I was hoping for on an ascent by a clough. Fortunately it was not too worn and muddy and we saw only a handful of people all the way up. It was certainly preferable to the ascent by Jacob’s Ladder.

We were passed by a young guy in tracksuit bottoms and casual trainers without even a small rucksack. He made his way up alongside the brook as we followed the path on a more direct route beneath Crowden Tower rocks. A pair of young lasses and a lad all in their late teens and a bit on the tubby side were making their slow ungainly way down the path toward us. They were in good spirits despite their apparent lack of sure-footedness and they were each wearing walking boots and appropriate clothing I was glad to see.

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Yours truly making my way along the path beside Crowden Brook.

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Marcus contemplates the steepening section ahead.

From the head of the clough we made for Kinder Downfall. The sky was still pleasant above us but there were dark clouds on the horizon threatening some weather to come in the next hour or so.

It was good walking for Kinder. Most of our previous trips across the moor were a lot boggier under foot. This time even the wetter groughs were only slightly troublesome rather than threatening imminent boot loss in the sucking depths of peat. Though Marcus the Ungainly Hoof Monster managed to fall on his arse.

Par for the course.

We remained in shirt sleeves until the first fall of sleet.

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Stop to put on the outer layers as the sleet comes down.

Ten minutes later the sleet turned to snow.

The flakes got fatter and the fall heavier so that by the time we reached Kinder Downfall there was over an inch on the ground and visibility was down to 100m at best. We had a short conversation concerning the young guy in the tracksuit bottoms who had passed us earlier on. The sudden change of weather was a pointed reminder of how quickly the conditions can change for the worse in the hills. Hopefully he had made it down before getting caught out.

I took 2 litres of water from the flow over the Downfall. The water was warmer than the air felt but once done I hurriedly stuffed my hands back in my gloves.

Before the trip I had had no set spot in mind to pitch, deciding to leave it to chance.

With the conditions getting no better we decided to start looking for a decent pitch nearby.

Choosing a spot among the peat hags and groughs on Kinder is usually a case of settling for the flattest least lumpy bit available unless you have a specific spot in mind. I know a few up there but none were too close by. Marcus being a super fussy sod about where he pitches is usually very hard to accommodate. On this occasion we were lucky enough to find an ideal spot not more than 250m north of the Downfall. A couple of inches of snow on the ground will make even the least likely patch of ground look flat and inviting even to Marcus.

With the Stratospire pitched I quickly and carefully got out of my damp outer layers and dived into the still haven of the inner. I set about camp admin whilst outside I could hear Marcus going about his in a less than smooth way from the sounds of things. I had my long-johns and dry socks on, my chilly feet inside my bag and the first pot of water on to boil before he had even gotten into his shelter I think.

The snow continued to fall. I had to knock the build-up off the outer walls of the fly several times in the time it took my water to reach a boil.

My evening meal was a simple affair of packet Macaroni Cheese, a sachet of garlic seasoned green olives and a packet of roast chicken Fridge Raiders washed down with a cup of coffee. Simple fayre but I enjoy such in camp when I’m hungry. A lot of the people who I follow on Twitter and Facebook who are in to wild camping buy the dehydrated meals or one packet ready meals. I begrudge spending the cash on such meals. Many such also offer less kcals per 100g than is suitable or at least acceptable to me. A little bit of extra faff doesn’t bother me. If I was doing a long distance trail then I’d probably buy some of the higher calorie meals.

At some point Marcus began cursing profusely in pain as he was hit with a bad bout of cramp. It was bad enough to force himself out of his shelter into the cold damp. Whilst he was out there it stopped snowing and I heard him exclaim at the strange light in the sky.

The sun was setting and was appearing by increments through the clearing cloud.

It was a fine spectacle and well worth the cold. We stood admiring the views and Marcus shared out the whisky. We stayed out chatting until the whisky was gone and it was almost dark when by mutual accord we turned into our respective beds.

Ensconced once again in my warm and cosy abode for the night I had a hot chocolate, a bar of dark chocolate and read a book on my Kindle App until my eyes grew heavy.

Sunday 10th April 2016

Morning dawned bright and frosty. The sky outside was clear and the sun was already peaking over the horizon. Neither Marcus nor I tend to be early risers.

I got the stove burning and boiled enough water for my granola, a cup of coffee and to fill my water bottle for the walk out. This involved adding some hot water to my stock of water which had partially frozen over night despite insulating it from the cold ground. My waterproofs had also frozen in the porch and my rucksack was stuck to the ground. However my boots weren’t too bad for a change and I was able to get them on with only a few grunts of effort and curses, causing a fall of frost from the inside of the flysheet with every movement until I staggered out into the beautiful morning light.

We didn’t tarry too long. We were packed and off by 9am which is a bit of a record for trips out with Marcus. When I’m solo I am often off earlier. Not that I’m blaming Marcus. We just tend to slow each other down in the morning. Also I tend to be feeling slightly more fragile… A half bottle of good single malt between the two of us wasn’t enough to slow us down this fine crisp morning though.

Traversing across semi-frozen, snowy peat hags and groughs is an interesting experience. In some ways easier and more enjoyable than crossing the same ground in its usual damp climate. We made better time than I thought and reached the Downfall in no time.

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Visibility was excellent looking out toward Manchester over Glossop. It was very apparent that there had been no slow much below 500m so from there it appeared as if Kinder was the only place to have received any snow at all. Even here along the edge the snow was less than around the slightly higher ground where we had camped.

We enjoyed fine walking and saw only a handful of people before reaching Kinder Low: a lone lady in pink running north along the path and a trio of young guys who stopped for a chat. They showed a keen interest in the fact that we’d spent the night up there. They were sporting some decent kit though their day packs were only a mite smaller than my pack. I’m such a geek that I often have to stop the urge to start giving people such as these a bit of kit advice! These guys were far better prepared than the young guy the day before and didn’t need my pretentious preaching. I must be getting old.

The morning stayed glorious and there were a fair few people coming up Jacob’s Ladder as we approached it.

The descent was easy and we were soon down into the valley again where there was not a sign of snow. It had obviously rained some more in the night but it was like a warm spring day down here now.

Back in Edale we made our way to the Rambler Inn again and ate a fine meal with a pint while we waited for the train to arrive.

It had been another fine overnighter in the Peaks with some varied conditions to add a little spice to the usual experience offered by a visit to those familiar surroundings.

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