Archive for December 29th, 2010

December 29, 2010

Along the Arctic Eastern Edges

by backpackingbongos

My walk in the Peaks the previous week had been a bit of a damp squib and I was eager to see the hills covered in the white stuff and under blue skies.  A brief dusting the night before and a definite promise of clear skies got me out of bed sharpish and I pointed the Bongo in a westerly direction.  The car park next to the Robin Hood Inn, just off the Baslow road was nearly empty and is free which makes a pleasant change these days in the Peaks.  Already dressed and booted for the hill I simply grabbed my sack and headed straight out of the car park.

10.6 miles with 570 metres ascent

The path through the woods was quickly left when I spotted a narrow path through the heather directly onto the ridge above, I was keen to drink in some snowy views.  About an inch of snow had fallen the night before and the very cold temperatures meant that it was like icing sugar.  It was a joy to walk through, not at all slippery and the mud and peat underneath was as hard as iron.  Pausing on the southern part of Birchen the views to the west were extensive due to the crystal clear air.

The steep heather banks to my left soon gave way to a defined edge and the cliffs of Birchen.  I spent a great day here a couple of years ago with some service users of a local homeless charity being introduced to rock climbing.  It was a day filled with fun and laughter and I felt a twinge of sadness today knowing that it is unlikely that I will be able to do such work in the forseeable future.  I spotted Nelson’s Monument and followed a solitary set of footsteps towards it in the snow.

I could not get over just how clear the air was, the views only appeared impeded by the curvature of the earth itself.  The reason for this soon became apparent when a gust of wind directly from the north blew straight threw me.  The uncovered skin on my face soon began to ache and I quickly started to descend northwards into the shelter of the trees to pick up the path that heads to the A621.  This path is usually an ordeal of waterlogged bog but today it was frozen solid.  Careful not to slip on the clear water ice I made it to the main road dry-shod.  I reached it just in time to watch an idiot in a pick up overtake 4 vehicles in a row who were gingerly driving the icy road.  Just to show how manly he was he beeped his horn at them for having the audacity of getting in his way.  I quickly left the ‘real’ world behind, taking the hidden moorland path up to the summit of White Edge which was living up to its name.  The trig point is one of the few points on the Eastern edges where you can get a view to the east as well as west.  The tower blocks of Sheffield looked pretty close in the clear air.

The edge itself is the least defined of the edges and as I headed north my eyes were drawn to the northern horizon where both Kinder Scout and Bleaklow dominated.  Although enjoying myself on these lower hills it would have been a perfect day crossing their heights over frozen groughs.

Meeting a wall my map indicated a path leading down to the Grouse Inn but I could find no evidence of it on the ground.  I began to doubt my map reading skills and studied it even harder.  I decided that it was hidden under the snow and got confirmation further on that I can map read when it appeared.  By now it was not much after 2.00pm and the sun was beginning to get low in the sky, giving the hills an orange glow.

Behind the pub a path led me to the start of Froggat edge and a walk through the birch trees.  You do not get much of a feeling of walking along a cliff top until Curbar edge is reached.  I spent a while here off the main path exploring the rocks and peering down into the valley below.  An area which is usually busy with climbers was almost absent of people this Friday afternoon.  The sun was setting now and I realised that I would probably be finishing in the dark.

Just before the car park at Curbar gap there was a few moments when the sun peered through the gathering clouds and put on a magical display, contrasting with the monochrome landscape.

The main path was once again left on Baslow edge and I sat for a while and watched a couple of brave souls drive up the steep and very icy Curbar gap road.

All too soon I left the cliffs and headed towards the Eagle stone, making my descent underneath Wellington’s monument and down to the Sheffield road.  Through the woods there is an extraordinary house and gardens on the other side of a viaduct which carries its access drive.  I have passed this way a few times before and envy its location in a rocky gorge.  It was then a stiff climb at the end of the day to contour below Gardom’s edge.  It was pretty much dark and I stood and watched the lights of the traffic below me on the Baslow roundabout, the noise drifting up to what otherwise would have been a peaceful spot.  Eyes adjusting to the dark the low moors back to the van were passed without resorting to my headtorch.  A gentle day walking wise but exhilarating views in such cold and clear weather.  My watch thermometer said that the temperature never rose above minus three celsius all day!