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!

14 Comments to “Along the Arctic Eastern Edges”

  1. Lovely. A sharp, crisp reminder of the frozen winter glory that has been replaced by a dreich world of dampness up here in southern Scotland. Really, I felt like i could walk into the picture of Nelson’s Monument, the light is crystal sharp. The last couple of days I’ve been wondering how you’ve been getting on in the doubtless wet conditions at Ruantallain, but i see you’ve been in front of a warm computer so I’ll fret no longer. A good move I feel; it would be good to enjoy the place when you can see a bit of the environs and not get a soaking in the process. Have a good one whatever you’re up to.

  2. Hi Pete, the weather the past few days has been damp and misty to say the least. I am sad to say that I did not make it to Jura, my bug got worse and I spent a few days feeling sorry for myself. It’s a shame but I think that there would have been no views up there and it would have been dark and miserable! There is always ‘next’ time! Have you had a good Christmas?

    • Hope you’re feeling better James. Ruantallain would have been a long haul to sit in the damp murk; as you say – another time. Yes, thanks, a very agreeable low-key xmas; much of our time has been taken up looking after Dougal, our nine week-old labrador puppy. We’ll have to wait a year before he can be taken for any serious yomps around the WCJ or elsewhere, but he looks like he’ll make a top quality piece of walking kit in the near future!

      Happy New Year!

      • Dougal sounds like a dude! Very jealous as I have always wanted a lab to come and share my tent! Something to be aware of when walking a dog on the west coast though. A couple of mates met a bloke and his dog in a bothy on Rum and it had its face embedded with literally thousands of ticks. Just imagine what Jura can be like for a human and then imagine rubbing your face on the ground as you walk! Anyway is he going to get a set of panniers for backpacking?
        On a doggie front we are off to the rescue centre this afternoon for a little looksie……………….

      • Dougal is the son of Sol, my sister’s lab and we took him walking on the NE coast of Islay where he picked up some ticks. They really blow up on dogs, ugly little blighters. You can get anti-tick stuff to put on them, but I doubt it’ll ward off the huge numbers of the little f**kers you get on Jura and Rum. Sounds horrendous what happened to the poor pooch your friends encountered. We tend to go to Jura etc in the autumn/winter/early spring when they’re not quite so bad, but I’ll be looking into what we can do to avoid a similar fate.

        You’re going to look for a potential pooch at the animal rescue? Good lad; we were aiming to get a rescued dog, but my sis bred hers and wanted us to have a pup, which I wasn’t going to turn down. Let me know how you get on and I’ll post a couple of pics on me blog.

  3. This coming weekend is set to be fantastically clear according to WindGuru – in the Lakes and in the South. Have not checked the Peaks. James, those images are a simply breathtaking reminder of what I’ve been missing and what we hope is present in the Lakes. Sadly we seem to be looking at 7C and rain on weekend of 8th-10th Jan…

  4. Nice one James, and a good move, perhaps, to avoid Jura just now. Damp, slithery and cloudy in Timperley. Decorating weather with nothing left on this year’s horizon (I’m not complaining though) other than a package from Gareth!

  5. I enjoyed your walk James from the warmth of Mission Control and a glass of Jura… I need to get out more…

  6. Cracking report and photography. I always try to capture the sun like you’ve managed in the 3rd and 4th photos but it never comes out like that. I just get the whole sky illuminated, despite playing around with the manual settings. Can I ask what aperture, iso and shutter speed you used for these?



  7. Maz it is a long way off weather wise until the date of your backpack. Fingers crossed that it will be cold and crisp for you. I may well avail myself of the conditions this weekend if they are good, maps will be spread across the floor tomorrow if the forecast remains a good one.

    Martin are you a Webtogs tester as well? You have given a few hints now without really saying!

    Get out onto the East Anglian hills Alan, failing that climb above sea level for the oxygen………..

    Thanks Mark. I always put my camera in sunset mode when photographing into the sun. It’s simple and it seems to work. The settings that were used were f/8, 1/3000 and ISO125 for the first and f/8, 1/2000 and ISO 80 for the second photo.

  8. James
    (‘Sunset’ mode produces nice results, doesn’t it?)
    Gareth from Webtogs was in touch quite some time ago, but only now am I being sent an item to test. I don’t think it’s as ‘interesting’ as your item, but it’ll give me a break from the TGO fleeces (for the last few years RAB have produced a good value smock style fleece as a special offer for the Challenge, which I find just right for Scotland in May) that I seem to be wearing all day at present.

  9. oooh, lovely images and a great break from the flu – thanks James!

  10. Good to hear that you are on board too with Webtogs Martin, I will be getting a fleece from them very soon too!

    Cheers Dave, get over the Flu soon. Mine is only just leaving now after over a week of feeling like…….

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