The weather has been pretty apocalyptic recently, constant heavy rain making the short November days even more miserable. At this time of year it is easy for outdoors lassitude to set in, especially with regards to backpacking. It gets increasingly difficult to force yourself out of your warm bed to walk over a wet and windy hillside. However this weekend there was a brief promising weather window, clear and calm conditions over the Peak District in between weather fronts. It would be a shame not to take advantage of it.
Late Friday morning (after enjoying a lie-in) I collected Rich from his house, Reuben whining excitedly from the back seat of the car. We arrived at Chrissie’s house in Hayfield a couple of hours later after a pasty stop in Baslow. We sat in her kitchen for a while to consume even more food and enjoy a coffee. By the time we set off there were less than three hours of daylight left.
Total distance 10.8 miles with 750 metres ascent
Chrissie led the way though the large but attractive village of Hayfield. We were soon walking through open countryside along Kinder Road, which we left just past the car park. A surfaced track then took us beneath the bulk of Mount Famine and South Head, two underrated and rather neglected hills that give a good ridge walk. We then started the climb on the bridleway that leads to Edale via Edale Cross.
I had expected clear sunny skies but soon after starting our climb clouds started to build from the west, lines of showers drifting through the low sunlight.
The outcome of sunshine and rain at the same time was a rather spectacular rainbow, dark skies and the western flanks of Kinder giving a sombre backdrop. One end of the rainbow appeared to be coming out of the ground just a few metres ahead of us, something I have not seen before.
We made swift progress up alongside Oaken Clough, finally reaching Edale Cross. This is familiar ground for Chrissie and she led us up a path that contours around the steep slopes of Swine’s Back.
Ominous clouds were building above Rushop edge but thankfully the sky was beginning to clear once again towards the west. Hopefully we would be treated to a clear star filled night.
The aim was to pitch our tents and then sit and hopefully enjoy a sunset. We were still a way from our intended camp spot when we were treated to a brief fiery display. It only lasted a couple of minutes before the sun was swallowed by the clouds, successive ridges were dark silhouettes against the orange glow.
Our chosen spot was exposed but relatively dry for Kinder Scout in late Autumn, especially considering all the rain that had fallen the day before. Tents were quickly pitched and we soon dived into our respective shelters to escape from the freezing wind, my weather device measuring a wind chill of minus three celsius just after dark.
Usually when I wild camp I am in the middle of the countryside, as far away from civilisation as possible. Here on the edge of Kinder Scout we were pretty much on the edge of a city, the huge sprawl of Manchester beneath our feet. The twinkling orange lights stretched as far as the eye could see, dirty jewels in the dark night. It was like being at the edge of two worlds. It was strange being up there, feeling so distant but at the same time close to those lights. Standing on that airy perch whilst the Friday rush hour was taking place below.
We were all in our tents when I first spotted a torch light in the distance coming from the direction of Edale rocks. Ten minutes later a figure emerged from the dark, sporting a head torch and an accent. It was Yuri who had walked up from Edale railway station in the dark to meet and camp with us. We managed to stand around chatting for about half an hour before the chill sent us to our tents for the rest of the night.
I slept remarkably well, both mine and Reuben’s body heat keeping the temperature just above freezing in the tent. My alarm woke me just after 7.00am and I unzipped an ice encrusted flysheet to peer into a monochrome world. The sun had yet to rise and the landscape had a soft milky texture to it, frost coating the grass and our tents. I fired up my stove to make a coffee and we were soon gathered outside in the frigid air to await what would hopefully be a spectacular sunrise. Reuben however thought better of this and remained curled up on his blanket.
It was evident that there was a cracking inversion over the Derwent valley far to the east. Unfortunately there was slightly higher ground in the way of the rising sun. Therefore after waking Reuben I set off with Rich and Yuri to climb the rocky tor of Edale Rocks in the hope of a better view. Reuben obliged by pulling his ‘dog on the mountain’ pose.
From our vantage point it was evident that anyone on the summit of Win Hill that morning would have been in for a treat. The upper Derwent was nearly full to the top with fog, higher peaks rising above it like islands. In contrast the Edale valley below us was almost fog free.
To the south much of the white Peak was fog bound. We noticed a couple of figures on the top of Swine’s back waiting for the sun to rise.
Edale Rocks is a great place to hang out in the pre-dawn light.
Unfortunately the sunrise never materialised, it was like sitting and watching a cheap firework display in a grand setting. There was a brief fizzle before it was extinguished by a bank of cloud. Time to head back to the tents for more coffee and a hot breakfast.
Packing up was a slow and rather painful affair for me. A couple of days previous I had managed to shut a finger in a door at work. The nail had turned black and my whole hand was still throbbing, any contact with that finger causing a lot of discomfort. Stuffing gear into my rucksack proved to be rather tricky. Actually the whole act of packing was made even more difficult by a dog that was more keen on being inside the tent than out!
Due to the age of Dixie (Chrissie’s 11 year old boxer) Chrissie thought it best to head back to Hayfield the way we had come. Myself, Rich and Yuri decided to have a wander over to Kinder Downfall to see what it looked like after all the rain we have had. En-route we stopped at the trig on Kinder Low which is an island surrounded by bare eroded peat. The inversion over the upper Derwent was still there, its residents probably having a dank murky morning.
Strangely the popular western edge of Kinder Scout was almost deserted that morning. Perhaps the weather forecast for the afternoon had put people off venturing out. Already the sky had clouded over making the light dull, flat and uninteresting. Above Manchester there was a long dirty skid-mark in the air, smog had formed above the city. We continued walking north along the sandy path through interesting collections of gritstone boulders.
Due to the cold Reuben was sporting his snazzy new jacket underneath his backpack. I was worried that he may feel a bit overburdened but once off the lead he was running about being his usual happy self, enjoying the freedom of the moors.
Kinder Downfall had reverted back to its usual trickle, which was a shame as I have always wanted to see it in full flow. However it is always a grand spot, a deep rocky canyon making it one of the more impressive spots in the Peaks. In summer this often means it can be an immensely busy lunch spot. A worthy destination for a day out.
Rich had childcare commitments and needed to be back in Nottingham by two so we soon set off along the edge, the weather appearing murkier by the minute.
We had planned to descend via William Clough but spotted a path heading directly to Kinder Reservoir from Sandy Heys. This gave a rapid knee jarring descent into the valley where a brisk walk along Kinder Road led us easily back to Hayfield.
It had been almost exactly twenty four hours since we had left but it felt like we had been out for much longer. We had not walked great distances but a camp on the summit of Kinder had added to the adventure. An enjoyable hill experience in good company.