|Sunset on Kinder Scout – the world looks like it’s on fire!|
Life’s a bit of a rollercoaster so they say – and that pretty much sums up perfectly my recent trip to the Peak District on many levels.
Before departing on this week long trip, I decided to weigh my rucksack – out of curiosity mind. I don’t usually namely due to all the video equipment I lug about. It’s bulky and heavy. Even so, the figures surprised me.
My pack weighed around 12kg’s which included wet food and snacks for a week, 2 litres of water, change of clothes and all the usual gear for spending nights out on the hills.
Not too bad I thought. Then when I strapped my tripods, stuffed in my various batteries, lenses and camera the weight shot up to nearly 20kgs! And this went up a little further once I decanted a couple of bottles of wine and slipped that in, too.
Once on my back and out the door it didn’t feel that heavy to be honest – which is testament to the load the rucksack can carry in comfort I suppose, plus how I placed gear in key places to distribute the weight evenly which is always important for long hikes.
|One nice morning before packing up and moving on|
And there certainly was plenty of miles I was going to cover, too. The weather in general has conspired against me this past month and due to various deadlines and schedules I had to hit the ground running and take advantage of any decent weather that came my way. The main problem for me was Kinder Scout.
The highest hill in the Peak District as many of you will know.
A vast plateau of bogs and swamps with a horrendous maze of deep peat groughs. It’s no wonder folk get lost up there or test their navigation skills. The terrain isn’t easy to negotiate in the best of conditions and it was looking likely my 3 nights up on this famous clump of heather clad gritstone was to involve some inclement weather – putting it mildly.
All said and done, my weekend was initially spent around Foolow in the gentler White Peak of the park. Here I was filming a promotional video for a lovely pub called The Bulls Head Inn. I had a cracking time meeting up and talking with the locals over the two nights and learnt much about the area.
|A welcome site at night – The Bulls Head Inn|
For example, I was informed of a little known waterfall in the nearby area which resides on private land. No, it’s not Waterfall Swallet in case you were thinking it maybe this hidden gem. This is another place that sits in a copse at the foothills of Eyam Moor. The landlord made some calls for me to farmers in the area with the hope I would get permission to wander onto the land and visit the place.
Fortunately the nod was in my favour on condition I didn’t specifically reveal the location of the waterfall but despite all this, upon my arrival the bloody thing was dry! There’s been a fair bit of rain of late so this took me by surprise. Even Waterfall Swallet was non-existent, too. So, better luck next time.
Walks on Eyam Moor, in the dales and nearby villages were the order of these two days including seeking out owls in the area. There are quite a few apparently, dotted about amongst the old ruined limestone barns. I did catch site of a Tawny Owl sat on a wall but that was about it (it took off just as I was about to hit the ‘record’ button)
|The dog. It luuurves Guinness!|
My tent was pitched in an empty livestock field not too far from The Bulls Head Inn. It was all most agreeable and I really enjoyed myself. Very relaxing.
Local folk musicians doing their thing in the pub was a particular highlight and I’m pleased I captured them on video strumming their guitars, pushing and squeezing an accordion and singing to their hearts content with smiles all around. Chuckles were even had over a dog that enjoys a pint of Guinness!
All of this was to markedly contrast with the next few days spent on the high moors in the Dark Peak.
Come the day, I set off from Hope aiming for Lose Hill and then followed the Great Ridge to Mam Tor often making stops and taking in the scenes on my camera. I think I spent about 4 hours in total on this short walk before switching off and making the arduous slog over Rushup Edge and round to the Kinder massif itself.
|Dawn from Grindslow Knoll|
Whereas I found the waterfalls in the White Peak dry, up here the stinking peat bogs were bursting at the seams with moisture and it made for a hard and tiring walk – more so with nearly 20kgs on my back. And the wind didn’t help either which was increasing in speed knocking me off balance from time to time.
I was pleased to have taken the Rab Neoshell jacket I’ve been testing, too. Despite my hot sweating body, winds, and the odd heavy shower it performed admirably. It’s an impressive fabric Polartec have come up with, never mind the jacket itself designed by Rab. Despite being covered in crud and peat in the coming days, it’s still performs as new – unlike eVent, for example which needs a regular wash.
Eventually, I reached the western flanks of Kinder Scout where I pitched the inner of the Terra Nova Solar Competition 2, chucked the contents of my rucksack hap-hazard around on the ground before legging off to a gritstone tor some distance away. Sounds daft, but a lovely light was being cast by the sun through a break in some clouds – mesmerising sight and I was desperate to catch it on video so off I went.
|This view cost me a soaking wet tent!|
It was just as I was taking the camera off it’s tripod that a bloody horrendous downpour came in. Panic ensued as I raced back to my camp to discover the inner tent was sodden and so too were some of my gear thrown about on the ground. Fortunately, my down sleeping bag was still in it’s dry sac and I also brought along a wee camping towel.
After rapidly pitching the tent proper, I jumped inside to see pools of water had accumulated on the groundsheet and some serious misting was taking place. It felt like hours as I mopped up all the water with my towel which was now itself soaked to the bone. Alas, the rain departed and a breeze was still blowing and so I was able to dry out the tent and air it somewhat by tying the doors back and opening any and every vent possible.
A foolhardy move on my part admittedly and one that would have further consequences in the coming days.
Even so, an enjoyable evening was had in the tent as I watched the sun set over the Irish Sea with lights out by 9pm.
Whereas the previous evenings shenanigans involved a soaked tent, the following morning entailed it being battered by 45mph winds. A good test for any shelter as a minimum in my opinion but not if it isn’t pitched correctly. The winds had whipped round from a westerly to a southerly during the night and consequently the Solar Competition 2 was struggling to shake it off concaving right into my face as I lay in bed.
Initially, I wasn’t too concerned having roughed out worst conditions but when I took a peak out the tent to see the cause and effect I soon realised the limitations of the shelters single hoop ridge design being hit side on. It looked as though any minute it would break or at least completely deform.
So, a rough shod pack was made and a dash to some shelter behind a nearby tor was made before heading back to the tent and taking it down with the patience and military precision a general would be proud of, to ensure nothing broke or took off into the surrounding clag.
The next few hours I spent out the wind drinking coffee, putting gear into my rucksack correctly and observing the rise and fall of the cloud base. Views were teasingly revealed by shafts of sun and then snatched away by brooding dark fog. It was a mean and moody morning and I reflected it made for a fair if somewhat depressing impression of Kinder Scout.
|My new found feathered friend – he was a bit needy, mind!|
So, I set about filming it all – after all it’s the character of the place. It’s an exposed hump of gritstone topped off with a layer of peat bogs at the end of the day. Some folk love to bog trot across it’s summit, while others prefer to skirt it’s edges taking in the distant views.
On a clear day, you can see over to Snowdonia in Wales, the Shropshire Hills and out to Ingleborough in the Yorkshire Dales. Not all from the same spot, mind. And despite it’s elevated position and northerly view blocked by nearby Bleaklow – it all makes for a grand and wild views. You can definitely clear the mind and soul up here – or perhaps be dragged down into it’s mire. Kinder Scout is rightly a place of contrasts, make no doubt about it.
And I suppose that’s why it can split opinion amongst hillwalkers and outdoorsey folks in general.
I do like Kinder. But I wouldn’t say I’m a big fan. I’ll have to admit the following time spent up on it’s plateau has changed my perception of the place despite numerous visits.
I wasn’t heading anywhere else for another day or so. All my time was now to be spent digging under it’s skin and picking away at it’s foibles and moods. And so, in time the place enlightened me to it’s character of which I know feel very fond.
The clag eventually lifted and so I headed east through the Woolpacks – an alien place if ever there was one to be found -side stepping and jumping over it’s unique and peculiar rock formations.
It was in this vicinity that I took a break and whipped out the camera to film a not so distant red grouse pottering about in the heather. No big deal you might say, but it made for an interesting shot on camera.
However, I was so focused on manually focusing the lens via the viewfinder that I failed to note that the grouse had come to within 5 feet of me!
I won’t go into too much detail as you can see more in my blogcam. But it was a truly humbling experience. The cute little bugger ended up following me along the path and wouldn’t make it’s own way. It was like a lost dog screaming for attention. A definite highlight of my trip and one that still lingers now in my mind.
The rest of the day was spent in low cloud and drizzle, plodding across the moors, having my trail shoes nearly sucked off by bogs – the usual Kinder experience for most people.
Conditions hadn’t much improved the next morning either and so I was beginning to worry I’ll never get the footage I wanted of this bleak world. So, I headed out in hope back into the groughs praying some sun would come out – even just for an hour or so.
It never materialised.
Instead I found myself lost on the summit!
I forgot to pack my compass, my phone with a GPS and maps had died and for the life of me I couldn’t find my map either (I did locate it later but it was now in the form of paper mache). Goodness knows how many miles I wandered about on Kinder that morning. I was just desperate to head off and down to Edale to the pub!
Three times I found myself somewhere I didn’t want to be up there, and despite my efforts to locate a southerly direction from my position on Kinder’s northern extremes I just had no bloody idea where I was. The clag didn’t help – it completely blotted out the sun, so there was no telling of which way was south.
Even so, I did find my way off eventually and despite being covered in stinking peaty crap I peculiarly enjoyed the experience!
Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t worried and I really didn’t try ‘that’ hard to get off the plateau – it just put my timing and schedule out of kilter. And the warm, dry pub with nice ale and a hearty meal didn’t do much to my flagging intentions of climbing back up to Kinder later that day.
Sods law by the time I reached the pub the damn cloud had lifted to reveal not only Kinder but some blue sunny skies too!
I hope this gives a good impression of the bulk of my trip – the rest consisted of another night on the moors with a fantastic sunset, a jaunt back in the White Peak for a few days where I paid Beechenhill Farm a visit (wonderful place with a very talented owner called Sue. Her paintings are wonderful!) before heading on home. All in all, lots of ups and downs (no pun intended), somewhat enlightening on many levels and of course very tiring too.
Hopefully, my video featuring Kinder Scout in the next week or so will give a fair taste of what to expect up on it’s tops for those who’ve not visited the place before – or of course for the sadists out there relive those special moments with peat and bog.
I say that with tongue firmly in cheek – it’s a cracking hill in the winter for sure. But on days when the weather is ‘not too great’ it can be a soul sapping place to be….
And on a final note some thoughts on gear I’ve been testing of late.
First off, the Rab Infinity 300 sleeping bag. It’s very light for it’s warmth, packs to bloody nothing and is fully featured. It’s proving to be excellent so far. I’ve been toasty warm even when temperatures dropped close to zero on a couple of nights. Looking likely a winning range of sleeping bags from Rab. I’ll be interested to see what their synthetics are like, too. So, we’ll see….
The Merrell Intercept trail shoes have covered nearly 200 miles now and so far (touch wood) are as good as the day they arrived. The colour has faded, mind – but that’s down to the peat bogs more than anything. They’ve been comfy, cool and easy to wear and I really like them. However, they do tend to cling onto the dirt a fair bit around the body of the shoe. Not ideal for breathability – so time will tell.
The Terra Nova Solar Competition 2 tent has shown it can withstand a good bashing in high winds but at the same time revealed it’s weaknesses, too. Though the venting is excellent (not had any condensation issues at all so far) I’ve had some water ingress come through the rear vent which took me by surprise. So, it’s something I’ll be wary of in the coming weeks. I’ll just velcro it shut. And don’t doubt the tent can spring back into shape either. No deformation of the main ridge pole (which I expected a little) or any tears and so on. I think it’s safe to say it’s limits are in winds up to 50mph. Anymore, and it’s a no no. Otherwise, more details in a few weeks.