In a fit of enthusiasm guided by little common sense I decided to head off last weekend to Derbyshire and hike Kinder Scout. I’m not 100% certain what made this sound like such a good idea but I was seized by the notion and as the weather was predicted to be very good off I went!
Now, let me start by saying that it was absolutely GORGEOUS! I had such an amazing day, it was stunning and I am so proud of myself, and even more proud of Darcy, for achieving it!
Now, why the tempered praise? Firstly, I am not as fit as I might think when faced with hills. I live in the Vale of York! Also, the instructions for the walk I got from the National Trust website made it all sound so simple. I can read a map, I knew it was going to be a challenging walk as you climb so steeply. I thought I knew what I was in for when it said “Hard”. It said the walk should take 3 hours and I had anticipated it would take me 4. I thought had prepared myself. I had the correct footwear, plenty of water, snacks and a bag to carry the dog when he inevitably got tired. I had studied the route and was confident I knew where I was supposed to be going… oh how naive I was!
It seems simple, you set of across fields with this lovely flagstone path showing you the way. It gets pretty muddy, sure, but it was spring in the countryside, who cares! Then the instructions said to follow the river… so I did… only to find myself about a mile later looking at a sign that said Crowden Clough… I did not want to be climbing up Crowden Brook, I was aiming to ascend Jacob’s Ladder! So we scampered back down the valley and retraced our steps to get back on the correct path. (It was a lovely valley though, very pretty!) “Never mind” I thought. I’d allowed extra time after all so a 30 minute detour was doable.
We eventually made it to Jacob’s Ladder and started the climb. Darcy ran in circles around me. I just took it slow and steady and when I needed to I sat and took a break… took some photos to make it look like I wasn’t simply dying! I had known that this bit was going to be tough though so I persevered! The view was well worth the effort even though the climb seemed to go on forever!
Eventually I reached the plateau and set off across the flagstone path through the peat. I didn’t head up to Noe Stool or Kinder Low as I didn’t have the time. I followed the path along the edge towards Pym Chair.
This is Crowden Clough. I had made it to the edge of those green fields before realising my error on the way up! As you can see the day was so clear, the views were staggering!
Now this is where is started getting more interesting. The nice flagstone path abandons you as you enter the maze like woolpacks. These rock formations are visually stunning and a nightmare to navigate! You find yourself picking your way twisting and turning about trying to avoid rocks and bogs and stay on course. Any other walkers are soon lost to sight as you wind your way through the rocks.
This slowed me down considerably from the pace I’d set across the open path and I was starting to get worried about my timings. Darcy, however, was loving it, bouncing around and searching out paths. I chose to follow him for the most part, hoping he could smell people!
When people describe it as a lunar or alien landscape they aren’t exaggerating. The close formation of the rocks and the combination of grey sand and black peat bog make it eerily dissimilar to anywhere else I have visited. I was having flashbacks to the Lord of the Rings thinking surely Mordor was just over the hill!
Eventually we made it out and carried on along the path, which continued to be uneven with odd sections of flagstones. It was beautiful, the views were clear and the path crossed many little streams and goughs.
Now came the second navigational error. Grindsbrook. I can read a map. I’m quite good at it even. However, the printed map I had brought wasn’t great. And the directions were lacking in descriptive content. I wasn’t the only one confused! There was a gathering of hikers at one junction all trying to decide whether to follow the path straight on or straight down. It’s very easy to see where you’ve gone wrong after you’ve done it but when you’re peering ahead looking at a peak and a stream it’s hard to judge whether it is this exact peak and stream you are after or the next one!
The group split 50/50 and I continued straight on. Partly because they were climbing straight down a stream, with no discernable path at all and I just didn’t think that Darcy was capable of it at that point in the day.
Eventually we too found a stream to cross and the path continued downwards on the other side. Ah ha! I thought. This is it!
Sadly, just round the peak the path climbed again. I got to the point where I could clearly see that the path I needed to be on to get back was in the bottom of that valley. This handy fence was there and I could see some other people climbing down alongside it. It was steep but with the fence to hold on to I thought it was my best shot at not having to add another half hour detour onto my day! In the end I basically bum slid down the heather with Darcy on my lap! I ripped the seat of my leggings but it was so steep at points that it was impossible to get down safely otherwise, especially as the heather was such that Darcy couldn’t climb down himself and needed to be carried. (I imagine the poor guy was pretty tired too at this point!)
Eventually we made it to the bottom in one piece and continued to clamber down the valley. I actually met up again with the group who had climbed down the brook itself and they said I’d taken the easy way, HA!
After much longer than it looked like on the map, although on an easier path (even the flagstones came back eventually!) we made it back to the village and to the car. It took me 5 hours in total and I walked about 18km all told!
Some things I would do differently in the future:
Buy a better map for the area.
Allow double the time you think it will take.
Double check all decisions when taking a new path.
Choose a shorter walk! (In all honesty this walk was too far for Darcy, possibly even without the added detours. But I do wonder whether a lhasa apso has completed this circuit before!)
I’m already planning my next walk, may be I just won’t trust the National Trust for directions next time!