Monday, 24 March 2014

Kinder Scout

Crowden Clough and the descent route

The start of Jacob's ladder

Edge of the plateau
Approaching Kinder Low
Gritstone sentinels
Kinder Low trig point
The summit cairn, no wonder no one finds it

Pym's Chair
Snow on the Edge

Saturday, 22 March 2014
Ascent:          420 metres
Distance:       10 kilometres
Time:             3hrs 27 minutes

Kinder Scout  636 metres       1hr  41 mins

Another long standing ambition was achieved today. I had promised to climb Kinder Scout 45 years ago with a friend but a lack of transport, Saturday morning lectures, Saturday night gigs in the student's union followed by Sunday morning blues in my digs meant I never got round to it. After a lifetime of hill walking I felt it was time to visit the location of the Kinder mass trespass in 1932 and pay tribute to the determined folk who had been the catalyst for opening access to the hills as well as nudging us towards National Parks. I had contacted my friend who gifted me a beautifully illustrated book of Kinder Scout by Roly Smith published by Derbyshire County Council.

I had spent the day before in Sheffield so stayed with my niece overnight and made an early start. It was a cold morning but travelling through old haunts in Sheffield brought back happy memories as did the drive to the Peak District and Kinder via Edale. The skies were clear and the southern edge of the vast Kinder peat plateau was inviting with its collection of gritstone tors punctuating the skyline.

We decided on the Pennine Way route via Upper Booth and Jacob's ladder with the hope that it would be more sheltered from the strong westerly winds. Despite the clear conditions there were relatively few people on the trail from Upper Booth that brought us to the start of Jacob's ladder. A well constructed slabbed path rises steeply up to Edale Head and then curves round to Kinder Low. The wind was bitingly cold and there was a flurry of sleet just before reaching Kinder Low. Several parties were sheltering here and a lone fell runner of pensionable age jogged past oozing contentment with every step.

This was the onset of the peat hags and groughs.  After pausing at the white trig point beyond Kinder Low where other groups had stopped for an early lunch, I took a bearing for the official summit at 636 metres. There was no visible sign of a high point or a cairn. Only a scattering of white bags, containing the empty boxes of grasses that had been sewn into the bare peat banks, gave any feature to help navigation.  Fortunately my bearing was pretty well spot on and after about a kilometre the minimalist summit cairn became evident, I suspect that scouts would have trouble finding it! I despaired that the highest point of the Peak District was just a peat bank and less like a peak than any hill I have ever been on. Despite the fact that there were by now a dozen or so parties of walkers either at Kinder Low or at Crowden's Tower, none of them bothered to search for the summit, perhaps they had already been there and knew not to return. I felt like the obsessive peak bagger that I probably am.

Finding a way to the edge of the plateau was not too difficult despite the undulating peat banks. A white hare sprinted along the groughs and a raven briefly glided past. After a quick climb up Pym's Chair and as the skies turned an ominous grey, we made for a group of gritstone tors, the Woolpacks, to get some shelter. Lunch was interrupted by a snow storm, the wind was eddying round the overhanging picnic rock and blowing away the cress from the crayfish salad my friend had brought. It was not easy to consume in a near white out with a plastic fork. It would have been easier and more appropriate to have eaten a Kinder egg.

Visibility was not good and as the conditions deteriorated I decided to seek the most direct descent which involved following a path along the ridge to Crowden Clough. There was a direct route down the open hillside from here and we had emerged from the cloud. The fields were full of sheep and it was lambing time so I worked round them and crossed the Crowden brook before following a path back to the road to Upper Booth.

It is not far to Edale and escaping the cold into a warm crowded inn was reminiscent of many similar occasions when I had walked in the Lake District and made it down from the hills by lunchtime. There was time for a coffee to thaw us out and a beer before saying farewell and catching the train to Manchester. It had been a long anticipated outing in very different landscapes than I have become familiar with in the Highlands but I was inspired sufficiently to consider a return to walk the Pennine Way.

All peat and no peak

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