I knew I had made a mistake as soon as I set foot on to the snow, it was blindingly obvious that I had the wrong boots on. The thing is we haven’t had that much snow in the Peak District this winter and so I was totally unprepared. My Altberg boots, superb as they are, are summer boots, flexible and with a slightly more than worn sole. No match for snow, slush and tussocky grass hiding deep holes in the peat bog. What I needed was four season walking boots, with a firmer sole, good grip and high thick ankle cuffs. Just like the Scarpa SL Active boots that were sat at home on a shelf warming themselves in the central heating. These boots heavier and with thicker soles would have come in handy later in the day as well but for reasons so left field no marketing man would ever think it up.
So Thursday 12th February was definitely a day not to be out doing long walks along grit-stone edges, which was exactly where I would be heading, cunningly timing my arrival for the start of the gale force winds.
The first trig, Ox Stones, shown above was some way away from my start point, across a peat moorland covered in a nice blanket of snow. My route would take me off track and across open moorland. Ever walked across moorland and heather that is covered in snow. Gets the thighs burning I can tell you, a pair of stiff ankled boots is also an advantage to protect you from those ankle breaking sink holes that appear in the peat. Once clearing the moorland I hit a track and my first sign of other mad people walking in the hail that now peppered my face.
As I drew alongside the lady who was trailing the man I announced my arrival with a strong “Good Morning”. It was good to see her suddenly galvanised into movement, jumping so high from a crouching position, head bent in to the wind was very impressive. “Jesus Christ. You made me jump out of my skin. Someone did that to me yesterday as well.” I laughed, saying that I was sorry, but I have to admit I did find the whole episode amusing, and worthwhile.
Ox Stone trig sits just of the Houndkirk Track. Its quite a nice trig on open moorland with interesting grit stone rock formations nearby. After taking the pictures I headed off back along the Houndkirk. The weather was starting to pick up and I could see some nasty clouds taking up a battle formation over towards the west.
The second trig pillar wasn’t that far away, but was a pig to get too. I chose to eschew using a road as the direct route and wove my way through a broad leaved plantation full of tracks and undergrowth and mud. Lovely. This trig sits on private land. There is a sign guarding the land informing anyone that the land is private and there is no entry. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your point of view, the sign was in French. Why? Who knows but I suspect pretentious prats may have something to do with it. Anyway I cannot read French, hated the subject at school, so I didn’t know what it said, therefore I scrambled over the gate and made my way to the trig. It was really hammering it down now so I didn’t hang about with the photos.
I was in need of some lunch after all that slogging through woods and sapping across private land, so I chose the quick route out which was a public road. As I headed up a small river which used to be a footpath across the moorland for the horizon and Burbage Edge a hole appeared in the sky. It was coloured blue and had a watery yellow sun beaming down warmth and goodwill, right where I chose to have lunch.
Alison, my wife, you can see her work here it may be of interest, bought me a dinky little Thermos soup flask for Christmas. I have been filling it with hot water and then adding cup o soup type noodles. Today I had some Batchelors packets. Sadly they were rubbish. Tasteless, lacking nourishment and lacking enjoyment. One of the things I have learned when on a hard walk, is to have something nice to look forward too for lunch, something that keeps me going in wind, rain, sleet and snow. Next time I will try a Heinz Big Soup with chunks of bread.
By the time I got to Burbage Edge, the wind was really starting to gust strongly. So fierce was it, that water from the river below was blowing up the crag and over the top, just like Kinder Downfall. By the time I got to the western end there was significant buffeting. People were stopping their cars by the roadside and taking photos of the spray and no doubt the idiot stumbling through it. By the time I reached the final trig at Stanage Edge the wind was so strong I had difficulty standing, hence the blurry picture.
At one point I was knocked down by the force of the gusts as they raced over the top of the edge. Some youths appeared and started to surf the buffeting wind, arms out stretched, squeals of delight coming from them. I wish I could have done that but age has crept up on me and I chickened out. Bidding them safe fun I set off along the edge only to see my hat fly off into oblivion, followed immediately after by myself. Safety is the better part of valour I decided, as I once again hit the deck. I moved away from the edge path and headed across a moorland depression. Big mistake and one to learn from. Moorland depressions contain boggy ground, especially if marked blue on the map. Add to that a months worth of rain and it becomes an energy sapping soul destroying boot clawing quagmire that no one should enter. In future I shall study the map before jumping at the nearest supposed escape route.
So there you go. It was grim, cold, wet, exhausting and once it was over I had had the hardest walk I have had in many a month. I am so glad I continued and did not give in. It was bloody marvellous.