Dark Peak Circular – Or – Thank Goodness I Packed My Winter Sleeping Bag

Pebbles and I plan a three day backpacking route around the Dark Peak – starting and finishing at our house. Reuben and James are invited. We all have a couple of weekends free, so we pick the last one in March. Seems as good a one as any.

They come over to Hayfield the night before, making for a relaxing morning on the Friday. There’s no need to get up silly early and rush off. The days are all about the same length – around 9 miles.

The forecast is good! Leaving the house at around 11am, we walk a couple of miles before first lunch.

Pebbles has known Reuben for a couple of years and she is madly in love with him. This is their first backpacking trip together though and the excitement is almost more than she can bear. Constantly wanting to alternate between smothering him in kisses and play fighting with him, he enjoys the attention – but only up to a point. Every so often, he has to put her in her place. That’s fine. She needs to learn to be cool and play hard to get.

Out of the wind it’s surprisingly warm, but as we get higher and finally join the Pennine Way on its winding, flag-stoned way over to Snake Summit, the wind is quite bitter and relentless.

Second lunch is had at the Liberator wreck, on the way to Mill Hill.

It’s a bit of a slog over to Snake Summit, so a third lunch is had not long after we hit Bleaklow. And from there, it’s only a couple of miles to our pitch for the night.

We’re a bit sheltered here and the wind finally drops completely. It starts to feel like it’s going to be a cold night.

Pebbles is normally impeccably behaved in the tent, but knowing that Reuben is nearby is driving her nuts. We have half an hour or so of toddler like tantrums – during which time I could have quite happily packaged her up and sent her home – before she finally settles back into the cuddly Pebbles I know and love.

We eat, then feel tired, then Pebbles and I fall asleep – snug and warm – around 8pm. However, I awake quite suddenly at around 10pm. I’m cold and shivering. Touching the sides of the inner, I notice that it is covered with a thin film of ice. Donning my down jacket, I go out for a wee, then bring both my boots and the water purifier into the tent inner. Before going back to sleep, I check on Pebbles. She’s curled up, fast asleep and as warm as toast. I’d be the first to admit that the fancy dog sleeping bags we got her and Islay are ridiculously – even obscenely – expensive (primarily due to import tax etc from the States), but they really are the business. I’m very happy to see that her bag is keeping her comfy and warm, even when the temperature is obviously below freezing.

I awake again at around 3am, this time too hot! I remove my down jacket now, and spend the rest of the night quite happily….. I haven’t quite had the faith to bring my three season sleeping bag for the weekend like James has, but am more than content now to have lugged my winter bag up here.

We aren’t planning an early start, so by the time we surface for breakfast the sun has nicely warmed everything up. It’s even nice enough to eat outside.

We set off for the day at about 10:30. We’re now totally off path for a few miles, heading for a trig point to the east of the Alport Valley. It’s wet, it’s peaty, it’s slow going.

Conversation runs a bit like this for most of the weekend:

James: My pack is too heavy.

Me: Bet it’s not as heavy as mine.

James: It might be.

Me: Pebbles!!! Enough now!!!

Repeat any of the above at random intervals.

First lunch today is when we finally reach the trig point.

A bit of a path is picked up here, making progress a little quicker. It’s not long before we reach Alport Castles, for second lunch.

It gets hotter and the packs get heavier. We continue on, partaking of third lunch just before dropping down and down, to cross the Snake Pass near Hagg Farm. Then it’s up and up again – a quick break in woodland in Woodlands Valley – and onto the Crookstone Hill path to take us to the eastern summit of Kinder. Part way up here, fourth lunch is had by the lonesome tree. A rather special tree with a bit of history, I suspect.

My phone rings and we have a brief Peter Kay moment.

“I’m waving! Can you see me?”

It’s Mark, somewhere near the summit. And no, we can’t see him, but he can apparently see us. We’re both wearing orange……

Off we go again. Mark wanders down as we wander up, and we meet. Pebbles goes into overdrive once more, but quickly settles. She’s tiring now, but is still game and having fun. A bit of a conflab ensues, and a bit of a wander around produces a perfectly acceptable pitch for the night, with water not far away in Jaggers Clough.

We pitch, then take it in turns to watch the dogs while we filter water.

It’s cool, but nowhere near as cold as last night. We chat for a while, eat, then fall asleep. I sleep really well. As does Pebbles.

Mark is up and off much earlier than us in the morning. it’s been good to meet up, but he has a train to catch. It’s 10:30-ish again before we’re off.

The original plan is to plough straight across the plateau, visiting both Four Jacks’ Cabin and Kinder Gates, before dropping down to Hayfield. But it’s going to be hot and we’re still vying with each other over who has the heavier pack, and the edge path suddenly feels more attractive.

We skilfully manage to avoid around 300 runners on the Edale Skyline Fell Race, but it nevertheless gets busier and busier the nearer we get to the top of Grindsbrook.

Today just happens to be Pebbles’ second birthday. Still a baby really, but I notice how brave and strong she’s starting to get – thoroughly enjoying herself learning to pick out routes up and around little rocky bits. Mountain Boxer in the making.

Nearly at Crowden Tower, we suddenly spy a familiar couple of figures. Geoff and Islay appear, on their way to meet up with us. Pebbles and Islay greet each other as though they’ve been apart for at least a month.

Proper lunch is had near the top of Crowden Brook, continuing on afterwards in the direction of the Woolpacks. Here, we’re not so lucky at avoiding the fell runners. The three of us go off in slightly different directions, trying to avoid runners, peat and rocks, before meeting up again out the other side.

A clear view of Swines Back now shows what looks like hundreds more runners heading for us. Nightmare. Local knowledge kicks in. I suggest veering off towards Edale Rocks and around the far side of Swines Back. Almost instant peace, and another break is had looking down towards the Hayfield side of the massif.

It’s been a fantastic weekend. Brilliant weather and company, and challenging enough to make you feel like you’ve accomplished something.

All that remains now, is the foot crippling slog down the Edale Cross track, and a short tarmac plod back into the village.

Posted in Backpacking Trips | 21 Comments

TGOC 2017

Well, since other people seem to post their routes, here’s my planned route for the Challenge, so feel free to have a look if you’re interested.

I’m sure it’s a basic, first-timer type route, which is absolutely fine by me. I have other variations in my head if I suddenly decide the weather is brill and it would be a nice idea to change some bits, but I’m also quite happy if I end up doing it exactly as planned.

Hope the link works….

Click here!

 

Posted in Backpacking Trips | 29 Comments

Annual Pieman Visit To The Dark, Dark Peak

It was that time of year again. The time when the TGOC folk hold the annual Snake Inn Gathering, and the Pieman – being one of The Gatherers – ventures south.

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A few years back whilst in the area, he visited us when I was immobilised with a broken leg in a pot. And for the last couple of years, he has joined us for a wander on the Saturday of The Weekend in question.

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Usually, he has some Tump or something he wants to bag and gives us forewarning of the relevant top so we can plan a route.

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This year, he was after two Tumps. Mt Famine and South Head.

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A route was duly plotted and gorgeous, spring type weather was ordered, and an excellent day was had.

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And this year, on the Saturday evening, Geoff and I also drove over to The Snake Inn and joined in with the TGOC Gathering.

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A very convivial time was had, meeting up with lots of lovely people and partaking of delicious food. I’m looking forward to meeting up with everyone again on the actual Challenge, in May. Not long now……

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Unfortunately, one of The Gatherers had earlier in the day had a mishap whilst out on the hill, but GMRT had professionally organised his rescue and he was helicoptered off to hospital. We understand he suffered a fractured ankle and wish him a speedy recovery.

Posted in Bits and Pieces | 13 Comments

Trying Out The Southern Cross 2

The weather forecasts have been rather windy of late, and even though last night’s was not in the same category as Storm Doris, it seemed prudent to keep right off the tops. I settled for half way up Kinder instead.

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I was expecting to be putting the tent up in windy, heavy rain, but then taking it down the next morning in windy dry. And this is, in fact, exactly what happened.

As I journeyed upwards, Kinder Downfall could clearly be seen blowing upwards in all its magnificent glory.

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Pebbles was left at home for a change. She’s not totally recuperated from her spaying operation about ten days ago, but is nevertheless well on the way. Maybe next trip.

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The spot I was aiming for was not too far away. I’d not been there before, but Geoff had spent a night there with Islay, last year. I’ve been trying to Google some information about it, but haven’t come up with much. There’s obviously a ruined farmhouse, with the obligatory small group of sheltering trees around it, and its own, personal stream complete with mini waterfall, for water. The only bit of social history I have discovered, is that the farmhouse was definitely in existence and lived in, in the 1200s.

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Very pleasant, it offered a reasonable amount of shelter from the worst of the gusts and rain overnight, although did have a somewhat spooky air in the fog when venturing outside in the dark, for toileting purposes.

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Considering that this was the first time I’d erected the tent on my own, and despite the rain and wind, it was pretty quick and easy. I’d split it to make it easier to pack, so the outer went up first, keeping the inner nice and dry.

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It’s specced for two, so there’s oodles of space inside, plus two large porches. One either side. I only used the one though, most of my gear going straight into the inner. It also has a really nifty way of clipping open the outer door, to the external poles.

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What impressed me even more about this system, is that this clipping and unclipping can be done really easily without exiting the tent. Perfect for inclement weather.

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The headroom is absolutely brilliant and the only thing I regretted, was not taking my Thermarest Chair Kit with me. There’d be ample space for using that inside and thereby watching I-Player in total decadence.

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The wind and rain continued for most of the night, in the form of heavy showers and the occasional mad gust slamming into the side of the tent. It felt very stable. I slept pretty well, finally waking properly around 7am.

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It was fresh and breezy, but no longer raining. Lovely and bracing really. I thoroughly enjoyed my walk back home, taking a different and longer route to the one I’d walked in on. Looking back at the Downfall occasionally, it was still spectacularly blowing upwards.

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Logic suggests that I might well eventually find something I don’t like so much about the tent, but nothing obvious came to mind last night.

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In fact, I’m rather wishing I had the money to buy the one person version, as well!

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Posted in Backpacking Trips | 30 Comments

Arctic Sweden Videos

Currently mooching about a bit and suffering from man-flu as I am, I thought I’d put a couple of videos up that I made of my Arctic Sweden trips.

This is the one of my first trip – to Sarek in 2015, with James:

And this is the one of my second trip – to the Nallo/Kungsleden area in 2016, with Geoff:

Geoff and I have got a trip planned to Sarek too, for this coming August. Can’t wait – although I have got the TGOC to come first, which is also pretty exciting!

Posted in Backpacking Trips, Trips Abroad | 9 Comments

Pebbles On Kinder

Pebbles had received some very nifty new panniers at Christmas, but hadn’t yet tried them out properly. It was time we made the effort.

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After studying the MWIS forecast in some detail, Friday night looked like a good bet. The weather was getting colder and drier, and some forecast foggy stuff wasn’t due to come in until Saturday lunchtime. So, a last minute decision was made on Friday morning and we packed up.

I wasn’t fussed about walking any great distances, but had a spot in mind only a few miles from us, that I thought might fit the bill.

The weather was indeed blue-sky-gorgeous in the afternoon,  with just a hint of a fresh breeze as we got higher up.

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I had been careful not to load the panniers up too much. Some people say that dogs should be able to carry a third of their body weight, others say it should be no more than a quarter. At around 25kg, I have no intention of ever asking Pebbles to carry more than 5kg, and she did in fact, only have 1.2kg in her panniers this day.  She had no trouble with that, so I decided she could carry her bed (830g) as well, on the homeward journey.

The potential camping spot we were aiming for delivered a large flat ledge, lots of soft heather and a tiny stream nearby for water.

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I generally tie Pebbles to my full rucksack whilst I’m putting the tent up, but in the cold wind that was starting to materialise, she insisted on barking at me to make her displeasure known at having to suffer that indignity.

I just ignored her. Things were soon sorted though and a brew on the go.

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I had downloaded some stuff to watch on I-Player for the evening, so sat and enjoyed the Bluestone 42 Christmas Special before cooking tea.

And looking out over Manchester and Stockport a bit later, I was pleasantly surprised at both the sunset and the city lights. Even the lights seemed quite spectacular in the crystal clear night. For once, I wished I’d had a better camera with me.

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By now, I was quite surprised at how windy it was getting. It was touching on being strong enough to hinder walking a little. I was sure I hadn’t seen anything about this on the forecast!

The tent is very stable though and I eventually slept surprisingly well – given that I was woken several times by the noise of some particularly gusty periods.

I woke properly at about 7-ish and lay there until it started to look a bit lighter outside. When Pebbles and I finally did have to go out – for toileting purposes – it was absolutely bitter. Her drinking water was frozen, the tent was covered in frost and the wind chill effect was God knows what. I was really pleased I’d lugged my big Rab duvet jacket up for the night!

It was also decidedly murky.

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We breakfasted at leisure before tackling the packing up routine. It was far too cold and wild to take stuff outside, so both my rucksack and Pebbles’ panniers had to be sorted in the tent. We’ve practiced this before in good weather, and she was a little star, sitting quietly while I faffed with stuff all around her.

The time came though, when we just had to go out. You can’t pack a tent away while you’re still in it. She came in and helped while I dropped the inner, but I just had to tie her to the rucksack again while I sorted the outer. It was a bit of a wrestle in the wind and I was slightly stressed knowing that Pebbles wasn’t happy at this point. By the time I’d finished, she had managed to make herself into the tiniest curl-up imagineable, in the ‘shelter’ of my pack. She’d also managed to tie her legs up with her lead..

For the first half hour of the descent, the wind made walking a little challenging, but then suddenly, we dropped into a calm day, and even passed people on their way up Kinder in shorts. They would get a shock later.

And Pebbles had no trouble with the extra weight of her bed on the way back, even having spare energy to keep jumping into icy puddles, just ’cause it was fun.

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Posted in Bits and Pieces | 18 Comments

Nights Out In 2016

Kinder - Pebbles' first wild camp

Kinder – Pebbles’ first wild camp

Pennine Bridleway

Pennine Bridleway

Near Black Hill

Near Black Hill

 

Yorkshire Dales

Yorkshire Dales

Yorkshire Dales

Yorkshire Dales

Yorkshire Dales

Yorkshire Dales

Outside Ben Alder Cottage

Outside Ben Alder Cottage

Rob Roy Way, near Killin

Rob Roy Way, near Killin

Glen Ey

Glen Ey

White Peak

White Peak

White Peak

White Peak

Arctic Sweden

Arctic Sweden

Arctic Sweden

Arctic Sweden

Arctic Sweden

Arctic Sweden

Arctic Sweden

Arctic Sweden

Arctic Sweden

Arctic Sweden

Arctic Sweden

Arctic Sweden

 

Arctic Sweden

Arctic Sweden

Arctic Sweden

Arctic Sweden

High Cup Nick

High Cup Nick

Outside the Lingy Hut

Outside the Lingy Hut

Angle Tarn

Angle Tarn

Kielder

Kielder

 

Posted in Backpacking Trips | 23 Comments