The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Friday, 13 March 2009

Edale – Day 2

Tuesday 10 March

My day started early and by 7.30 I was sitting back at the Upper Booth car park, with a sodden tent in the boot of the car and hoping that the rain, which should have cleared through by now, would soon abate. I gave it until 7.45, then decided that rain or no rain I needed to make a move.

Despite the rain lingering, the wind had dropped, and it was much warmer than Monday had been (when I had not only had the unfashionable buff arrangement about my head, but had also managed to keep my fleece on under my Paramo for the whole day without overheating; what happened to spring?).

The road-walk to Upper Booth Farm (at the road-end) had seemed interminable the day before, so this time I opted for the route over fields. It involved lots of mud and being mobbed by sheep (yet ignored by cows and horses), but was far nicer than tarmac.

Just past Upper Booth Farm I left the Pennine Way (which I’d only joined a matter of yards before) to head up Crowden Brook. It was only when the path joined the side of the water that I realised that whilst I was sleeping the night before it must have rained quite a lot (as was forecast, I just didn’t notice it). Crowden Brook was a torrent of brown/white frothiness and it did cross my mind to wonder whether my intended route would be feasible.

At the first point where the path crossed the water I managed to get across slightly further upstream, and when it crossed back I also managed to find a suitable place where I didn’t feel like I was risking life and limb.

The third time that it crossed (because of a landslip), I started losing my nerve and although I’m sure that I could happily have leapt from one visible rock to another, more than a mere step apart, when faced with only a trickle of water between them, I couldn’t bring myself to make the jump when faced with the intervening torrent. Instead I hoped that the ground above the landslip was reasonably stable and having scrabbled my way up the bank made my way across its top edge.

My nerve didn’t rejoin me as I got further upstream and after a bit of rock hoping up the middle of the stream (the left side looking rather too tricky with the high water), I found myself having to cross to the other side – which was not where I wanted to be. I could see a clear path on the opposite side, but even with my good vantage point I couldn’t see an easy way to get there. The only other option was to make my way up a ridiculously steep grassy bank, interspersed with rocks – from where I got an excellent view of the waterfall (see the video snippet in the post below).

It was a rather more exhilarating ascent than I had expected, but certainly a worthwhile route which I would happily repeat, and whilst a little less water in the brook would be good from one point of view, the raging torrent did give make it all the more spectacular.

My second objective for the day was to pop over to Kinder Downfall. When we passed by last year it was during a very dry spell. The legendary bogs of the first few days of the Pennine Way had been completely absent (even Black Hill was bone dry), and Kinder Downfall didn’t even have a trickle of water doing any seeping, never mind falling. With everything being so wet at the moment, I’d decided the day before that I really wanted to revisit the landmark to see if it does get wet occasionally.

Having taken leave of my senses, it seemed sensible, when looking at the map the night before, to follow the line of the RoW marked on the OS Map from the top of Crowden Clough, over the plateau to the Downfall. I knew that the plateau is legendary for its bogs and being a bit of a navigational challenge, and yet still chose it as a reasonable plan.

Given the lack of features up there, the poor visibility in which I found myself didn’t seem to offer any great impediment, and with compass in hand off I set.

About a third of the way across I concluded that although it was undoubtedly a good test of navigation:

1) I was risking irretrievably losing myself in a bog

2) It just wasn’t fun; and (perhaps most importantly)

3) My painfully slow rate of progress was eating too far into my available time.

Before I turned back I needed to satisfy myself on one front, so out came the GPS, just to see how I’d been doing. I was quite pleased with the answer, as although I was a bit further forward than I thought I was, I was still on the right line.

Once back at the top of Crowden Clough I was making a bit of a meal of finding the path around the edge (which seemed like a good and obvious path yesterday, so I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t find it), when suddenly the cloud lifted and I could see not just one but two paths – one contouring the hill and the other climbing steeply upwards.

The obvious thing to have done at that point would have been to check the map, but what I actually did was think “Well I don’t remember a steep descent to this point yesterday, so it must be the other path”. Quite clearly, looking at the map would have been the smart thing to do and would have taken just a few seconds.

Fortunately I’d not gone too far on the contouring path when I realised my error, but rather than backtracking (again!) opted to follow it a bit further to find a good place to make my way back to where I should have been.

It was looking like it wasn’t my day when, popping back out at the top in the midst of a boggy area, I found myself faced with far more unavoidable bogginess than I recalled encountering the previous day (looking back, it was a simple case of taking a different line through the mire). It was at this point that Mick chose to phone me to check that I was still alive and well and hadn’t been eaten by monsters during the night. I don’t think he was quite expecting the ‘fed up with peat up to my knees’ rant with which I greeted him!

The bog was soon forgotten by the time I got onto more solid ground, and when I got to the junction with the Pennine Way I had a choice: I could take the 6km out-and-back detour over to Kinder Downfall, or I could just call it a day and head down.

I really, really wanted to go to the Downfall, but countering that were the factors that I wanted to be away from Edale early enough to pop into Terra Nova on the way home (and preferably to avoid the worst of the traffic), and after three days of walking and, more particularly, the bog-yomping, I was rather tired (and, in the absence of Mick to act as chauffeur, it was quite imperative that I stay awake the whole way home!).

So, reluctantly I started down Jacob’s Ladder, even though it was still so early in the day that the masses were still ascending.

Three days later I’m still disappointed about not making it over to the Downfall. Yes, I know that it will still be there another day, but will it have water in it on that day?!

The stats for the day were 7.5 miles walked with 1600 feet of ascent. Hopefully it was an indication of the toughness of many of those miles, rather than of a lack of fitness, that it took me the best part of five hours (without any breaks) to cover them.

(As things transpired, my biggest navigational exercise of the day was still ahead of me. My top tip is that if you need to visit Terra Nova, it’s worth getting directions from them first. I got there in the end, and handed over Vera’s inner which I’ve returned under the lifetime guarantee, having established last week that (as I suspected last October) the groundsheet has become completely porous.)


  1. Hi Gayle,fantastic reports which I have really enjoyed reading.In my younger days I would always head off into the centre of Kinder but during my last couple of outings I have been up to my knees in the peat bogs and on the last occasion,I had to be pulled out by a guy from Leicester(I was extremely lucky that he was around at the time)I have since vowed to always keep to the edge paths in future.It was a shame that everywhere was so dry when we visited the Downfall last May-It really is a spectacular sight when the Kinder River is in full flow.I was lucky enough to be on Kinder in Feb when all the snow was around.The Downfall was completely iced up and there were climbers ascending up it.Anyway,your walking schedule is way in front of my own at present-Keep up with the reports.

  2. Mike Knipe has a good picture of the Downfall (as an upfall) during Saturday's windy weather!

  3. Phil - first you had a photo of the Downfall, then Mike, then Martin. Everyone managed to visit the place last week, except for me! Still disappointed about that :-(