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]

Monday, 6 April 2009

Sunday on Kinder Scout

We woke up to a stunning morning in Edale yesterday. The clear skies had given us a chilly night, with a bit of a ground frost*, but led to a truly superb day for walking.

By 8am we were parked up in the still-empty parking area at Upper Booth and after no small amount of faffing (principally involving Mick making sure he had everything he needed in his shiny new Osprey Exos (along with lots of stuff that he didn’t need but was using as representative weight for this training walk)) off we set down the road.

Anyone who knows the area will appreciate that ‘down the road’ is not the most obvious direction in which to head from that car park, but I decided on my previous trip that the slight backtrack to take a route across fields was much more pleasing than the walk up the road.

The walk itself was to be something of a repetition of what I’d done on the second day of my Edale Adventure a month ago. On that occasion, as I made my way up Crowden Brook, I thought that Mick would have rather enjoyed the route, so this was the return journey to test that theory**.

As we made our way up the side of the brook I could scarcely believe the difference to a month ago. It was difficult to reconcile this happily burbling stream, with pretty rock beds and steps, with the immense raging torrent that I had previously encountered.

Whereas last time I was unable to cross the water where I needed to, this time we skipped from side to side without even getting the soles of our shoes wet (and there was me thinking it would be a good test of my new boots, it being the place where I discovered the leak in the original pair).

Although not as spectacular, the lack of a raging torrent did have its advantages and we were able to take a more interesting route up the stream with a few scrambly bits thrown in at the top.

We met no-one else on our way up to the plateau, but within three minutes of reaching the path along its edge, I had already seen more people than I encountered in the whole of my previous 2-day trip. That’s a warm, sunny, Spring Sunday for you, rather than a shitty-weathered-out-of-season Tuesday!

Around the edge we went and I couldn’t believe the difference there either. The vast sections of peat bog that I had encountered (waded through, in fact) were now dried to such an extent that, with a little care, they could be trodden on without the danger of losing a leg to the knee. It struck me that either I was exceptionally unlucky with the underfoot conditions last time, or exceptionally lucky this time; my feeling tended in the direction of the former.

We skipped along, enjoying the clear views, and taking the time to take photos of things that caught out attention*** whilst basking in the warm sunshine.

By and by we reached the big cairn where the edge path meets the Pennine Way and this time I was determined to make the detour to the Downfall. With many a “How Do” as we passed endless numbers of people, we made our way along, feeling the chill that was still in the air when the sun went in and we lost shelter from the wind. Finally we came upon the Downfall and I heard before I saw that it did have water in it.

Our packs were dumped near the top as we wandered down to get a view and sure enough, even in the reasonably benign conditions the water was doing its party trick of being blown back up.

We tarried a while with snack bars until I was well and truly chilled and until our contemplation of the map had resulted in the conclusion that our only real option in the time available to us was to retrace our steps to the big cairn and then make our way down Jacob’s Ladder.

I had been tempted to try a route across the middle again, because it had struck me, on the evidence available elsewhere, that the nightmare I had there previously was probably during the wettest underfoot conditions of the year and if the dried-outness of the edge path was anything to go by, the middle would be a lot more passable now. However, a route across the middle didn’t make sense in terms of where we had left the car and our ascent route, so we stuck with the safe, but less interesting option.

There were still hoards of people ascending as we made our way down and as we reached the road, I couldn’t believe how busy it had become; with the car park full, there were cars abandoned in all sorts of inconsiderate positions. Still, we freed up a space at an early enough hour that it was probably reused and back home we tootled, to complete all of our chores before the long commutes to work beckoned again this morning.

* Given the time of year and the weather forecast, I really don’t know what I was thinking in selecting Wendy as our accommodation for the night. Actually, I do know – it was the fact that she’s so quick and easy. What I can’t fathom is how I overlooked the fact that she’s really the most unsuitable tent for two people in cold, still conditions. She’s fantastic with one person. She’s fantastic in warm or windy conditions. Cold, still and full occupancy she struggles with. As a result it was a condensation-wet start to the day.

** I wasn’t wrong. He did like the route.

*** I had good intentions of posting some photos in this post. The laptop thwarted those intentions by refusing to play ball (an hour of whirring before I could do anything useful with it – time for a new laptop, do you think?). I’ll likely post a few photos sometime later in the week.

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