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, 3 January 2011

On Bleaklow

“Where are we going to camp tomorrow night?” I asked Mick on Saturday evening.

“Are we going away somewhere?” he asked?

I replied in the affirmative as if it had been a long-held plan, rather than a notion that had just entered my head, and quickly set about gathering gear together and poring over maps.


Glossop was the chosen starting point, and Bleaklow as to be the focal point of the walk. By just gone 10.30 we were walking, heading in the slightly counter-intuitive direction (given that Bleaklow Head was our aim) of Padfield, beyond which we picked up the Trans Pennine Trail.

As converted disused railway lines go it’s quite a pleasant one, with a nice soft surface and without dense trees or cuttings obscuring the views down to the chain of five reservoirs running along the valley bottom.

After a couple of miles, we could have turned off, taking the Pennine Way up on to Bleaklow, which is a fine route. However, it’s a route that I’ve done twice before (once in each direction), and I was also on a mission to get some backpacking miles under my belt, having not walked any proper distance with a pack since July last year. So, instead we strode on another four miles, beyond the end of the reservoirs, and to the entrance of the old railway tunnels, whereupon we headed off on the path up Near Black Clough.

We’d noticed what looked to be a heavy frost up on some of the tops, but once we started gaining some height it became apparent that it was a very light dusting of snow.

IMG_2014Before long we had ascended into a world that had turned monochrome, helped by the dull light. On Saturday evening the weather forecasts had indicated that Sunday would give us wall-to-wall sunshine and that Monday would feature sunny intervals. By Sunday morning the forecasts had changed to sunny intervals on Sunday with fog on Monday. As it went, both versions were entirely inaccurate.


I had expected some patches of snow to remain, but hadn’t appreciated quite how big some of those patches would be. No matter though, for even when they spanned the path the walking surface was firm and not overly slippery.

IMG_2017 A photo that is a very poor illustration of the point I was making!

A bit of a failure to navigate as we came up to the plateau had us come to realise that we weren’t entirely sure of our location. Out came the map for a bit of head-scratching, and it turned out that we weren’t the only misplaced people. A man in tights (‘fell-runner’ would be the correct term) trotted over to us and greeted us with the words “You look like you know where you are”. He was mistaken, but we were better equipped than he to work out in which direction we all needed to head, given that we had all declared Bleaklow head to be our object, and soon the chap was warming back up again as he disappeared off in the direction we had indicated.

It was decidedly cool up on the top, so having layered back up we wasted no time in continuing on our way too. Had it been a less-cold time of year our direct route towards Bleaklow Head would have been slow and messy, but with the peat bogs being mostly frozen we skipped along, with the stake in the cairn finally coming into view to lead us to the right place.

Footsteps caught my attention as we set off south along the Pennine Way from there:


As we made our way downwards the snow patches became more widespread and I started to wonder whether I would recognise the spot I had in mind to camp, or whether it would be disguised by a big patch of snow. It was only a matter of mild concern, even though we were losing the light, as we’re well aware that when the light fades we will consider practically any patch of ground to be campable.

We didn’t need to resort to desperation. The spot I had in mind did eventually turn up, and up went the tent:


Ah yes, I remember, that’s what the inside of Susie looks like”


A few visual indications that we were in for a chilly night

Soon the true purpose of the trip was in full swing: I was trying out my down trousers and my Synmat 7, but the evening didn’t go entirely to plan. After tea I snuggled down into my sleeping bag to read my book, with the intention of slowly stripping off the layers as I got comfortably warm. What actually happened was that I promptly fell asleep (at all of 7.30pm!), awaking at 9.30 to find that down booties, down trousers, two base-layers and a down jacket were a bit of overkill when lying inside of a –10C rated sleeping bag!

With the down trousers, jacket and fleece top discarded (the booties stayed on all night) I was soon comfortable, and by 10pm the sound of gentle snoring was again to be heard.

To be continued…


  1. You had a perfectly serviceable comfy bed back home. What were you thinking?


    Word = "phicces" !!!

  2. Not only did we have a perfectly serviceable comfy bed back at home, but having covered 12 miles, we camped within 5 miles of the car. So, we could have been back home, with that comfy bed at our disposal, by 9pm. Does that indicate a certain level of madness?

  3. Asleep by 7.30pm? Girl after my own heart! (Only when camping, ofcourse, koff...)
    Certainly 'a bit keen'.

  4. Louise - I think that 7.30pm is right up there as one of the earliest nights I've had when camping - but at least there's an excuse in winter. It was more impressive when we were both asleep by 7.30 in the Glen Clova Bunkhouse on the TGOC in 2009. Think we were a bit tired that day!

    Of course, when I'm at home I manage to stay up much later. Till at least 9pm .... (usually).