Saturday 29 October (0700-1315)
Distance: 14 miles (allegedly with 2700’ of ascent; I’d say it was less than that)
Weather: Sunny intervals but catching the edge of two showers
I slept really well considering how the wind had picked up as night fell. I had been woken by some particularly violent gusts at about 12.30am and then again at 5.45am. In the case of the latter waking, I’d already had more than my required 8 hours of shut-eye, so sprang into life with gusto. Mick accused me of being on speed as I set about making cups of tea and packing away.
Incidentally, last weekend I’d taken my down trousers with me and decided that they weren’t necessary given the mildness of the weather, so I didn’t take them this weekend. Oh, how I missed them. The weather may be mild during the day, but (as you would expect at the time of year) the temperature collapsed quite remarkably as darkness fell and, given that my walking trousers were covered in peat, some alternative leg-wear would have been good (not essential, but certainly good). Next time they will make it onto the packing list.
Anyways, after the early cup of tea and breakfast, we were all packed up and walking at 7am, at which time the moon was still up and only the slightest hint of light was appearing over the eastern horizon. For the second time ever (the first time was this rather interesting trip) our head-torches were called into action as we set out.
I concede that the route we took was a tiny bit on the steep side for tackling in the dark, but I managed to stay on my feet all the way down to the valley. Mick only missed the same boast by a count of one ass-slide.
By the time we reached the valley there was a hint of sunrise (in the absence of a tripod, I didn’t manage to hold the camera quite still enough for the long exposure, but I’m sure you get the idea):
Day broke as we made our way up to Rowlees Pasture on the other side of the valley day, from where we could clearly see where we had camped the previous night. It’s in this photo, but I won’t attempt to describe where (other than that it’s on the far slope on the left side):
Our diversion at Lockerbrook Heights to try to locate Tor & Lande didn’t bear fruit (I now know where they did spend the night and we weren’t even close), so onwards up Alport Castles we went. I’d thought that we would use the hide up there to shelter from the keen breeze whilst we had second breakfast. Alas, when we got to Alport Castles there was no trace of the hide. I guess it was a temporary thing, but it was certainly there in June (or was it a figment of my imagination?). Still, we got to admire the ‘tower’ and the cliffs as we walked by.
The boot-prints died out just after Alport Castles, so it seems that most people miss out on the glorious surroundings on the way up to the trig point. I see that I’m almost completely obscuring the trig in this photo, but it was there.
Our descent down to Upper Ashop that morning had been ridiculously steep, but even steeper (although much shorter) was our descent to pick up the trod that runs along the Alport Valley. I did have Ben Fogle’s voiceover in my head saying ‘One slip here could spell disaster for the whole expedition’. Fortunately there were no slips, trips or falls and thus we made it to the path without incident.
Yep, that’s quite steep!
Not long afterwards, we crossed a boggy bit of path and, after the peaty water of the night before, I was overly excited to realise that the boggy area housed a spring. I was almost out of water, so decided that a cup of tea would be in order at this point, using the perfectly clear water. Lovely! Just as lovely was the view across the valley to this tumbling stream:
The rest of the valley was muted browns rather than the lush greens of earlier in the year, but I was still rather taken with the unspoilt beauty:
Not a single person was seen all morning (apart from the chap in a car on the road down from Rowlees Farm, who stopped to comment that we’d got an early start), until we reached the Pennine Way, whereupon it was like we’d joined a motorway. It was as we unexpectedly bumped into Dave, Phil & John that the first edge-of-a-shower hit us, which is what led to the synchronised pack-faffing that I mentioned the other day, as all of the chaps reached for their waterproofs. Personally I was wearing Paramo, so my pack stayed on my back.
All we had to do then was to nip back down Doctor’s Gate and onwards back to Glossop, arriving at the car within 26 hours of leaving it, with 28 miles covered.
I’m pleased to say that my body didn’t revolt at all during this trip*. I can only assume that it was the violence and frequency of the ascent that caused everything to object to the effort during the previous weekend’s trip. I even managed to take myself out for a little stroll locally on Sunday. Then I had to go for a lie down. Four consecutive days of walking – phew – it’s been a while since I last did that.
This was the route we took, and I do recommend it (except that a slightly more gentle line down to Upper Ashop might be advisable – or even better, walk it clockwise so that the killer descents become ascents):
The green line is what I’d plotted in advance. The red line is what I recorded on the Garmin Gadget.
(*Not true! My feet hurt like I’d never worn walking boots before in my life. People reckon that switching to lightweight, flexible footwear can be hard on the feet, but I found out on this trip that moving back the other way can be just as painful. My feet still ache now. It was the first time I’d worn boots since our 17-mile trip onto Bleaklow at the beginning of January (the snow and ice on that trip made the boots the more sensible choice). On Sunday I reverted to trail-runners and it was bliss.)