Thursday, 23 September 2010

Pennine Way Day01

Walk Statistics
Walk Date - 23 September 2010
Start Point - Wild camp near Kinder Low (GR-SK 07826 87218)
Start Time 10:15
Finish Point - Crowden Campsite (GR-SK 07150 99340)
Finish Time 18:40
Duration 8hrs 25mins
Average pace - 1.54mph
Distance Walked 12.92miles
Height Ascended 412.60metres

Peaks visited
Nuttalls (253)

Bleaklow Head (148)
Hewitts (178)

Bleaklow Head (105)
Deweys (185)
Mill Hill (20)
HuMPs (444)
Bleaklow Head (48)


Click on photograph to view slide-show

Walk Description
Woken up at 06:30, as I had been throughout the night, by wind and rain but now it was stronger and from the NE blowing into and across the tent entrance.
I had also shared the tent with what seemed like a baby elephant. When pitching I spotted a small tussock which I thought would make a good pillow, unfortunately the tent was not pitched exactly where I wanted and this small tussock turned out to be a big lump bang in the middle of the tent.
I laid there while it got light thinking this is not a good start and not fancying breaking camp in wet and windy conditions. Then one of the guy ropes came out and the front of the tent collapses around me. After ½hr my arm was just about dropping off, holding the tent up against the wind so I decide to stick my head out and was very pleased to see that the rain had stopped.
Striking camp was a bit of an education in the wind especially packing away tent which would not lay flat to be rolled up. But once everything was in or strapped to my backpack I set of for day 01 walk to Crowden without breakfast.
It seemed cold in the wind and rain never seemed far away which increased my apprehension further. I just did not know what to expect. To the west looking over Kinder plateau was lowland, reservoirs and Manchester in the distance. To the east was black peat and large boulders and underfoot was a reasonably well marked path undulating between small crags until reaching first checkpoint of Red Brook presumably named after the iron stained water which flowed over the plateau edge into a fairly wide gorge to the left.
Next checkpoint was Kinder Downfall before which I was passed by a group of young hikers fully loaded with backpacks who I assumed were also walking Pennine Way. They cross the Downfall without a second thought; I took the opportunity of having my first rest of many that day.
Crossing the beck at Kinder Downfall which becomes Kinder River was fine but it did occur to me how different it would have been if there had been more water. It was not so much the difficulty but the consequences of slipping and being washed over the downfall in the fast flowing water.
Climbing up the other side of the beck the track became more grassy with a steady ascent to the NW corner of the Kinder plateau, passing the group of young hikers in the dip before a descent down a second Jacobs Ladder into the col before the first peak of the day, Mill Hill.
It was at this point it struck me that I had not bagged Kinder Scout, but I had already made that decision early on when I thought I faced a wet a windy day.
After Mill Hill the path turns to the north across Ashop Moor. The path is now marked by flagstones all the way to the A57 Snake Pass, so navigation is not a problem and experience of the first bog is missed. The flagstones go on for about 2 miles which because of the featureless terrain seemed a lot further. It was at this point that I first thought: “well you wanted a challenge, well you have bloody well got one”. At least there might be a tea bar with bacon sandwiches in the lay-by.
Suffice it to say there was not any sign of a bacon sandwich so after crossing the A57 I head off up Devil’s Dykewhich again was fairly straight forward navigation, especially with the marker stones with etched arrows and PW logos.
It was as the Dyke came to an end that navigation first became difficult as I approached what should have been Herne Clough. The flagstones seemed to head off north in the wrong direction then stop abruptly; heading in what seemed to be the correct direction led me to a knee deep bog and no sign of Herne Clough. I therefore went back and explored the flagstone route further. This part was still under construction and I guess they will turn to the west which eventually leads to Herne Clough. One of the guide books suggested this was a good place (or first place) you could top up water bottles. Personally I did not fancy it as it was stained dark brown by peat and I guess iron residue.
Furthermore the path becomes less obvious and you basically follow Herne Clough upstream crossing it many times. As the path reappears between a couple of banks I sit down for another well earned rest. At this pace 20 mile days are out of the question and reaching Crowden before dark tonight is in doubt.
While I am resting 3 guys lightly loaded pass me. We exchange Hello’s but little more as they disappear quickly into the distance. At this point I discard the idea of going off route to bag Higher Shelf Stones, the 2nd Nuttall of the day. I will be happy enough to reach Crowden before dark.
I therefore press on for the only Nuttall of the day I will visit which is Bleaklow Head. The route is fairly straight forward from Herne Clough to Bleaklow Head and as I approach the distinctive cairn with the tall wooden stake in the middle I catch sight of the 3 guys deliberating over the map at the peak.
There seems to be some dispute about which way to go with 2 opting for the path to the right and one for the path straight on. Democracy wins the day which for me is a shame as I reckon the correct path is straight on. Rather than commit to this and influenced by the other guys confidence, I tend to take a centre path across heather between both paths. It is only when I see all 3 of them wondering in different directions looking for the path my confidence returns and I immediately turn left in search of the correct path which I should have taken earlier. Once on track I give the appearance of knowing where I am and the 3 guys spot me and head towards and past me.
I see them again later when they are looking for the start of Wildboar Grain as the path turns to the left. I find the track which turns just before a wire fence which is not shown as a field boundary on the OS Explorer map. We walk together for a short while until they stop for a tea break, when I pass them again and press on following path and intermittent flagstones to the Wildboar Grain crossing point.
After crossing Wildboar Grain there is a fairly steep climb as Wildboar Grain is replaced by Torside Clough. Navigation is fairly easy from here as it is a case of following the path along as it rises above Torside Clough to the right eventually reaching Clough Edge.
By now Torside Clough was a long way below and as Torside Reservoir came into view the cold easterly wind made walking on the thin path difficult and grateful to put gloves on for the first time.
Shortly before Clough Edge the 3 guys passed me for the last time. We exchanged a few more words. They were walking the PW for 3 days as a weekend break from the office. Staying in Edale and driving back from Crowden at the end of today. At this point I thought what a good way of doing the Pennine Way and also realised that the distraction of following them, catching them up, passing them and then them passing me again on several occasions had actually got me over what was turning into a difficult time at Herne Clough.
The end point, Crowden Campsite, was still 3 miles away but at least I could now see it. The end of the first day was in sight. I still had to walk half way round the reservoir, a short ascent up to the B6105 and a further mile to the camp site.
It was also during this last stage that it occurred to me that although I had bagged my 148th Nuttall it had been nothing more than a photo and press on to next stage. It was at this point I decided I would not be going off route to bag any peaks. These could wait for another trip.
Walking the Pennine Way alone, all in one go, with 60lbs on your back is hard enough in itself.
I arrived at Crowden Campsite 18:40 just as it was turning dusk and took off my back pack for the first time all day. I felt dizzy and light headed; the camp site receptionist sold me a bottle of lucozade and told me to sit down for a few minutes. He had seen many walkers following the first day on the Pennine Way and believe it or not his advice seemed to work. He sold me a pitch for the night, some milk and tinned custard I was hoping to have to supplement my freeze dried dessert.
The site facilities were excellent and after pitching the tent and unloading my backpack I had an excellent shower followed by my first experience of Mountain House freeze dried food. I think I added too much water to the main course , salmon in dill sauce with potatoes, as it was more like thick soup, but it was delicious and more importantly filling. I did not make the same mistake with the dessert of dried berries and custard which was also delicious and more than enough to not need the custard. Brilliant I thought, more weight to carry tomorrow.
The nightly routine had ended - put on dry top, pitch tent, shower, eat then sleep. The first day had been completed how would I feel like in the morning?
“You wanted a challenge; well you have bloody well got one”

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