I had made a New Year’s Resolution to climb at least one mountain each month in 2013, and given that I live in St Albans that was going to mean taking any opportunity which came along in the right area of the country. Which is why I found myself driving up to Kinder Scout at 7 o’clock in the morning, the day before I had a business meeting near Sheffield. I would be following the Kinder Low walk from the Pathfinder Guide for the Peak District. Of course, anything like this will also be good training for me towards doing the Fan Dance in the summer.
I parked in Hayfield at 1045, ate a banana before setting off, and then found my way to the church. From there I turned right up Bank Street, joining Kinder Road, and soon found the footpath to the Snake Inn on my left. The weather was dry, though a mist was coming down as I continued my ascent, passing an isolated copse before I came to the open moor and kept following the path up to some white-painted shooting huts, which are checkpoint B in the guide. I got there at 1119 and I was feeling very good. My training towards the Silverstone Half-Marathon in March has clearly improved my fitness levels and the yoga from the previous evening had me feeling nicely stretched. I now took a fork before bearing left to contour the steep side of White Brow above the Kinder Reservoir. If I had thought the going had been muddy through Essendon on New Year’s Day, well, this was properly muddy. The going was heavy and uneven, and although there was a wind blowing in the air, at least the rain was holding off. The mist had descended and I could not see any of the features mentioned in the guide. I could barely see that I was above a reservoir. Now I was following a stream into William Clough, marvelling at the scenery as the rift quickly narrowed, while also noticing that the rain was starting to fall. Still, at least it was not as bad as when I walked through Matlock Bath on Christmas Eve. The path moved from one side of the stream to the other over a series of fords as it worked its way upwards, and towards the top I kept right with the main branch as it became a series of steps, very much a calfmeister 2013. I reached the top at 1213 and there was a paved path to the right which took me away from Snake Path along the same route as the Kinder Trespass of 1932. The rain was falling heavily now, and was made worse by the wind blowing across me, as I followed the path to another stepped rise, feeling steeper than the previous one, and taking me onto the plateau. According to the guide book there is a breathtaking view from here, but I could not see a thing as my visibility was reduced to the few feet around me. The plateau was a desolate place with any view to the north blocked by the rise of the bog, and while that might not be ideal for some, together with the wind and the rain I was finding it exhilarating. I kept ahead, passing the bouldery debris as I stuck to the path, thinking that this most closely resembled an alien planet landscape from Dr Who in the 19070s. Before I set off I had planned to deviate from the route to take in a couple more peaks including Sandy Heys, but given the mist and the lack of visibility I decided that was not such a good idea. Frankly, it was hard enough seeing Kinder Downfall. I could hear it but could not see a thing, and even when I did get to the edge and could see the water flowing towards the fall, I could not see the fall itself. I walked along the rim, trying to get any sort of view, and eventually turned in to find a crossing point, which was not as easy as it sounds given the current water level. I crossed at 1305. By this time it was much wetter than Matlock Bath and while my Rab Vapour-rise Lite Alpine jacket was soaked, I was dry inside under my Rab baselayer and Rab micro pull-on, which is quickly becoming my favourite item of clothing. I cannot speak highly enough of Rab products.
I had not seen anyone since I started up the footpath to the Snake Inn, and now, about two and a half hours later, I passed a group of 4 walkers who were also heading towards Kinder Low. Not long after that another group of 4 passed in the opposite direction. This is where things really started to get interesting for me. I crossed Red Brook and followed the path on the other side, which now had me walking along the Pennine Way, but I do not know when I passed Kinder Low at 633 metres. I did not see the trig point, and I did lose the path by veering off on another track to the left, before bringing myself back to the correct path, and it is interesting reading the guidebook as it cautions that the path leaving Kinder Low is faint and can be confusing in mist. So I suspect I lost the path not long after Kinder Low before coming right back on myself. One of the problems was that the visibility did not allow me to see Edale Rocks or the River Noe, or even the cairns along the route. I did find a paved path which split into two, and I took the right fork. I suspect I should have taken the left. I would now say that took me off the path just after Kinder Low and before I reached Edale Rocks, on a track which runs in the same direction as the main path but veering away from it, and even if I had taken the left fork it would not have brought me fully back on to the main path, although it would have brought me very close at Swine’s Back. While the track I took did take me past a barrow on my right, that is not shown on the map, and so was no help to me whatsoever. Not far beyond that I reached steps which took me down off the mountain, I believe between The Three Knolls and Kinderlow Cavern. I reached the bottom at 1406 and turned right to follow a track alongside a wall, which brought me to Broad Clough. I could now see the Kinder Reservoir and realised that I was not walking along the track I needed to be on, but rather on one which ran parallel to it, so I retraced my steps, only to find the group of 4 walkers who had also been heading towards Kinder Low. It turned out they had coincidentally followed the same route as myself to come down off the mountain. We managed to get them and me orientated, and they set off on one route towards Hayfield while I set off at 1440 at a right angle to them to get myself on to the track in the guide. The path I was taking was along the bottom of Kinderlow End and curled along Oaken Clough, which meant I then retraced my steps again to head towards Hayfield. There had been a lot of back and forth on this section for me, and now I pushed on hard, not least because the water from the sodden ground had finally made its way inside my Scarpa ZG10 GTX boots after they had held out for so long. The track falls through Coldwell Clough, where it becomes more of a road, and at which point I passed another group of 4 walkers, and then follows a stream which joins with the River Kinder. I reached that point at 1530, and from there it was a straightforward walk back into Hayfield, and I got back to my car at 1545 after an excellent day out climbing my first mountain of 2013. I will have to go back in better weather to do it again so that I can see all the views and the trig points, and will most likely do that by taking on the Derbyshire Top 10. I made a few notes while I was walking, and should mention the Rite in the Rain pad I used to do that, because even just using a standard biro I was able to write in it when the paper was clearly wet.
When my detours are taken into account against cutting off a corner of the route in the guide, this was still a ten and a half mile walk, and according to the guide I gained 664 metres over the walk to get to my highest point of 633 metres. Some of the climbing up the steps was a good workout but not too demanding and all in all I felt I took Kinder Scout in my stride quite easily, which is a very rewarding conclusion. It is worth noting that the weather was worse than forecast, and my experience just serves to emphasise why you should always carry a map and compass with you – without them I would not have been able to work out where I was. I would also make the point that I was carrying my Mountain Equipment Fitzroy jacket as an extra waterproof and a Mountain Equipment beenie, but never felt the need to put them on, and also a first aid kit and bivi bag. I would say I had set out properly prepared, had the necessary items of kit with me if they were needed, and I am glad they were not. It really does not matter how easy it might be to get up a mountain if you do not come down from it safely, and I am happy to say that I managed both.
You can see the photographs I was able to take here, although you should not expect to see anything too remarkable give the weather conditions on the day.