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Monday, 19 January 2015

The Great Ridge from Hope in winter

On our second night of our YHA trip I was sat in bed trying to figure out what would be a good route to make the most of the snow conditions. We were hoping for some low level snow so we could do an 'easier' route for our 2nd day due to the long drive home. As if by magic it suddenly bucketed it down with some unexpected snow.

We awoke to a winter wonderland on the hills which was perfect for the Great Ridge walk. Being completists we wanted to include all of the hills - Win Hill, Lose Hill, Back Tor & Mam Tor. Due to the slightly dicey road conditions we drove as far as Hope and left the car there, crossing the railway line just on the outskirts of the village to pick up the paths leading to the bottom of the hill. It was bitterly cold first thing and my hands were in pain despite wearing two pairs of gloves. It was such a mild winter last year I'd almost forgotten what painful hands felt like!

It was a bit of a slog up Win Hill in the snow esp as only a couple of other footprints had been before us. It was made better by the panoramic views all round though, it's been a while since I've seen skies as blue and clear as those in the mountains..

I was looking forward to a nice quiet top to enjoy the views. How wrong I was.. The top was really busy as I think a lot of people had come up from Bamford which is a short route up. We didn't stop for long as Emma has whinging about cold hands & it felt too busy to relax. 

We followed a bridleway (popular with mountain bikers who weren't put off by the snow) then before it reached the wooded area we headed straight down the side of the hill to pick up another footpath to the road. It was nice to be back on our own again, and we had fun doing a bit of plastic bag sledging once we were on slightly less steep ground.

Heading back up Lose Hill was a bit of a sludge fest and it was again very busy. We passed some bonkers fell walkers careering down the hill & one of them managed to take a tumble, but quickly bounced straight back up again. The views once at the top of Lose Hill were impressive, the big Plateau of Kinder looking cold and menacing. 

Due to the volume of footfall the path down was icy so we bunged on our microspikes and started overtaking people. They worked well on the icy paths but you had to take care not to stray onto fresh snow as they just ball up and become an accident waiting to happen! 

The weather turned not long after Lose Hill and we started to get the forecast snow showers. Although Steve was a bit miffed we were missing the views I liked the drama of the dramatic skies. Back Tor was particularly impressive, especially when you look back at the craggyness of it once you have descended down. Apparently there is a winter climb on it (for sadists...!)

We annoyingly had to stop for food before heading up Mam Tor and had a very cold lunch spot on a tumbled down dry stone wall. It's at times like that you long for a small sandwich bag of bitesized foods so you can eat on the go. I'd forgotten how rubbish eating in winter on the hill is! 

We had no visibility on Mam Tor so the trig point came to us as a surprise through dustings of snow fall. 

We didn't stop for long there either and took the path down which follows the rim of the Tor. We took it steady using our poles to balance. Some people behind us were running and bum sliding down it which seemed a little silly given the drop just off the edge of the path.

More sledge fun was had before we descended back to Castleton.

Our brains were a bit mashed by then so we opted to follow the main road from Castleton to Hope until we came upon a sign which stated lane to Hope which when we checked the OS showed a route off the road straight to Hope. It has to be said the Peak Park really do make their routes clear and we were treated to a well signposted route back through fields with multiple arrays of bizarre gate fastenings which only seem to appear in the peak district too!

A route which is probably easy in summer was pretty shattering in the winter, well worth it though. We saw the mountain rescue vehicles pouring back through Castleton as we ended our route, we heard later that they had been to the aid of a walker who had slipped and broken their leg. It was easy to see how that could happen given the snow conditions that day, we are lucky to have so many people looking out for us in the hills...

Edale, Grindsbrook & the Woolpacks in winter

YHA have been offering some deals lately so we decided to check out their hostel just outside of Castleton for the weekend. I'd been ill since Christmas so was feeling a bit uneasy about going away as my lungs still weren't great, 5 hours on the motorway getting there didn't help much either!

It was incredibly icy when we arrived (could barely stay upright in the carpark!) and the forecast for the following day for the higher hills was for heavy snow and wind, with no sun. When we awoke though it was the opposite, quite calm, blue skies, and the ice had melted a little from the night before. Only the high hills had a dusting of snow so we decided to head up Kinder Scout. We'd had a late start due to the late night the night before, and long drive round to Edale (to avoid the more slippery hilly roads) so it was a relief that there was space to park.

We followed the usual route up to Grindsbrook joining the beautiful path which follows the side of it until the water gets less. and the boulders get bigger.

We got in the stream bed as soon as the bigger boulders appeared and enjoyed some easy scrambling. We were surprised the rocks weren't icy to begin with as it had felt like such a cold night. We got to the split after not much time, and took the right fork which is less frequented. Annoyingly there were only short icy patches barely worth using the spikes for (although a necessity for one awkward step), but it did mean we had to keep an eye on ours and Emma's footing at all times. It was almost disappointing when the scramble ended as were all enjoying it.

It was pretty cold on the top in the wind, but thankfully the weather was still fine, the snow showers seemed to be missing us. We headed to the top of Grindslow Knoll before continuing on. There were quite a lot of large groups on the hill and we were keen to get a head (or I was anyway!) I was glad of my multiple layers and felt a bit sorry for some of the chillier looking groups!

We reached the top of Crowden Brook and had a bit of a scramble in the upper section - we managed to lose the map down a hole (retrievable thankfully) a lesson in keeping the map away when scrambling!

Our next stop was the Woolpacks where we spent quite a bit of time scrambling about and exploring. It had got quite cold in the wind by this point and we had a chilly lunch stop in which we all froze. Both pairs of my thinner gloves had got wet scrambling & I'd lent Emma my warmer gloves for the same reason so I was glad to get moving.

We were aiming to reach Kinder Low before descending  but we got to the top of Swines Back just as the snow and wind rolled in. I was keen to get to Kinder Low (which is unlike me as I'm generally more mountain sensible) I saw sense in the end remembering how much of a drudge the route back to the car can be esp in poor weather.

(Emma trying to duck out of the photo, not being blown over!)

We headed down Jacobs ladder then followed the long route through fields back to the car. Thank goodness for the kind soles who have paved most of the route back as the ground was sludgy and horrible and it was good not to have to think about navigation with tired brains. The Cheshire Cheese Inn by the Hostel in Castleton provided some excellent stodge to refuel that evening.

Full photo set