Jan 14 2012

Walk 40: Stone Cold Sober

Dovestone Reservoir from Alphin Pike

route: Hoarstone Edge & Alphin Pike from Dovestone Reservoir
14th january 2012
distance: 5.6 miles
ascent: 1,142 feet
time: 4 hrs 00 mins
walkers: Dave, Jane, Katie, Leanne, Lucy, Sandra & Simon

Our first walk of 2012 and it was certainly good to get back into the swing of things after the Christmas excess. We arrived at Dovestone Reservoir to find Jane, Lucy and Katie already wrapped up and ready to go, so we hastily jumped out of the car and prepared ourselves. As usually, preparing myself means sticking my boots and fleece on, so I was soon ready and climbed the embankment up to the edge of the reservoir as the others applied layer after layer to keep out the -4 temperature (according to the car). I was soon joined by my fellow Badgers and spent a minute or two gazing out over the rippling reservoir and at the hills that climbed up from the water’s edge. Behind me I heard a few little mumblings with Jane telling Lucy to pass me something but she was feeling a little shy. Eventually she did present me with a Badgers badge she had made herself as she had recently started making her own badges.

With my new badge proudly displayed we huddled together for our first team shot of what was shaping up to be a big year for us. In 2012 we plan to do 50 Wainwright’s with at least one being our first 3,000ft peak, continue our quest to tick of our Peak District tops and Yorkshire trig points and somewhere in the middle of that, plan for and attempt Oxfam’s Trailtrekker (63 miles in 30 hours) Any donations towards our target would be greatly appreciated (http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/ramblingbadgers)

After our picture Jane told us that she would have to walk in her trainers as she or Lucy (I’m not sure who is really to blame) forgot to pick her walking boots up before they left the house but it didn’t detract from the high spirits as we skirted the edge of Dovestone Reservoir and began the climb up an extremely icy Chew Road towards Chew Reservoir.

I was determined to keep up to Beaky for as long as possible as I needed to practice for Trailtrekker later in the year, and sometimes I do walk well within myself choosing to socialise on the way round rather than push myself. Not that there is anything wrong with that but I have to push a little bit now as I have a target in May. The two of us kept a decent pace as we edged further and further in front of the others until I was struggling to talk and breath at the same time so we paused until the rest of the gang joined us. After a brief but welcome rest we continued along Chew Road as it continued to climb towards the reservoir and its overflow at the far end.

As we reached the reservoir we made our way up across the front of the man-made dam before we finally reached the water’s edge and with that the vast majority of the ascent for today was done.

We took ten minutes here to take a few pictures as is the norm for a Badgers walk and also to take on liquid and snacks which also play quite a large part of our walking adventures. It was so peaceful and calm that you could almost hear a pin drop. The water had the faintest of ripples but looked motionless almost as if frozen solid.

We re-packed our bags and huddled together for a map check, or at least those who were interested enough to know the intended route did, then we were on our way once again.

The difference in pace was noticeable almost immediately as the flat solid road surface was replaced with frozen peat hags that always held out even if they didn’t always give you the confidence they would. I suppose that we were also choosing our footing wisely which in turn reduced our speed, even though we were now no longer climbing. As we grouped up to cross one particularly nasty looking section, Katie noticed that our shadows resembled our logo which raised a smile and kept us entertained as we continued our way across the frozen bog until we re-grouped once more for another map check.

We had originally intended to do Hoarstone Edge on our first Peak District walk in October last year but on the day we decided we would turn back and leave it for another day. With hindsight I have to say that was a great decision as under the conditions we were experiencing the terrain wasn’t too bad, but on that day back in October I am pretty sure it would have been a lot harder work as the peat wouldn’t have been frozen and it would have taken an age for us to get from Featherbed Moss trig point over to here and back. It was mentioned more than once by L’Autobus who were also very glad we turned back too as they made their way towards our first target for the day.

I decided as I had earlier that I needed to push myself a little more so I set off in search of the cairn or something to signify the top of Hoarstone Edge. As I took each stride I slowly moved away from the others, who to be fair to them, were in no rush and it wasn’t as if I was racing anyone. I kept a constant eye on my GPS to make sure of my location and eventually reached the spot to find nothing in the way of a cairn or any rock formation at all. It wasn’t the first time we have encountered this and one thing that crossed my mind was I was in the wrong place as I know that the satellites can be out by small amounts, but having had a good look around I couldn’t see anything higher in the immediate vicinity and my thought was confirmed by Beaky as he joined me. In the distance L’Autobus approached and soon we would all be able to tick another top off our Peak District list.

We took a few pictures and Katie issued a little compass reading lesson to those wanting to listen before we set off once again this time towards Alphin Pike trig point which was just over a mile away. We discussed whether we should head towards the edge of the ridge to see if there was some sort of path but with nothing on the map we elected for a more direct route and one that would again take us over the peat hags.

Beaky led the way and was going at a fair pace as I dropped back to talk to L’Autobus, until I found out they were talking about kitchens and various other house renovations. I decided that these types of chats aren’t for me and set out to catch the speedy one who was now well ahead. I began to catch him but I think this was more due to the fact I wasn’t taking care to go around frozen puddles, choosing instead for the, I am going over or through them option, which due to my size was often the latter. Ahead of me there appeared a vast expanse of open peat which Beaky was a good way over. I paused as I slowly put one foot on and then the other. I have recently been watching Ice Road Truckers and have commented how unnerving the cracking sound the ice makes must be for the drivers but here it almost reassured me that all was well. After a couple of yards I felt safe enough and in all honesty this was the best part of the walk since we left Chew Reservoir.

I reached the other side of the frozen bog and joined Beaky as we waited for the others to catch up. Down below us we could see Dovestone Reservoir and Yeoman Hey Reservoir looking wonderful in the late morning sunshine.

We took a few pictures and again used the temporary pause in proceedings to snack and take on any refreshments required before we made the final push to the trig point. It wasn’t going to be a push as that suggests it was a big effort, it was more like a nudge, but the phrase “we made the final nudge to the trig point” doesn’t make much sense.

Shortly after setting off once again I stepped down from onto some frozen ground only for it to give way underneath me and causing me to fall backwards. As I did, Ramblo noticed that the ice on top of the ground which I had disturbed had formed into little columns which I had never seen before. Jane said that she had noticed some a little further back and it then became noticeable everywhere.

After I picked myself up I again kept pace with Beaky as we covered the remaining distance to the trig point in double quick time and I climbed on top of the trig to watch the others approach.

Sure enough they soon followed and we each found a spot to sit and enjoy our lunch before Ramblo whipped out the hip flask for the second walk since she received it at Christmas. This time she had opted for Port and it certainly helped to warm up the cockles that had begun to chill after being sat around for quarter of an hour. With my hands getting cold (I can’t eat sarnies in gloves) and a few others feeling the chill we set off for the car after a brief discussion about the best way. It was felt that in the absence of a direct path we should make our own and cut down the hillside, so off we went.

As it happened, this turned out to be a little more difficult than it initially looked. Yes it was reasonably steep in places but the thing causing the most trouble was the long frozen grass that had no give. Once your foot was in you were in trouble and I fell on more than one occasion as did Wu Tang and Ramblo. Katie went over too as did Lucy and Jane might well have had a slight slip, leaving Beaky as the only one not to have to pick himself up.

Finally we reached the edge of a plantation and regrouped once more before we headed off down the side of the trees for the final few hundred yards back to the car. The conversations were still flowing about anything and nothing and that is one thing I do enjoy about our walks. I never feel pressured into talking to anyone at any given time, instead everyone walks and talks to whoever they want for as long as they want and then moves on to the next person. My topic of conversation here was the up and coming murder mystery night we are hosting to raise funds towards our target of £2000 for Trailtrekker, but it could quite easily have been anything from the serious to the ridiculous.

As we left the tree line we could clearly see the car park that had transformed from just the three cars when we arrived, to overflowing and people looking for a space. We reached a little stream that seemed to disappear underground and chose a good spot to cross which most of us managed to do successfully. Unfortunately for Jane she managed to pick the only spot that wasn’t partially frozen and although she began crossing with two trainers by the time she reached the other side she only had one!

Katie soon retrieved the sodden piece of footwear and we returned to the car via an interesting crossing of a barbed wire fence and with that our first ramble of 2012 was done and dusted. We got changed and I cleaned my knee that I had cut in one of my earlier stumbles before we went to the pub for a drink. It was definitely a bonus to have done this walk in these conditions and I certainly will keep that in mind when planning some walks in the peak district. I get the impression that there are a lot more peat bogs here than there are in the Dales but that doesn’t mean we can’t achieve our goals, it simply means we have to plan a little more and that can only be a good thing as we continue to try and further our knowledge of our wonderful countryside.

Sir Edmund


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