Not sure whether it's the extreme excess of material generated or simply post-traumatic stress which has kept me from the keyboard for so long. Whatever the explanation, you know you've got a job on relaying the sheer folly of a 'run' when Cap'n Harmer himself is heard to opine less than an hour into his own 'route' that "... the consensus is the bracken perhaps makes this not the best line at this time of year". I think this constituted an apology from our esteemed leader; though it may just have been dizziness induced by loss of blood, having cut his finger on a thistle or similar in the first half hour of pointless scrambling. The safety officer will be pleased to learn (as will Chairman Woe), that between the two dozen warts present (our Warfarin imbibing leader amongst them), not one plaster (or first aid kit) could be found ... suggesting we may need to wrestle those shiny orange sacks off Tom and Mark before next we venture on the hill. Through rhododendron, across girders, through bracken, brambles, hedges backwards, a barbed-wire fence or three, heather, some tussocks, more bracken, on all fours through gorse, past a miasmatic pond, through a lot more bracken, then some more and finally thigh deep in more heather, we made our merrily shell-shocked way to Fox Stones.
At this point I would not have been moved to mention our favorite Deepcar Mountain Leader at all for fear of being accused of picking on the delicate flower once more, but I'm told he grumbled about the clag-challenged nav of those in front of him to the Fox Stones, making him entirely fair game for what follows. In a nutshell, young Mr W lead us first to a 'hand rail' wall which he proceeded to lose again within a dozen metres; then he took us down a precipitous descent (most appropriately named 'Gallows Rocher'), across Ewden Beck and back up an equally precipitous and rather hazardously holed bank to regain the heady heights of Bruston Croft. Having singularly failed to locate the small footbridge on Oaken Clough (looking at the GPS track we must have just passed to the west of it), our Ian then tried to pull off the kind of deceit few indeed have the front to attempt, claiming that a newly refurbished vehicular bridge was in fact a replacement for the foot bridge we sought. Thrice he made the claim, each time meeting justifiable disagreement, whilst we downed a fruit jelly or two, and shared whisky (like the first aid kits, in limited supply). Along the quad bike track to the east we thence traveled for fully three hundred metres, before inexplicably veering north - ignoring Clive's protestations that we had inadvertently left the track - whereafter IDP briefly reclaimed control of operations. I say briefly, because in reality we never properly recovered the situation, in the end completing the outing with fully two miles pounding along a vehicle track.
Upon reflection, I should clearly have taken more careful note of Graham B's decision in the pub on Monday night not to pitch up at Ewden (" Andy'll have you floggin' through all manner of **** "), and indeed the webmaster and Moz's decision to put roughly five hundred miles between them and this sorry expedition. All of which said, we happy twenty-four had a ball ... although it remains to be seen how many of the handful of newbie warts will ever return to the hills with the cream of Dark Peak. The more that defect, no doubt, the happier the good Cap'n will be.