It is remarkable that the planners of the Warts' calendar are able to consistently choose a night with grim, challenging, ….choose your own description…., weather for the annual Doctor's Gate outing. So far they have managed three or four (?) outings where mist, wind and rain have all contributed to the general ambience and excitement of the evening. There was no exception this Wednesday when we had driving drizzle and thick mist from start to finish. About twenty of us (honestly, the Safety Officer (SO) did have the accurate count) went south across the road and over a low wall. It was low on the road side but as all in front of me disappeared over the wall, it made me slightly suspicious especially when the SO, siren like, enticed us over with the words "it's not too bad over here". This literal leap in the dark into the head of the Snake proved to be deep but, thankfully, survivable. There was then a climb to the summit of Featherbed Moss. Any aspirations anybody may have had to an alpine type summit, were quickly dispelled as we clustered together, emperor penguin like, on a windswept flattish moor to sort out the bearing for the next check point. The pond below James Thorn had been chosen with the proviso that Penny's scree was to be avoided. (Who was James Thorn and why was this hill named after him?). So we headed back to the road but, what motorists must have thought can only be imagined, as they saw a string of small lights heading across the Snake summit; aliens, aircraft, sheep, too much drink…… but surely not humans in this weather!
Continuing across the moor, we descended via a small stream (Birchen Orchard Clough?) into Doctor's Gate, which, according to a notice in Glossop, was closed until March 2016 for a replacement bridge to be built. There was no one stopping us so we continued for a little down the path before climbing steeply and interminably (most steep climbs go on forever!) towards the pond. As is traditional, despite entreaties to the contrary from Tom W, the group split into three or four groups, left, centre, right and some left and right of centres all aiming for the pond. We did all eventually congregate somewhere and refreshments were taken. Questions were asked of where we were and why had we missed the pond.
Pete G helpfully came to the rescue and pointedly pointed out some water and rushes at our feet; we were actually at the pond! The Shelf Stones summit (better than Featherbed!) was reached en-masse for a descent due south, this time not en-masse, to the Devil's Dike path followed by a touch of left to finish at the car park. Leaving here for the Snake Inn, the mist cleared and clarity was restored on the eastern side of the Pennines.
Once we'd finished, it had yet again been a splendid Warts' outing. Can the Warts' calendar planners repeat the conditions next year?
© Dark Peak Fell Runners 2018
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