It was the first of two early Warts starts planned for the 2018/2019 winter season, this one from Doctor’s Gate near the Snake summit. Even at 5.30pm, torches were needed on this rainy and windy corner of the Dark Peak and over trousers were also in evidence. Nevertheless, ten Warts, including one new member, Mike, set off slightly later than planned because of a last-minute car sharing problem and because of a forgotten, and now, retrieved pair of studs. Caution was thrown to the significant wind after a few minutes of running up Doctor’s Gate. Efforts to keep our feet dry were quickly abandoned as we went up the paving stones which were channelling all the rain water neatly down the hillside. By the time we arrived at the Pennine Way path, shoes were very wet but clean.
Misgivings were expressed by all as we strode, well, jogged into the thickening mist along the hard surface of the PW highway. Fortunately, we soon left the PW and descended into the soft rough of Crooked Clough, the first of two deep and dark ravine traverses. It has to be admitted that hand holding was exercised by some Warts to avoid the possibility of being swept down by the swollen stream in the bottom of the Clough. No names were taken so no expulsions from the Warts have been made, so far.
There was a pre-published plan for tonight’s longer outing, of about 8 check points (subject to review of the weather and body conditions) so, leaving the Clough, an approximately north bearing was taken for Higher Shelf Stones (CP 1). Yes, we did arrive there, after a scrambling climb out of the Clough though this was a mere training session for what was to come. In daylight, it’s obvious where Shelf Stones are, but in the mist and the dark, it’s a bit different and it was a relief to us all that, suddenly, there was the trig point. This was not a whisky stop so there was no hanging around particularly as there was scant shelter from the wind, although I think that, at the most, two rather than ten of us could shelter behind a trig cairn. A soft, relatively even, wide and downhill grough gave ample opportunity for running (!), though it wasn’t quite taking us in the direction of the Pike (CP2) above Yellowslacks (CP3) so some adjustment was needed to take us to the edge of the second ravine of the night. Here, it came to mind that explorers like Livingstone and others would have heard the roar of waterfalls long before they actually saw them. So it was here, as we peered down into the abyss not able to see any water, only misty darkness. Sliding down towards the still not visible, roaring (well, maybe noisy) cascade, we bravely watched the even braver sacrificial Warts in front to see if any of them were to disappear. We’d know then avoid that route. Arriving at the bottom, the stream was not a disappointment and, above it, was a fine waterfall invigorated by the recent rain. The rehearsal in Crooked Clough was useful for us to use hand holding again to cross the stream. It was definitely a hands and knees experience to climb out of the clough, with the added excitement of seeing headtorch lights apparently vertically above us. What! We have to go up there, up Dog Rock (CP4)?
We did and we survived to take stock and, yes, there were still ten of us. Our night’s target was Torside Castle (CP5), a mere 700m from where we emerged from Yellowslacks. If anyone was expecting a Peveril like castle structure, they might have been disappointed if, indeed, we had got there. On a solo recce, Pete G reached within 50m of it so, for those who hadn’t visited, they could let their imaginations run freely and build a castle in the misty air. To make up for the disappointment, we stopped for whisky, Liquorice Allsorts and Jelly Babies at John Track Well. Also there, a review of body, soul and weather guided us to omit a trip to some rocks (CP7), The Swamp (CP8) and North Grain Cabin (CP9). Instead, we went along the PW to Far Moss (CP6,) as planned, but on to Bleaklow Head, Hern Clough and then direct to the car park over the moor (not much PW) via the rather convenient fence which could be followed to the car park.
Post run analysis of the splendid outing was at the welcoming Angler’s Rest.
© Dark Peak Fell Runners 2020
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