Sunday, 15 January 2012

Higger Tor and Carl Wark via Burbage Rocks

Weather has been pretty lame for the past few weeks. It has been really grim. Temperatures milder than normal for this time of year which means wet, windy and dull. It has been a serious problem in the hills and mountains and sadly fatal for some. However for the first Thursday in weeks, the chirpy young weather girl on the BBC weather report seemed to have good news. There was to be a slight respite for several hours last Saturday morning. I was a little cautious of this forecast as all week they were reporting that winds would ease, in reality however it blew a gale for the entire week. I was looking at possible routes on my Macbook and had to turn up the music due to the noise of the wind coming down our chimney. I wasn't going to get much chance to get out at the moment so I jumped on the chance of a possible weather window.

Carl Wark and Higger Tor

I posted on both Twitter and my Facebook page the fact I was going to go to the Lake District or Snowdonia, to see if anyone wanted to join me. Despite people always telling me they would love to join me, of the 1390 people who would have seen this post only a handful replied and unfortunately they were all already doing something elsewhere or couldn't make it. I have to admit I have struggled myself in recent months to push myself out of bed on Saturday mornings after having busy weeks at work. Looking back at my review of what I had done in 2012 and the years before, it reminded me that I only got to those incredible places because I pushed myself. So I've promised to push myself and get out more this year and get past that first half hour in the morning. The first half hour where I feel like a concrete slab lying motionless and immovable in a state of laziness I feel it would be impossible to rise from. I hadn't had many responses to anyone else joining me, so I decided to save money and instead go to the Peak District. I also realised that if I went early enough and did a short walk I could be back in time to make my way to Moss Lane to watch the Alty match.

Climber traversing Burbage Rocks

I decided on a walk I had done before. Last time however I forgot my camera and had to take all the photos on an old 1.3 megapixel camera phone so the quality of the photos was pretty awful. I chose Higger Tor and Carl Wark via Burbage Rocks as it is a short walk yet it gives you a real sense of space and wilderness. Saturday morning I felt great after getting past the initial concrete slab scenario and having a shower and breakfast. Packing was fairly easy as it was only a short walk. I felt great in the car listening to the brilliant Vaccines album at full blast whilst passing Lyme Park where the cheerful winter sun was rising and piercing through moody clouds creating a stunning scene of blues and oranges. I  turned off the A6 and made my way to the Hope Valley via the always impressive Winnat's Pass. Mam Tor and The Great Ridge looked huge, bathed in the morning sun. After driving through Castleton, Hope and eventually Hathersage, the road rose towards the moors and eventually reached the sharp bend at The Fox House, where I turned right then right again into the National Trust car park at the Longhaw Estate.

Upper Burbage Bridge

As a National Trust member I get free parking in their car parks, so any walk that can be started from one of their car parks is favourable. I sat in my car getting kitted up as it was bitterly cold outside. I had to open the door to put my gaiters on and had a bit of a shock when I opened one gaiter and pulled the velcro apart to find a pair of knickers hanging from them. Luckily no one was looking. I can only presume they had come together in the laundry. The missus might not have been with me on this walk but her underwear certainly was. I walked from the car park down into the Longshaw Estate and passed a few walkers who were all friendly. I turned right and made my way to the gate house, crossed the B6521 and made my way into the woods on the other side. It was still very windy out so I soon had to stop and put my windproof over my fleece. I reached the A6187 and crossed it to the wide flat track that heads into the Burbage Valley. The track is a very easy route, I think last time I came along this way I turned off this path and went up via the quarry onto Burbage Rocks. This time I decided on the easier route along the valley track, partly because it was a bit different and to see the rocks from below. When I finally get round to writing up this walk I will actually suggest this way as despite being more popular and much easier, you do get a much better aspect on the rocks when seeing them from below.

Higger Tor summit rocks

The path bent right into the valley above the forest. The view straight ahead was of Carl Wark on the other side of the valley with Higger Tor directly behind it. They would be my return route. I continued along the track and kept looking back as the sun behind me was creating incredible rays as it pierced through the moody clouds. Ahead was the incredible gritstone edge of Burbage Rocks. To my right now was the southern end of Burbage Rocks. It looked almost man made, like someone had created a straight wall of squared rock columns. The track eventually comes to the upper section of the rocks and I was then able to get closer and explore the rocks. Anyone who passes this way and doesn't do so is a fool. I came across climbers I hadn't even noticed from further away. Most of them were trying to decide if it was too windy to be safely hanging themselves off the face of the rocks. I took some great photos of the huge rocks from below. I continued along the track until it reached the popular Upper Burbage Bridge. Here there are two fairly large parking areas. During summer months this bridge and the banks of the bubbling brooks can be a very popular. Today however it was so cold and windy that there was no one around.

Lunch spot under Trex Rock on Carl Wark

I looked down toward the brooks and couldn't decide if I would be able to cross them. Here Burbage Brook has two tributaries, one comes from a north west direction and the other from a north east direction. There are two lovely stone bridges, one over each tributary. Over each is a path avoiding the main road. The crossings are just a narrow section with rocks used as stepping stones. The brooks had a lot more water in than I have seen before. I watched as two other walkers stepped across them with ease, then followed. Once on the other side I had to make my way to Higger Tor. I chose the quieter path that goes under the Fiddler's Elbow, a great choice as it was quiet and gave great views across the forest to Burbage Rocks, but the going was very boggy. At one point I crossed a bog with a trainer stuck in the mud, I felt sorry for whoever had walked off leaving it behind. I started the ascent up Higger Tor and the wind really started to pickup. I approached three walkers who all stopped to chat about what a lovely day it was. We were happily chatting until a huge gust of wind came and threw one of the men into me, it was quite bizarre and we had a good laugh about it then moved on.

Higger Tor from Carl Wark

The summit of Higger Tor was a very windy place to be so I didn't spend too much time up there. I went over to its western side to see the impressive summit rocks and the view to the Hope Valley. I could make out may hill tops and of course the ugly cement work buildings. I made my way down the short scramble off Higger Tor and crossed the moor to Carl Wark. The ascent path took me past the pre historic fort walls, most certainly built to last. The summit has some fascinating weathered rocks, including one that the last time I saw it I nicknamed the Turtle Rock as it really does look like a Giant Turtle. On Carl Wark I decided it was warm enough to stop and have lunch so I found a cracking sheltered spot between rocks on its south eastern face, sheltered from the cold prevailing north westerly winds. The lunch spot gave me a great view across the forest to Burbage Rocks. The rock above me while I was having my lunch looked like the head of a Tyrannosaurus Rex dinosaur as you will see in the photos. After eating my sandwiches I made my way off Carl Wark towards Burbage Brook. Again the brook was definitely higher than I remembered it being the last time I attempted to cross it here. I remember having difficulty crossing the brook here last time and moving a little further up stream to find a narrower section.

Trees near the Longshaw Estate

On the descent of Carl Wark I had been joined by a group of walkers. Me being the idiot I am, I decided to try and impress the group by jumping from one huge gritstone boulder on one side of the stream to another. I only just made the jump but landed badly on the other side with all my weight on my right knee. I did the usual manly thing of grinding my teeth together and walked away saying I was okay. In truth though my knee was hurting badly. I walked it off and made my way to the track I had walked in on earlier. I followed my route back through the woodland, crossing the road and back to Longshaw. The doctor says I have just bruised cartilage and to take plenty of anti-inflammatories. It still isn't great but feels much better. Thank goodness too as I am off to my first ever skiing trip in Morzine, France next weekend. So the next time I'll be outdoors I will be thousands of metres high in the Alps. As great as the Alps will be, I still have a big place in my heart for my local Peak District and I am glad I nipped out for this short walk last weekend. Its a great walk when you are short on time.

I have uploaded the photos from the day here.

Route Map...

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy New Year! 2011 Review

I am currently sat on my couch with that sort of frustrating trapped feeling you get when you know its been way too long since you got that outdoor fix. It is the outdoor fix that folk like us require in order to stay sane. I am also sat here thinking to myself that I didn't do enough in 2011. So I looked back through my Picasa photo albums to see exactly what I have done in the last year. It is so easy to forget sometimes just how god damn lucky we are to be alive. While others around the world live in poverty and suffer from illness I on the other hand have a beautiful wife who is my best friend, a caring and loving family, amazing friends, a secure future, prosperous career and live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. I am so lucky to be given life and try every day to appreciate it. Below is just a quick review of days and nights I have been fortunate enough to have enjoyed this year...

February 5th... Sgurr Coire Choinnichean

I didn't get any walking done in January as I was working most weekends. My first outdoor fix of the year was my first trip to Knoydart with Nicky, Steve, Elaina, Kirstin, Maria and Zoe. We stayed at the luxurious Knoydart House, with a awesome views across Loch Nevis from the dining table and a warm outside hot tub, it was heaven. We walk up the Corbett of Sgurr Coire Choinnichean from Inverie and had snow showers on the summit ridge then later in the Old Forge Inn I received a rather painful spanking with a big wooden ore...

Sgurr Coire Choinnichean

February 20th... Win Hill

In February I went up Win Hill with Janet and Simon from my old work place. I love this walk as it is so easy yet it gets you up high and puts you bang in the centre of everything that is great about the Dark Peak. I tried to start a walking club at work but we struggled with the numbers of people prepared to get up early on Saturday mornings. It was a cold dull day and Win Hill was covered in wet snow. Simon sliding down a muddy slope on his backside was by far the highlight of the day, especially with denim being his choice of leg wear...

Simon and Janet on Wooler Knoll near Win Hill

February 26th... River Bollin

I also went for a walk down to my local river the River Bollin in February to see if I could spot the elusive Otter. One place that the Otter is rumoured to live is the tributary known as Birkin Brook. The brook is teeming with fish as it is the outflow of Rostherne Mere which is stocked with fish for the masses of birds that use its sheltered and protected waters. Still no joy finding the Otter, but the Bollin and the Birkin were in spate and I did see the local Buzzards which always makes me smile...

River Bollin tributary Birkin Brook in spate

March 4th... Bow Fell

March saw me head out on my first wild camp of the year, and what a fantastic one it was. I pulled up at the Old Dungeon Ghyll and the weather could not have been better. I tried to eat my lunch on the patio at the Old Dungeon Ghyll while being attacked by a Robin and a Great Tit whole literally stole my Eccles Cake. I ascended to Rosset Pike with a snow covered Bowfell looking alpine above me. Angle Tarn was the original wild camp destination but the bowl the tarn sat in was holding a layer of incredibly cold air. It was still light so I headed for the summit of nearby Allen Crags and found a fantastic wild camp spot near the summit with wide views. Morning came and brought a complete contrast. The next day was cold, drizzle and windy. I made my way across Esk Pike then Bowfell before descending to the Old Dungeon Ghyll...

Wild camp spot on Allen Crags

April 22nd... Harter Fell

Nicky and myself headed up to the lakes on a warm hazy day and decided on Harter Fell as we didn't want something too strenuous but wanted a decent walk. The upper Duddon Valley is in my opinion the most under rated part of the Lake District National Park. We pulled up at Birks Bridge and made our way across the River Duddon then up through the old forest towards the steep ascent of Harter Fell. It was a brilliant day to be out and a fantastic moderate walk. The views from the summit were excellent. We stood in amazement of the jumping Salmon and Trout in the River Duddon on the way back to the car...

River Duddon near Birks Bridge

May... Shining Tor

The Goyt Valley is a part of the Peak District that I had never discovered before. One thing I had always wanted to do was to bag Shining Tor the highest hill in Cheshire, the county in which I was born. Turned out that Shining Tor was by no means the most interesting part of this walk though. The old Erwood Hall and the Spanish Shrine added a fascinating historical twist to the walk. The woodlands around the Erwood Hall area where so colourful. It is definitely a walk I will do again...

Summit trig pillar on Shining Tor

June 25th... Crow Point

June saw me visit my dad who lives in Barnstaple, North Devon. My dad has made a name for himself around his local town as he spends a lot of time picking up litter at Braunton Burrows, a place I loved playing on as a kid when visiting my family. Braunton Burrows is the largest sand dune system in Britain. It was also the first United Nations Unesco Biosphere Reserve in Britain. The area is also part of the North Devon Coast Area of Outstanding National Beauty. The burrows are rich in wildlife, especially insects and butterflies, and has an internationally recognised abundance of rare and in some cases unique flora and fauna. We had a great afternoon walking around the headland, dad on his off road disability Tramper vehicle. I took my new bike down to Devon with me and cycled home after the walk from Braunton to Barnstaple along the excellent Tarka Trail and South West Coast Path route...

An old wreck and an old boat

June 26th... Dunkery Beacon

This was probably my favourite walk of 2011. I have always wanted to walk up to Dunkery Beacon, the highest point in the Exmoor National Park. It is an easy walk as a bridleway from the road takes you up a very easy ascent to the summit. Dad asked if I wanted to do it and I was obviously up for it. The bridleway meant his Tramper could easily make it up there and beyond. What I didn't bank on was dad asking me if I fancied getting up really early in the hope of seeing the sun come up from the summit. We had watched the weather forecast and seen that it was perfect weather for cloud inversions, excellent I thought but surely we won't see one from up there. How wrong could I have been, it was unforgettable. Probably one of the best mornings of my life and I never thought for one moment I would ever have stood on top of a hill with my dad watching the sun come up over a cloud inversion. Just typing about this moment makes me tingle. It was absolutely amazing!...

Sunrise over cloud inversion from Dunkery Beacon

July 23rd... Delamere Forest

Delamere is another childhood favourite. We often went out in the car for a drive and ended up having a picnic in the forest. From my front door I can jump on a train and for a very reasonable fair end up getting off a train thirty minutes later in the middle of a huge forest. The train station is literally in the centre of the forest and there are many walks and cycle routes through out the forest. On this occasion I decided to get off the train and ascend Old Pale Hill for a view over the forest then a circular walk taking in some of my favourites spots, including the stunning Blakemere Moss. It was the perfect day to test my new camera and polarising lens...

Blakemere Moss in Delamere Forest

August 7th... Culag Woods

In August we returned to Ullapool with Steve, Elaina, young Craig, Sandy and Louise. Ullapool is one of my favourite places on earth, such an excellent base camp for discovering so many amazing landscapes. The weather was pretty pants, so bad in fact it kept us indoors a few days and I think there was only one day when it didn't rain at some point. One place I always visit when I head up this way is Culag Woods. It is a small natural woodland above Lochinver looked after by the local community. Nicky and myself stumbled across Culag Woods one day and went in for what the notice boards said was an hours stroll. We were in there for just over five hours as we found it so magical. Steve and Elaina had visited the woods with us before but it was a first for Craig, Sandy and Louise. Plus we did the right thing and visited the Lochinver Pie Shop for Venison and Cranberry delights...

The magical Culag Woods

August 9th... Stac Pollaidh

Determined to beat off the weather we agreed to attempt Stac Pollaidh while in Ullapool. Steve had climbed it many years ago in the forties or something and Nicky and myself climbed it three years ago. Craig was climbing it for the first time. It started well as we set off from the Loch Lurgainn car park. The unmistakable ridge above looked as impressive as ever and there wasn't any rain. As we got to the shoulder of Stac Polly though the weather came in and we get soaked. We reached the Bealach and made the sensible decision to descend. Despite the weather turning absoilutely freezing and soaking for a while we all danced, literally, along the path back to the car...

Craig and Nicky on Stac Pollaidh

August 11th... The Quinag

I wanted to make sure I did something big while I was up in Ullapool. The one day that gave us sunny was the only opportunity to do something big. Nicky was studying at the cottage. Steve, Elaina and Craig wanted to go to Sandwood Bay, so I would be on my own for the day. I set my sights on Ben More Assynt but when I approached it from the road it was still covered in high cloud that didn't look like it was going to lift so I decided on the backup plan which was to walk over the Quinag summit of Spidean Coinich. In the end I actually walked to all three of the Corbett summits on The Quinag and it was a fabulous day out. The geology on Spidean Coinich was incredible. If it wasn't for the cloud inversion on Dunkery Beacon this would have been my favourite walk this year.  

Myself on Quinag's Sail Garbh summit

August 13th... Inchnadamph Bone Caves

Weather forecast wasn't looking great for our last day in Ullapool, but there was a four hour weather window from midday to afternoon. We decided to explore the Bone Caves near Inchnadamph which we had all past and read about so many times but never bothered to explore. It was a surprisingly interesting walk down a lovely glen. We saw the almost unbelievable Fuaran Allt Nan spring and had great fun in the caves. This including myself being dared by Steve that I couldn't fit through a hole which the guide book described as only passable by small children. Steve lost the bet as I squeezed through, the bet was that he would buy my seafood platter that night at the Kylesku Hotel. Great holiday away with great people, and meeting young Craig for the first time was such fun...

Craig, Elaina, Steve and Nicky in the Bone Caves

August 22nd... Black Hill

I decided to take a day off during midweek in August as I needed a break from work and a day in the hills. I chose Black Hill in the Peak District as it was one of the harder Peak District walks I still hadn't done. It was a great time to do a hill which is often described in negative terms, known for its unforgiving boggy terrain. However on this sunny warm day I found a transformed Black Hill. Work by the Moors for the Future foundation have transformed this once quagmire back to a lush green landscape full of wildlife. The Crowdon Horseshoe was very enjoyable and totally unexpectedly so...

Common Lizard on Black Hill

August 27th... Monsal Head

The Monsal Head Social Meet organised by Terry Bond was a undeniable success at the end of August and I was very glad to have been a part of it. It was a fantastic weekend with lots of laughter and I met lots of new like minded outdoor folk. The meet brought together a large number of people who had only communicated via online Social Media. I went on a walk with several folk including Gareth from Webtogs, Phil Sorrell from Social Hiking, Pilgrim Chris, photographer Giles Babbage and Mike Beaumont. The walk was down Millers Dale along the wonderful River Wye which was teeming with Trout. Great walk and a great weekend...

Monsal Head

September 23rd... Dunham Park and River Bollin

Struggling to get my outdoor fix in September I took a morning off work and took a stroll from my front door down through Dunham Park to the River Bollin. On the way I discovered the Dunham Massey Brewery which I have to admit I have made several trips too since. I can't resist their moreish Chocolate Cherry Ale. Instead of eating my lunch at my desk at work, I sat by my favourite three trunked tree by the River in the sun eating a freshly made sarnie...

Triple trunk tree by the River Bollin

October 15th... Goretex Bloggers Summit in Germany

I was offered an all expenses paid trip to the Goretex European Bloggers Summit in October. It was an eye opening experience that I will never forget. Gore were fantastic and treated us like royalty. I learned so much about designing and testing outdoor equipment. They really impressed me with their incredibly stringent testing which guarantees their brands quality. We also walked a short hike in the Bavarian Alps, which included descending by candle light through the woods. The weekend was great and I met lots of new people including my four companions for the weekend the fellow British bloggers Dave Mycroft, Fiona Williams and Tom Evans who were all great fun. A truly unique experience...

Gore-tex European Bloggers Summit at Gindelalm

November 10th... Ben Lomond

This was probably the second worst experience I had ever had during the last decade of hill walking. I headed up to Scotland for a few days as I needed a break and it was Frank's Final Munro Weekend in Glencoe. The plan was to spend the first night wild camping on the Ptarmigan Ridge then bag Ben Lomond the next morning. This plan was on and off until the day as the weather forecast wasn't great, but come Thursday I opted for the wild camp as the weather was surprisingly good. It turned out to be the worst camp ever as I had to bail at 2am when the tent finally succumbed to the incredibly strong gusts of wind, descending an unfamiliar mountain from 700m to almost sea level in pitch black and storm force winds ain't easy. I was very proud of how I dealt with the situation calmly and got down safely knowing I had the right equipment and experience. As I love telling people...I nearly died...

Wild camp above Loch Lomond

November 12th... Beinn Fhionnlaidh

After nearly dying on Loch Lomond the night before, I headed up to Glencoe to meet friends at the Clachaig Inn. It was a great weekend as we celebrated Frank turning sixty years old and bagging his final munro Beinn Fhionnlaidh. There was lots of alcohol drank that weekend and lots of laughs. Frank was really chuffed as over twenty of his friends and family managed to make it all the way to the summit, despite some never climbing a hill before in their lives. I have only twenty Munros under my belt, god knows how Frank and other people have achieved all 283 of them!...

Myself and Frank at Beinn Fhionnlaidh Summit

December 2nd... Blencathra

Early December saw the first proper snow fall in the mountains, so as is the case every year, I took a day off work and went snow chasing. Via the wonder that is Twitter I had learned the night before that Blencathra definitely had a sprinkling so headed that way. I attempted Sharp Edge but as snow showers came in and the knife edge ridge was quite a challenge. As I got closer to the Bad Step I took the sensible decision to turn back as the going was just slippery wet snow and ice. When I reached the summit via the other ascent route the clouds opened and revealed a stunning wintery panorama...

Blencathra sporting Movember Trucker Style Tash

December 16th... Dunham Park and River Bollin

I have done this walk several times this year as I can do it from my front door, but this time was definitely my favourite. The first snow we had seen here in Altrincham this winter had landed so it was time to take another morning off and head outdoors. The golf course was beautiful, covered in snow and backed by stormy clouds and sunrise. The weather closed in as I got down to the Bollin Valley and turned into heavy wet snow for the rest of the walk...

Dunham Forest Golf Course in snow

Not bad for someone who thinks they didn't do enough last year!