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...


  1. Pleased to see you managed to get out Jamie. Enjoy the Alps trip, and take care of those ligaments!

  2. Nice trip report - hope the knee mends quickly so that you can enjoy your skiing.

  3. The path of least resistance is so attractive, we all have to push ourselves sometimes to seize the day. We haven't been to the eastern edges for ages, it must have been a change to be alone there even if only for a short while, it's phenomenally popular as I recall. Well worth it though for some great pictures.
    Embarassing tumbles always seem to occur the moment other people show up, whether the result of foolhardy bravado or not!.