Winter wandering in Edale (2017, Hope Valley)
Is it possible to be in danger in the outdoors when you can see safety with the naked eye and it's not that far away?
This is the question I was asking myself as we fought our way through heather bushes that were frozen and laden with snow. Each step meant sinking knee-deep into shrubbery that snagged and crackled under our feet.
Halfway round the Edale loop, from Mam Tor to Kinder Scout, we’d decided to take a detour ‘off piste’, away from the obvious path so that we could cut up to the ridgeline overlooking Edale from the north. Now though, the winter light was beginning to fade and even though I could more or less see the village below, it felt like there was some peril involved in continuing up towards Kinder Scout in order to find a route down the other other side. Even if we managed to find flatter ground, it would probably mean descending that peak in dim light without head torches. The icy wind bit and I looked towards the village below again.
Earlier, when we'd set off after breakfast in The Rambler Inn we’d begun our route as a counter clockwise circular loop: Mam Tor first and then across the valley to head up to Kinder Scout, bathed in bright winter sunshine. As we rose on to more exposed ground, the temperatures dropped instantly in the wind, a reminder that we were still in the shoulder months between winter and spring, seasons that the terrain here can ignore at its will.
The walk up to the top of Mam Tor offered hazy but spectacular views on both sides, the south east looking towards the cement factory nestled in the valley and the north looking back down towards Edale. We were alone until the way back down from the peak when a fell runner casually sprinted past us with a cheery hello, socks pulled up to his knees as the only nod to the conditions.
From there. we’d made our way over a rocky path and across gazing land, crossing a stream as we decided to head towards a path up the other side of a valley. Minor obstacles told us we weren’t really following a proper route, yet these detours added a small sense of exploration to the hike. At least until we found ourselves, essentially lost, heading up the other side of the valley in what seemed like an endless plateau of shrubbery.
We eventually descended back towards Edale, skirting around the edge of Kinder Scout. We’d been there before, we’d go there again. There was no sense taking what felt like a minor risk, which could actually have ended badly for us.
A short while later, ensconced in the The Old Nags Head with local ales, we joked at how we could have become an embarrassing news story, needing to be rescued from a simple hiking peak due to machismo and stupidity. There was no shame in turning back, just gratitude at a few hours of walking in the splendour of the Hope Valley, in good company and clean air, capped with a tasty brew. "What is this if not a small pocket of glory?” said neither of us. But we should have.
Go find your pocket: Stay in Edale at The Rambler Inn https://www.dorbiere.co.uk/the-rambler-inn/
Walk the circular route: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/kinder-edale-and-the-dark-peak/trails/mam-tor-circular-walk