Route: Fullwood Stile Lane, Hope – Wooler Knoll – Crookstone Hill – Ringing Roger – Grindslow knoll – Grindsbrook Booth – Edale – Hollins Cross – Brockett Booth – Townhead.
Conditions: Snow – Ice – Wind Chill of minus 5/10C.
The Runners: Debbie Smith – Stuart Hale – Helen Elmore – Chris Hough.
We set off mid-afternoon, with around 2.5 hrs of light available. I’d been cold just sitting in the car, so had mixed emotions about legging it to the top of the tallest peak in Derbyshire. Straight from the off, quite as you’d expect in the Hope Valley – we went up. Climbing toward Wooler Knoll, between Win Hill and Kinder Scout, we followed the Roman Road. The relatively shallow snow at this point allowed for a fast pace, which in turn meant cooking up quite a temperature. Once out of breath, and warmed through, we began to slow down until finally reaching the ridge at the top. Along the tree line we slowed down and settled into a steady trot.
The views were just amazing. Snow and ice covered every inch of the landscape, the rocky terrain looked like a pencil sketch with fine detail. It was as if the only colour for miles was the orange of our OMM packs (an alpine sniper’s wet dream).
We climbed further until steering left, onto the Crookstone Hill – beneath the crags. We zig-zagged up to the Kinder Edge Path, and followed it clockwise with views over the Edale Valley. Across from us was Lose Hill, similarly smothered in winter white, mirroring our altitude. The left turn had exposed us to a side wind, and the height meant taking it full on, nowhere to hide. The drop in temperature felt like about 5C. Crookstone Knoll, and it was out with jackets for Debs and Helen, gloves for Stu, and Top Bags over existing gloves for me (Top Bags are my new Extremities mits, wind/waterproof and very low in weight*).
Still snug as bugs, we continued on, following the path (or what looked like it), avoiding the edge despite the odd slip or slide, until passing the Druid’s Stone and reaching Ringing Roger. We were having too much fun to stop this soon, so decided to carry on toward Grindslow Knoll before leaving the hill. A good stretch of steady running felt playful in the snow, with occasional walkers greeting us as we sped past. The fun continued until we reached Grindsbrook Clough.
Slowing to a stop and crossing the frozen waterfall, we made our way – now into the headwind at what felt like minus 10C windchill. The sleet in the air hit our faces like needles, and the path around Grindslow Knoll proved a little taxing. Debs took the lead, preoccupied with keeping us all in a tight group if possible – but with the wind making it difficult to communicate. Helen took a few stumbles in a collection of hidden trenches obscured by the snow. They appeared to have it in for her, while the rest of us evaded capture.
Rounding the hillside and beginning the descent toward Grindsbrook Booth, we dropped into a section shielded from the wind, and the effect was eerie. There was a sudden calm. Total quiet. Except for Debs shouting at the top of her voice “It’s so still” until she was sure we’d all heard her.
Into Edale, it was 4pm. Time had flown. Running further had been well worth it, but had left us twice as far from the car. The options from Edale were a) Road, boo hiss. b) A succession of complicated farm tracks and paths along the Valley floor, or c) Up and over Hollins Cross against the clock to avoid darkness at 4.30pm (30mins).
We chose c).
Briefly, we ran along the Edale Road until cutting through the farm underneath Hollins Cross and up to the top. Tired and leaden, three of us made slow progress, with Helen declaring that she was going to push on as a little extra training (ahead of the upcoming Edale Skyline Fell Race). We left her to it, and she was gracious enough to wait for us at the top.
Finally, we had the relative luxury of traversing Lose Hill, and descending for the final time before returning to the comfort of the car. I had my head torch with me, and we discussed using it, but figured we’d get down swiftly enough. Not so fast. The path from Lose Hill to Townhead posed problems. The fading light had left it almost impossible to tell the difference between snow and ice. Anything dark that might be poking from the surface seemed a safe bet to stand on, but would occasionally prove to be frozen over all the same. Carefully we plodded, as Stu took the lead and warned of anything particularly worrying. We exited the path right opposite the car, 4.30pm on the dot.
Reflections: After some pre-run anxiety, I surprised myself with how much fun I had every step of the way. A few slips and slides had given us some cause for concern, each of us stumbling over hidden obstacles, and Stu hitting the deck thanks to a frozen bolder. With hindsight, Microspikes might have been a good idea, but for 95% of the time were unnecessary. If you were alone it’d be safer. We’d all packed spare clothes, food/drink and equipment, so remained comfortable despite the cold. We had safety in numbers, and several mobile phones between us (in dry bags of course). I can’t wait to do something like that again in the near future. The snow was fun and not as challenging as you might expect. The views were well worth the effort.
Total run time, 2.5 hrs. Distance covered, 12.5 miles. Climb, approx 2,200ft. Ave temp -2C (minus 10C wind chill on Kinder Edge).
*Top Bags are likely to make an appearance in the Accelerate store, and here on www.accelerateuk.com in the near future. If you’re searching for a waterproof glove solution, it’s well worth dropping us a line.