Saturday, November 3, 2012

Edale to Kinder Downfall

Our day started very early - Chuck's earlier than mine since he didn't sleep.  We left my flat in Harrow around 5:15 for the tube station to St Pancras. Unfortunately, the Metropolitan line was under maintenance and the over-rail trains from Harrow-on-the-Hill didn't start until 6:30-ish (which is when our train was leaving from St Pancras for Sheffield).  So, we took a replacement bus service and managed to make our train for the ride to Edale.

On the train from Sheffield to Edale we sat across from a father out for a day-hike (or at least I hope it was only a day-hike) with his young son.  I'm not good at determining ages of babies - he was old enough to stand and make some noises that were clearly meant to represent train whistles, cows, and dogs.  When we got to Edale, his father finished bundling him up, loaded him into a backpack and headed out for a walk. What a great way to start introducing your child to outdoor activity!  I imagined I was witness to the early days of a life-long tradition, perhaps.

There were quite a number of hikers on the train to Edale. We didn't see any that looked as though they were out for more than just a day though.  Everyone was chatting away, out for a nice but seemingly cloudy day.  I felt a little out of my depth, like the only person who had absolutely no clue what she was getting herself into.  It seemed that almost everyone on our little train car was going to Edale, and of course, they all knew what they were doing as they strode off with purpose.  It took us a bit longer to make sure we were headed in the right direction.  But finally, off we went!

We strolled from the train station to the official start of the trail (the Nag's Head Pub).  It was around 9:30/10 a.m., and we expected to be able to perhaps get a bite to eat and fill up our water bottles at the pub.  On our way, we stopped at a visitor's center and looked around at the displays.  All of it was a bit overwhelming.  Lots of different pictures of scenery and bunches of souvenirs - most of it currently meaningless to me.  How would you know what to purchase as a souvenir before you saw anything?  And why would you want to carry it with you the whole way?

The weather was drizzly but not too cold, as we walked into the village of Edale, which didn't contain much more than the pub itself and a post office along with some homes.  Everything was shut, including the pub.  So, much for water... The visitor's center was a ways back, and we didn't want to waste too much more time.  We figured we'd find water on the way.  As we set off from the Nag's Head we greeted by some sheep, perhaps they were cheering us on our way.

The first part of the path starts with a climb through pastures.  I think we went from drizzle, to rain, to sleet, and back to just cloudy by the time we reached Upper Booth Farm (which was maybe 1 mile in). Then it was on to Jacob's Ladder.  I did not have a lot of preparation and training going into this walk, and so this was a hard climb for me.  Every time I thought I was approaching the top, I would see there was more to go just beyond the rise.  I admit that as I struggled my way up, I thought I was going to hyperventilate, and maybe I even shed a few tears. But eventually I did make it to the top of this part of the climb.

Looking back at my progress up Jacob's Ladder
Chuck is clearly having no problem with the climb
As we reached the top of this part of the climb, we encountered our first of many cairns (which are used to help identify the Pennine Way throughout).  As we didn't know that this would become a common sight, we took pictures. :)  As we continued up towards Edale Rocks, the sun finally came out, and the sky was big and blue with white fluffy clouds.

Amazing! A cairn! Who could have built it?

Edale Rocks... I thought I'd reached the "top" already

Aahhh the sun!
In "Notes from a Small Island" by Bill Bryson, Bryson describes his first hiking experience in England:
"'Are you sure it's not too hard?' I asked.
'Nah, just an amble,' John insisted.

Well, of course it was anything but an amble. We clambered for hours up vast, perpendicular slopes, over clattering scree and lumpy tussocks, round towering citadels of rock, and emerged at length into a cold, bleak, lofty nether world so remote and forbidding that even the sheep were startled to see us.  Beyond it lay even greater and remoter summits that had been quite invisible from the ribbon of black highway thousands of feet below.  John and his chums toyed with my will to live in the cruellest possible way; seeing me falling behind, they would lounge around on boulders, smoking and chatting and resting, but the instant I caught up with them with a view to falling at their feet, they would bound up refreshed and, with a few encouraging words, set off anew with large manly strides, so that I had to stumble after and never got a rest.  I gasped and ached and sputtered, and realized that I had never done anything remotely this unnatural before and vowed never to attempt such folly again."
Replace "John" with "Chuck" and remove the bit about the smoking, and I could have been the writer here.  If only I could be so eloquent... Once Bryson reached the top, he was overwhelmed by the views, and I fell in love with my own experience at the top of Kinder Scout just as he did on his first hike.

We continued to top of the hill and then on to Kinder Downfall, stopping for a few shots of the Kinder Reservoir below.

Now, our lack of water was becoming a problem. So, we wandered off the path to find some water. It was all very brown and rusty looking. We were a little worried because it remained brown even after we filtered it.  So, we wandered around a bit more.  But, we were tired and couldn't go much further. So, we found a little spot to camp and decided we'd give the filtering one more chance. 

When we looked at the guidebook, we realized we'd only managed about 5 miles. Actually, Chuck probably knew without looking that we hadn't made it very far, but I have no sense of distance yet. I was feeling a bit disappointed in my abilities. The climbing had pretty much done me in earlier, and I knew I was the reason we hadn't made more mileage.  Chuck told me not to worry about that - we had no specific plans or itinerary, no timetable.  Reassured, but exhausted and cold (I had on all my layers of dry clothes and I was still shaking) I think I fell asleep before 5 p.m., but not before Chuck told me it had started to snow!!!!

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