Sunday, 13 January 2013

The Peak District, From Dawn 'Til Dusk

On Wednesday I took a day off to make my first Peak trip since the cold spell at the start of December. After such miserable weather over Christmas I'd been desperate to get out and test my new 17-40 lens, which had only had one half decent outing before (which resulted in this shot, HERE) and this was the first forecast clear sunrise we'd had. So up at 5.30, quick bowl of cereal, 6.20 train to Edale - the usual. I'd decided that I was going to wait until I arrived to make my mind up on where to go. One option was, if there were obvious signs of an inversion, to go up Mam Tor again - but what with the distinct lack of mist around Edale I headed up Grindslow knoll instead as my last attempt up there had ended with a murky, cloud covered sunrise. On the way up I stopped a few times to capture some of this lovely soft predawn light above the frosty valley...


A little higher up it soon became clear that my decision to come this way due to a lack of inversion was not one of my best, as looking over to behind Win Hill there was a stunning cloud flow coming off Ladybower and - after getting a little higher still - I could see the same happening behind Mam Tor and the Great Ridge. After the final slog up to the top I found another photographer who had passed me on my earlier stop - but oddly he had his camera facing north over the vast expanse of Kinder, rather than in any of the more interesting directions to the south. It turned out that the reason for this was a large bank of cloud speeding towards us - already spilling down both Grindsbrook and Crowden - finally reaching us just as the sun appeared over the horizon. Just like last time, up on Higger Tor, I was surrounded by a beautiful pink mist. The additional few metres on the top of Grindslow making all the difference as the thicker cloud flowed around and below - leaving plenty of gaps to shoot through.

One difficult up there is finding anything of interest in the foreground, at this time of year some rocks are badly angled and largely shadowed whilst others force a composition that takes in a large chunk of lower, dull, moorland... but I hurried around and found a good few shots. I was so pleased, at this point, that to compensate for bringing my 17-40mm I also brought my old Tamron 70-300mm. This lens barely sees the light of day but knowing the views up there I dusted it off and brought it along for some shots down towards Lose Hill. This paid off massively, not just for those planned shots - but also for some lovely misty ones later on. It may not be the sharpest or the quickest lens - but it is certainly better than nothing!





Turning back around, I was also lucky enough to see my first ever Brocken spectre - quite a sight and I'm very pleased I turned around at the right time to spot it!


So, after spending a while up there I had a decision to make. My plan was to continue round the southern edge of Kinder, around the top of Grindsbrook before heading back towards Edale. But with cloud still pouring over the top in that direction I made my mind up to set off in the direction I came and on towards Mam Tor, via Hollins Cross. Half way down I did stop numerous times as the cloud cleared, and even turned round and started back up toward my planned route - but eventually I had some sense and continued down... back through Edale and across for my second climb of the day. Taking a new route this time, as I was sick of a particularly muddy section of my normal route, I came across this beast - which certainly made me nervous (don't usually mind cows, but with a calf (right behind it if you look carefully) and blocking the gate it was a little different)!


As you can also see, trying to avoid the mud didn't really pay off either. I soon made it up to Hollin's Cross and started along the ridge towards Mam Tor - all the while racing against the clouds which were still sitting to the west constantly attempting to pour over into the valley (little did I know, this would continue all day - so the rush wasn't necessary!). On top of Mam Tor I stopped for a quick dinner (more light snack) break consisting of my small bottle of water, a can of coke, a brunch bar and a Rice Crispies Square. I hadn't been planning on being out all day so packed little, but with this weather there was no way I was going home so this was the total amount of food and drink I had for the day... now all gone. With the clouds still trying to spill over I now elongated my trip with a further detour up to Lord's Seat on Rushup Edge - which really was spectacular...





After spending a good couple of hours enjoying the inversion, with the ebb and flow of clouds attempting to push over into Castleton, I eventually made my way down to Winnats Pass - which the clouds were constantly just reaching and flowing into before evaporating. I knew with a bit of patience around there I'd get something good - and I wasn't to be disappointed. First I spent some time on the northern side looking down the pass as the mist was lit up by rays of sunlight, the blocks of limestone often making perfect points of interest in the foreground.



Now, with the lack of drink all day (mixed with very warm, sweaty walking - I'm sure you wanted to know) I was starting to feel absolutely knackered. It can't be healthy/safe walking 13 miles - plus a good number more for photo opportunities - on so little food and drink but I was finally on the home straight. Back up to the top of Winnats and round the southern side, which I'd never done before. Up on the top is quite a scary experience - I got as close to the edge as I could wherever possible for photos of the mist, but it was certainly not my cup of tea. One especially hairy section involves a few paths/sheep trails at various angles and heights through a gap of a metre or so with wall one side, drop the other. It would be okay in dry weather but the amount of mud meant a sit (yes, in the mud) and shuffle for me. Still, as usual, it's all worth it for these dramatic views...



After crossing this section, I came to a bit of a problem. The small path starts to disappear into a mix of nothing, and another craggy gorge. Two options; climb a 6ft wall with the fields above Cavedale in sight or go all the way back the way I'd just come. I think you can probably guess which I went with...

Wall scaled it was all plain sailing from there. Except as usual, the path down Cavedale was more a stream than anything else, and limestone can be very, very slippery at the best of times - especially going downhill. Slowly but surely I got to the bottom and went in desperate search of a drink in Castleton to give me the energy to make it back to Hope and the train home.

An hour or so later, sat at the station covered (quite literally) head to toe in mud I had half an hour to look back on the quite spectacular day I'd had as the sun set in front of me. It's walks like these, where the weather behaves itself all day, that make every cloudy sunrise worthwhile. With a full memory card I think I'll be picking out plenty more pictures over the next few weeks.

To end, here is my exact route if any of you fancy following what looks like a headless chicken's route...


1 comment:

  1. Very nice, must have been a good day out.....

    ReplyDelete