Friday, 8 February 2013

When Land Meets Sky

A couple of weeks back I  headed off out into the Peak at my usual time of 6.20am with the aim of a full day's photography - taking in the forecast good weather both at sunrise and sunset. However, much like my last post, and much to the annoyance of someone like me who defends meteorologists (and their complex task) endlessly, they got it wrong... badly wrong. The forecast blue skies not only didn't happen at sunrise, but then throughout the day not one glimmer of real light around me. I could see on the horizon to the west that it was brighter over Manchester-way and had faint hopes that the sun may pop through at sunset but it never happened so I was left to just enjoy my walk for walking's sake... which certainly ain't all that bad! As a result of this, most photos in this blog certainly won't have the stunning golden light that traditionally makes a good photo - but I think the results are interesting in their bleakness... showing a calmer, more lonely view of the Peak.

We had already had a lot of snow by this point... and on the tops it can vary from inches in the windswept areas to feet in others - these other areas not really being 'drifts' due to their vastness... but... well... there was lots of snow. My plan was to start the morning at Mam Tor and walk all 17 miles down the Hope Valley to Hathersage, via most prominent spots along the way - a long walk by anyone's standards but made immensely more difficult in this weather - and carrying a few spare layers, 2 lenses, tripod, other camera stuff, etc. Anyway, I would be starting in the dark and finishing in the dark... so here's my route (ignore the bonus mile of train at the end!):

Up on the top of Mam Tor I hung around for a good while, despite there being no nice light it was lovely to have it to myself... and there was plenty of ice around to amuse me...

After this it was time to head along the ridge... with plenty of thigh deep drifts to contend with (the path was actually pretty much just one long drift)... before heading down into Hope to enjoy an early dinner at the Blue Apple Gallery, one of my favourite cafes due to the many amazing (Stephen Elliot) photos, good food and very friendly owner.

Next was the flat section to Bamford, across some very interesting bridges and stepping stones at the old Mill before a steep climb up to Bamford Edge. The next couple of miles were on roads, which made a nice change for a while - but I soon arrived at the bottom of Stanage Edge where I took a left up through the, once again, very deep snow. As many of you will know, the ground is most uneven on the slope up to the edge due to all the bits of rock that have fallen/been cut off it in the past - the area is littered with boulders which are invisible under the waist deep snow so when one foot will sink 3 feet in, the next step will involve your shin meeting something hard if not very slow and careful. Slowly but surely I got closer and closer to the edge until I got to the stage where I had to pick a point to climb to the top. Even where the edge normally is more of a slope, and easily walkable, this time the cornices towered over it - continuing as if it were one long cliff face... so in the end I just had to go for it, walk/climbed the first few metres and then quite literally swam up the snowy cornice at the top. Who knows how many metres of snow must have been beneath me!
So here's some Stanage edge...

Finally I went over to Higger Tor for sunset, wandered around for an hour... found a good composition... set up... stood there... waited... waited... waited... and then it got dark. So back down to Hathersage it was - with not much in the way of photos but well and truly knackered from my long day out.

After this walk I've since refined it for a future route... below is one that includes Win Hill, Ladybower, Kinder Scout and Padley Gorge. Overall a relatively short extension but most certainly a worthwhile one which then well and truly covers the best of the Hope Valley. 

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