Monday, 4 May 2015

Crowden Clough, the best so far!

I own the Cicerone book 'Scramble in the Dark Peak' and have been looking at the picture on the front of the book on a regular basis. I eventually looked in the front covers of the book and found it was part of Crowden Clough. Not found in the Crowden area of Woodhead, but in fact sitting between Grindsbrook Clough and The Cloughs in Edale. The picture is of a particularly challenging section of Crowden Clough found near its top. And I knew I had to give it a crack. It seemed like an appropriate progressive step from Wilderness Gully West that I did last week. So last Saturday, after finishing a night shift at work, I went straight to Edale with my gear in the car.

I parked up at the car park at Barber Booth. This Car Park is approximately one and a quarter miles west of Edale at the northern side of the railway line. It’s not huge with maybe 15-29 cars able to park in the area. This sounds like quite a few, but it is very popular and fills up quite quickly. I was lucky that arrived at around 7:15am and there was no one else there. I’d just finished a night-shift at work and driven straight there.

I set off back the way I had come down to the railway bridge. This gives you access to the foot bridge across the River Noe and onto the path heading north-west to the very small village of Upper Booth, possibly a hamlet. Some one may correct me if I am wrong. Once at Upper Booth you need to follow the Pennine Way heading west away from Edale until the road drops down to a very sharp left hand bend in the road. On the outer edge of the bend, on your right, you will see a stile across a fence (see photograph below). This is the path to Crowden Clough.

This initial section of path passes through ‘non-open access land’ with not a boulder in site. It’s easy going with some interesting features to watch out for. There’s also quite a lot of wildlife to watch out for if that’s your kind of thing, especially birds of prey.

Eventually you come to a fence and gate that cuts directly across the Clough, which designates the boarder between where the non-access land ends and the open-access land begins. You will get an idea when you are getting close to the fence and gate because the boulders have started.

And the boulders are great. The scramble can start at any point you want after you go through the gate. To be honest, I was time limited, so I followed the path for about the first third of a mile. Then when the slope increased I got to work on the rock. Scrambling over boulders is fun, but you just have to watch some of the particularly large boulders which have some serious drops on the descent side. The problem with photographs is their inability to convey scale if there is nothing in the shot for reference. The boulders in the photograph below are small compared to some boulders further up. Some are maybe around a couple of meters across.

About an hour from the start and I came across this narrow chimney which looked really intriguing. I just had to give it a go. It’s off to the left of the Clough, roughly around where it starts to kink back around to the left. It’s perhaps 3-4 meters from bottom to top with a very small pool at its foot. The pool isn’t visible in the photograph, but you can clearly see the moss that has resulted from water running down into the pool. The chimney itself is a squeeze at the top, but was the start of the fun proper. More was to come.

The Clough continues to climb fairly steeply. Constantly kinking to the left and hiding the piste de resistance still to come. I always try to remember to keep looking back. It’s very easy to get very involved in the scramble and forget to look at the views. Taking photographs for the blog reminds me keep stopping and looking back, and by default, take in the views.

Then as you round the corner, and look up, the waterfall comes into view. I’d say that this section is a 4-5 meter climb up an initial steep first half with a more sloped second phase. I’d read that the rock here when it is wet is sensuous, and I have to say, it is such an accurate description. The rock was very, very wet, but so much grip was available. I still found myself checking the grip of each foot hold, but not one failed me. Hand holds started off well, but got harder to find in the transition from the vertical section to the sloped section. If you don’t fancy the challenge of the waterfall then there are a couple of easier alternatives to the left. One is almost like a series of steep steps, but to me looked more exposed. To the left of this is a more standard issue boulder section. Still quite steep, but more simple with more access to hand holds. All I can say is that when I got to the top of that waterfall I was buzzing. It’s one of the many minor challenges I have set myself, and I managed it.

From the top of the waterfall is a series of stepped sections with generally the same level of grip apart from the occasional boulder that has moss on it. Moss doesn’t make a very grippy surface, the rock generally does. Good old Peak District grit stone.

Then, before you know it, you’re at the top. There is an amazing view of the Great Ridge peaking through the slopes of the Clough. The path now splits into what were three routes.

As I was heading for Pym Chair for a rest, and wanted to get out of the wind that had picked up, I took a left turn and up another scramble, the rocks on the right.

After taking a steady meandering route between the peat mounds I finally reached Pym Chair and got down on the leeward side of the rocks, out of the wind for a break. It was clear enough here for me to do this. If the weather had been more closed in I would have followed the ridge past Crowden Tower. But it was nice to be out of the wind, for a little while anyway.

After a quick pit-stop I set of round towards Jacobs Ladder. At this point I had been up for around 18 hours from the day before. I wasn’t particularly tired, but I knew I didn’t have time to hang around. From Pym Chair I headed along Edale Head and over to Noe Stool. I think they mean stool that you sit on rather than the alternative. At this point I was well and truly back into the wind as it funnelled its way up from the Edale valley, up through The Cloughs, and straight through me. It certainly removed a few cobwebs.

From Noe Stool I headed down to Jacob’s Ladder and the last part of my route back to my car.

Disappointingly, the Cairn on Jacob’s Ladder has seen better days and has collapsed quite a bit since I was last here.

This has been the most fun I’ve had in a while. The feeling of having overcome a challenge I wasn’t sure I could is hard to describe. Next challenge here I come.

Just as a reminder. My blog posts for walks are to inspire and give people an idea of what is involved, the views, how hard it was for me, etc. If you plan to follow any of these walks then please make sure you have a map and compass, and more importantly, can use them. Mine are always with me, even on a walk I know. Fog and severe weather can change a path drastically. And worse still, can be disorientating. Mobile phones can break, fail, lose a signal or be dropped. It’s great to have both, or a map and compass with a dedicated GPS. But no map and compass, and the inability to use them can cause many people to have to call out the MRT. The MRT are volunteers, they are not paid, but are expected to rescue people from what can sometimes be dangerous situations for them.