Monday, 5 May 2014

A Jog Around A Hill: The Kinder Killer

Whilst undeniably majestic, over the last couple of years, the Lake District appears to have been demoted to a distant second as my favourite away-day playground for long days in the hills. Instead, the Peak District has increasingly become my preferred location.

The distance of the drive to Cumbria from Saleby (anywhere between 4 and 5 hours) means a visit to the Lakes is only justifiable if the length of stay is a weekend or longer. The drive to the Peaks, however (2 - 2 1/2 hours), means it's still accessible as a hit-and-run one dayer.

I've come to know the Vale of Edale and its surrounding hills fairly well. Runs on the Pennine Way and recees of race routes such as the High Peak Marathon, the Edale Skyline and the Ultra-Tour of the Peak District have acquainted me with the true pleasures of the High Peak - an area very different in character to the Lakes, but equally rewarding in terms of challenging and satisfying long journeys on foot.

The village of Edale - the starting point for a good number of my days out - is overlooked on the southern side by the Great Ridge, an imposing geological slice that runs from Lose Hill, through Mam Tor and onto the furthest reaches of Rushup Edge. On the northern side, it is the equally impressive Kinder Scout that casts its shadow on this quaint Derbyshire village.

A vast and wild upland moorland plateau, Kinder Scout is a rare beast, by turns both exhilarating and terrifying, beautiful and impossibly bleak. Get lost in mist on that mighty plateau, I always imagine, and there's a chance you'll never be seen again.

The website provides a good overview of what Kinder is all about:

Kinder Scout is a high windswept upland gritstone plateau, most of which stands at around 600 metres above sea level. The highest point is Crowden Head, which at 631 metres is also the highest point in the Peak District. This is the largest and grandest of the great upland areas of the so-called 'Dark Peak' and it forms an imposing and fascinating area.

The Kinder plateau rises steeply from the surrounding ground and the edges are studded with rocky outcrops and crags. At the western side the Kinder River flows straight off the edge of the plateau in a spectacular waterfall, Kinder Downfall, but this is just the largest of a whole series of crags. The northern edge of the plateau is a long series of rocks and there are several crags on the southern edge too. To the east the level of the plateau gradually lowers and tapers to a narrow neck of high land at Hope Cross which connects Kinder to Win Hill.

The edge of the plateau is scored by deep cloughs or river valleys - on the west side the Kinder River and William Clough lead down to Hayfield, on the north side the Ashop and Fairbrook streams and on the south side the various branches of the River Noe - Crowden Brook, Grindsbrook, Lady Booth Brook and Jaggers Clough.

Kinder is most popularly approached by walkers either from Edale village, up Grindsbrook, or via Jacob's Ladder and on to Kinder Low, or from Hayfield up William Clough and on to the north-west corner of the plateau. In general the eastern and northern parts of the plateau are less accessible and therefore less busy. A circuit of the whole plateau is a long day by any standards but a very enjoyable outing.'

During last summer, I grew increasingly fascinated by various long distance routes regularly attempted by the Peak area's fell runners, most noticeably those aligned with the Dark Peak mob. Challenges such as 'The 15 Trigs' and 'The 3 County Tops' checked onto my mental 'must have a go at sometime' list. However, two routes in particular really appealed to me. Devised by Ken Jones, 'The Kinder Dozen' and 'The Kinder Killer' were long distance journeys entirely based around this one hill. A relatively short, but impressively brutal route, The Kinder Dozen involves climbing and descending the Scout twelve times, each ascent and descent taking a different line to or from the top. At 33miles / 9000 feet, The Kinder Killer involves circling the Scout by ascending and descending the summit plateau seven times. Whilst I intend to both both routes in forthcoming weeks, it was The Kinder Killer that I decided to tackle first.

The route details of The Kinder Killer can be found here:

True to this year's spirit of just getting out and doing stuff on the spur of the moment and with just the most rudimentary necessary preparation, I'd decided a few days ago to give it a whirl on the forthcoming Saturday. A quick check on the weather promised a warm, sunny day with excellent visibility. We were on.

I'll not bore you with a blow-by-blow account of how it went, but I will tell you that I arrived in Edale just under 8 hours after setting out, feeling strong though suitably knackered, having enjoyed one of those days.

On the drive home, I couldn't help but think of a post on a walking forum I'd read the night before on the subject of The Kinder Killer:

'I know a couple of forum members that have had a go at walking it and given up, not so much from fatigue, but just through a building lack of enthusiasm to putting the energy into completing it.
It's (apparently) just a soul-destroying route, and not much fun as a walking challenge.'

Don't believe it for a second. With its breathtakingly beautiful lonely cloughs, a sketchy scramble from beneath the Downfall, stupendous views across the Vale of Edale, Ashop Moor and further afield to Glossop and Manchester, a wonderful traffic-free trot along the largely-ignored northern edge and a final gruelling, hands-on-knees climb to the summit of Grindsbrook Knoll, The Kinder Killer is the exact opposite of 'soul-destroying' and is heartily recommended.

Looking down on Edale at the start of the first climb.

A gorgeous day for active travel.

Take the path to the Druid's Stone.

Descend on faint trods to Lady Booth Brook.

Next up - the climb up Jaggers Clough.

Away from the crowds.

A fun scramble at the top.

Good running to Crookstone Hill.

Climbing Blackden Clough.

Summit plateau in sight.

Hidden treasures.

Fascinating geology.

The next destination,Fairbrook Naze, before the descent via Gate Side Clough.

Looking back at where I've been.

Criss-cross skies.

Ashop Moor from the northern edge.

Strange shapes.

Joining the Pennine Way near Mill Hill.

Down William Clough to the Kinder reservoir.

Following the River Kinder - climb number 5.

The Downfall in the distance.

How the hell do I get up there?

Moonscape near the Kinderlow trig.

Edale cross.

Jacob's Ladder from the 6th climb to the Woolpacks.

The last summit - Grindsbrook Knoll.

Edale awaits.

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