The walk started on a bright and sunny morning much as it had the previous year and we followed the usual rituals of taking photos at the start and after almost a year of planning and anticipating this moment, the walk had begun. The Vale of Edale looked resplendent and unchanged, unlike myself, as my preparation for the walk had been vastly superior to my failed attempt of a year earlier and had involved losing a great deal of body weight, as well as specific training, including carrying heavy rucksacks and running in my local mountains. We set off in high spirits, across fields and following lanes until we reached the foot of the first climb up a steep stone staircase onto the vast peat plateau of Kinder Scout. This we achieved with a minimum of fuss and we enjoyed the views from the plateau's edge as we proceeded towards the downfall, which on this visit was nothing more than a thin trickle of water tumbling into the abyss.
Bridge at the start of Jacob's Ladder
Climbing Jacob's Ladder
Although I was overjoyed to be on the trail again, it felt that something was wrong. The previous year, I had set off alone on a great adventure, just me and my wits travelling to the Scottish Border, but this time I had company and somehow, it didn't feel right. Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed walking with Alan, I felt as though this time I was cheating, as though being with another walker was somehow 'copping out'. This feeling was of course absurd but it was one that persisted throughout the first half of the walk until Alan's injury. I found I was constantly reminding myself that I was here to experience this great adventure and whenever this thought occurred, I would deliberately stop talking and just observe my surroundings as I walked and attempt to simply 'be', taking in everything around me in an attempt to experience the walk on some other level. I do this when walking alone, I regularly make a conscious effort to stop my internal conversation so that my mind is simply absorbing my surroundings. With a walking partner, this is not always an option. As we descended from the plateau, we passed a group of walkers watching a hovering kestrel and had a brief conversation with them before descending to reach a vast stretch of moorland, whose only real feature was the slab pavement stretching as far as the eye could see. This we gratefully followed as we wondered what this section would have been like without this artificial pathway during really wet conditions.
Noe Stool, Kinder Scout
The vast Kinder plateau we had descended from loomed large to our right and we covered the two or three miles across the moor quickly. We crossed the Snake Pass and clambered through peat groughs and along a small stream, which we had to cross a number of times before we reached the summit of Bleaklow Head. From here we began the long descent to Torside in impressive surroundings as the narrow path skirted the top of the deep valley of Wild Boar Clough and headed towards the reservoirs in the valley below.
The Kinder Plateau
On Bleaklow Head
Descending to Torside
The campsite at Crowden was as I remembered it from the previous year except that the warden had changed from the open, chatty man of the previous year to a reserved, rather guarded woman who did relax a little after we had chatted with her for a while. The shop however was very poorly stocked and Alan struggled to find something to eat, which didn’t do anything for his mood. This was further exacerbated by the midges, which were numerous and caused Alan problems as his reaction to the bites was quite severe. Patrick, came over to speak to us numerous times during the evening. He had been at the campsite at Crowden the night before the start of the walk and was walking from Lands End to John O’Groats for the fourth time in five years. Also present were a couple who seemed intent on keeping themselves to themselves and two guys from the Edale campsite who, as I never discovered their real names, I mentally dubbed ‘Beardy and Bandanna’, they were doing just three days of The Way. After dinner, we sought refuge from the midges by retiring early to our tents, where I fell asleep after listening to music on my MP3 player.
(To continue reading, click 'Newer Post' below or go to the index in the right hand column)