Having not seen a proper hill for some time, I hatched a plan to escape to the Peak District during the Single Christmas Day of Fun. Cue a departure from home at 02:30…

Maxing out Christmas

Written by Haydn Williams

I’m trying to avoid too much Covid-talk on this blog, but it’ll seem very strange to future readers if I don’t set the scene a little bit first for this particular post. In amongst various tier-related shenanigans, England was given 24 hours over Christmas with no travel restrictions. Having not seen a proper hill for some time (and with parental visits abandoned on the basis that mixing socially is probably ill-advised at present), I hatched a plan to escape to the Peak District during the Single Day of Fun.

Cue a departure from home at 02:30 to arrive in Edale to an empty car park, and off running by 05:00. The Eastern Moors are fine for training, but I know by now that you need to head to Kinder for adventure (and Bleaklow for misadventure). I had the hill to myself as I trundled up Grindsbrook Clough, enveloped in silence, and on to the edge of the plateau.

Ice! This is a good sign. © Haydn Williams 2020

The bosses of ice in the clough suggested that it was going to be a good day, and justified the wearing of my studded Arctic Claw shoes (finally starting to show signs of wear after four seasons of snow and ice!). I know that readers in more northerly and/or continental climes will not be terribly excited by a little bit of ice, but it perked me up!

Coming off Kinder Low and getting my first glance of Manchester etc. while I guess most people are still asleep. © Haydn Williams 2020

I followed the edge around to Kinder Low, then north towards the Downfall. It was (unsurprisingly) very dark and very quiet, with the lack of usual aeroplane noise being particularly noticeable.

I can’t take artistic credit for this creation – I just found it near the Downfall. © Haydn Williams 2020

I still hadn’t seen a soul, which was lovely and sort of the point of getting out so early, and I happily turned away from the cliffs and plodded upstream alongside the River Kinder.

The top of Kinder Downfall. Not much water, and definitely not ‘in’. © Haydn Williams 2020

After a few minutes I reached Kinder Gates. During planning the previous evening I’d worked out that they would have the sun rising almost directly between them. This had all been part of a grand plan, and the run in had entailed carrying my big camera, tripod, and accompanying accessories.

Unfortunately I arrived about 07:05, and sunrise wasn’t until 08:22. Hanging around through dawn to sunrise had seemed like a good idea while tucked up in the warm at home, but after about 50 minutes of photographic playing around (including a big down jacket and a flask of tea) I just got too cold and decided to press on. Results to that point were rather underwhelming anyway.

Kinder Gates at dawn. © Haydn Williams 2020

Not ready to head straight back, I took a bearing and struck out towards the northern edges as the grouse began to wake up and start calling to each other. I initially stuck to the ages-old tactic of staying on high ground to avoid getting bogged down in the muddy groughs.

Fire and ice. © Haydn Williams 2020

However, I quickly realised that everything was frozen so completely that you could just run down the deep, narrow channels at full speed. This doesn’t happen very often, and the child in me relishes in the opportunity to feel like Luke Skywalker in his landspeeder as you weave around.

Not much visibility out of these. © Haydn Williams 2020
A basically straight line, with enjoyable grough-wiggles. Navigation is fun, kids!

I rounded one corner and met a hare, but otherwise remained alone as I emerged from the mini-canyons back into the wider world.

Bleak but beautiful. © Haydn Williams 2020

Sunrise had crept ever closer as I navigated the wild bit of Kinder, and I was treated to an incredible show as I moved eastwards over technical terrain.

Haydn stood in front of the rising sun on the Kinder plateau.
Merry Christmas! © Haydn Williams 2020

I don’t know if it was the ecstasy of being free from tiers for a day, simply Christmas spirit, or some other factor, but by this point I was fairly convinced that this was the most beautiful I’d ever seen Kinder (and I’m including that amazing day Gary and I had a couple of years ago).

Torch no longer necessary! © Haydn Williams 2020
The path along the northern edges. © Haydn Williams 2020
Blimey. Click for full size. © Haydn Williams 2020

This continued all the way along to the seven-minute crossing, where progress was significantly aided by everything still being frozen solid. This path gets more and more obvious each time I run it, and this year (like all of the paths I took on this run) it seems to have had a huge amount of traffic over it. Mountain rescue teams have also had a busy time as a result.

Frozen footprints in the mud on Kinder Scout.
The best kind of muddy footprints – frozen solid ones! © Haydn Williams 2020

And so I descended Ringing Roger just as the car park started to get a bit busier. After a short break I also managed to take the bike for a ride around the Eastern Moors, which was very enjoyable but a bit busier and less photogenic. My early start meant that all of this was completed in good time and I was back home by 16:00 – early enough to ensure that I didn’t break my midnight deadline, and the van didn’t turn into a pumpkin.

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