Kinder Downfall and how it nearly became mine!

I’ve been hiking for over 30 years now and I have good navigation, mountain and survival skills. I’ve tramped up most summits in The Lakes, done some in Scotland and a lot in Wales plus Ireland, Germany and so on. I can honestly say that, as far as the UK goes, I have never walked in a landscape of such strange, desolate beauty nor one so hostile as the Kinder plateau in Derbyshire. I thought I’d write this as both a catharsis for me and a warning to others.

A friend and I decided to walk from Edale up to Kinder Downfall (a waterfall) via Jacob’s Ladder and return to Edale by a SE path via Crowden Tower. The maps in the gallery show the route.

From Edale to the start of Kinder is a straightforward amble and the climb via Jacob’s Ladder really isn’t very difficult either. Once past there the terrain changes to gritstone and resembles a moon landscape. Again, its a easy hike along the edge of the plateau to reach Kinder Downfall.

Once Kinder Downfall is reached the landscape changes again – first to a river with sandy beaches and as the path turns to the SE the landscape changes to unremitting, soggy bogland with a myriad of steams, hummocks above head height and some nasty bogs. Navigation is extremely difficult – no visible landmarks, no shelter, no prominent rock formations…..nothing! Nevertheless, we were doing OK until we met another group of walkers who, by dint of aggressive argument, caused us to foolishly believe they had a better fix on our position than we did. The net result was that we got lost – thoroughly lost.

To make matters worse we had set off on a nice June morning. As we hit the bogland, the heavens opened with a torrential downpour followed by prolonged hailstorm. As the ice settled the “path” became treacherous and we both sustained injuries from falls. Despite being well equipped with good waterproofs, spare warm clothing, food and so on we both became very cold. Indeed, my friend was becoming first stage hypothermic with all the classic symptoms of irrational behaviour, shivering, loss of function in his hands and loss of reasoning. I have to admit I felt quite panicky too and had to fight to retain mental control – being lost in high bogland with no possible shelter, cold, injured and with a friend who is in a worse state is not a nice place to be.

Eventually, we did get down by following sheep tracks and recovered in the pub although my finger still has not repaired the tendon damage done. But, despite my experience I (re-)learnt some valuable lessons. Always trust your own instincts. Check your position constantly. Keep calm. Being prepared with extra kit is useful but it is no guarantee of safety.

British hills are dangerous despite their relatively low altitude so be aware.


About ReidIvinsMedia

After working for many years in Higher Education I've decided to drop out and join the real world. Here I blog about my interests which include education, politics, backpacking, poker, photography and real ale.
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2 Responses to Kinder Downfall and how it nearly became mine!

  1. Steve Walton says:

    Being truly ‘lost’ on Kinder Scout is quite difficult. It’s a plateau with a clear path around most of the perimeter and there are numerous rock outcrops and other features that will help navigation, but it is very easy to become disorientated if you’re unfamiliar with the hill when conditions are bad (which is frequent!) and it is possible for the most experienced walker to be caught out there. Running out of daylight is probably the main concern when this happens as the going can be tough, especially on tired legs. I like Kinder, I’ve walked there once a month for around 40 years and never become bored with it. There is always something to find of interest and in the worst conditions, it’s a great place to brush up on nav. We all learn from experiences such as yours, there is always something positive to be gained and that can only help to build confidence and enhance the enjoyment of future visits.

  2. Thanks for the comment Steve. I agree about daylight and brushing up on nav. Oddly, in a way I enjoyed the experience as it shook me out of my complacency about nav. Lost or disorientated-either way we were well and truly buggered for a time as we were in the middle of KInder. We just had to head on a rough bearing back to Edale and wait until we got to the edge of the plateau before we could place ourselves. I can honestly say it was the most challenging day I’ve ever had on a mountain/hill or moorland. Easy to see how inexperienced folk could come to real grief if they panicked.

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