The walk was to be based around the Nine Edges challenge (designed by the Edale Mountain Rescue organisation) with extra miles at the start and end of the hike. The total mileage covered was planned to be slightly over 60 miles. While I am an experienced backpacker it would be my co-raiser David’s first time being a self-sufficient and self-propelled hiker.
The Nine Edges walk covers the magnificent limestone escarpments in the Dark Peak, starting from Derwent Edge in the North and ending at Birchen Edge in the South. It is a 23 miles long traverse over high, exposed moorland with no shelter. The extensions were from Hope, via the lower slopes of the Kinder area to LadyBower and hence to Derwent Edge to start the Nine Edges and from Birchen Edge to Matlock via the Chatsworth Estate and Derwent Valley Way afterwards.
We travelled from Loughborough to Hope by train thus forestalling any retreat to a car! After walking to the site for the evening’s camp and pitching the shelters, we went for a short walk to loosen the muscles before commencing the hike in the morning and to see how David’s Achilles Tendon injury was bearing up. The weather had been sunny and warm but, by 6pm had turned to heavy rain that persisted all night. Not a good omen.
The rain cleared by about 8pm and we packed up our wet shelters and set out for the first target of the day- Lady Bower Reservoir.
The ground was wet and muddy which made ascents and descents quite slippy and “interesting”. From the reservoir the terrain became even more challenging as we eventually ascended the first of the day’s Edges. The weather was a mixture of light rain, dry periods and quite windy. We planned to camp at the North Lees site but finding the descent from Stanage Edge posed navigational problems. We eventually found our way off and continued our descent to the site. All that lovely height lost would have to be regained in the morning! As compensation the sun came out as we pitched which allowed our shelters to dry out.
The day dawned clear and bright so our gear was packed away in the dry. A definite bonus! However, the ascent back to the Edges still remained and it was hard work. As we climbed the weather deteriorated and by the time it we had regained our height it was squally and got worse during the day. Torrential rain interspersed with drizzle and the odd bout of hail coupled with high winds was to be our lot for the day. The amount of water that fell had made the ground boggy and slippy so causing many mini-diversions that made for slow, and very tiring, progress. It was two extremely tired and “fragrant” hikers that eventually pitched their shelters!
The farmer’s wife allowed us to lay in until about 7:30 am before she woke us to get the camping fees. I nearly escaped without paying as she thought my shelter was a storage tent! The morning was truly beautiful with magnificent views of Birchen Edge to one side while the other side showed a magnificent valley and yet another Edge (Chatsworth Edge) leading to the Chatsworth Estate that couldn’t be seen but was some four miles away.
We made our way towards the unexpected Edge, climbed it and after another navigational challenge in thick woods we approached Chatsworth house. We did divert to the house had had a welcome cuppa in the cafe before setting out for Matlock some eight miles away via the Derwent Valley Way. After arriving in Matlock it was a simple matter to find the railway station and travel home to Loughborough.
We had completed the challenge we had set ourselves, been saturated, windblown and dry, cold and hot, yomped across miles of open moorland, made countless ascents and descents, been beyond tired, seen hares, grouse and deer and had been throughly awed by the wild beauty of the moors and their vistas. In addition, we also raised in excess of £500 (plus Gift Aid) for charity.