Day One. Edale to Fairbrook Naze, via Ringing Roger
Since discovering the joys and the beauty of Kinder Scout these last few years, one ambition had remained elusive: to complete the eighteen-mile perimeter of the mountain. Walkable in a day, less of a rush in two, with the added bonus of a wild camp. Across three days equates to two wild camps. A chance to slowly take in the summits rugged beauty, the unusual and copious rock formations. Its little rivers and streams, and the panoramic views.
I decided to go up on a Thursday. Bank holiday weekend was imminent. Bank holiday weekends usually mean two things: crowds, and bad weather. The forecast, though, on Kinder Scout, is of course, liable to change at any time. At the start of the week mostly sun was predicted for the days I'd be up there. By the time I disembarked from the train at Edale station, snow showers were stated, and thick grey clouds were above and ahead. More favourably, though, was the lack of people. Once out of Edale - naturally, a stop for a quick breakfast was required - and heading up Ringing Roger, I saw not one soul that morning. Once halfway up, beyond the initial zig-zagged track, there are three distinct paths to choose from to complete the rest of the ascent. I decided to take the shortest but the steepest. Hands were needed in addition to feet. Even with a full and heavy bag, filled to the brim with forty-eight hours worth of supplies, the summit was quickly reached and from then on in the circumnavigation is not flat, but a darn sight easier than the mile or two to get to the top in the first place.
Once at the summit, the only decision is which direction to take. With a wild camp planned at Fairbrook Naze, I decided on anti-clockwise. Windy up top, but easy walking on slightly lower ground. At the most easterly point of Kinder Scout, the path immediately turns on itself and heads west along Crookstone Knoll and, almost with the flick of switch, the wind was turned up several notches. Looking north-east, rain could be seen in sheets. The down jacket was donned and within minutes the snow arrived, horizontally so. Spring had rewound to winter, the walk along Blackden Edge a bitterly cold one. The snow, though not settling, would stop, the sun would re-emerge, and then back came the snow for several more bites. Pretty much unrelenting until the corner was turned at Seal Stones, now up at 600 feet. Stunning views down to Snake Pass, with green fields and farmland. Looking west down Black Ashop Moor, and beyond, was like looking at a different planet.
Seal Edge completed, and Fairbrook Naze, my home for the night, was reached. A dry spring thus far, the Fairbrook River as dry as I’d seen it. Still, a stop to stock up on water, and a camp nearby in case more was required. A beautiful flat pitch, and a beautiful view back along the northern path where I’d come from. The sun was shining, the tent was up by 3:30pm. What to do, but enjoy the scenery. A freshly made chicken curry for dinner, enjoyed in absolute isolation.
Day Two. Fairbrook Naze to Grindsbrook Knoll
A sporadic nights sleep, and what was most likely a beautiful dawn unfortunately missed. A slow start to the morning. No rush was required. Todays plan, to walk to the south side and find a camp site, somewhere, around the top of Grindsbrook. Six or seven miles. Breakfast was porridge, enjoyed like last nights dinner, perched on my nearby rock. And tea, or the closest variant of it I could muster with powdered milk. And then off, immediately, to take advantage of the many “Lion King” opportunities all around the perimeter but certainly few better ones than at Fairbrook Naze. That’s why three days was required for this trip. Equal amounts of walking, and of standing on precarious looking rocks, gazing at the variety of panoramic views. Additionally, no snow today. Only sun.
Heading east still, Manchester was on the horizon, its high-rises dominating the city skyline. How hard it is to take in the scenery and to not fall into a bog, or trip over a loose stone on The Edge. Eventually, the Pennine Way is reached. Naturally, the route to Kinder Downfall along Sandy Heys is a popular one, and my isolation was temporarily over. I no longer had the mountain to myself. Once at Downfall, knowing the busyness of the Pennine path beyond back to Edale Rocks and having walked it many times, I impulsively decided to head inland down the River Kinder, and through Kinder Gates for the first time. A clear route for the most part, it only became less distinguishable for either natural reasons, or more likely because this walker completely lost the path. Only deep peat bogs and troughs in the immediate vicinity. My default reaction is to panic. Instead, today I tried to stay measured and knew I had to simply go south, and, eventually, I found myself back along the river, or the dry remains of it. Which, thankfully, led down to Crowden Tower. Briefly, I had a sense of regret I’d come inland considering the overall objective was a complete circumference. However, the swarms of people ahead reenforced the decision to make the brief diversion. Lunch was enjoyed back up the river in a peaceful spot. A return to the campers convenience food of super noodles and a tin of mackerel.
The last couple of miles of the day. Back on the edge, a reintroduction to the spectacular views, this time above Crowden Clough and the Edale Valley beyond. Not as busy, either. Easy walking along to the top of Grindsbrook Clough and, again impulsively, whilst glimpsing further up the now-dry waterfall, I wondered if there may be a spot lurking up that previously undiscovered part of Kinder Scout for me to pitch my tent. Thank goodness I headed up that way, for what a beautiful little part of the mountain it was. The slight climb up then plateaued onto to a winding old river, mostly dry but where there was water, the deepest parts were only a matter of inches. The surrounding land wasn't a viable camping option, being either boggy or containing thick clumps of long grasses and heather, until one of many narrow corridors either side of the river revealed a mostly level little patch of land. Up went the tent. Cold in the shade, but beautiful and idyllic, just half a minute from a water supply. Again, it was only mid-afternoon. Lots of time to complete the little jobs necessary on each camp. Tidily unpack and organise the gear. Collect and filter cooking and drinking water. Set up the sleeping system - in my case, now a mattress with a slow puncture and now also a torn sleeping bag as a result of a trapped zip the night before, with a stuffed sock in the two-inch long hole to prevent the down from escaping (incidentally, this proved to be completely futile when I woke later that night to a desperately feathery scene). And to enjoy the peace and solitude. A pre-dinner walk back to the edge to both pick up phone signal and to enjoy the scenery in the late afternoon sun. The same walk also repeated post-dinner, albeit a much chillier one. This is why we do it, to briefly have the mountain to ourselves and feel like the only person in the world.
Day Three. Grindsbrook Knoll to Edale
A gloomy morning to wake up to. The tent was damp inside and dripping on the exterior. No chance again of a delightful dawn. Like on last nights walk, both coats I’d brought along were required whilst having breakfast. Since Thursday, the feel-like temperatures in daylight and the actual Celsius at night were into the small minuses. Porridge, and so-called-tea-with-powdered-milk to kick things off and inject some heat into a cold and groggy body. Only a hint of blue sky above when setting off at 8:30. But, from Grindsbrook and back to Ringing Roger, simply astounding views. Firstly, looking down Grindsbrook Clough, a winding path far below and patchworks of brown and khaki heather and foliages either side. More “Lion King” rocks…lots more. A slow walk with many stops to enjoy the views from Hartshorn and Upper and Nether Tor's. Down the longer, less steep but uncomfortable and rocky stones beneath Ringing Roger. Not one person seen when coming up this route two days ago. In the space of a less than half hour descent, upwards of thirty people came past the other way.