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Peak District winter wonderland

News, Hiking, Adventure 03/20/2019

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Rosie Fuller tackles a two-day hike around Edale in bluebird conditions

I felt a little out of place as I left the Peak District village of Hope dressed for -15 degrees on a sunny February lunchtime. I had been watching the forecast incessantly before my two-day hike, and a final check of the Mountain Weather Information Service revealed that, with wind chill, temperatures could feel as low as -15 degrees on the Peak District tops. I’m not keen on cold. I wasn’t taking any chances.

My proposed walk was the Edale Skyline route, with a twist. The Edale Skyline is a 20-mile fell race, with the fastest competitors finishing in under three hours. If you’re not a fell runner, it’s also known as one of the Peak’s classic day hikes. And if that still sounds too strenuous, as it did to me, you can turn it into a loop spread over two days. My plan was to start at Hope, walk the first quarter or so of the route before descending to the Edale YHA, and finish the bulk of it the next day. As well as being less taxing, this meant that I didn’t have to leave my home in the Midlands too early, and that I’d get more time to linger in the hills.

In many layers, I sweated up the steady climb to the top of the first peak of the walk, Win Hill. Once you’re up, you really feel out in the wilderness, with wide open views over the moors and hills. A long, gentle downhill leads to another climb, Crookstone Hill, where I was alone bar the distinctive chortle of red grouse. Starting late meant that the late-afternoon light before my descent to Edale was magical. With the sun pouring through the clouds, I thought that if God exists, and He popped down to say hi, this is how it would look.

Part of the appeal of a two-day hike, after a hectic January, was a night away from home, with just a bag of pasta, some spare pants and the chance to declutter my brain. Refreshing. And when I set out the next morning, looking up at the sunny, snow-covered hills I’d soon be walking along, I felt the same excitement that I get when it’s a bluebird day for skiing.

After an initial climb to the excellently named rocky outcrop Ringing Roger, you’re up high for the whole day. The terrain soon became difficult, with ankle-deep bog, snow and ice – a lot to throw at my Q2 Ultralight boots, but they had no problems. And everything else made up for it. The scenery was magnificent, especially the peculiar boulders and striking rock formations, and a helicopter buzzed up and down the valley, delivering slaps for path maintenance and improving my photos. Being a Friday there weren’t many others around, and when I did see anyone – hikers, fell runners and a couple of mountain bikers – we greeted each other knowing that we had to be some of the luckiest people in the world, being out on a day like this.

Conditions underfoot improved, with an easy slab path across the moor to Brown Knoll and on to Rushup Edge. Mam Tor is always popular and always spectacular; today was no exception. My legs were aching by the final push up Lose Hill, but the descent always makes me feel like a child: the gradient is perfect for running or even rolling down. Unsurprisingly I was too tired to do either, but plodded happily back to the car in Hope. Thankfully I hadn’t come across any -15 degree winds (trust me, you’d hear about it if I did), but it’s wise to prepare for the worst.

The only thing I’d forgotten was the suncream.

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