Conditions this weekend in the Peak

It's a rare thing to get Stanage all to yourself. It's also fairly unusual to have to crawl there.

Covey of grouse at Gun Butress (Tuesday)© Rachel Hoyland, 04 Dec 2010

The first snow of winter always elicits a tremendous desire to head to the mountains and plant an ice axe in the nearest frozen object. This winter the first snow also elicited the frustration of not being able to leave home. After initially being laid low by the lack of access to winter objectives I have been reconciled to the fact that the Peak District isn't a bad place to be snowed in. It doesn't boast much in the way of lofty peaks and giddy ridges but it is a big expanse of countryside enjoying full winter conditions.Snow has fallen for much of the last week with yesterday (Friday 3 December) being the first clear bright day, although snow is forecast again for the next few days. Over the last few days the wind and powder have sculpted epic drifts and spectacular cornices along both Bamford and Stanage Edges. Nevertheless, an expedition was mounted on Thursday to the most local of the poles – Stanedge (and yes, it is spelled differently). Getting onto the moors required a graceful combination of trudging, crawling, floundering and intermittently falling face first into wet flakes. Once the last section of the Roman Road was forged (mainly applying the face-first technique) one might have been on a Scandinavian plain and not just a few kilometres from the metropolises of Bamford and Hathersage. Fortunately the profile of the Cowper Stone prevented total geographic fantasy.

Is that a harp I hear…..or just the fence?© Rachel Hoyland, 04 Dec 2010

The landscape remains mysterious though with its constituent features transformed by either revelation or obliteration. The grouse seem discomforted by their sudden visibility and covies frequently skim the skyline. The roads have merged back into the moorland and fences and walls are masked in white. New sounds rise on the air as the wind is channelled by shifting snow and the intense cold inhibits the usual peaty aromas. Winter at home is offering discovery, as well as the excitement of adventure.

Cornice and drifts at Bole Hill (Thursday)© Rachel Hoyland, 04 Dec 2010

For those heading to the Stanage area this weekend New Road and Ringinglow Road are likely to remain impassable for vehicles. For those on foot, the Bole Hill area is problematic with drifts up to shoulder height. Whilst the wind is hardening the surface of some drifts, approaching them from the wrong side (and then attempting to plunge full bodiedly into them) results in fly-on-fly-paper type stuckness. In addition, beware of collapsing cornices on the Roman Road and in other spots close to the edges. On the upside though, its incredibly beautiful and a full body sensory experience.

Frost and clear skies (Friday 3 December)© Rachel Hoyland, 04 Dec 2010

Happy expeditioning!See also Mick Ryan's Millstone photo report from a few days ago:

The EmbankmentUKC Articles, 02 Dec 2010© Mick Ryan
London WallUKC Articles, 02 Dec 2010© Mick Ryan
Keyhole Cave AreaUKC Articles, 02 Dec 2010© Mick Ryan
Keyhole CaveUKC Articles, 02 Dec 2010© Mick Ryan

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