Kinder Low and Kinder Downfall, a Winter Wonderland

I’ve been itching to get out and tooled up properly for winter walking. That means ice axe, crampons and other associated gear.
 
Winter walking using those tools is something that I’ll never get to do often enough, for two reasons, the good old British weather and the necessary travelling, which for me, has to be completed within the day, due to work and family commitments.
 
Well, the snow, once again, came good and proper, lasting for quite a good while in the Peak District, along with many other exposed areas too….
 
I had promised myself, the next proper snowfall I was going out to play, no matter what, and I did.
 
I’d had a few areas in mind, even considering Snowdonia, which is about an extra hours drive from home. However, studying many of the photos shared on the web, Kinder seemed to be showing herself in all her glory, particularly Kinder Downfall, a waterfall with some rather spectacular sheets of ice overhanging!

"....I had a yearning for, Kinder Downfall covered in snow and ice!...."
 
 
However, it was a case of careful weather watching during the week leading up the Sunday, the day I intended to get out and play. Thankfully, Mother Nature played nicely and everything turned out just perfect.
 
I had already enjoyed a superb day on Axe Edge Moor just after Christmas, which I wrote about in Axe Edge Moor Winter Walk and I’m a BIG kid at heart and this was promising to be just as good a day, if not better!
Axe Edge Moor, late December 2014
 
Before I go any further, some of you may be wondering why I never seem to cover the Lake District. This is nothing personal on my part, for I would love to walk in the Lakes again. However, the problem for me is I live the wrong side of Birmingham, meaning it would make it an extremely long day to make the round trip.
 
Likewise, Yorkshire is another fantastic area with some great walking country in it, both in the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Parks.
 
I have to say that Snowdonia was quite high on my list of places to go winter walking, especially as I’ve not walked around there during winter for too long. The last time was January 2011, when I walked up Y Gribin from Ogwen Cottage, using ice axe and crampons.
 
But the webcams and photos posted on the web persuaded me The Peaks was to be the lace, more specifically, Kinder.

So Kinder it was, more specifically, the south west side, covering Kinder Low and Kinder Downfall, plus, I had a yearning for, Kinder Downfall covered in snow and ice!.
 
The last time I was on Kinder in the snow, was February 2013, when a small group of us stayed at a Bunkhouse just outside Hope, right next to Hope Cement Works, a place called Pindale Farm. The Bunkhouse we stayed in was basic but well equipped, though.
 
I covered that weekend stay and the day’s wander across Kinder in A Peak Winter Meet, a Bunkhouse and Kinder.
 
Incidentally, I didn’t use my new Scarpa Manta boots for this walk, preferring to use my trusty old Scarpa SL’s. The reason for that, as many of you will be aware Kinder is a vast peat bog area and peat can have an adverse effect on boots.
 
The Scarpa Manta boot is not a full leather boot, like the SL. With that in mind, the risk of peat tarnishing the suede finish of the Manta boots wasn’t that appealing, or at least for now. Plus, I didn’t feel initially that I would need to tool up to walk on Kinder, envisaging my Kahtoola Microspikes would be adequate.
 
But that was not to be the case, as you will find out further on.
 
In my last blog; Mam Tor and the Great Ridge, an old classic where I tried the Manta boots properly for the first time, under thawing conditions, where I briefly covered boots, crampons and winter walking skills.
 
If you’re not familiar with four season boots, crampons, and winter walking skills, please, don’t go out and buy a winter boot and crampons and use them without getting trained, for a lot of harm and even death, can result if you don’t know how to use them properly.
 
I would strongly recommend you have a look at Mam Tor and the Great Ridge, an old classic after reading this one.
 
Also, you might want to see some of the kit I carry, even on a walk as easy as this along Mam Tor and the Great Ridge, have a look at What's in my pack? which list many of the items I carry and why.
Ready for action

This was going to be a walk where conditions would dictate my original intended route vs. the final route.
The original plan was to park at Bowden Bridge, walk up William Clough, cut across towards Mermaid Pool and the foot of Kinder Downfall, then possibly if conditions allowed, back to Sandy Heys to reach the plateau and view Kinder Downfall from atop.
However, on arrival, that was not to be. The weather looked good, with the threat of low cloud, which there was in the valleys, which could engulf the Kinder plateau at any time.
I had a desire to visit Kinder Low, somewhere I’d not wandered to for too long and possibly return via Edale Cross.
So it was wait and see what was presented to me once I’d parked up at Bowden Bridge and started to walk.
 
The drive up was a good one to Hayfield and then to Bowden Bridge, with a lot of the A515 north of Ashbourne showing a good coverage of snow. This was very reassuring, that Kinder was not going to disappoint me.
 
As a precaution, I had packed my ice axe and crampons, though I did initially feel that would be overkill. But after seeing the snow covered ground as I got nearer to Buxton I was beginning to think it was more likely a wise move.
 
Once in Bowden Bridge Car Park, I paid my fee, and then got suited and booted. With the car park being very much compacted ice covered, and the rods not being any better, I put my Microspikes and the snow baskets on my trekking poles, before I started walking.
 
Bowden Bridge has a nice bit of history, to which we walkers and hill walkers owe a great thanks, to Benny Rothman and the many who risked criminal prosecution, so that we can enjoy roaming the countryside as free as we do today.
 
Bowden Bridge Car Park
 
The plaque on the quarry face in Bowden Bridge Car  Park
 
THE MASS TRESSPASS ONTO
KINDER SCOUT STARTED FROM
THIS QUARRY 24TH APRIL 1932
I also packed my crampons and inserted my ice axe in to a dedicated strap on my pack, still feeling it could be overkill, but better to be prepared than caught out.
 
I was also trying out a relatively recent purchase of an Icebreaker Merino Wool long sleeve base layer.
 
By now, I had finally decided my route; it was Bowden Bridge, Tunstead Clough Farm, Kinderlow End, Kinder Low and finally Kinder Downfall.
 
The return route was most likely via William Clough, though I really did still fancy Edale Cross via Swines Back from Kinder Low.
 
So I left the car park, to the road opposite the entrance, past the camp site (yes there is a camp site almost opposite the car park entrance, Hayfield Camping and Caravanning Club Site), then followed the road in a north easterly direction and then as it bends round to the right.
 
Leave the car park and cross the road
 

Follow the lane as it bends to the right.

You’ll recall I was trying out the new base layer, well, I was boiling by the time I had reached the turn off point!
 
So it was time to remove a layer, the mid layer, keeping my softshell, a RAB Baltoro, on because I had some items stored in pockets…..
 
It wasn’t long before I reached a crossroads, where I would continue straight on and head for Tunstead Farm, where I would take the foot path off to the right as it circumnavigated the farm’s south side.
 
Once around the farm the footpath is still quite clearly defined, even with the snow on the ground, with the added assistance of clear field boundaries and gates.
 
The route to the left, takes you to Hill Houses,
which takes you back to where you started.
It's the road by my trekking poles that takes you to Kinder.
The walk up to Kinderlow End is blessed with fabulous views on a clear day and for me, this particular day was no less so, with superb views over the inversion becoming very prevalent.
 
...."take the foot path off to the right
as it circumnavigated the farm’s south side"....
 
Follow the path round
 
.... and through the gate on to the Kinder Estate....
 
I followed this footpath all the way to Kinderlow End, where I could easily have taken the footpath to Kinder Downfall, keeping a reasonable height and then approach Kinder Downfall at its lower level. However, my mind was made up; I was bagging Kinder Low first, then Kinder Downfall.
 
Incidentally, that footpath I could have used to get to Kinder Downfall would also make for a nice short circular walk down to Kinder Reservoir and back to Bowden Bridge.
 
Continue uphill for Kinderlow End
 
As I approached Kinderlow End, the route up to Kinder Low was very clear; it was up a hill, to coin a phrase….
 
Now this was a relatively steep ascent.
 
I was also just starting to feel a bit of a nip in the air, so it was an ideal point to reapply that mid layer I’d earlier removed. If I left it until I’d reached the top, it could have been a little too windy and cool to be messing around.
 
In the interim, that ascent could have made me even hotter, but I plumped for the initial option, put the layer on….
 
I started to make the ascent of Kinderlow End to Kinder Cavern, and the ground underfoot was just proving a little too much for the Microspikes!
 
The gates to Kinderlow End
 
The ascent to Kinder Low, where I needed to tool up,
using crampons and ice axe to make the short ascent
To be fair, they’re not designed for this type of ascent, ice, steep slopes and short length footholds. So I was more than glad I’d packed my crampons and ice axe. So it was back down to the spot I put my mid layer on, and get tooled up, crampons on ice axe to hand and trekking poles packed away on my pack.
 
Wow, what a difference, those spikes on the crampons digging nicely in to the snow and ice, with ice axe to assist footing and stability….
 
The ice axe in the ever ready position should I slip, ready to arrest a fall.
 
Incidentally, for those wondering, I’ve a pair of Grivel G12, C1 crampons and a Petzl Snowalker ice axe.
 
The reason for the C1 crampons is my boots at the time of purchase, are a B1 boot. I’ll refer you back to my previous blog reference boot and crampon ratings, Mam Tor and the Great Ridge, an old classic along with some info from the The BMC called Crampons for mortals.
 
It wasn’t long before I’d reached the top of the steep ascent and a quick reccie of the area, along with checking the map, reassured me there was no likely need to stay tooled up.
 
...."It wasn’t long before I’d reached the top of the steep ascent"....
 
...."and a quick reccie of the area, along with checking the map,
reassured me there was no likely need to stay tooled up"....
So I removed my crampons, packed them away and stowed my ice axe, and reset the trekking poles for walking the plateau.
 
I was glad that I’d put the extra layer on earlier, for here it was a bit blowy with a nasty bite in the wind. To remove a layer to put one on would probably not have been very comfortable.
 
Once I’d sorted myself out I continued following a generally northerly direction from Kinder Cavern towards Kinder Low and the famous Trig Point.
 
Kinder Low Trig Point
 
It was a bit nippy....    -4.8ºC
 
The wind, 11.9 knots, 13.7 mph, was quite fresh!
It had been some years since I had last visited Kinder Low, years, probably a couple of decades!
 
Yes, you’re right, disgusting….
 
So that was to be resolved this day.
 
It also provided a windy, but ideal lunch spot, the views around were awesome. I had the view of to Hayfield, well and truly under a fantastic cloud inversion, over towards Bleaklow and across Kinder to the east, with a good clear view of Pym Chair.
 
Pym Chair, the rock over to the left of the photo
 
Kinder Reservoir engulfed in a cloud inversion
 
L - R Lose Hill, the Great Ridge to Mam Tor with Rushup far right
Also Mam Tor and the Great Ridge, Rushup Edge… I mean, what more could a hill walker ask for?
 
But it was nippy, eating a sarnie with bear hands in that biting wind wasn’t easy.
 
The temp was down to -4.8ºC and the wind, 11.9 kts (for some reason my Kestrel device had reset to kts from mph, but the equivalent is 13.7mph).
 
Incidentally, the gloves I’ve been using today, and also on Axe Edge Moor just after Christmas, Mam Tor a couple of weeks ago, are the RAB Powerstretch Grip Gloves which for a thin glove, were incredibly warm and provided superb grip on my poles, axe and also made using the camera very easy without having to take my gloves off.
 
I might just have to buy another pair as spares….
 
Back to the walk.
 
Lunch over, it was time to leave those fabulous views and head for Kinder Downfall.
 
This was a very pleasant walk, though there were some deepish groughs to traverse, but the Microspikes seemed to eat the distance up with ease. But then they are designed for that sort of ground.
 
Departing Kinder Low for Kinder Downfall
The mast in the distance is Holme Moss TV Mast
 
Some deepish groughs to cross
It wasn’t long before I was fast approaching Kinder Downfall, and I was starting to look for a suitable photographic point. If I get too close, then it would be difficult to get a decent photo. Care would need to be taken as I was going to be close to a sheer drop down to the River Kinder!
 
I eventually found a good spot, plenty of exposed rock, not snow covered, that could be hiding an overlap of snow, and snapped away to get a couple of good photos.
 
I’d also noticed that the low cloud was starting to creep in from the valley below!
 
An iced up Kinder Downfall
 
Some were trying to climb Kinder Downfall
 
Time to quickly sort my return route out, do I make a complete circuit and return via William Clough, or backtrack to Kinder Low and return via Edale Cross?
 
Good question, for the path back to William Clough I’ve walked before when Kinder was cloud capped, when I visited the Sabre wreckage. That day I walked via Mill Hill from the Snake Pass, and about three years previous, I’d had a failed attempt to visit the Sabre wreckage, starting from Bowden Bridge, walking up William Clough and back.
 
That day you read about in Kinder, Kinder Downfall and the Sabre….. where Kinder had been cloud covered the whole day.
 
So that wasn’t an unfamiliar path either.
 
Well, Edale Cross won the day....
 

Around 14:00 hours, I decided to make a steady walk back to Kinder Low, which would mean for a short while leaving the cloud behind me. However, it was starting to catch up fast, and it wasn’t long before Kinder Low was cloud capped as well!
 
The cloud was moving in fast.
The time between this and the photo below wasn't much more than five minutes!
 

 
A quick reccie, check the map and I was still game for Edale Cross. Once I’d started that route, I would be committed.

Remember, my drive up and ascent involved progressing through low cloud, plus the days the forecast was for fog, hence the inversion photos, so I expected my descent to be through cloud.
 
The cloud would get thicker, that was to be expected, and considering the valleys below had been engulfed in low cloud all day, so I wasn’t expecting much change for the better there. In fact, quite the opposite, it would get worse….
 
A cloud engulfed Kinder Low
However, I was hoping for that the path would have been reasonably well trodden, for the route would take me to the top of Jacobs Ladder, at which point, I would need to head in a westerly direction for Edale Cross.
 
As I descended from Kinder Low, the cloud was unsurprisingly getting thicker, the tracks were getting thinner, to the point of almost non-existent!
The path down from Kinder Low
 
Ok, I still knew exactly where I was and where I needed to get to, which meant circumnavigating around Swines Back, to pick up the top of Jacobs Ladder, at which point, there would be a sign post, from previous visits there.
 
The signpost only pointed along the Pennine Way, the other paths were not shown!
 
Now had I made a mistake?
 
The cloud gave way briefly to allow me to get this photo of Swines Back
 
For much of my descent from Kinder Low,
this was the best my view was going to get!
 
I doubt it, which was definitely the point at which I needed to head west, it was the top of Jacobs Ladder and there was no mistaking that….
 
But there were no obvious points to give me a clue, so I took a bearing, found a gate that had one of those weights on it to close it as walkers passed through, and decided that was definitely the way. To double check, I obtained the distance I would need to walk before reaching the gate by Edale Cross, which was around 540 metres. That short distance would give me a back stop, should I have taken the wrong turn.
 
Now I could, as an escape route, return via Jacobs Ladder and then try and get transport back to Bowden Bridge, from Edale. But I wasn’t going to be defeated, I’ve done a navigation course and I was going to put those skills to practice.
 
So off I set, pacing and taking in to consideration, my paces would be shorter due to the conditions, deep snow, than when I did my nav training, but 540 metres was going to me my paced out count, where I would review how far I’d progressed.
 
As I was walking, as per the map, a boundary feature was close on my right, alongside what seemed like it could be some sort of track, counting the paces, moving the beads as each estimated 100 metres was completed, and just slightly coming in to view at 540 metres, was a gate way, as per the map.
 
Bliss, it had worked, I also know how much shorter my steps would be in those conditions, for it worked out I could have walked 600 metres.
 
I was at the gates close to Edale Cross.
 
The gates by Edale Cross
 
Edale Cross
 
Edale Cross is believed to have been erected by the Abbots of Basingwerk Abbey to mark the southern boundary of their land, which was granted in 1157.
 
The ruins of Basingwerk Abbey are near Holywell, Flintshire, Wales, quite some distance away from Kinder!
 
The cross marks the point at which on the former Hayfield to Edale road, on the former junction of the three wards of the Forest of Peak: Glossop and Longdendale, Hopedale and Campagna.
 
The cross has at some time fallen down and had been unearthed by local farmers, who re-erected it sometime in the early 1810, and etched the date, along with their initials in to the gritstone cross.
 
The initials JG, WD, GH, JH and JS carved in to the cross were from John Gee, William Drinkwater, George and Joseph Hadfield and John Shirt.
 
From here, the path was definite, all the way down the Bowden Bridge.
 
There is a path across the fields which would take me back to Tunstead Clough Farm. On a clear day, that would be fine, but I was happy to follow a clearly defined route, which I’ve walked before, albeit a long time back, with no major problems to encounter.
 
The path down from Edale Cross
 
Be very aware, there are some steep drops to the left as you walk down
 
The only point where I needed to double check my route was the road junction near to The Ashes, GR SK054862, which had a sign at the hardened concrete access road, AGRICULTURAL VEHICLE ACCESS ONLY, with another sign across the road saying NT PATH.
 
The road junction near to The Ashes, GR SK 054 862
 
Basically, it was keep left, for the road goes uphill for a short way, before it starts to descend, bring me out at the junction where I started my earlier ascent at GR SK051867.
Then it was the final leg of the walk back to the car at Bowden Bridge.
the junction where I started my earlier ascent at GR SK 051 867
 
Incidentally, I kept my Microspikes on all the way from Kinder Low right back to the car park, though the ice had more or less thawed. But I wasn’t going to take chances, plus, there were enough verges so not to walk for too greater distance on tarmac and risk damaging the spikes.
 
Many of you who know me, know I just love to take photos. That’s probably my biggest crime when out walking. As a keen amateur photographer, I often like to take control of the exposure settings to obtain a desired result.
 
The final part of the route, the lane back towards Bowden Bridge
as it bends round to the right
 
Journeys end, Bowden Bridge
I did have a concern about my camera, I noticed that the camera kept setting a high shutter speed, 1/1250 second, even in the low light levels of the evening when descending from Kinder Low, heading for Swines Back.
 
Map showing the route
 
Only then did it start to rapidly increase in time duration, ending up at 1/30 second.
 
I was a little concerned that my camera might have gone faulty; after all, it had become ice covered a few times late afternoon onwards.
 
How relieved I was once I downloaded the photos, to see they were all crystal clear, apart from the thick mist one which just looked like a steamed up window!
 
The one thing I had overlooked, but I knew about, for that is one of the reasons why I like to take control sometimes, was the fact that snow blindness not only affects our vision, but also has an impact on the cameras settings. On many digital cameras today, you will have a setting for snow and ice, and also sea and sand, which compensates for this extra light.
 
On a final note, I've bought a pair of Grivel G12 C2 crampons for my Scarpa Manta boots. All I need now is some proper snow to play in...
 
Finally, happy rambling and thank you for reading,
Peak Rambler

Twitter            @PeakRambler
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Links to some of the items I’ve mentioned and written about here:
Axe Edge Moor Winter Walk and I’m a BIG kid at heart
A Peak Winter Meet, a Bunkhouse and Kinder
Mam Tor and the Great Ridge, an old classic
What's in my pack?
Hayfield Camping and Caravanning Club Site
The BMC
Crampons for mortals
RAB Powerstretch Grip Gloves
Kinder, Kinder Downfall and the Sabre…..