Tuesday 2 February 2010

Trip Report: Alport Castles

Charl had to work Potato Day on Saturday, so I decided I was going to take the opportunity to enjoy a walk in the Peak District. I've not bumbled around the National Park for a while and with the forecast looking great, what else was I going to do?

I had intended on dropping Charl and heading straight up but a hangover and laziness meant I hadn't packed my bag or even looked at the map! Eventually though I got my act together and after driving for far too many extra miles than necessary, I finally found a parking spot on the verge just west of Haybridge Farm on the Snake Road at ten past twelve.

I'd packed up the Innov-8 Race Pro 30, (mainly as it never gets to carry anything other than my shirts and ties when riding to work) and, whilst it was nowhere near full, felt comfortable even with my Platy in the little pouch on the underside. It was a glorious day but I had to be back for 5pm so I took a photo and headed off to join the track at Haybridge Farm.

I bolted down the road and was at the gate in no time, to be met by the two dogs who seemed as though they would happily eat me! Gauntlet complete, I checked my limbs were all present and correct and thundered up the track in the sunshine. I'd left the swarms of walkers and mountain bikers back at Ladybower and squinting up at Whitefield Pits I couldn't see a soul up top.

Alport_Castle_Haybridge Looking North to Alport Castles from the track at Haybridge Farm

I didn't expect to see the cows when I rounded the corner and I gingerly passed the young bull who was stood in the centre of track. I'm not that comfortable around cows (or bulls) so was pleased to be leaving them behind as Alport Castle Farm came into view.

I could now barely make out the path as it bends west and ascends to the top. Its a stunning landscape, with deep wooded hills on the one side and crags of the Tower on the other.

Patches of snow were still holding on to the ridge and I'd brought  along the Microspikes in case there was chance to play! Over the style at the farm the National Trust are restoring a sheep hut and from here its down across the footbridge over the Alport river. The ground was very frozen and hard and even the Roclites slipped at various points on the frozen earth. The view from here is stunning, there's interest at any degree of turn and only a deceased sheep detracted from it today.

alport_dale_fenny_sideThe Alport plantations and Alport Dale in the distance

The craggy wall below the tower is quite imposing and I considered taking a wonder over to check them out in more detail. Time was tight today however, so I had to forego that luxury and pressed on up the track as it gradually approached Little Moor.

below_the_tower Little Moor and the small patches of snow above the Tower

On the whole its a short, easy ascent and the reward far out ways the effort - with crags to your left and steep drops to the valley and High Peak in the distance. I came across my first walkers of the day as I interrupted the chap taking a comfort break! I took a photo (not of him but the one below) and ignored the incident - as per urinal rules.

high_peak_from_little_moorAshton Tor and Blackden Moor from below Little Moor 

Over the stile I contemplated removing a layer but decided I'd be stopping for lunch shortly so carried on regardless. I took some video on the Muvi video camera (clipped to my shoulder strap) and gave a useless, panting commentary that will need to be overdubbed with some appropriate music prior to use!

From here the true extent of the recent but now receding snow is apparent. There are huge cornices gripping the ridge and I would have truly loved to have seen the hills with a fresh dump of deep snow - it would have been incredible. In the lee of stone walls and boulders there was evidence of peoples' efforts, their footsteps plunged deep into the snow hinting at slow and tiring progress. Today though the snow had a hard, glistening, icy crust, which was great fun on the steeper sections.

Ahead there was a large section of the cornice that had broken away and come to rest on the path. From here it was incredible to see how thick the snow had been on this near vertical face and all due to the prevailing wind. Unfortunatley but the picture below gives no impression of the true scale.


I played around on the chunks of snow and ice and thought about getting my Kahtoolas on for a real play, before realising they were planted at the bottom of the bag so continued on my mission to the top to get that incredible view I'd be waiting for.

tower_through_little_moor The tip of The Tower just visible from the ridge and the icy shelf of snow skirting the top.

There was a short, icy section of snow between me and the top and I gingerly picked my way up, forcing my poles in for extra support. Somebody had clearly had a similar experience as there were long skids trailing many of the footprints just to my right. It was bloody brilliant - the sun was beaming, there was a slight breeze and hardly a cloud in the sky. Looking back down the Tower was just popping through the gap ahead and I spotted a nice sheltered area that I 'bagsied' for lunch.

The top was slightly windier but the view went on forever. The SLR would have been welcome up here and I kicked myself yet again for making the wrong decision. I took a view snaps for fun and just wandered back across the ridge to find my lunch spot.


I'd already decided that I would to get the caldera stove on the go for lunch and a brew and then I'd have a play on the snow with the Microspikes. The snow was hard enough to kick steps as the incline got steeper so I just played around on the wall of snow until the stove spoilt things by boiling water sooner than I'd expected. I got the food rehydrating and let the tea brew in the Orikaso cup whilst I played some more - the result being cold tea but it was worth it!


I could have stayed all day, all night even and I found a small flat patch of grass just off to the left of the fence line that would have a made a tolerable, sheltered pitch. This was not a fate to become me today though and I had to wolf down my food and head back to the car. I packed the bag and then just stood there taking in the silence, that view and thanked my lucky stars for the weather.

It took no time at all to get back down across the river and on to the farm track. It was now 3 and the sun was becoming ever more red and low in the sky and all the while I was thinking about a night up there in these conditions. Cold and absolutely worth it. I took one last shot, bid farewell and strolled on to take my chances again with the dogs!