Very lucky.

I went out running last night. Normally on a Friday I do a strength and conditioning session at Accelerate, then 30 minutes or so of drills later, but yesterday I decided to drive out to Edale and run a loop to Blackden trig on the edge of Kinder, Win Hill, down through Hope and Castleton, then over Mam Tor and back to the car. This is a small part of a bigger route I'd like to do soon so a good chance for a recce.

All went well from the car park at Barber Booth to Edale then up Ringing Roger and to the Blackden trig, which I found pretty easily. I ran round to Win Hill in the fading light and turned my torch on at the summit. It was a lovely evening but I was short of time so checked the map for a shortcut. There wasn't one, so off I went, down through Twitchill Farm and into Hope, then along the road to Castleton. From there my route up Mam Tor would be up the road to Blue John caverns, then up the steep but short grassy climb to the summit.

Planned route up Mam Tor...
I wasn't breaking any records but it felt good to be out in the hills, and I left the road looking forward to one last climb. I wasn't too worried about the route as I just needed to get to the top so at the end of the road I followed a trod I liked the look of and was soon 100m from the summit. Here the path faded and the route got steeper and rockier, requiring a bit of scrambling. It wasn't quite what I remembered but I foolishly carried on. Soon I was in trouble - I was now some way up a cliff and having to actually climb, not fun or easy on the muddy crumbly rock. Looking around there was not an obvious easy way up but I had already gone too fa to climb down.

Actual route - somewhere up the middle
I now felt very exposed, and very stupid for ending up here. If I fell I was going all the way to the bottom. I guessed I'd ended up here by drifting too far left at the bottom of the climb, so for about half an hour I tried to gradually move around to the right. It was now fully dark so I couldn't see very far, and it started to all feel a bit pointless... I nearly fell three or four times when the rocks I was standing on or holding crumbled and fell off, each time resulting in a frantic scramble to grab something. It was surely only a matter of time till I fell to the bottom.

Finally I saw a grassy area 10 metres away, which looked like it might be a way off, but between me and it was a horrible looking section which I couldn't imagine getting across. I stopped and considered my options: I could shout for help, but no-one would hear me (and even if they did, they weren't likely to climb up and get me!). I could get my phone and call mountain rescue, but by the time they arrived my current footholds would have crumbled. So I was left with the option to carry on - I was about to decide to go for it when the foothold I was standing on fell away and I was left hanging by my hands. Miraculously this one didn't crumble. It took another few minutes to calm down and get my foot on a rock high up to my left, then lever myself up, and finally to clamber across to the grassy bit where I collapsed into a little pile of relief for a while.

Hills in the dark. Be careful!
Looking back, I would never have headed that way up in daylight as the route round the side would have been obvious, so I guess the moral of the story is that it's even more important to know exactly where you are in the dark. I think I was also a bit naive about something like this happening in the Peak District - I've run up and down Mam Tor so many times, it's an easy hill (there's a road most of the way up!), and I never imagined something like this happening there. I won't be so naive again.

So, despite the grey weather and rain in Sheffield this morning, I'm feeling very grateful to be here and looking forward to heading out to the hills again later, which I will enjoy with gratitude and renewed respect!


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