This wasn’t how I planned it. And because of that I was scared. I like to be in control of the situation and this time it was not meant to be. Of course I could just return tickets and stay home but why would I do that? Instead I came to Peak District trying to make the most of what was in front of me and do the only thing I felt comfortable doing – run!
The morning was glorious, sun shining and a little snow left from night before covering the paths and trees. Marcia sorted me out with great breakfast as I packed my bag. I started down the easy Longdendale trail which followed the route along reservoir paths under the slopes of Bleaklow and Black Hill. The valley was following old Woodhead railway and it was stunning. I’ve cut this trail short as I really wanted to follow the Pennine Way towards the Black Hill. The run was great and easy. I was about 5 miles in and felt great. I’ve turned towards the hills and soon could feel the beginning of the incline, had to slow down but kept running
. With the total elevation of nearly 600 meters I knew it was just matter of time when I would have to walk. The climb was demanding but I loved the challenge and was very proud I could follow the map. I have studied this map the night before….looked pretty straight forward. However what map didn’t tell me was once you move passed the Laddow Rocks the way towards the summit can be very boggy after the rain. But what I found most challenging was actually the snow. It covered pretty much the whole trail and of course it looked beautiful but the problem was I could not see what was underneath it. I was still confident, smiling, humming songs, taking pictures, running…. until I slipped. I lost my balance and couldn’t regain it. I went flying down the rocks, desperately trying to catch on to something. It was painful. My bum hurt, I got drenched straight away and lost my cool, just a little. It could have been worse, at least I didn’t break any bones. So I carried on. However, this was only beginning of the troubles. I kept falling into half frozen puddles of mud which hurt. My feet were getting colder and colder and I had to carry on running just to keep myself warm. And that was when the snow started to fall. A lot of snow.
About half an hour later I got to the summit. Result I thought to myself. I stood by the stone and decided I had to change my clothes. You know nice and dry for the journey back
. Trust me it was not easy or pleasant. I couldn’t even undo my shoe laces and to try to change your socks….painful. But felt so good when I’ve done it. By that point the snow was coming down hard. To get down I needed to take Western Moss route and definitely not to follow the TV mast. But the trouble was I could not see anything, no trail and no mast. I started to follow of what seemed like a trail toward the Cromwell. Unfortunately it wasn’t the trail. After some time I ended up in the middle of open land, no trail to see, hail hurting my face and more and more water and mud under my feet. I kept walking, the weather was getting worse and worse. I would be lying if I’d say I wasn’t scared but I had to keep it together as I knew once I panic it will be the end. I switched on my gps on the phone and luckily found the signal. This confirmed I was heading the right way. I got down to a valley with a stream and had to cross it. I knew it will be slippery so took every care slowly moving on the stones and reaching towards branch for balance….and still fell in. It was freezing cold. I don’t even know what I was feeling or thinking at this time. Tears just run down my cheeks and I’ve lots all the energy and strength to carry on. And if that wouldn’t be enough the lightning brighten the sky and soon after the thunder broke the silence. This is when I lost hope of ever getting back to safety or even hope of anyone ever finding me. I screamed with anger, swore few more words that I’d like to admit to and cursed all people who needed cursing
. I could feel myself going into panic mode, my brain switching off. So I took my phone out and texted the only person I knew in Peak. I think, Ben, without even knowing was my saviour, he told me to follow where sun is as it will be where I need to get to. And I don’t really know how but just then clouds split a little and few streams of sun were shining at me. I regained my strength knowing that someone knows of my problems and started to run again. It took another hour of more mud and hail but as long as I could see the light I wouldn’t stop.
Then I saw a trail and I saw the sign. I don’t think I’ve ever felt happier. And it’s only then I felt hungry, I took my flapjacks and ate them all while running back to B&B. When I walked through the door, Marcia looked at me and said “Oh dear God, go get the shower, I’ll put the kettle on”. I didn’t even reply….
It was very emotional day. But I now think it meant to be. Only now I can tell that Peak District, or any mountain large or small, will have my full respect it truly deserves and so will English winter. But Peak District will have a bit of my heart too, as only now I know it is a place like no other.