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Christmas Eve Expedition

January 1, 2007

Time to give a brief overview of our Christmas Eve “hike”, along with some photos. As mentioned previously, this hike has been a tradition over the past five years for Mark and his brother Paul. I was the first gal to ever be invited, and to be honest, if I had really known ahead of time how difficult it would be, I probably would have wimped out. Mark simply said that it would be easy walking due to the heather and peat, and that there would be a few steep areas. I told him that I would go, because I knew if I didn’t, I would be jealous of Drew getting to do so and as Mark said, I would get to do something and see something that wouldn’t be in mentioned in a fancy schmancy tour guide.

In the morning we all scrambled around looking for the proper attire. I didn’t have any hiking boots, and with three pairs of socks on I was able to fit into a pair of Marks boots that he’s had since he was 16 years old. I had on a long-sleeved shirt, two sweaters, then a few more borrowed items: a fleece, a gortex jacket, and a thicker hat and scarf than I had brought with me for the trip. After a quick breakfast, we stumbled out the door a little after 9 a.m.

We made it to the area at 9:30, where we met up with Paul, Andy and another friend whose name escapes me at the moment. Getting out the car I was struck by two things: how choked with fog the area was (I had visions of us being lost all day because visibility was awful) and how much colder and windier it was a little further north where we began our trip. Mark gave Drew and I some walking sticks, which I would have had a heck of a time scaling the gullies without. We tightened our hoods around our faces and began our first leg of the trip. According to the sign, we were in the Hope Woodlands Moor, which is part of the Peak District.

The beginning wasn’t overly difficult. We began walking up the hill immediately, but we had a stone trail to follow. Some areas were tricky though as they were iced over. After a mile, we turned left and began off-trail hiking. This is where I began to question my sanity. The landscape was unlike anything I had ever seen before, very sparse and without trees. Part of the ground was frozen, and others found themselves sinking into thick mud up to the knee! I decided it was best to keep to the end of the line where I could see how the guys got through certain areas and avoid holes and sinkholes that they had gone stumbled across. It also helped to watch them scale steep areas and gullies, and if I needed an arm to grab to help me up the side of a hill, I had five men to help me out.

The goal of our hike was to first find plane wreckage from 1948 (info can be found here), then to reach the summit of Bleaklow. The wreckage itself was fascinating, and there were crosses and other memorials all around:

The photos also give a sense of how bleak (as Paul said, they don’t call this Bleaklow for nothing) the surroundings are. It felt a bit like being on the moon. We stopped here for about 15 minutes, during which we all started to get cold again. As long as we were walking, we were warm, but as much as 5 minute rest would find the cold settling in the bones again.

From the B29 wreckage, it took us 45 minutes or so to reach the summit of Bleaklow. Along the way we saw some grouse (one was nice to enough not to fly away so we could get a photo) and the “kissing stones”:

At the summit of Bleaklow, we stopped for lunch and hot coffee. The night before Mark made ham and cheese sandwiches to bring along, then nicked some scotch eggs, sausage rolls, chicken and chocolate from their open house party. While eating, we encountered a few other hikers, two of whom were from New Zealand.

The way down the mountain was much easier, though we had to jump from rock to rock over a stream and ended up with wet feet. The fog had broken up on the way down and the scenery became less forboding and much more beautiful and green. Since we were also walking along a creek and in a gulley, the wind was less severe and we could finally walk without our hoods and get some air in!

We finished up after 4.5 hours and according to Mark and Paul we hiked 4.5 miles. Due to the steep terrain it felt like much more, but still, I was very proud of myself at the end. Here are a few more photos:

Frozen foilage

This is me at the end of our journey. Sweet relief!

The rest of the day was spend resting and lounging around the house until it was time to go to the lovely candlelight caroling service at Mark and Sara’s church. We headed to Sanjoy’s afterward, their favorite Indian restaurant, and ate until we couldn’t move. Sara headed for bed when we got back and Collin went across the street to a neighbor’s house he was staying at while they were gone over the holidays. Mark, Drew and I headed to The Ole Vic, Mark and Sara’s local pub, to meet up with friends and brag about our hike. When I got home I called Mom and she passed the phone around to everyone who was over for Christmas Eve dinner. I crashed shortly after and was quite sore for the next three days…

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