Chantelle Kelly discovers a few of the Peak District’s infinite possibilities with UK backpack experts Lowe Alpine.
Lowe Alpine challenged me to a day of cycling, climbing and hill walking to put one of their Aeon backpacks through its paces. As I travelled up to the Peak District I was excited to see what the following day would bring, not to mention a little nervous about the rock climbing part of the day.
My guide was Paul Lewis from Peak Mountaineering. We headed to the Derwent Reservoirs in the Upper Derwent Valley, to begin with a cycle. As Paul set up the bikes, I got kitted up with the right shoes, helmet and gloves. The sky began to clear, and the sun made an unexpected appearance. Our woodland surroundings were beautiful. I felt relatively comfortable on the bike and we first cycled to the upper reservoir, Howden Reservoir, to enjoy the view from above. We then pedalled down the woodland path and through towering trees to the famous Howden Dam. Due to recent heavy rain, the water was full to the brim and was overflowing. The cascading waterfall was a delight to witness, especially as Paul said it was a very rare sighting.
The place itself was full of teenagers walking on their Duke of Edinburgh’s Award expedition. We decided to do a circuit of Derwent and Ladybower Reservoir and I have to admit it was wonderful to be out in the countryside rather than sat at my desk typing away (as I am now!). Paul offered advice on which gears to use as we pedalled up and down hill and once we reached the edge of Ladybower we took a break. Paul talked about the history of the reservoirs and dam and explained that Ladybower was built on the site of two villages, Derwent and Ashopton, and when the reservoir is low you can see the church spire emerging from the water.
We cycled past herds of livestock and flocks of birds frolicking in the water. I was enjoying the Peak District’s natural beauty, feeling very at home on the bike, but praying that my legs wouldn’t turn to jelly the moment I stepped off the bike and onto the crag.
With the bikes packed back into the van, we set off to the place Paul had in mind for our rock climbing adventure – Lawrencefield. Walking to the crag, we reached a curve in the road which gives the Surprise View its name, and Paul explained I would be climbing the rock to our left. We hopped over the wall and made our way down the hill, as we reached the bottom of the small quarried bay, Roadside Bay, I was astounded by the size of the crag. He explained I would be climbing a route called Straight Crack. As Paul set up the rig and rope, I popped on a pair of climbing shoes and examined the rock whilst silently praying for my life.
There’s no denying I was terrified, but equally, more than a little determined not to let it get the better of me. Paul let me examine and plan my moves but offered guidance when I got stuck. Hanging on to the cold rock with the tips of my fingers was a thrill, especially as I started to get higher. I could feel the adrenaline pumping through my veins. Some parts of theroute were easier than others, near the top I faced difficulty as I tucked myself into large crack. I could finally warm up my frozen fingers, but I couldn’t work out how I was going to climb the rest of the route. I could just about reach a hold with both hands, but I didn’t know how I was going to get both legs to the hold on my right – there was no where on the left for my foot to rest. Paul shouted up that I would need to take a leap of faith and swing my body round as I pulled myself up. I took one last breath and went for it, and he was right – it worked! Once I reached the top I was overwhelmed with happiness and relief, but didn’t dare look down.
Abseiling is difficult in itself; trusting the person below to lower you gently back down to safety. I was nervous – it’s an odd sensation falling backwards, only holding on to the rope in front of you but then I felt my nerves wash away and enjoyed my journey floating back down to the ground. Looking back up I couldn’t believe it, I was truly astonished that I had just successfully scaled this enormous chunk of rock with my own hands and feet. I felt quite proud of myself! Paul seemed to be impressed and said I was a natural.
I decided to give a more challenging route a try, just slightly to the right, and on a smoother rock face with fewer holds. The fear and nerves had diminished completely as I pulled myself up the rock for a second time. My fingers and arms were beginning to seize up and ache, but I pushed through the pain determined to reach the top. It was all over too soon.
We finished the day with a walk over Hathersage Moor. Luckily the weather stayed clear and we hiked up to Carl Wark, the site of a hill fort constructed during the Iron Age, overlooked by Higger Tor. The views across Burbage Valley were spectacular – the perfect spot to appreciate the beauty of the landscape. Rather than turning around, we decided to head down the valley and over the moor. Once we crossed Burbage Brook we hiked up towards Burbage North, a
popular location for rock climbers. The walking was wet going, but getting stuck in the mud was all part of the fun!
I wore Lowe Alpine’s Aeon ND16, a female specific fit, multi-activity pack with a 16L capacity. It was ideal for the different activities as it proved lightweight and durable and big enough to pack all the essentials for the day. Thanks to Lowe Alpine’s unique TriShield coating, all my kit stayed dry even though it got dropped in the mud a few times.
Fancy your own adventure in the Peak District? Peak Mountaineering offers a number of outdoor adventure courses in rock climbing, scrambling, navigation, mountain biking and guiding. Visit www.peakmountaineering.com