A Bivi in the Wild Nothing

Having missed the connecting train from Sheffield by about 5 minutes I mooched to a nearby cafe to stare at a map of the Dark Peak with a strong cup of coffee to decide where to spend the night. The combination of a warm and dry September and a bit of time on my hands seemed like the perfect excuse to sneak in a wander and a bivi on the edges of Kinder Scout. My good friend James and I had been trying for some time to organise an overnight bivi whereby we would leave work,head to the hills, walk, sleep and get back for work the next morning. The inspiration for this had been a short film (which you can see here) on Micro Adventures by Alastair Humphreys. Unfortunately conflicting diaries and pants weather conspired against us. With James off to Spain for a week I decided to do a Billy no mates and go up Kinder Scout for a night on my own, the only objective was to walk and sleep and be up for the sunrise.

As dusk fell, two commuter packed carriages trundled through the Hope Valley towards Manchester, each full of weary yawning workers keen to be whisked home. Although I’ve been there three times this year it was still a pleasure to leave the train at Edale and amble up through the village. The pubs were enjoying the early evening trade of hikers and bikers who were done for the day whilst I was just getting started. Weirdly a police van pulled alongside me and asked me my name, they explained they were looking for someone who was missing and matched my description. Perhaps if I told them I was going to walk over Edale Moor in the dark on my own they might’ve sectioned me.

Taking the footpath that sits alongside Grindsbrook I passed the last remaining walkers coming off the hill. The gentle flagstone path passes several small waterfalls before turning to a steep rocky scramble flitting from one side of the brook to the other.

The usual kitchen sink approach to packing had left me with a far heavier pack than necessary making the ascent a little slower than planned. This was the kind of evening where I was more than happy to dawdle, I had the hills to myself and there were hours of evening light remaining.

Bottles were filled during a brief rest where the stream splits. The water from the fast flowing streams was icy cold but very clear, far less dubious looking than the peaty brown water that I’d got used to drinking on the Pennine Way in March. At the top of the clough a low sun shone across the empty moor.

An hour was spent trudging into the moor of Kinder Scout, a path that is clearly marked on the map seems to disappear intermittently on the ground. It didn’t take long to be reminded of how inhospitable the peat hags could be to walk through, firm ground can quickly lead to slimy black bogs which require backtracking and detouring. After a number of knee deep bog trots the light was fading and a cool breeze was picking up, the decision was made to spend the night by Crowden Tower, a gritstone outcrop that would make a promising spot to watch the morning sunrise over Hope Valley.

The rocks provided decent enough shelter from the wind to knock up a decent meal of hot chilli and rice followed by a quick brew. A few extra layers were thrown on before getting into the sleeping bag. The wonderful thing about bivi bags is they require no pitching, just chuck it on the ground and get in.

In March I spent a horrible night in a bivi on Saddleworth Moor in torrential rain and gale force winds and vowed never again to be without a tent. I’m glad I don’t take my vows too seriously as nights like this would have been ruined by anything with a roof. I watched stars appear gradually until the night sky became covered with constellations. Satellites and planes drifted overhead before a shooting star burnt into nothing. A yellow moon emerged on the horizon and slowly arced across the sky. I’d brought books and music to pass the time and didn’t bother with either.

It was still dark when I opened my eyes at dawn, I was tired and could have slept for a few more hours but the orange and yellow tinges to the eastern horizon made me think again. The stove was lit and the dew shaken from the bag, the morning was cool and fresh but by no means cold. My shoes were sodden from being submerged in the peat bogs so I wandered over to the Crowden Tower in my socks to watch the new day arrive.

I’ve had more downs that ups in the past year, perching on the rocks with a brew and watching the sun come up over the mist covered valley below gave me just what I needed. Excuse the self-indulgent shots with me in them but I couldn’t resist.

A beautiful sunrise was complimented by a beautiful breakfast of coffee and waffles, the early start had been worth it as it wasn’t yet 7:00 and I was packed up and ready to go wandering again.

Passing the Pym Chair and Noe Stool I found the trig point at Kinder Low, keen to avoid the Pennine Way and stick to map and compass I walked out North East onto the moor again.

Maybe I was getting used to them but the peat hags felt more manageable in the daylight, a distant shelter served as a destination though it doesn’t appear on my map. The odd hare darted past as I meandered back and forth across the hags, I finally arrived at the shelter which turned out to be nothing more than a locked storage shed.

Kinder Downfall served as a prime spot for a slightly healthier breakfast of hot porridge with pumpkin seeds, the morning had become warm and pleasant. I can’t think of many places I’d rather be on a weekday morning.

Walking upstream from Kinder Downfall made for a refreshing change in scenery, the soft sandy banks and gentle flowing stream contrasting the relative lifelessness of the surrounding moor. Before long the stream split into various deep trenches flanked by steep walls of peat. It took some time to find a way to climb to higher ground as the peat has a nasty habit of giving way as you try to walk up it. Crowden Head presented an obvious destination rising a mighty three metres higher than the surrounding land. I surprised myself by finding it successfully and made a triumphant pose next to the humble cairn (running tights, models own). Curiously I came across a few Christmas trees as well.

I didn’t have to be back in Edale till early afternoon and felt I had done my fair share of stomping across Kinder for one morning. I headed North to the rocks of Seal Edge where the sense of height suddenly becomes acute with the majestic sweeping drops down to the Snake Pass. Bleaklow looked impressively vast and deserving of its name from across the valley.

Taking the rocky path east overlooking Blackden Moor took little time, and it was refreshing to have a more secure sense of direction than the labyrinth of peat provided on Kinder. Being a sucker for punishment I opted to walk the small distance south over the moor towards Golden Clough, as the crow flies it’s only about 400m across and compared to the rest of the morning it was child’s play, a stream channel providing a fairly stable crossing that brought Nether Tor into clear view.

A gentle stroll down Golden Clough brought me back down to Edale where a steady flow of walkers were heading up for the day, it felt a bit like I’d done a night shift.

Within a few hours I was back in Nottingham amongst crowds, queues and noise, a world away from where I’d woken up.


13 thoughts on “A Bivi in the Wild Nothing

  1. I love that climb out of Edale – I always take the right fork where the streams split and walk up the rocky river bed. Looks like you had yourself a nice little trip!

    1. Cheers chrissie, photos ended up being a tad grainy, I don’t understand my camera and probably deserve a new one. I’ll post a link to that alistair humphreys film, it’s a beaut.

  2. Great story! Slept just north of there last summer amongst the peat hags (which were mercifully dry at the time). Very memorably I woke up inside a cloud and could barely see my hand in front of my face for the first hour of the descent!

    1. Thanks Tom, getting lost is very easy up there, the first time I went up was about 7 years ago in January. Heavy snow made it look stunning but obscured some deep drifts resulting on various waist deep plummets.

  3. Btw, regarding the grainy photos, what ISO setting are you using, too high will result in grainy pics. I usually use ISO 200 unless taking night shots.

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