Author Archives: benlcollins

Crowded Clough scramble on Kinder Low with Alistair (Peak District, UK)

29 June 2022

Hike & Scramble / 11.6 miles / 2,499 ft ascent / 5 hours 44 minutes

Hope Valley, Peak District National Park, UK

Alistair is one of my oldest friends. We met at the mountaineering and walking club at university and over the years we’ve walked across the Pyrenees together, done countless trips to the UK mountains (e.g. this Scottish adventure), traversed the mountaineer’s Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt, and spent 5 months together in the Andes of South America, nearly getting to the top of Aconcagua together.

However, since my move to the States 10 years ago, we’ve only seen each other once, briefly in 2014 for a short walk around West Kirby Marine Lake.

This year, June 2022, I was in Peak District for 2 weeks with my family, my brother’s family, and the UK grandparents, for a big family reunion after years of Covid restrictions. Alistair lives just around the corner, so it was easy to meet in the Peaks for a day walk together.

Alistair suggested a scramble up Crowded Clough onto Kinder Low and then walking a circuit around the head of the Edale valley.

We had great weather for it!

Alistair on the way up Kinder Low. Crowded Clough is the prominent dark scar, where the stream bed lies.

We began from the village of Edale, also the start of the Pennine Way, and headed up Kinder Low. It was great to catch up on news and reminisce about adventures past.

Looking back towards Edale

Near the top of the climb we entered the stream bed and began the short, wet, but entertaining scramble up Crowded Clough.

Alistair scrambling up Crowded Clough
Higher up on the scramble, which went up to the left of the stream. Fun!

Near the top we had the option to take the path towards the summit of Kinder Low, or complete the scramble up a final awkward chimney. Being the purists that we are, we opted for the scramble.

It was a few bridging steps followed by a heave and a struggle to push up and out of the bowels of the mountain. Here, Alistair demonstrates the sideways traversing technique to exit the top of the chimney:

We continued on over the plateau with the weird stones to the trig point at the top of Kinder Low.

Me and Alistair, some 23 years after our first summit together

From here, we continued around the head of the valley, past many Duke of Edinburgh youth groups (which is how I started my love affair with the mountains), to Brown Knoll, Lord Seat, and eventually Mam Tor.

Crossing the flagstones over Lord Seat

The section from Lord Seat to Mam Tor was more of a defined ridge line, as opposed to open moorland that we’d crossed earlier in the day.

On the ridge towards Mam Tor
Summit of Mam Tor

From Mam Tor, which was rather crowded, we descended to Hollins Cross pass, before turning north into the valley and back to Edale where our cars were parked.

Alistair on the way down to Edale

Back in Edale, we stopped to refuel at the excellent Penny Pot Cafe before our respective drives home.

One of the best parts of climbing mountains is the license to eat whatever you want after a big day!

Truly a top day out with a great friend. The best of days.

Gritstone Edge Walk With Pete (Peak District, UK)

24 June 2022

Hike / 26.1 miles / 3,206 ft ascent / 10 hours 29 minutes

Near Gardom’s Edge, looking west to Baslow

Whenever my family and my brother’s family get together, Pete and I like to squeeze in an adventure together. Last time, in 2019, we did a great walk in the Glyders of Snowdonia. This year, as we were holidaying in the Peak District, we explored the gritstone edges and moors of the Peak District National Park, an area I have not spent much time in before.

It being close to the summer equinox, it was light ridiculously early so we set off before breakfast (we joked it was our alpine start). We left the house at 5.30 am, and began walking just before 6 am from the Robin Hood pub (picture in the background and an excellent country pub to boot!):

Smiling despite the early start 🙂

Our route was an out-and-back along the western gritstone edges in the Peaks, including: Gardom’s Edge, Baslow Edge, Curbar Edge, Froggatt Edge, Burbage Edge, and Stanage Edge (similar to this All Trails route).

Yours truly looking out towards Baslow

Shortly after crossing Clodhall Lane, on our way up to Curbar Edge, we saw a basking adder on the trail. Despite Pete and I living in parts of the world where snakes are more numerous, this was my first sighting of 2022!

A basking adder, one of the few species of venomous snakes in the UK

The route traversed a series of escarpments — edges — that we followed along the tops. They ran generally south-to-north, punctuated by roads running east-to-west.

Consequently, the expansive views we enjoyed were generally to the West, into the central Peaks. But we could also often see the next edge on our route to the north (or south on the return leg).

Yours truly on Curbar Edge

Roughly halfway through the outward leg (so, one quarter distance for the day) we walked through Longshaw Estate, passing close by the sprawling Longshaw Lodge:

We traversed Burbage Edge in thick mist, which lent an end-of-the-world feel to the place. Views towards the valley disappeared over the edge.

Burbage Edge

The best thing about these days is not the scenery of course, nor the adventure at hand. No, it’s spending a full day with my brother and chatting and goofing around together again. I miss doing this more frequently.

Our final edge was the grandaddy of them all, Stanage Edge. I’ve walked and climbed here before, so I was vaguely familiar with the area, although our southerly approach and the thick mist meant I didn’t recognize anything specifically.

The trig point at the southern end of Stanage Edge

We walked most of Stanage Edge, past Robin Hood’s cave, but we stopped short of the road crossing that borders the north edge. My Strava read 13 miles at the turnaround, so we knew we still had a long way to go to get home.

Pete above Robin Hood’s cave

Our route home was mostly over the same ground, although we took the low route beneath the edges when we could.

View down Burbage South Valley

We started feeling weary at this stage, eighteen miles into the walk, as we passed Burbage Edge for the second time.

Burbage Edge on the return

We took a different route through the Longshaw Estate on the return leg, opting to walk around Granby Wood since we’d bypassed it earlier in the day. It was easy terrain through the estate.

Rhododendron bushes on the Longshaw Estate

Our weary feet and creaking knees carried us over Curbar Edge again, and this time the clouds made for a wonderful backdrop to the English countryside.

Curbar Edge
The man, the myth, the mountain: Pete on Curbar Edge.

Not going to lie, the last couple of miles were tiring!

We walked a tad over 26 miles all up, so a marathon distance. Not bad for a couple of old buggers. I think this is the longest walk I’ve ever done in a day (notwithstanding the handful of ultra runs I’ve done, which were further).

My knees are the limiting factor for me now, and they were quite tender by the end of this walk. I didn’t have my poles with me, which would have helped. I do think I can go slightly further though, so the next goal of course is 30 miles in a day.

To summarize, a truly fantastic day out with Pete! One I’ll remember fondly for the rest of my life, along with the myriad other adventures we’ve done together. Cheers bro!

North along the A.T. to Gathland State Park and return

25th May 2022

Hike / 23.8 miles / 2,902 ft ascent / 8 hours 52 minutes

View from Weverton Cliffs back towards Harpers Ferry

Originally I had hoped to get away for a few days hiking or biking, to celebrate finishing a big work project. But I was so exhausted from work and parenting that I couldn’t muster the motivation to plan a multi-day trip. I settled on a long day walk instead.

I left home around 9.45am with plenty of food and water. I wanted to see if I could reach Gathland State Park and return, which I knew would be a long walk.

After walking through Harper Ferry, I had a peaceful hour along the canal. It’s a pretty stretch along the banks of the Potomac River.

I was on the Appalachian Trail for the whole day, so I followed it away from the canal and up Weverton Cliffs. After a snack break at the lookout, I continued onwards, heading north.

Once you’re on top of the ridge, the trail is relatively flat and easy going, so the miles passed easily.

Typical conditions along the Appalachian Trail

I reached the Ed Garvey shelter around lunchtime and stopped there for lunch. I chatted with a few other hikers who were part way through their long hikes.

Time for lunch at the shelter!

The shelter is fantastic, with an upstairs closed-in section, and plenty of camping spots. I will return to stay here overnight someday.

The Ed Garvey shelter, easily the best lean to shelter I’ve seen.

At the shelter I had a choice. Do I turn around and head home, a 17-mile round trip that I did last summer? Or, do I push on to reach Gathland State Park, another 4 further on?

Of course, I chose to continue. I felt good and I was enjoying being out in the woods. I had plenty of food and water with me.

It was more of the same through the woods on the AT north. It’s a nice, quiet section.

I reached Gathland State Park mid-afternoon, and stopped to explore some of the history of this area.

The War Correspondents arch at Gathland State Park, the halfway mark and my turnaround point.

I’ve been to Gathland State Park once before, with Lexi, when we headed north from Gathland to climb Lamb’s Knoll. So the route today closed that gap in my AT coverage.

After another snack, I turned around and headed back south along the AT to Weverton Cliffs.

6 miles back to Weverton Cliffs, heading south now

I didn’t stop at the Ed Garvey shelter on the way home, but I couldn’t resist another stop at the lookout. It’s such a fabulous view!

A lone turkey vulture flying over the summit of Weverton Cliffs on my return

24 miles along the AT is quite tiring and I was stiff and tired the next day. But being outdoors all day is so good for the soul.

All in all, a great day out. I can’t wait to get back out there!

Loudoun Heights Loop Route, with Lexi

18 April 2022

Hike / 9.3 miles / 1,443 ft ascent / 3 hours 18 minutes

Some photos from the Loudoun Heights loop hike that Lexi and I did in April. Amazingly we had snow flurries on the second half of the walk.

Crossing the Shenandoah river, looking at Maryland Heights on the left and Loudoun Heights on the right
This view never gets old
At Loudoun Heights lookout together, with Harpers Ferry in the background

Instead of returning to Harpers Ferry back the same way, we decided to take the old path off the back of Loudoun Heights and then cross the 340 to the canal towpath. This was the first time I’d done this route. It’ll make for a nice shortcut on the Three Peaks hike.

Crossing 340, the old route of the Appalachian Trail
Looking back to Loudoun Heights, from the 340 over the Potomac River
Crossing the footbridge over the Potomac back into Hapers Ferry, contending with unexpected snow

Bike to Swains Lockhouse along the C&O canal, with Dominic

8th April 2022

Bike / 46.8 miles / 123 ft ascent / 6 hours 29 minutes

Setting off from Harpers Ferry with Dominic

My eldest son Dominic joined me for the first 7 miles to Brunswick, our longest ride together. We had a blast along the canal and he did great. One thing to keep in mind when cycling with young children is that they’re prone to stop suddenly, when they spot something interesting. Be ready to hit the brakes yourself! 😉

Cruising along the canal towpath between Harpers Ferry and Brunswick

Lexi picked Dominic up in Brunswick and I continued along the canal. I had another 40 miles to go to reach the Lockhouse.

Just beyond Brunswick is Little Catoctin Creek, which was heavily flooded after all the recent rain. I thought about attempting to cross, but quickly decided against it. The trail dips down quite far — I’m sure the water would have been waist deep or more in the middle.

Luckily I met another cyclist here, who had bypassed the flooded trail by way of the railway lines earlier in the day. He reassured me it was an easy detour. There was a train already on the far line, but the near line was clear, so we climbed the embankment and proceeded on foot down the lines until we could rejoin the canal towpath on the other side. I backtracked to help a mother/daughter team — on a multi-day tour — get past this point.

My Strava route showing the detour
Hot footing down the railway line

I cycled with my fellow rail-bridge-biker for the next few miles, chatting about our mutual appreciation of the canal and the bike touring.

Monocacy Aqueduct was next, 21 miles into the ride:

Monocacy Aqueduct

The next 15 miles were lovely and quiet. Mile after mile of towpath, meandering through the trees with the canal on my left and the river to my right.

I passed Seneca Creek Aqueduct around 41 miles into the ride:

Seneca Creek Aqueduct

Six miles later I reached Lockhouse 21, Swains lockhouse, where I finished my ride. I met up with Lexi and the boys, and tucked hungrily into the pizza that Lexi brought. We were originally planning to stay the night in the lockhouse, but had to return home instead on this occasion. We’ll be back though.

Swains Lockhouse, number 21
Swains lock

All in all, a great day’s riding along the canal. Particularly the first 7 miles with Dominic. I was really proud of how well he did.