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Between the first two lockdowns, I made a break for it and left London’s walls for the open plain of the Peak District. Kinder Scout to be exact. One of my favourite pieces of rock and peat in England. My goal for the day was to walk Kinder Scout’s edges route, c.17 miles around the plateau rim of this monolithic lump that’s full of delightful views, scrambles, weathered rock formations and moorland wildlife. On a sunny Saturday, the Southside path can resemble London Bridge on a Monday morning as walkers file up and back from Edale. Preferring tranquility over fair weather, I chose an early start and a weekday, with questionable weather.

I am a seasoned hiker, and as such, I always carry a map and compass. I’ve been up and around Kinder Scout many times, alone or with a walking buddy. The routes are familiar, and my general sense of direction is pretty good until the weather turns.

The route up I chose this damp weekday morning was via Grindsbrook Clough.

 

On a clear day, the route starts with views back over Edale Valley and takes in the Wool Packs’ likes, a sculptured garden of gritstone, and Kinder Downfall. At the furthest northwesterly point of Kinder, the views over Bleaklow and Hope Forest start to appear and then there are the wonderfully named Seal Stones, Nether Tor, Madwoman’s Stones and Ringing Roger to navigate.

Leaving the village of Edale and passing The Church of The Holy and Undivided Trinity, I faffed with my rucksack straps and checked how my muscles and joints were feeling for the hike ahead. Circumnavigating Kinder Scout had been my goal on the drive up. The burning desired for a rich outdoor experience overruled the ego’s bid to bag a challenge. I clip the edge of The Old Nags Head, making a mental note of a pint of Black Sheep and a packet of pork scratchings upon my return. I ducked down a track, over a damp wooden bridge that straddles Grinds Brook and up a rather grand set of wide steps leading to the sheep fields at the foot of Kinder Scout. 

The route to the top I had chosen was via Grindsbrook Clough. It offers moorland charm and a bit of a scramble. In winter it can be a mini adventure with Grinds Brook turning into a torrent. The summer of 2020 had left the brook is a trickle of rich amber coffee being poured over the gritstone that time has strewn along its course.

 

With my heart rate climbing as I do, I take the paved path across an open field and through a thicket before crossing back over Grinds Brook. I paused a beat and looked around to see my second bridge set against the blooming heather, its vibrant purple bringing colour to a grey day. Once over the bridge, the climb starts in earnest as the track tightens until it turns into rock and then disappears, leaving only the brook to scramble up. My strides shorten yet my steps seem to lengthen. That niggling hamstring I had on my mind passing the church at the start seemed to be holding up. As I huffed and puffed up the clough I started to feel damper and damper. I was walking into the heavy low clouds, spending their morning sitting on the top of Kinder. 

Turning a corner in the clough I was close to what looked like the top. I’d yet to see another soul, the timing looked good, and my lungs and limbs felt great. The plan for the day was on track. I was aiming for a great experience, and if it felt right at my first brew stop, I planned to crack on around the back of Kinder and do the full 17 miles back to Edale. My thoughts drifted a moment to last Autumn and the stunning views that followed me all around the back of Kinder and only a distant pair of walkers tracking behind me for company. 

With a final set of significant steps, I heaved myself over the last few gritstone boulders and out of the clough, exciting to start striding along the south edge towards Wool Packs and the neighbouring Trig Point. I found it deeply satisfying to feel the grip of wet gritstone on my fingers as I pulled myself up and over the more enormous boulders. 

I emerged from the walls of the clough, the clarity and conviction of my plan faded into the thick mist. I could barely see 20 meters. What I could see was three, possibly four paths leading roughly in my direction, a direction I sensed but started to doubt. Disorientated by the lack of visibility and number path choices, my mind began to fill with doubt. Too far left and I’d find myself heading back down to Edale, cutting my day very short. Too far right and I’d find myself deep in peat and heavy going nowhere. 

It’s wasn’t an unfamiliar experience for me. It was initially
exhilarating, more of an adventure, I thought. I’d navigated off Helvellyn in a whiteout before. It was a time to pause, clear my head and fix a bearing. Then the seeds of doubt rocked up. My head began to fill with other voices of doubt. These voices weren’t my usual chatter in my head, but from two and three couples emerging from the mist. From what I could see, only one couple had a map. From what I could ascertain, none had a compass. All were asking me the ‘way’. My day had started as a solo trip; I suddenly felt responsible for six others. The clarity of my route had gone in that moment.

Time was not endless in late Autumn, and I was impatient to crack on. I might be able to point them in a direction but is that the one they were expecting for their day on Kinder. 

All these different voices started to influence my thinking. Moments of doubt began to creep in. I know the terrain. Was it that path over there or just a familiar path from a previous walk? Was that a path I’d taken before and had to double back or scramble out of a sudden drop? Their track, my way – I realised at that moment my bubble of a solo adventure was about to burst and if I wasn’t careful my trip of one could turn into a walking party of seven. 

I’ll never know why the couples gravitated to me. Perhaps my ‘eh up’ tone carried the confidence that they were looking for in themselves. Maybe it was because I was walking alone or possibly it was the red waterproof I had on. 

I paused a beat, and as the couples huddled around me, my experience and mountain knowledge returned to clear the chatter. I crouched on one knee to steady myself and ducked below the chat, folded my map to cover the area I knew we’d be in, just above the clough. Pulling out my compass, I pinpointed where we were huddled and fixed a bearing for my path’s direction—the path to carry me on with my adventure. I checked in with each couple and repeated the exercise to give them their bearing, caveating that it was an initial direction. Without a compass and in this mist, the opportunity to get disorientated was high and taking the clough back down would be a safe option.

 

Armed with my compass and bearing my plan was back on track and I headed into the mist. The path I took looked the least defined, but I had the confidence in my direction thanks to my compass and bearing.

I find something is exhilarating in following a bearing. I was taking the right pathway to where I wanted to be, often unmarked and uniquely mine. The moment I strode onto that unique path, I felt a buzz of excitement. Whatever terrain I encounter, unless the earth suddenly shifts significantly on its axis, I know that following my bearing will get me to where I plan to go. Walking on a bearing creates a sense of freedom, energy and a purposeful experience for me. 

I suddenly had a sense. Was I being followed into the mist?

There was some reassurance as my surrogate walkers tagged along. While they might not follow their exact route, part of my path would take them towards where they were planning to head. 

After the early mist’s excitement and the reassurance of passing that great walker friend, the trig point the fog cleared and the spectacular views from the top of Kinder started to reveal themselves. Edale Valley started to show itself, and I was looking forward to seeing Bleaklow and Hope Forest when I turned Kinder’s Northwesterly corner onto the back edge. 

Armed with good visibility, my map and my compass, I followed the paths that contour their way around the edges of Kinder for a glorious day out in the wilds. Once I turned the corner and headed East along the back of Kinder, I was a lone walker with my only thoughts for company. It was pretty close to bliss. 

With a few brew stops to refuel, I arrived back into Edale just before dark brimming joy from the day I’d just had. 

Back at The Old Nags Head, I took a big sip of Black Sheep and crunched a large piece of port scratching. My mind started to reflect on my mini-adventure. The views, the changing weather, the distance travelled, the trusty brew stops and just how good a pint tastes after a day walking in the hills feels. My face was flush with the elements and the joy of a day in the great outdoors. 

Emerging from the clough into the mist remained the most vivid experience from my day on Kinder. Without my map, compass and bearing, I would have struggled to get to where I wanted to go. Pairing a map with a compass proved essential for knowing which direction to head. As the environment changed and there were no longer any prominent landmarks my map needed its compass.

My thoughts then drifted to a time earlier in the year when the mist rolled into a Client’s working life. The influencing chatter from those around her became an increasing distraction, and she started to lose her sense of direction and sense of self. Options and the opinions of others only further confused her, and she felt her vitality falling away. Up on Kinder, I had my map and compass. At work, she had neither until a friend recommended me as her coach — someone to guide her out of her working mist. I helped her reset where she wanted to get to, create a plan to head in that direction, and create her personal values compass to act as her bearing, helping her stay on course, whatever the working terrain, and enjoying the journey again. 

Sadly Lockdown 3 has put Kinder out of bounds for me. I plan

to head back up there in the Spring for another restorative adventure. Back in London, my coach and values compass continue to guide me on my working adventure. The terrain has been challenging at times, but my plan, coach, and values will keep me on track whenever I come across my cloughs, rocky paths, misty sections, and moments of doubt.
                        My map and compass

"The confidence I have right now is really valuable; it's a great feeling the sense of direction and purpose I have right now."

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