Start – Woodhead Station car park SK113998, Distance – 14.7km, Ascent – 450m, Time – 4hrs 30mins plus stops.
Fancy a challenge? Well, you could do a lot worse than tackling the (mostly) pathless expanse of Bleaklow. This walk starts from the disused Woodhead Station and climbs alongside Far Black Clough before traversing east slightly to pick up the faint path that follows a very intermittent line of stakes from Howden Edge in the east onto Bleaklow Stones and ultimately Bleaklow summit. The return is via Near Black Clough. The paths alongside the two Cloughs are fairly easy to find, but the extensive summit plateau is a maze of deep peat groughs and extremely rough terrain. Navigation is difficult even in good conditions – I don’t think I’d even consider this walk if the cloud was down or the ground sodden. You need to be competent with map and compass and be prepared to do a lot of tiring scrambling across possibly the roughest terrain in the Peak District. If you’re confident in this sort of environment, you can pretty much wander where you like. A bit silly but also fun (mostly).
Bleaklow Stones. Odd-shaped rocks like this are not uncommon in the more exposed areas of the Peak District. Kinder, The Roaches and Derwent/Stanage Edges are other good examples.
Who put the “bleak” in “Bleaklow”? Most of the summit plateau is like this – it’s both annoying and compelling at the same time
Bleaklow peat grough. The plateau is a maze of these, most of them well over head-height, which doesn’t help with navigation. Climbing in and out of their soft, slippery sides gets tiring pretty quickly as well. Definitely not for the faint-hearted.
The Dark Peak is as famous for its aircraft crash sites as it is for its uncompromising terrain. These are the surprisingly extensive remains of a B29 Superfortress just to the east of Higher Shelf Stones. Quite a sobering and poignant sight.
The view to the trig pillar at Higher Shelf Stones, seen through… yes, you guessed it – another deep peat grough!
Finally, a non-peat-based view. This is from Lower Shelf Stones looking down Doctor’s Gate, an old Roman Road. The bulk of Kinder rears in the left background.
The summit of Bleaklow. Inspiring, it isn’t and you can walk within a hundred yards of this and miss it completely, it’s that flat. Which is exactly what I did – I missed the summit until I came back from Higher Shelf Stones. Not one of my better navigational days, despite the clear weather. (Should’ve taken my GPS…)