"A man without virtue cannot long abide in adversity, nor can he long abide in happiness; but the virtuous man is at rest in virtue and the wise man covets it"- Confucius
I enjoy a challenge. I may be reluctant to separate myself from my
modern day luxuries sometimes (though I am less attached than most) but
I do not cope well with inactivity, I worked for a few weeks in an
office and found myself going stir crazy. I managed to vastly improve
my press ups and sit ups, from my lunch hours at least.
My good friend 'Kenobi', who I have mentioned before in this post on my blog
took me for a hike in the Peak District. Now, if I am a fan of
challenges, this man is something else. This same man took me up the
cliff face of Bleaklow in the winter, just to see if I would overcome
I had been phoned a couple of nights earlier to talk about my
willingness to go on another hike. I have been on half a dozen with
Kenobi so far and most of them have been relatively gentle strolls up
hill around the Peak District, Black Hill being a favourite. I expected
something like that, in fact I assumed Black Hill would be our port of
call, neither of us has been uphill since before the recent heatwave
We parked up somewhere near a farm, leaving behind our water bottles
and common sense. Immediately we were confronted with a field full of
cattle, bulls and calves included. Normally cows are no trouble but
being with a man who tends to raise their ire and with the Bulls being
keen to show off, there was a bit of a show down. The stronger males
managed to encircle us, their wide and long horns giving us cause to
look for the fastest way out.
We moved slowly out of their way, being careful not to get in between
them and their young. Kenobi made me well aware of the possibility of a
herd of them charging and goring us on their massive horns. We thought
we were in the clear, that is until after a few minutes we were
confronted by a young bull on it's own, it stared us in the face. We
pressed on regardless and it ran, I commented that it was a 'big
jessy'. When we were a few yards past him he began to call out for help
from the herd. For a half second I thought we had had it but when only
a small calf came to greet him, I realised that he must be considered a
bit of a wuss by his family and friends also. perhaps the small calf
was his enthusiastic younger brother eager to show his big bro that he
was brave, even if everyone else wasn't.
As we approached the foot of the hill I was already twigged onto the
idea that this was not going to be the pleasant hill walk I had
expected, we reached a crossroad in the path. One way led sharply
uphill along a path and was apparently very popular with hikers., the
other towards a narrow, rocky canyon stream that led gently uphill for
a few miles that few people have ventured up in centuries. So naturally
as this was for our own leisure we went up the canyon.
I was told that Grendel had lived here before making the journey to
Denmark where he terrorised the people of King Hrodgar and was
eventually slain by the Geatish hero Beowulf. Little circular holes
marked the rocks up the canyon, suggesting he had thrown stones with
great impact down here. Perhaps they had been thrown at those hoping to
sneak up the mountain and surprise him by avoiding the easy route up.
Now, don't be fooled by the gentler incline, this was no gentle stroll.
Throughout the entire length of the stream, there are few parts that
offer a solid surface for more than a yard or two and in order to climb
it we had to hop from rock to rock, ensure that every rock was firm and
avoid the ones covered in water. The stream was very strong for the
first mile or so and as you might expect, very often there was no clear
way across the rocks. In fact the entire trip up the canyon forces you
to think about every movement you make, grip the wrong rock or misjudge
a leap and you could well be crushed on the rocks below, or worse
trapped in a chasm, emergency help unable to reach you as you slowly
die over a week or two.
Throughout the entire route identical helicopters flew in no pattern at
all in the air, carrying strange cauldron like objects we first assumed
to be cement mixers through the air. We saw them all the way through
the hike, every few minutes in different directions.
Several times I had to wade through the shallower parts of the stream,
ensuring that my boots were sodden and travel on all but the firmest
and dryest of rocks retained some risk. Whereas my trip up the
cliffside of Bleaklow some months prior required me to overcome my own
fear of death and take a leap of faith, the trip up the canyon was more
of a slog. Plenty of times the risk of death was present, only a couple
of times did I think about it, once when I was required to climb with
only my hands, gripping the roots of heather to give me the opportunity
to search for firm footing and another time across a gap over a large
hole in the rocks that would have been inescapable had I fell in.
Quite often, Kenobi was well ahead, knowing the route from experience
and I expect wanting to leave me alone to work things out for myself. I
had toyed with the possibility of him deliberately ensuring I would be
stuck there, but I always made it through eventually. The times alone
gave me pause to think of men such as Beowulf, who must have done such
things also, the idea of my imitating the acts of such heroes gave me
strength and made me think how much harder this would be in mail and
carrying a weapon while maintaining speed and stealth.
We stopped a mile or so in, took off our boots and socks and took it in
turns to have a foot bath in the space below a small boulder, that
acted as a little footspar. The fresh running water was soothing but
more than thirty seconds of the ice cold water was a little hard to
As we sat for a few minutes drying off, we heard hissing behind us. I
was reminded of my moniker and we found funny the idea of me fending
off and slaying a serpent in the hills. Unfortunately it was not to be
(and I wasn't going to deliberately find one to kill it in its own
environment) so I apologise for the absence of that anecdote.
By this time I was very dehydrated and being not very cautious
sometimes I deliberately jumped a cross small wet rocks to reach a
little waterfall that sent three separate flows of water over a flat
upright rock, making it look like a garden water feature.
The water tasted cleaner than any water I have ever drunk, putting to
rest the ridiculous notion that nature is dirty or dangerous. Some
people would like to make us think that humans cannot survive without
large amounts of machinery and the work of giant utility companies, or
god forbid live in the wilderness, it is all nonsense. It took two
hours to climb up the canyon, if that puts the whole thing into
Eventually we reached a strange fence, presumably to prevent people
walking in the moor ahead to fall the several miles down the rocky
stream we had just climbed up. With that we preceded up the hill using
the fence and large amounts of heather to help From then on we were on
a solid path, much easier but not very interesting. We saw a few other
hikers, most likely carrying bottles of water. If it wasn't for Kenobi
I may have knocked one out with a boulder in case he had one I was that
We were met by an arrangement of large boulders a few hundred yards
before the summit, they had a significance that was lost on us. Kenobi
tried to surprise me by hiding behind rocks, but I saw him dive down in
the first place!
We left rocks at the summit, which wasn't greatly hard to reach once
out of the canyon, just a walk uphill. I left the name of one of my
heroes at the top and a symbol he was known for (the hammer in
The walk back was uneventful but long. I was dehydrated and my socks
were still wet. It seemed to go on forever, walking down the hillside.
While the climb up the canyon had been much tougher, it was hard and
did not allow you to become bored or carefree. The walk down was dull
and tiring but easy.
The cows were waiting at the bottom, I made sure to tell them that I
never ate beef and that Kenobi loved it (though Kenobi eats little
meat, obvious through the way he struggled over some of the taller
rocks in the canyon) we got through them but were eye-balled by the
larger males all the way.
Waiting for me in the car was the nicest apple I have ever eaten, a
deliberate ploy of Kenobi and the only thing that kept me going while
thirsty, hungry and tired the whole way back. I cannot describe how
long the way back seemed to take, I would guess at three hours. It was
dull and I was glad to get back. We popped to a nice English chippy on
the way back and both went to our homes to relax for the rest of the
evening. It is the day after now and as I run every other day, I was
due a run today. As I spent the last two rest days cycling, then
climbing a mountain the hard way, I decided to give it a miss until
tomorrow. Thanks for reading.