Saturday, 2 December 2017

Bleaklow via Wildboar Clough

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Route: Woodhead Reservoir, Trans Pennine Trail, Wildboar Clough, Far Moss, Bleaklow Head, Far Moss, Wildboar Grain, Torside Clough, Clough Edge, Reaps, Torside Bridge, Trans Pennine Trail

Date: 02/12/2017
From: Torside Reservoir

Parking: Woodhead Reservoir Dam
Start Point: Woodhead Reservoir Dam
Region: Peak District - Dark Peak

Route length: 8.2 miles (13.2 km)
Time taken: 04:02
Average speed: 2.0 mph
Ascent: 511m
Descent: 511m

Summits: Bleaklow (633m)

Other points of interest: Wildboar Clough

The name Wildboar Clough was unknown to me until I queried a friend who knows the area well, looking for something interesting for a gloomy looking day. It turns out its one of the great scrambles in the Peak District, one of only a few which are actually testing. The clough is one of many which drain the northern slopes of Bleaklow though the only one that harbours accessible, rocky interest.

We left a car close to Salters Brook Bridge to the east of Bleaklow with the intention of having a wander across the main watershed, taking another to the start point close to Torside reservoir (the main road was closed so we ended up parking in a layby on the south side of the reservoir dam). A number of routes were on the cards depending on time and daylight but all would include climbing Wildboar Clough.

Following the Trans Pennine Trail (not to be confused with the Pennine Way) took us to a brand new fingerpost directing the way to Wildboar Clough. Here begins a straightforward climb up through some ancient woodland.
Leaving the Trans Pennine Trail
Mist swirl around Peaknaze Moor
The woods guarding Wildboar Clough
Once clear of the woods, the path eventually drops easily into the valley of Wildboar Clough close to Rollick Stones. Initially, the route is fairly simple, following the streambed much of the way, negotiating a few extremely slippery frozen sections.
First glimpses of the ravine
Wildboar Clough - not quite time to get into it yet
Within Wildboar Clough
Eventually, the rock walls narrow and you will reach the first of three significant obstacles in the river, all of which should be manageable if you are competent scrambler and the conditions are favourable. Our conditions were less than ideal but we had a good go regardless. The three obstacles can be bypassed, though, if you bypass the first one you will likely find it difficult to get back down to tackle the second one. This is my opinion anyway.
Wildboar Clough
Beginnings of the icy sections
Wildboar Clough
At first the route around the first obstacle is unclear - I did do some research before venturing out. The typical route is by shimmying up slanted, ice-free rock to the left of the photo. I've seen it referred to as 'Riding the Rock' as it does require putting your legs either side of it and shuffling up to reach the higher holds. It's trickier than it looks, particularly because there is little in the way of footholds on the smooth rock. After some in-elegant shuffling, I managed it in the end.
The first obstacle - the easier route is up the ice-free rock to the left, straddling the crest to reach holds higher above
Ice on the first obstacle
Looking down the first obstacle
Completing the first obstacle leads directly to the second, an impressive vertical waterfall. This one is tackled via a mossy gully just left of the main waterfall. Plenty of hand and footholds are available with the biggest risk being the slipperiness of the rock.
Approaching the second waterfall
The second waterfall - the route here is up the obvious crack to the left of the waterfall
The third obstacle lies dead ahead - another vertical waterfall though much larger this time - the most impressive of the lot, and the most challenging. There are a few routes that negotiate this one, however, the build-up of ice made this one a no-go. Time for a bypass, after the first tier. It seems a lot of people bypass this one as the main routes are close to the waterfall which is either too wet or, in our case, too icy.
The magnificent third waterfall
The main section of the third waterfall, too icy today
Smaller falls lie beyond the third fall, most are easily negotiated
Further falls in Wildboard Clough
Once around the three main falls, things get a little easier once more, however, we were thwarted a final time on a shorter waterfall which had covered the only route in solid ice.
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Wildboar Clough begins to diminish
The top of Wildboar Clough
We emerged onto the plateau which was shrouded in a thick fog - classic Bleaklow some would say. Despite this, it makes an excellent location to get the compass out and practice from real navigation for once. With our bearing set on the Pennine Way, we set off into the murk.
Heading out onto Bleaklow
Time for some real navigation
A mile of Pennine nothing-ness lay between us and our destination. We used numerous small features in the landscape to keep on our bearing before reaching a noticeable pile of rocks which gave us an opportunity to stop for lunch. We found the Pennine Way shortly after setting off again which leads to Bleaklow Head, Bleaklow's highest point.
The Pennine Way
The Pennine Way
A large cairn stands at Bleaklow Head though the true summit is located away in the mists and is marked by its own, smaller pile of stones. As I mentioned earlier, we had considered venturing along the watershed but time was against us so, instead, we decided we'd follow the Pennine Way along Torside Clough and back to the car near Crowden.
Bleaklow Head
Pennine Way marker
In the mist, the descent along Torside Clough seemed to take a long time. It wasn't until we reached Clough Edge that the clouds departed, revealing a wondrous view of the valley and Longdendale.
Torside Clough
Torside Clough
Torside Clough
Torside Clough
Longdendale begins to emerge
Torside Clough panorama
Longdendale
Pylons rise from the mist
A steep descent leads back into the valley and onto the Trans Pennine Trail which would provide easy walking back to the car, which was important as it was starting to get dark. Nighttime had fallen by the time eventually reached the car. This was a very entertaining walk - classic Bleaklow some would say but with the added excitement of a bit of scrambling. Now I know what to expect, I'm keen to give this another go when it's a bit drier - something for the summer perhaps.
Longdendale
The foot of Torside Clough
Torside Reservoir
Torside Clough
The Trans Pennine Trail
Darkness falls on Longdendale