The Nine Edges challenge is a 21 miles walk from Ladybower Reservoir to the Robin Hood pub near Baslow, taking in the 9 edges along the way, these being Derwent Edge, Stanage, Burbage North, Burbage South, Froggatt, Curbar, Baslow Edge, Gardoms and Birchens. There are several ways of doing the challenge, running or walking with an option to do a climb at each crag, as well as a 32 mile mountain bike option.

I knew before I entered the challenge that it would be a tough day for me, my longest day distance before had been 16.5 miles with about 1000m of ascent doing the first day of the Haweswater Circular from Bampton to the shores of the lakes before camping for the night. I knew I had a good chance given the Nine Edges walk only had 600m of ascent, and I had done walks with a similar weight to climbing gear I would have to carry. But it would push me 5 miles longer tha ever before.

I was doing the challenge with a kayaking friend John Wooton, who with a background of fell running, and being a more confident climber than me (given it had been 5 weeks since I last did Trad Leading due to the weather and other commitments), was in a lot better position for the event than me.

Arriving the car park to register at 8.30, a lot of the hiking participants had already started, so by the time we were ready it was 9.01 before we set off. The first 3 miles are the hardest of the walk, with most of the height gain for the day being involved in this section. Cutting below the dam, a steep set of steps take you to water level, before starting the 200m ascent over next couple of miles to the plateau at 400m, through woods and over moors, the route then levels off for a while on a stone slab pathway, which leads to the final ascent of 50-60m to the Derwent Edge Ridge and the first checkpoint at the trig point atop the peak. 1km past this is the first climb. John lead around an alkward ledge and set up belay, then I seconded up, to the shelf, however due to the rope being trapped in a slot in the rock, I was left with an alkward overhang. In the end I was faffing for too long, so I lowered off, gained a forearm full of grit rash, and packed up the gear. After checking the time, it was 11:12am, so we were way behind schedule.

Continuing to follow the edge for another kilometre. we then headed east for 2km to moscar house and lodge for the second checkpoint, where a large contingent of Edale Mountain Rescue were in situ, but not for long, as they were called out to one of 4 emergencies they had that day.

Leaving the A57 for Stanage Edge, we faced a 5 miles stretch of walking now, it was just over 1km to the start of the edge, at the Stanage End Crag, where John lead and I seconded a lovely slab route quickly, and found one of many venues I want to visit again, the two slabs alone could have filled an afternoons climbing for me), before continuing the walk. I knew Stanage Edge was long, but you don’t appreciate it until you have to walk its length. With the constant company of paragliders, and other climbers there for the day, we spent a couple of hours traversing the length of Stanage in glorious conditions. At the end of the ridge we turned to the east for 1km and reached the halfway checkpoint at Burbage Car Park where fresh water and Mars bars were gladly accepted! However it was not 2.15pm and we only had 1/2 the time left and 7 climbs left to do. I suspected some climbs may have to be sacrificed. At this point I must mention the volunteers who filled my water bottle while I ate lunch……in fact they were brilliant all day.

The long slogs between Crags had now finished and we had 7 crags in 10 miles. John ran ahead and scouted the climb at Burbage North, I caught up with him a kilometre on and headed up a nice short crack climb in good time, John then went ahead to find a climb on Burbage South another km to the south. I steadily made my way to the footpath below Burbage South and fought my way through the ferns and bracken to the base of the crag…here I found the major disadvantage of spliting up on these 600-800m crags, FINDING EACH OTHER. After about 15 minutes I finally found John near the far end of the crag and again John lead and I seconded up, if I remember correctly, another crack climb. At this point I hit and broke through the pain barrier.

The road was a very short distance from the end of the crag, and easy walking ensued for the next couple of miles through the the National Trust Longshaw Estate (looks worth a visit for a family day out), and a short distance of road walking to the Heywood Car Park on the A625 for the next checkpoint, before the triple edge of Froggat, Curbar and Baslow. John again went ahead to scout for the climb, as I walked the kilometre to the start of Froggat through some beautiful woodland. Again the finding each other issue reared its head, and more time was wasted there. At this point I decided to just walk from this point as time did not allow for the climbing and the 6.30-7pm deadline. John top roped Sunset Slab, and at this point we decided to split up as John wanted to Solo a route on each of the last 4 crags and run for a while. We agreed to check on each other at checkpoints. It was now 5pm and I had 5 miles left.

It was now about getting to the end, I was hitting my limit now physically, the section above Curbar Edge was fairly uneventful, and after 20 minutes I reached the Curbar Edge checkpoint, and then had the final push. I knew I was one of the last, and was aware of getting to the finish while the transport was still running. Following the track which followed Baslow Edge for a 1km, I reached the Wellington Monument, and then face the 1.5km of track heading east to the penultimate checkpoint, there I checked in at 6.30, and had another 40 minutes of walking to do yet. I saw John check in just after me, and he passed me on the way to climb on Gardoms Edge.

I hit my mental limits at this point, and had nothing left to give, and was walking on my non existent reserves. At this point I headed straight to the ridge of Birchens Edge across some quite boggy land, and made my way through the fern lined narrow paths for 500m, although it felt about 10 times longer, in the shadow of a rapidly setting sun. I checked in for the final time at the trig point, and carried on south to the steep path off the hill. John passed me again to let them know I was coming. After I came off the hill, it was a short track to the main road, and I could see the pub!…….Checking in at the half disassembled finish line, I came in dead last at 7:10 in 10hrs 9 mins, and dead on my feet, and recieved a round of applause for my effort, and a pint of welcome cold beer for my relief….as well as some very nice cheese from the fellow competitors outside. But all too soon we had to catch the bus back to the start to head home…

Roll on 26th September next year (http://www.nineedges.co.uk)

  1. Martin Chick says:

    Hi. I think we met a few times on the way. I was one of the two climbers who were filling up our bottles just before Burbage at the same time as you I think. I had the big yellow rucksack.

    Glad you enjoyed the day, was certainly a tough one and I felt it the next morning! I’ll be there next year so hopefully see you there.

    Martin