Greater Manchester 2021: Part One
17 November 2021
The day started off well, once ready I got myself together for a serious hike day – happily sending a video to the family telling them where I was aiming to get to, then huffing and puffing my way up the hill in my regular fashion. Today I was going to try my hand at taking some proper vista shots, and I was really going to focus on the correct composition to try and make this type of shot successful. So far I had mostly failed at these, having had a few successful shots usually by pure luck. When I reached the top I suspected I was the wrong side of the river flowing between two parts of these crags, separating me from the one I was initially aiming for (good start!) This didn’t end up being an issue however, as I spotted a nice rock formation to the left I thought was worth exploring, and the views from here were stunning regardless. Whilst here, the cloud treated me to some really pretty bursts of sunshine, which brought the landscape alive. Sadly it was the only short period of these for the whole day, and in the wind up there, they moved really fast across the landscape. I just hoped my attempts at these vista shots came out as I fired shots off at some speed to capture the light in time. Even if they didn’t though, it was still very exillerating up here, being blown about by sharp gusts, and then rained on intermittently. I forgot how much these little randon flurries of variable of weather brought me joy.
Encouraged with the shots so far I continued along the craggy edge and kept looking at a variety of options. Most didn’t quite work when I checked on my phone, but it was fun clambering over the rocks to see if any would.
Eventually I found a second spot, but without the sun, I wasn’t altogether convinced of the shot, although I did try to capture some light rays (see pic below), and even a very misty distant Manchester City (that shot didn’t work out). When the wind got too cold, and it was clearly evident I wouldn’t get any more sun, I stepped away from the edge and got moving to warm up. I following the Google map trail along the ridge to find the highlighted Trinnacle formation. In good light, this can be quite a feature, but for me it was quite flat. I shot it anyway because the colours of the rusty ferns and grasses still looked good against the stark grey and greens of the rock (lower photo). Realising the sun would be setting soon (not that I would see much of it!) decided I had better get to a safe spot before it got too dark. Looking at the map, it looked like I could loop round and join the road that headed back to the car park. The trail didnt look too far either, so I headed on forward. Even if I did the last bit in the dark, I mused, it would be fine, since it was really just one flat road around the reservoirs. After a little while the route started to descend and got very boggy. Most of it I managed to miss, but then my foot suddenly sank to my knee and something from behind, gave me a heafty shove forward, forcing me to faceplant into the bog. Much later on, it happened again, and I realised what it was. The sudden jolt of getting my foot stuck, forced all my camera bag to continue the movement forward from behind me, creating the sensation of being sharply pushed. I pulled myself out, wiped myself down, laughing at the stupidity of how I looked, and then continued forward to have exactly the same thing happen again a few minutes later. This time I didn’t faceplant, but it was deeper and the bog oozed right down into my boot. Yuk!
By now I was dropping down well, and not far from the river. I was able to wash hands and face clean, and then I crossed over to follow the route along the other side. I saw the sky change to a pink in the very high clouds, and considered quickly climbing back to see if a shot could be had up there. I didn’t, being very mindful of the timing with the light, and continued to follow the thinning footpath, which hugged the river closely. The path, stones, and boggy bits got really tricky, so I tried walking a little higher until I realised I was no longer following a path and that I couldn’t even see where the lower one had gone. Concerned now the light was really fading, I tried to push on in the hope of picking the path up, but I only found myself getting stuck in heather. I tried to push through it, convinced the path would reveal itself soon, since it was still very clearly marked on the map I was following, and I was (apparently) right there. Then I suddenly slipped and with nothing under foot, slid down a few feet. Clearly the sides of where I was walking were turning into a steeper gorge, so overgrown I hadn’t noticed that I was now basically walking on rockfall. Shaken, I tried to carry on, only for it to happen again. Now really rattled, I decided this was getting too dangerous, so I very carefully made my way directly down, back to the river.
According to the Google map the trail should have been here, but I couldn’t see it, and more, it was supposed to cross back over the river somewhere near here, but I couldn’t see the path the other side either. I couldn’t carry on this side, so I had no choice but to cross the river now, before all visibility went. At least if I was the other side, I would be on the correct side for the final road around the reservoirs. Luckily for me, the spot I had descended to seemed to have a route across the fast flowing water. I gingerly started across, but halfway slipped on a slimy rock, and went right down, crunching on my shin. I got up and carefully tried again, slipping and going down a second time, cracking my knee this time. I tried moving forward a third time, and this time jammed my walking pole into pebbles just under the water and wedged my right foot against it before stepping forward. This seemed to work, and once over, I stopped to breathe, and to contain the growing panic. The light (or rather lack of) was now becoming a serious issue.With my thinking head on, I got out my head torch, and turned it on, only to find it continually being temperamental, working, not working, flickering, dimming. In my hand it worked, on my head it flickered each time I jolted. I tried to keep myself calm and collected. This could become a serious issue if I can’t get this going, but I had to work with what I had on me for now. I needed my hands, so using my phone torch was out of the question at the moment.
By now I had company in my head. Two very clear voices had taken control of my thinking. A calming voice, and a clear authoritive one. The calming one kept telling me that everything was ok. “Its fine, it’s fine. There is no hurry. Take your time and dont rush. Each step you take is closer to the road, its not a race, we can do this. We will get there” It was really effective in calming me down! The authoritive voice gave me clear direction. “Over there, check down, look to see any route. Check for drops with your pole. Only step if its safe. Stop here adjust the head light. Its stopped working? Stand still – You have to stop too. Sort it out, while it works, we move”. And so it went until it was clear there was no further I could go. A huge set of boulders blocked the direction I was going, and by the sounds of it, a waterfall with a good drop on it. I couldn’t see down in the now, pitch black. and my torch light showed no end to the smooth line of the boulders. No grips, no steps – there was no way I’d try and attempt that in the dark when I couldnt see a bottom. I was stuck.
All the remaining options came to the fore in heated quick discussions between Calm and Authoritive. Scared Sandy just sat quietly in the background being a mouse and waiting for instruction. Options – Stop here for the night, and move again in daylight – see if the phone could get a signal thru to call for help – retrace my steps back… (in the dark. Ha ha, nice one!!) That option was immediately discounted. I checked my phone to see where I was, and it looked like I was at the bottom of a gorge. The sides were covered (as far as my torch reached) with thick heather, and it looked very high in the dark…but I could just make out that there was a top. With the early moonlight beginning to peek out over the hill on the other side of the gorge, Calm remained positive. “well at least there IS moonlight. Any extra light might help. Thats a bonus”. I went through the options again, feeling stupidly embarrassed to call for help, I seriously considered just staying put for the night, before another option jumped in my head. I could try and climb directly up. Silence. Who said that?
Suddenly there was a unanimous call from all the voices. Go up. Climb. Up, Go UP! You can do this. Go slowly. A little at a time, but go UP, find the original path and retrace your steps back that way.
I looked up and fearfully tested a clump of heather with my weight. It held.
Ok then, lets do this.
I moved my feet up accordingly until I found sound footing, checking thoroughly with my walking pole and then grabbed another clump of heather. The weight I was carrying on my back, made balance extremely difficult, at points I literally had to crawl on my knees, and wait until my balance had settled before I could use my thigh muscles solely to force myself into a standing position. It didn’t take long for them to start screaming at me. Likewise, pulling all the weight up using just my arms, quickly made my upper arms, shoulders and pecs worn, painful and highly fatigued. I had no choice but to take it super slow for my safety- it wouldn’t take much for this to become a disaster. Regardless of my physical condition each clump of heather I reached for held. It amazed me. This stuff is rooted so well!!! After every step I checked to see if I could see a route through, following sheep paths if I could, or simply following the shapes of the edges of fallen rocks. “One step taken, will be one step closer to where you want to be”. Calm never ceased to boost me and keep fear contained. “Just one more”. I could stop anytime to catch breath, rest my shaking legs – but then – “Just one more”. Slowly I climbed. Everything was black around me with exception to the small patch of light highlighting the next clump of heather, or the next bit of rock or clearing I could safely stand on.
Finally, some 40 minutes, later I found the heather slowly turning to grass, and then 5 minutes after that what seemed to be a black boggy path. I checked my position on my phone, and sure enough I had made it! I contained the immediate need to cry with relief, and from my knees, pushed myself to a standing position one last time. I was safe!
I immediately followed the path back to the trinnacle, and then wedged my phone just behind the buckle of the waist band on my camera bag. I focused the phone torch on the trail in front of me, and the established path came clearly into view. My legs and knees felt very weak, so I walked slowly, but the route was clear and easy to see at my feet. Once I hit the downward stretch back to the main pathway around the reservoirs, I allowed myself some moments of humour singing ‘wibbly wobbly’ to the tune bubbly bubbly by Sean Paul, out loud to the open moor. Anyone hearing that must have thought I was loosing it! Slowly the main pathway came into view and I excitedly noted cyclists moving along it. With 5 more minutes, I set foot on it myself heaving a huge sigh. The internal voices, I realised had gone, so I just walked the slow, painful walk back to Fred alone. Yep. I told myself later, might be more cautious when relying on google maps in future!
As far as my day trying vista shots, I learned quite a bit on reviewing the photos. I realised a number of errors that I had made during the trip. Mostly my focus was a little off and I neglected to try multiple focus points for a photo merge on the shots that had a foreground interest. (which was a real shame, because one with a foreground was a really well composed shot) This resulted in photos that weren’t totally crisp front to back sadly, or, on the ones without the foreground, just a bit soft on the focus all the way through. I suspect this was due to the wind, and me not being careful enough to check them each time. I had been just that bit too keen and quick I think. For a smaller image, it was undetectable so not a huge issue for a tester run of vista photography. On the whole however, I was pleased that I did seem to be getting ‘it’ and the vistas were, I felt, fairly well balanced and composed visually. I am quite excited to try some more of this type of photography now.
Hopefully without all the drama next time!