Nearly 20 years have passed since I took my first tentative steps on the plateau of Kinder Scout.
Alone and in a heavy mist and armed with a map and compass, my plan was to get lost, and then find a way out. I was successful in the former, partially successful in the latter (read: lucky).
What I didn’t bargain for was the bog. Sure, I’d read about the perils of the groughs but it took first-hand experience to kick-start the love hate relationship with the black stuff.
Living on the fringes of the Dark Peak, the bog is ever present. If I crane my neck from the living room window, I can see some, although it’s in pretty poor condition on these bruised foothills. It’s the frayed skirt of much bleaker expanses of moorland extending to the appropriately named summits of Black Hill and Bleaklow.
Bog trotting is not everyone’s bag and it still fills me with a sense of trepidation every time I step off a paved path into the mire.
Peat paths exists, of course, but are ephemeral. These arteries of boot prints are punctuated with slide marks and impressions of limbs, posteriors and hands from walkers toppling over on the terrain. They vanish in a heavy downpour only for the fun to start again as pioneering pedestrians find a new, less perilous route, through the morass.
During that early assault on Kinder I sunk up to my lower thighs. Frigid water seeped over top of my gaiters making me gasp. I then spent an entertaining quarter of an hour dragging myself from the mire. The whole experience made me curse wildly at the grouse and question my sanity, but time’s a great healer.
Peat’s not always an obstacle course, though. When it’s dry, it’s agreeably soft underfoot, giving cushioning for tired limbs with just enough purchase for progress.
Bivy bag aficionado Ronald Turnbull insists that peat makes a nice mattress for the night but I’m yet to muck up my bag in such a way.
The moor is great fun in the depths of winter, too, when a really stable high pressure solidifies this hummocky wilderness, even better after snow when you can practice your step kicking technique without fear of plummeting down a 200 ft face.
Watch out for the partially frozen pools of water, though.
It’s been a while since I’ve been ‘trotting, focusing on ‘proper mountains’ instead.But the bog is waiting, soaking up the autumnal rain and ready to relieve me of my boots, my socks, and my sanity once again.