Somehow I’d never seen the rolling hills of the Peak District turn purple before this week. I’ve walked and climbed in the Peaks numerous times, but somehow my timing meant that I had never been there when the heather was in bloom. It was a stunning sight. The smell of honey as Valerie, Leo and I walked along the edge of the Burbage valley and through fields of purple was sweet and warming. It was a great start to a couple of days of bouldering in the Peaks, but the trip didn’t go entirely to plan.
Another aspect of the timing of this visit to the Peaks was that I’d never had to deal with quite so many midges before. We’d started bouldering at The Fat Cobra and The Pock Block boulders in a light breeze, but as this breeze died, swarms of midges came to life. It’s hard to climb when you are using one hand, and sometimes two, to wave away ferocious midges that are crawling and biting their way over your face, through your hair and into your ears. It’s probably because I’d never had it this bad in the Peaks before that I forgotten to bring any insect repellent. My usual climbing experience in the Peaks involves trying to wrap-up against, or shelter from, the wind. I remember once climbing at Froggatt Edge when it was so windy that whenever I tried to throw a rope down from the top, the wind blew it back. Now I was cursing how still the air was and wishing for gusts to blow these tiny, flying demons away.
The worst thing was that Leo was getting quite distressed. At 11 months old, he couldn’t understand what was happening and our best efforts weren’t keeping all the midges off him. Valerie took Leo for a walk along the valley edge in the hope that the higher ground would be windier and so midge-free. I tried to tough it out and get some bouldering done. However, we only managed a short time before deciding that it wasn’t going to get windier and the situation was unsustainable. We retreated to Hathersage to look in gear shops and have a coffee. After a bit of a walk around a delightfully windy Higgar Tor, we went back to the hotel. Examining the damage in the mirror that evening, I concluded that I looked like someone with Chicken Pox.
The next day was much more successful. The rain held off and the wind blew and blew. So much so that we had to shelter behind boulders when we wanted a break. It was strange to find windy weather a relief. Valerie and I worked our way through a selection of the brilliant lower grade problems at Burbage South Valley and finished the day feeling tired and satisfied.