Bleaklow – The clue’s in the name.

Bleaklow in happier times.  Not my shot I'm afraid

Bleaklow in happier times. Photo by Andy.

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From somewhere out in the rain swept vastness of black we could hear someone calling for help.  All around us we could see nothing but bog and the ground we were standing on was quickly turning to a kind of black soup.  Every step seemed to plunge us deeper into the mire.  The voice calling to us, out of the sheets of rain that obscured everything more than a few feet away, seemed disembodied and to come from every direction at once.

It had begun to rain about half an hour before.  By that I do not mean that the rain had recently started, I would not wish to mislead you.  In a technical sense it had been raining since we set off across Bleaklow only now it was properly raining and we realised, that for the last couple of hours, what we thought was rain was merely a warm up for the real thing.  What we had mistaken for rain had actually only been water falling from the sky, on Bleaklow that’s not rain.  When it rains here the whole atmosphere becomes saturated, it rains up and sideways, until you find yourself breathing water soaked air.

Mr Jones and I were not the best equipped.  I had a Pack Mack, a translucent PVC jacket which is now only worn by middle aged American tourists and he had  a yellow cycle cape which, given the slightest breath of wind, would rise up and engulf him, giving him the appearance of a giant daffodil whilst emptying bucketful’s of water down his neck.  Our map was by now so saturated that it was threatening to turn to pulp and we had only the vaguest idea of where we were.  We were supposed to be following the Pennine Way but everywhere we looked there appeared to be a sea of black, sodden peat.  Despair began to engulf us and I wanted to be at home or at least somewhere that wasn’t entirely composed of peat and water.

The voice kept calling and we lurched towards it as best we could.  Every two or three steps the peat bog would lie to us and what appeared to be at least semi-solid ground would turn out to be liquid and, as our footing gave way, we would be sent sprawling into the mire. On the worst of these occasions our rucksacks, containing our saturated tent and “spare clothes,” in various stages of sogginess, would pin us to the ground.  It was so difficult to find solid ground with which to get some purchase and rise from the prone that we would be forced to squirm out of our rucksack straps and stagger to our feet cursing and swearing.

I was only reminded of this day of despair on Bleaklow when I entered a discussion on Ukclimbing’s web forum about which mountain in the UK is the best.  In my usual perverse manner I pointed out I didn’t know which was the best but I was pretty certain which was the worst.  To my surprise Bleaklow had its defenders, web footed folk who actually enjoy the place.  One respondent argued that Bleaklow can’t be counted as a mountain at all and therefor can’t be the worst, if you follow the logic. So I checked, apparently in order to be a mountain in the UK a hill has to rise above the 2,000 ft. contour and Bleaklow manages to get its slimy black god forsaken head above that line in the sand by 77ft and is, therefore, a mountain I’ll have you know.

Mr Jones and I eventually located the source of the cries and found a Dutch tourist, waist deep in the black ooze, slowly being devoured by the bog monster.  His companion, who had tried and failed to extricate him, was standing wordlessly by, watching his countryman slowly being claimed by the bog.  I managed to find some semi-solid ground beside this gentleman, grabbed his shoulders and pulled, he didn’t budge.  I was engaged in in a bizarre tug of war with the beast of Bleaklow.  At first the bog won and I couldn’t budge him until eventually, with one huge effort the bog began to gurgle as it relinquished its prey with a huge belch of air.

That was many years ago now and I think the path has long since been paved, perhaps concreting the place over might be a good idea.  As a footnote we later met the soggy Dutchman in the pub and, much to my chagrin, he failed to offer to buy me a pint.  I would have thought that was the least he could have done after I’d pulled him from the jaws of the big black bog monster.  Perhaps I should have left him to his fate content with the thought that, at least if he didn’t make it across the mountain, he would have been perfectly preserved.


One response to “Bleaklow – The clue’s in the name.

  1. Scary for that Dutch guy – bet he thought he’d had it! Lucky you came by really…

    I haven’t been to Bleaklow but can imagine it would definitely be a contender for the worst mountain in the UK. There are some similar boggy, featureless lumps in the Lakes too though.

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