Ninebanks – Gathering of the Clans (part 1)   14 comments

As my regular readers may know our little band of old friends (and kids) from our Manchester University days back in the 80’s gather for regular meet ups throughout the year. They’ve become regular fixtures in the calendar and both the adults and the kids look forward to catching up as we’re spread all over the country and don’t get many opportunities. After this years excellent meet-ups in the Lake District and North Wales it was time for the annual Xmas gathering. For nearly 10 years now we’ve been renting out a whole Youth Hostel to ourselves for the weekend before Xmas and they are always a great success. The combination of loads of space, a massive kitchen and a family room each is perfect. The kids all head off into various corners of the hostel and we barely see them all weekend and the adults can chill out over a few beers and glasses of wine and play anecdote bingo!

Last year we discovered the Ninebanks Hostel near Alston, recently renovated and tucked away in little known corner of the Pennines it was an instant hit. We decided to return this year and like several of these trips the weather was cold and snowy. The drive over takes in some of the highest roads in the country so it’s quite an exciting final stretch in the dark with snow and ice on the road. The Friday night is a procession of exciting arrivals for the kids and lots of unpacking and settling in for the adults.

On the Saturday the dads decided it was time for an early start and we headed out around 8am on a cold and misty morning towards the nearby summit of Hard Rigg

Hard Rigg - 7 miles, 2000 feet of ascent


Ninebanks Hostel

There was plenty of snow on the ground as we headed off into the wilds, apparently heading for the well named Scabby Cleugh which for some reason made me smile and take a photo.


Cracking Name

The terrain here is extremely tough with boggy, tussocks covered in deep powdery snow.


ED, GM and EWO


The gangs all here

We plodded onwards and upwards, putting various world problems to rights as we headed some-times fairly randomly up onto Mohope Moor. The weather seemed to be brightening a touch and there were even some vague hints of sunshine.


Mohope Moor


GM strides out

At least the cloud lifted as we reached the Trig Point on the summit where the snow had drifted into some fine whipped features.


Hard Rigg summit wall and drifts


EWO on Hard Rigg


Vast expanses of empty Pennine moor

It wasn’t a day to be lingering as the wind-chill was pretty fierce and most of us had a least one boot full of cold boggy water. For one of the party that was about to get a whole lot worse.

As we stood on the edge of a curiously flat spot, we looked suspiciously at it before ED decided it must be ok as GM and MM had crossed it without incident. At the second step it cracked open and sent ED plunging into a vile pool of boggy evilness up to his waist. I was just behind him and managed to lunge backwards before I joined him. It took a few seconds to haul him out by which time he was extremely wet and cold and not entirely happy with this turn of events. It does serve as a reminder that even these superficially easy walks have their own dangers. Had he been on his own it would have taken him considerably longer to extricate himself (or perhaps not all) and hypothermia would have been on him in a flash. We were lucky. We had an experienced Mountain Rescue Team member with us. Instinct kicked in and all that experience and training came to bear as GM dropped his rucksack and whipped out his camera to take a photo.


Winter swimming - not recommended

A few seconds earlier and we would have a proper floundering photo. Missed opportunities 🙂

I’m normally of bit of git in these situations, taking great humorous pleasure from my friends misfortune. This time I did genuinely feel a little sorry for ED. It really was one of the most unpleasant stinky pools I’ve come across and it was really cold. No time to hang around so we headed down towards the Wellhope Burn. By the time we reached the river (where the very unfortunate ED also managed to tear a large hole in his over-trousers on some barbed wire) the sun started to come out and we got some pretty nice snow/sun scenes to photo


Hard Man Brian on the makeshift bridge over Wellhope Burn


Wellhope Burn


Fleeting sunshine


The team "console" the unfortunate ED

ED was in pretty bad way on the final stretch, the cold soaking having taken a serious toll on his energy reserves. He did however make a stunning comeback to cook everyone a mighty fine couple of curries for all of us for tea. We passed a lovely evening in front of the fire, telling stories and playing games of “name that mountain” and “beat the intro” (thanks Julie!)

It was pretty fine day even if the weather and the conditions were tough. I’m learning to love these remote and wild spots little trodden by the masses. Again, on this day we saw not a soul the entire walk. ED has his own version of events over at his b(l)og 🙂

We hoped for a better day for walking on the Sunday and we weren’t to be disappointed…..


Posted January 7, 2012 by surfnslide in Family Trips, Pennines, Walking

Tagged with , , ,

14 responses to “Ninebanks – Gathering of the Clans (part 1)

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  1. It was 7 miles? You told me 6. Well that explains a lot – no wonder I was cream-crackered!
    Nice choice of song – Mumford and Sons – hmmm, haven’t I got an album or two of their’s somewhere?


    • I’m sure you must have worked out by now that I tell lies. It was a pretty tough day, I was pretty knackered as well. Enjoyed it though in one of those perverse kind of ways although I suspect you aren’t looking back quite so fondly 🙂

      You should have that album in that huge batch of music I gave you – pretty good.


  2. Gosh Andy, I am so envious of that snow! Just what we’d hoped for at Christmas and didn’t get! Looked like a great walk – looking forward to reading about the next one.


    • There was quite a bit although as you can see not quite frozen enough for some members of the party! The next day was absolutely stunning so I’ll try and get a post of that up in the next day or so.


  3. The snow was a real boon – the kids have been lording it over their school friends because they had a couple of days of playing in the snow in the holidays. (But now they are impatient for more.)


    • D is pining for more sledging time but L got really cold so I don’t think she’s missing it that much. They’ve both been ill over xmas so just getting back to normal now


  4. You need to get that camera out a bit earlier Andy! It’s a lovely part of the world up there, especially with a bit of snow.


    • I’m normally poised for such things but this time I was literally a pace behind so it could easily have been me in the soup. Truly nasty bit of bog but a stunning area – shown to much better effect the day after – watch this space!


  5. I have been waiting for this report ever since Mark (your ED) mentioned his dunking over at his place.

    It was worth waiting for.

    Thank you!


  6. lol, like the accreditation given to the Pennine bogs at the end of the vid. and good to see that photo 🙂


    • If my blog isn’t for embarrasing my mates then I don’t what the point is 🙂

      Mind you Mark has in his early blogging days cast doubt on my sartorial elegance when out and about in Kewsick so alls fair I say


  7. ‘Exciting’ is not how I’d describe snow and ice covered North Pennine roads in the dark or any other time!. Peat hag terrain wouldn’t be my first choice for a walk either, but the conditions can produce splendid vistas – great pictures.


    • For “exciting” read “stressful” 🙂 Not what was needed at the end of a 5 hour drive

      The lonely moors have a certain charm and the following day was breathtaking, a real sense of space and of course being so little-known, quiest and unspoilt


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