Storms and Midges


Storms and midges. The Peak District trip 20th. to 27th. August 2015


The air swirling around the base of the crag became noticeably colder and above us the sky was an impressionistic canvas with bold, board, black, brush strokes curving down to the horizon to denote curtains of rain. A constant rumble of thunder rolled up and down the valley; we could feel its vibrations through the sticky rubber soles of our shoes.

The massed ranks of dark clouds which encircled us held their position like well disciplined troops and I thought it might be possible to make the ascent. I swiftly tied on to the end of the rope. A crack defined the route and I wedged a foot into it. I left the ground and jammed a hand in and made a fist – it held my weight and I could feel the crystalline structure of the gritstone removing a chunk of flesh.

Thunder continued to rumble and lightning cracked the sky. I was a couple of metres away from the top when gobstopper sized raid drops started to bounce off my helmet. “There’s a good hold.” Andrew shouted above the meteorological din. At one time maybe, I thought as I slapped around, now though it’s all wet sand. I hauled myself over the lip with a big smile on my face.

Two days earlier, a group of adults and children had boarded the train in Brighton, destination Derbyshire. For the first time in its sixteen year existence this was the first time Craggers had not run at least one Adventure Camp, we had not been able to raise the money. Instead we decided to put on a very much smaller Peak District trip with participants contributing a little towards the cost.

In keeping with tradition the train from London to Sheffield was delayed so we missed out connections and arrived late at Hathersage. Hefting vast amounts of kit along footpaths to the campsite was hard work but we were fortunate to be able to put up our tents in the dry. The site is surrounded by trees and a stream marks its boundary. As the sun gives way to moonlight, bats swoop and owls hoot.

Midges are strange creatures; they don’t like sunshine or rain or the cold or the breeze or altitude and even our smallest bat, the tiny pipistrelle can eat 3,000 a night so how do they manage to cause so much misery. They descended on the campsite. Little Carreg was crying so much that the warden lent him a midge head net and a bottle of repellent. They were not the only small creatures to be a nuisance; one of the tents had been pitched on top of a mouse hole and the less than timorous wee beasty nibbled its way through the groundsheet. Mice also munched bread, tomatoes and even the rubberised handle of a knife.

The kids had a great time making friend with other kids and various dogs, they ran around and explored the area, skittering over boulders pushing there way through head high bracken and surprising us all with their climbing abillity.

We had a great time and did some fantastic climbs. The storms and midges were a minor distraction which made everything else even more fun.

I will pack a midge net next time though.