The Vertical Kilometre Walk in the Peak District

This is my favourite strenuous walk in the Peak District. Its total ascent of about 1000m is fantastic prep for our walking and climbing holidays in the Alps, and it has the best views in the area too. Of course nowhere in England is high enough to have a continuous vertical kilometre of ascent, but this is convenient to access from the flatlands of East Anglia and steep enough that you can do it all in a mere 16 miles.

Elevation change

920m base walk
+20-80m small diversions on Kinder Scout
+120m extension to Mam Tor
These are averages measured over several trips via GPS and map elevations, although I don’t know if there is a standard sampling distance, as you could argue that elevation change is like a coastline and becomes infinite if you measure it often enough!

Route

From the centre of the pretty little village of HOPE, go North, then turn right onto Bowden Lane, cross the railway line and then turn uphill onto a farm track towards WIN HILL. Beware, this walk gets steep quickly. A footpath leads up a grassy field where sheep stare blankly at the walkers and fell runners huffing and puffing as the gradient approaches a lung-busting 1 in 2.

Going up

The best way to attempt this is to slow down to a trudge slow enough to keep in the aerobic exercise zone – if you are able to recite a verse of Happy Birthday you are in the right zone and shouldn’t need to stop for a breather.
As you approach the ridgeline finally the gradient eases and you can turn right to reach WIN HILL SUMMIT, possibly the best view in the whole of the Peak District.
Panorama time

Stop for a smug selfie, then retrace your steps for a hundred metres and continue along the ridge line in a lovely easy descent path. After a mile it crosses a saddle and goes up towards CROOKSTONE KNOLL on KINDER SCOUT. The terrain now becomes a plateau with strange knobbly outcrops, and you turn left following the edge of the plateau and looking down at the Vale of Edale below you on your left side. There are a variety of paths here, and choosing the ones which hug the left hand side and go down and up a little will add to your total ascent for the day.

The rocky outcrops are also good spots for exploring, picnicking, and geocaching.

Eventually the path crosses a stream making a pretty copper-coloured tiny waterfall, and from there it is about a hundred metres to GRINDSBROOK HEAD. Turn left here, and start scrambling down on the right hand side of the stream. You will need to use your hands in a few places but it is not exposed. The route flattens out as it passes a fence, but there is a sting in its tail as it gets scrambly again, and potentially muddy in a few spots.

After half an hour scrambling in total there is a second fence and then the hard stuff is all done. Obligatory photo stop is on a tiny wooden bridge.

The pub is close by! Just walk through the trees and join a small lane to find yourself at the Nag’s Head in EDALE, the historic starting point of the now-relocated Pennine Way.
The pub is truly excellent – go in and have a pint to celebrate making it more than half way round – but don’t stay too long or you risk stiffening up. When you are refreshed, you have a choice. The short route turns left and up to HOLLINS CROSS (wimp option), but if you want to be sure you have done all 1000 metres and more, follow paths ahead and to the right leading towards the road to MAM TOR. Both options are steep, although not quite as steep as what you have done already. The Mam Tor path meets the steep road which zigzags up the valley, and you have to walk along the road for a few metres before turning left on a big well-paved path along the summit ridge to MAM TOR. If the weather isn’t awful, this path will be heaving with tourists. No wonder, with this scenery. Continue down to HOLLINS CROSS (the shorter route rejoins here) and then straight ahead to BACK TOR. From here, the last summit of the route, LOSE HILL, is visible. Enjoy looking around and spotting where you have been. From LOSE HILL one more steep descent puts you in HOPE, where you started. Well done!

Timings

7 hours at a steady walk, plus time spent at the Nags Head or at a picnic spot. Add 20-30 minutes for Mam Tor extension.

Logistics

Start and finish at Hope, Derbyshire, where there is a large car park, costing £5 for all day. You could also start and finish at Edale where there is a railway station, but if you do this be aware that mobile phone coverage at Edale is patchy so don’t expect to be able to let people know you have finished. If you are starting at Edale late in the day, I would consider doing the route in reverse to avoid descending Grindsbrook in the dark.

Don’t do this walk if:

  • you don’t like steep slopes.
  • you aren’t comfortable doing a little bit of scrambling using the hands.
  • you prefer solitude on your walks – many of the summits are honeypot sites.
  • the temptation of a pub en route will cause you to stop too long and seize up!

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