Friday, 30 October 2015

Mapping Mountains – Trimble Surveys – Peak District

11.10.15  The Tower (SK 141 914)  

The Tower (SK 141 914)

When Aled and I were revaluating The Fours for Europeaklist publication I can remember accessing on-line information on The Tower and gazing at photographs of this rather beautifully steep hill, that although smaller in height when compared to its moorland neighbours it still dominated its immediate surroundings.  This sense of domination is seldom visualised in a hill of lesser height, but this hill is rather special and today we planned on visiting it.

The Tower which is also known as Alport Castle is situated north of the busy A 57 as it thunders between Manchester and Sheffield.  There is sufficient parking for two or three vehicles at SK 141 895 on the south side of the road just before Alport Bridge when approaching from the west.  This parking area is conveniently positioned opposite a path that gains height to a track that makes its way toward Alport Farm, and this is probably the easiest ascent route if just wanting to visit this hill.

There was a stillness in the air as we started our walk and the day’s forecast was good, at this time of year when seasonal change occurs high cloud can give a friendly blanketing effect to the land, however conditions can change quickly and high cloud can dissipate leaving radiant sunshine, and as we walked up the track past an avenue of small trees there were glimmers that the cloud would break and blue sky would burst through.

Walking through the avenue of trees toward Alport Farm

The track leading to Alport Farm is positioned above the River Alport and gives an elevated vantage point across to The Tower, but its steep sided profile is obstructed by the higher moor land plateau which is situated immediately behind it.  This partly obstructed view was tantalising as it looked inviting but its detail could not be picked out.

As we lost height toward the farm and down to the river the jagged summit of The Tower bust up out of its immediate background, it looked impressive.  We crossed the river on a slender but robust footbridge and as we gained height on a good path on the eastern side of the river I looked back toward the farm and there was a line of people heading toward the footbridge.  This was a group from The Priory Academy and Lincoln Minster School on their Duke of Edinburgh award scheme, they had previously forded the River Ashop and then walked past us as we were getting our boots on and the customary good mornings were exchanged, we then past them as they were taking a well-earned break on the path leaving the A 57 and which gains the track toward the farm.

Our first view of the jagged summit tors of The Tower

On our way down to the River Alport

Crossing the river

On their Duke of Edinburgh award scheme and passing Alport Farm

The green path leading up beyond the footbridge was a delight as patches of blue sky were now appearing and autumnal bracken shone out with dulled browns interspersed amongst golden greens and yellows, by now the group from Lincoln were quickly catching up with us, they past us at a brisk pace with smiles and waves and all carrying horrendously large packs and disappeared out of view above.  Our progress was more leisured as we were in no rush and we rested for a few minutes whilst John picked a variety of field mushrooms and happily munched away on them for his early dinner.

John heading up toward The Tower

Figures on the escarpment edge give perspective to the scene with the upper part of The Tower bathed in sunshine

Continuing upward we soon came across the group sitting down enjoying the brightening conditions, we stopped and chatted for a few minutes and then watched them as they shot off again to the moor land above.

The group from The Priory Academy and Lincoln Minster School

And away they go.....

Our route now left the main path and headed direct toward The Tower which looked even more impressive the closer we were getting to it, it looked as if it had three granite tors at its summit; their profile suggested they would require a hard scramble to get to the top.

I’d made a note of the ten figure grid references of the two positions that Ordnance Survey maps indicate could be the position of this hill’s critical col, which Mark had input in to his hand held GPS earlier in the walk.  As John strode out toward the first option for this hill’s col, Mark examined his GPS and we were still about 200 metres away from the first set of co-ordinates.  However, where John was standing was certainly one col possibility and we made a note to survey it on our descent.

Inputting the ten figure grid references.  Photo: John Kirk

On the eastern side of The Tower is a boulder field indicating that this area can become a wee bit hazardous on occasion as huge slaps of rock are dislodged from the hill itself or from the higher cliffs of the near escarpment edge.

John led the way as we gained height on steep grass to the slender grassed ridge that heads directly toward the southern base of The Tower, it was here that we found another col, this was enclosed by rock and as I set the Trimble above the col and took a measurement offset we inspected our surroundings, and there was consensus that this col was much higher than the one that we had just left, as both were on the hill to hill traverse this one could be dismissed, however as the Trimble was set-up I took data anyway, and as it beeped away collecting its 300 data points Mark and John continued steeply uphill.

John making progress on the steep grass

On the narrow grass ridge

Gathering data from the first of four positions surveyed for the critical col with the Trimble placed 1.64m above the point of this particular col

As the Trimble gathered its first set of col data I looked up and John and Mark were on steep grass making progress toward a small band of rock, John was leading and on occasion it looked as if his face was hugging the ground in front of him as the route up was so steep.

Once five minutes of data were collected I took a few photos, packed the equipment away and started to scamper uphill as fast as I could, Mark was already waving back at me from the summit and John was waiting beside the small rock band.

Mark nearing the summit

John at the rock band

Continuing upward I got over the one small rock step and grabbed grass in front of me as I heaved my way up and then popped out at the summit, Mark was happily sitting on top of the highest rock tor and I soon found myself on the adjacent lower tor looking over at Mark and taking a few photographs, as I placed the viewfinder to my eye the world took on a decidedly uncomfortable wobbly nature and my legs seemed to turn to the proverbial jelly, this only happened when the camera was against my eye, it is an experience I’ve had before and one that only happens when perched above a drop on a narrow platform.

Mark at the summit

As a breeze was blowing and the drop from the high point would mean certain Trimble death I started to sort out the Trimble’s dog collar, it’s never been dressed up in its chain and collar before, and I have fond memories of the ten minutes spent in my local pet shop as I and the assistant tried a variety if leashes on the Trimble, an experience that no doubt does not happen in the pet shops of this world on every day of the week.

I attached the chain to the elasticated grip underneath the Trimble and hooked this on to the dog lead which I placed through one of my rucksack straps; the rucksack was then placed in a convenient niche in the rock tor which was below the height of the summit.  Happy that the Trimble would be saved from certain oblivion if the wind blew it over I set it up aligned with the high point of the tor and sat under my rucksack on a rock seat and waited for the five minutes of data to be gathered.  Once complete I took a series of photographs, none of which would do justice to its position, and packed it and its dog lead away.  This system had worked perfectly well and gave me peace of mind, so in the future there will be no occurrences like those on the summits of Glyder Fach and The Stiperstones where I watched in horror and counted down the seconds hoping that the poor Trimble was secure on the rock and would not be toppled to an uncomfortable end on the ground below.

Gathering data at the summit of The Tower

The system of attaching the Trimble to my rucksack via a chain and dog lead worked extremely well and I'll use it again when faced with the next precarious summit

We left the summit of The Tower and negotiated the one rock step and continued down its steep grassy slopes to the narrow grass ridge below, meeting an exquisite yellow frog on the way who happily posed for a number of photos before bouncing off in to the grass.

Heading down from the summit of The Tower

Negotiating the rock step

Back on the narrow grass ridge

The beautiful yellow frog

The next point to survey was the first option for the connecting col that we had reached on our ascent.  As the Trimble gathered its allotted five minutes of data sat on top of my rucksack elevated 0.49m above the ground, John and Mark headed in to the boulder field at the eastern base of The Tower, where another option for this hill’s col was situated.

Gathering data from what turned out to be the critical col of The Tower

John and Mark in the boulder field assessing the ground for the next col placement

The stunning profile of The Tower

By now a dappled cloud scape was set against blue sky and our surrounds were magnificent as we were in a bowl between The Tower and the high escarpment edge.  After packing the Trimble away I scampered off to join John and Mark who had inspected this latest col position and as I arrived they indicated where the Trimble should be set up.  As it beeped away collecting its data points, I sat and looked up at The Tower, now straight above me it looked somewhat daunting.

Gathering data at the third col placement

Again, John and Mark continued around the eastern side of the hill and soon John called back that there was another col to its north, these col options are difficult to pinpoint on the map as a ring contour where the boulder field appears on the ground is a depression and not an elevation as usually expected.

John standing above the last of the col placements

Once the Trimble had been packed away I threw myself across the rock and scampered down and then up to join John who was standing just above this latest col option, as I set the Trimble up John sauntered off and Mark waited just below this col for the Trimble to do its stuff.

Gathering data at the fourth col placement

As we contoured around the western side of The Tower and headed toward our inward path the sun bathed down from a dapple clouded beautiful blue sky.  The colours now accentuated in the bracken made for a lovely gentle descent with the afternoon light now lower, giving an autumnal brilliance to the scene.  Crossing the river the land shone in autumn refinement, this is such a special time of year as seasons change and coloured life ebbs in to winters chill.

Our last view of the jagged tors at the top of The Tower

Autumn's beauty

The tranquil River Alport

We followed the path back toward the farm and picked a few dry mouthed slow berries on the way.  The eastern hillsides enclosing the River Alport rose in afternoon colour as their opposing and western hillsides ran down in shadow.

Mark on the path back toward Alport Farm

It had been a great day on the hill, capped with a visit to what must be one of the best of The Fours.  As we made our way down the inward track I stopped and framed Mark and John walking through the avenue of small trees, a moment in time captured as had been the memory of our walk.

Back through the avenue of small trees
Survey Result:

The Tower

Summit Height:  458.2m (converted to OSGM15)

Summit Grid Reference:  SK 14111 91445

Col Height:  420.1m (converted to OSGM15)

Col Grid Reference:  SK 14207 91320

Drop:  38.1m (Four status confirmed)

Dominance:  8.32%

For further details please consult the Trimble survey spreadsheet click {here}

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