Bleaklow, The B29 Superfortress and I got Bleaklowed!

My desire to visit one of the air crash sites in the Dark Peak has been a long burning one. This was one opportunity I was not going to miss.
What is 'Bleaklowed' you may be asking, I tell more a little later.

After two failed attempts on Kinder, the first from Upper Booth ascending via Crowden Clough in September 2010 and the second from Bowden Bridge, ascending via William Clough May 2011, the first, starting out from Upper Booth to ascend to the Kinder Plateau.

To be honest, the day we started from Upper Booth, if we reached a crash site, that was a bonus. The main goal was the summit plateau, extra to that would be a nice bonus.

The second attempt, in May 2011, the goal was to get to a crash site. But the weather had other ideas, it lashed it down, visibility just short of the plateau was less than three metres!

So common sense prevailed, but all was not lost. I had just bought a new jacket, the Keela Pinnacle Lite, which proved it was more than waterproof, with the driving rain on Kinder.

Anyway, Bleaklow.


My desire was burning to get to a crash site, which some may think is a little ghoulish. However, I would always treat these sites with respect and dignity.

So, after talking to Chris, a Peak District walking buddy, we talked quite a few times about the crash sites, one of which was the B29 Superfortress, also mentioned by others, one of many I would love to visit.

We chatted about it and by chance, I had Easter Monday or Tuesday to make the trip. But wait!

The weather was not looking good, almost brimstone and whatever else the weather could throw at us was threatened!

Was this going to be another failed attempt?

After some discussion, Chris and I decided, Easter Tuesday was going to be the day, whatever the weather. If it became brimstone and whatever, we would enjoy the walk, but if the weatherman had got is wrong, then the B29 Superfortress crash site, here we come.

I’m sure many of you are under no illusions as to what the terrain of Bleaklow is, basically, its peat soil, high and exposed, open to all sorts of weather, featureless, very boggy in places.

We set the date, the time and to meet at where the Pennine Way crosses the A57 Snake Pass (oooo, what a road).

We met up, the cloud was there, nice and low, very grey looking ready to drop whatever it had on us.

We kitted up, ready for the wet, the cold (it did get very cold and wet at times) and whatever else the weather may thrown at us.
The Pennine Way, the start of our route to Bleaklow Head and the B29 Superfortress Crash Site

We set off in a northerly direction along the Pennine Way, which while generally well-marked by a stone path, did on many occasions disappear, either under the snow, yes, there was quite a bit of snow from the recent snow fall the Peak District, along with much of the northern UK had, or under the peat muddy.
The Pennine Way

In some places, we actually followed the course of a stream.

But before we got to the point where the path was the stream, I got “Bleaklowed”!
I got "Bleaklowed" To get a boot full or going in leg deep!


That was a term Chris used to describe, get a boot full, or going leg deep in to bog or something.

Fortunately, it was a small culvert where water had flowed under the snow. Luckily, I was kitted out and never got a boot or leg full.

We carried on along the Pennine Way, trying to dodge the deep snow bits and crossing the stream that forms the path, heading towards Bleaklow Head.

There were a few folk out, enjoying the day, some suitably dressed, some with back packing gear and others, well, least said the better.

When we got to Bleaklow Head, apart from being open and exposed, the weather tried to make its mark, though I know, if it really wanted to, the weather could have been a lot worse. May 2011, when I had to turn back down William Clough, was a good example, and even then, I’m sure the weather could get worse if it tried.
Bleaklow Head


After a couple of minutes at Bleaklow Head, we headed in a southerly direction, trying to follow a route marked on the map, as a path, down towards the B29 Superfortress crash site.

This would entail crossing peat bog land, while it was very wet, the wind was blowing and the snow, well, it was almost like hail, beat against us!
Wain Stones


We reached Wain Stones, also called the Kissing Stones, as you can see from the photo. We stopped there for a few minutes, debating whether to get the Jetboil out and have a cuppa, or move on.
Wain Stones, also called Kissing Stones


We decided to move on. Trudging, no, let’s get it right, walking, across the moor, heading for our desired destination, still being battered by the wind and snow, that was almost like hail!
Bleak and featureless, bogs, groughs and mounds to traverse.

But we managed to cross the moor, without getting a boot or leg full, arriving at the B29 Superfortress crash site.

On arriving at the crash site, the weather relented!
This was the view when we arrived at the crash site


Yes, it stopped trying to beat us back. I wondered afterwards, if that was like one of those challenges you see on the television, you work hard, sweat hard and at the end, you get the prize.

But we made it, I was awe struck.

You see the photos others post of the wreckage, the poppies along with the various Remembrance Memorials and the memorial plaque, but until you get there, you just don’t appreciate fully the carnage from that fateful November day in 1948.


It wasn’t just the spread of the wreckage, but the size of various parts of the aircraft, the aircraft had a crew of thirteen, all sadly killed.


It really was a humbling moment, well, few moments to be honest.

Chris, had brought with him the Remembrance Cross, which he didn’t manage to bring up on Remembrance Sunday last year, and placed that with some of the others on the crash site.

The Memorial Plaque
I took the time to read the plaque, which for who wish to read the transcript, here it is;

IN MEMORY

HERE LIES THE WRECKAGE OF THE B29 SUPERFORTRESS

"OVEREXPOSED" OF THE 16TH PHOTOGRAPHIC RECONNAISSANCE

SQUADRON USAF WHICH CRASHED WHILST DESCENDING

THROUGH LOW CLOUD ON 3rd NOVEMBER 1948 KILLING ALL 13

CREWMEMBERS. THE AIRCRAFT WAS ON A ROUTINE FLIGHT FROM

RAF SCAMPTON TO AMERICAN AFB BURTONWOOD.

IT IS DOUBTFUL THE CREW EVER SAW THE GROUND.

MEMORIAL LAID BY 367 AIR NAVIGATION COURSE OF

RAF FINNINGLEY ON 12 NOVEMBER 1983


Looking along the line of impact.
The young hikers, were taken aback when they stumbled across the wreckage,
until Chris explained what had happened,
While we were at the crash site, a group of young hikers stumbled on the crash site, were quite taken aback on what they saw.

From the expressions on their faces, it was doubtful they expected to see what they stumbled on, so Chris explained to them what had happened.
After a while, we then headed over the Higher Shelf Trig point. Well, it was only a couple of hundred metres away.
Higher Shelf Trig point


It was at that point, that the wind really did its best, but we were high up, 621 mtrs according to the OS map, and very exposed. My Kestrel weather kit, recorded a max wind speed of 26.9 mph and a wind chill of -6.0ºC!
Wind chill -6.0ºC

The wind was gusting up to 26.9mph
F6 on the Beauforte Scale, a Strong Breeze
Chris and I discussed our next course of action. Stop and eat (toooo 'beep' cold for that and windy) or progress on.

We decided that the wisest move, in view of the weather, was to move on and head back towards the Pennine Way, then track back to our cars.

So we plotted a course, with a bit more cheating. (I didn’t mention earlier, but we used Chris’ Memory Map GPS, to plot the course from Bleaklow Head towards the crash site), to plot our course back towards the Pennine Way. This would mean one final visit to the crash site, then to move on.

As we walked away from the crash site, Chris suggested that we back track the route we approached the crash site from, because we knew that was reasonably good ground to walk on.

So we did, only at was a game of guess work, so a bit more cheating was employed. I usually carry my GPS, a Garmin eTrex H, not a posh as Chris’, but just as functional, to record the walk track, distance and time taken.

So I set mine to back track the route we took, then to head generally in the direction of Hern Stones with the aim to veer off once we got a little nearer the Pennine Way.

Well, it happened again, I got Bleaklowed. Not as bad as it could be. Leaving the crash site, I started to descend down a soft peat bank and I lost my footing.

No sooner had I got Bleaklowed, than Chris did as well!

No injuries, no boot or leg full and no dented egos. Just part of the fun of the day and walk.

While walking along, back tracking the route, the weather started to get rough again, with more snow falling.

A bleak wilderness!
Eventually, we could see the Pennine Way, so started to veer off towards it, finding a rather nice sheltered spot, to take a late lunch break.

Even better, not only was it sheltered, but the sun came out!
The sun came out!
We ate lunch chatted, something not overly easy to do with the wind roaring around you and the snow beating in your face.

Then the time to move on came, the weather hinted that we should move on, the clouds started to get dark and closer to us, while the wind took on that nasty chill feeling that you often get before the weather turns to rain or some other form of precipitation!

So we continued towards the Pennine Way, we then back tracked to where the cars were parked, I got Bleaklowed one more time. I ended up with one of my legs as deep as it would go, through snow and in to a peat bog!
Our cars, in the distance
Once again, I never got a leg or boot full. But my waterproof trousers were nice and muddy….

It was a thoroughly enjoyable day, the weather when all said and done, really was very lenient with us.

To be honest, from a photographic perspective, I wouldn’t want brilliant sun while taking photos of the crash site. The cloud cover we got was enough to put an air to the atmosphere.

The Track logged by me GPS, downloaded to Memory Map

To finish the day, we stopped off at the Snake Pass Inn, for a drink and chat, before departing our separate ways home.

I would like to say a very big thank you to Chris, for sharing the day with me and guiding me around Bleaklow.

I’m sure I would have got there, but not quite as quick as with someone who’s been before, along with the use of the GPS.

Another thing I never mentioned earlier, mainly because it wasn’t relevant. I printed on some Toughprint waterproof map paper, a couple of copies of the area we would be covering.

The objective was, to see how it would withstand the weather out on Bleaklow. Just as when I walked from Alport to Stanton Moor (see my earlier blog about Toughprint Waterproof Paper from Memory map), I put the map through its paces.

I got it wet, rubbed it in the snow, it was pushed in to the peat when I was Bleaklowed departing the crash site, got more snow on it, then the one thing that saw its demise, the wind!

Yes, I tried hard to destroy that map but couldn't. But the wind beat me!

It took the map swiftly and sneakily out of my hand!

Shame, I wanted to give the map a ducking in peat stained water.

Chris was interested as to how the paper would fair against the conditions we were in. We both agreed towards the end, it would have more than survived a good ducking.

I had a spare copy, the sensible chap I am (cough cough) and ducked that.
Dunked, the Toughprint Waterproof Map
Just a footnote to those who haven’t been out in areas like Kinder and Bleaklow

While it is a fantastic area to walk, it has a lot of danger points and is far from a stroll in the park.

There are bogs that could catch you out big time, you can sink in them, get extremely cold and wet. You may even need assistance to get out of some bogs!

The paths are often not very clear, even though they are marked on a map, that does not mean they are obvious while out walking.

Very often, it is good evaluation of the area and good navigation skills.

One more point to consider, the weather. Outdoor folk say there is no such thing as bad weather, it’s just bad gear. Make sure you're kitted out properly.
Remember, it has a featureless and exposed plateau
This day was cold, wet and windy, both Chris and I kept warm and dry inside our clothing. We used the right tools to navigate with and also had back up in the form of maps, and compasses. Yes, I had a spare map in my pack along with two compasses, in addition to the two maps I printed from home.


The full set of photos are available to view on my Flickr account;
http://www.flickr.com/photos/leaping_jaguar/sets/72157629788420755/detail/

Finally, happy rambling and thank you for reading,

Peak Rambler

8 comments:

  1. Thanks for the tip Mike, I too have been looking for the solution to the waterproof map issue. Please let me know if you will...what software package you use for printing maps for walking adventures and also where you source your OS maps.

    Thanks in advance,
    Rex

    ReplyDelete
  2. Rex, thank you for taking the time to read my blog and I'm pleased you like the idea of Toughprint for mapping.

    I've just printed off another sheet, ready for my next walk on Bleaklow.

    The mapping program I use is Memory Map;
    www.memory-map.co.uk/

    The printer I use is the HP Photosmart Plus B210 Ink jet printer with GENUINE HP INK.

    I hope I've answered your questions, if not, please feel free to ask and I will honestly answer where I can.

    You amy also want to read my blog on Toughprint Waterproof Paper from Memory map;
    http://peak-rambler.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/toughprint-waterproof-paper-from-memory.html

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  3. Hi Mike - can you actually see the wreckage from the Higher Shelf trig point - or do you have to go looking for it? do you know the bearing from the trig point?
    Wendy.

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  4. Hi Wendy, You will be able to see some of the wreckage from the trig point at Higher Shelf.

    There is a path down from the trig in a north-easterly direction straight to the site.

    The wreckage is strewn over a very large area.

    Much of the wreckage is quite sizable. If you have a look at either the blog of my return visit with some friends;
    http://peak-rambler.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/monsal-head-camping-bleaklow-and-b29.html

    or the photos on my Flickr account;
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/leaping_jaguar/sets/72157631715541722/detail/

    They might give you an idea of the size of some items.

    I hope that helps, if not, please do not hesitate to ask further.

    PR

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  5. Hi Mike, it was lovely reading you experience. I went up to the crash site in about 1987 and found it so interesting if not a little sad. At the time that I visited there was still rubber on the tyres! I couldn't see any from your pictures, had it all gone (you could see then that visitors were removing small pieces with any sharp instrument to hand). I too was 'Bleaklowed' and it's not pleasant! There is a suction to your lower body that strikes you with fear and it was difficult to remove my leg once it had become stuck.

    I'd really like to go again one day but for now thanks for your experience.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment.

      First apologies for the delay in activating your comment, along with posting a reply, I’ve not long come back after a superb weekend camping with the added pleasure of and walking in both the Dark and White Peaks with friends.

      I’m pleased you enjoyed reading this blog. As you rightly say, very sad, the loss of thirteen young lives.

      There is an air around the site, along with the others I’ve visited since then, but I didn’t find it uncomfortable. I guess it’s the thought in the back of one’s mind, here thirteen men died an untimely and horrible death.

      The only crash site that didn’t have that air about it was the Liberator on Mill Hill, where all the crew managed to walk away and raise the alarm!

      I’ve since been back to the B29 twice, once to take a friend from London and the third visit, the B29 was part of the route to the Royal Canadian Airforce Lancaster Bomber KB993, which crashed about 1.5 km to the west of the B29 on James Thorn, the knoll that sticks as you view from Higher Shelf.

      All these additional visits have been written up, if you wish to read them.

      I’ve had a look through the photos I have from all three visits and it looks like the tyres have gone. I’m sure souvenir hunters have helped themselves, though I wouldn’t be surprised if some hasn’t been removed if the rubber has exhibited signs of environment damage by the {peak National Park or whoever is responsible for that part of Bleaklow.

      However, one photo on my Flickr account, taken in October 2012, that shows there is what looks like the remnants of rubber on one wheel If you copy and paste the link below in your browser, you should be able to see what I mean.
      http://www.flickr.com/photos/77330842@N05/8602162313/in/set-72157633124945668

      Incidentally, feel free to browse the other photos on my Flickr account; they are all there for public viewing, likewise anyone that may read this reply.

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    2. It is with interest that I read your Journal of your trip to Bleaklow.
      And the pics of course.
      Thank you for your kind words of comfort and reverence to the impact of that crash.
      There is, online, a report of the actual recovery of the bodies from an RAF unit person's report or journal from the 1948 era.
      The crash, on a large plane, with people aboard is a very violent event.
      The report is gruesome, disturbing, and very real and accurate.
      You will not be able to read it more than once.
      I have read it.... once.

      My Father, David Devere Moore was the Radar operator on that plane.
      He flew out of England during WW2 in a B-24 Anti-Submarine unit.
      He flew B-29's in the Pacific during the later years of the War.
      He got out of the USAF, but went back in after a few years out.
      He was a handsome Man & well liked by all that commented on his aquiantance.
      David Devere Moore is now interred in Arlington National Cemetary in Washington, D.C.
      Section 12, I believe Grave 3143, downhill from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
      My Mother Doris E. Moore was left to raise my Brother Tom & myself alone.
      She never re-married although she would perhaps have liked to.
      My Mother died in 1970.
      I was Born 2/15/46 and I was 2 1/2 at the time of the crash.
      My brother Tom was born Nov. 3, 1947.
      The crash was on his 1st birthday.
      The impact of this crash to my small family is still felt to this day.
      It is likely to be the same for 12 other families as well.

      Thank You again for your respect to this site and the event.
      I hope some visitors came today to the crash site to pay their respects.
      Tomorrow is the Anniversary of the crash.
      I hope to visit there myself someday, I had better hurry as I am 68 years old now.

      Best Wishes, Terry David Moore
      tmoore77@cox.net- Email

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    3. Terry, you’re welcome and thank you for taking the time to write the above. I found it very interesting to read, and humbling. Visiting the site I can only imagine the horror those young men endured as the aircraft impacted in to the hillside.

      Though I’m too young to have any experience of either World War, I have a very high respect for those young men and women who gave their lives for our freedom today.

      Not just those two horrific wars, but wars and conflicts since.

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