'The Gully'

by Ian Cartwright

Not many people know this...

But there is a run of over a mile in length within an hour's drive from Manchester. This novel and extremely enjoyable run is formed when snow falls on a northerly wind. When it does, weeks after all other traces of white have melted away, you can often take your binoculars to Hollingworth, a few yards from the Gun Inn and spot a continuous white thread in the distant hills on the Glossop side of the Snake

The gully is not fully visible from any other point and even when you walk over the moor looking for the highest point it is very difficult to find. The secret is to keep in direct line with the Snake as it goes over the summit.

I have skied there on only a few occasions, the first when I was fifteen and the most recent, about five years ago with a couple of doubting Ski Club members whom I sensed were humouring me. I must confess, I had my doubts myself when the snow was proving difficult to find. My outward confidence proved to be justified when we found the gully and enjoyed a mile long run down to the reservoir. The snow on that occasion was not very good - a bit soft and slow - but when in good condition, the run can be fascinating and full of variety.

From a gentle start, with boilerplate shaped into waves by the wind, the run winds round to the left before steepening and narrowing into an ever-deepening V shape. Snow fields with space for half a dozen high speed turns and a choice of route are linked with narrow bands of snow, sometimes barely wide enough for two skis, often between rocks or heather, or brown bracken. Just when you are tiring of the long traverse to the right, you get another chance to make a few more turns down the fall-line.

All too soon, you reach the bottom, which in a good season will be on the banks of the small reservoir. You may be thinking, how do you get back up to the top? Well, not the way a lone Austrian enthusiast was doing when we met him on more than one occasion. That is, by hiking back uphill with his skis tied to his rucksack. No we are not keen. A short hop back to the Snake, close to one of the lower big bends with a lay-by and into a second car to take us back to the top, was the way we were able to have a second run. You need 3 cars, of course, to get 2 runs without having to bring the cars down again; or you can have a non-skiing driver; or take turns to drive. The parking at the top is not as easy now as it was years ago.

"The Gully", as we know it in our family, doesn't form every winter, but in a good season, you won't find a longer, more exhilarating run anywhere in Derbyshire.