• Tag Archives Pen y ghent
  • Catching up with an old friend

    The walk up to and over Pen Y Ghent on Saturday March 19th, 2016.

    I had felt a certain un-right, for some time. I should explain, when Colin, Darren and I attempted our Yorkshire Three Peaks in Reverse late last summer, we missed out our old friend Pen y Ghent owing to bad navigation. This was something that I had regretted since then. So, when Christine (my partner) handed me my “Walks in Ribblesdale” book back with the suggestion of us doing ‘Walk number six’ – I was delighted, this was the walk from Horton to Pen y Ghent and back via Plover Hill.

    We left home at 08:04, our first stop was the Lancaster Service Station near junction 34 for breakfast. Back on the road and our Tom Tom sat nav then proceeded to guide us through most of the back roads of the Craven area. Suffice to say, we didn’t arrive at Horton in Ribblesdale until something like ten to eleven…the train wouldn’t have been much slower! All the same, as the masses have thus far forgotten about the Yorkshire Dales – until the first “Three Peaks” sponsored walk, around about mid-April, thus parking was easy at the long stay car park and the overflow one wasn’t even in use. It’s not cheap to park here any more, as for over two hours now costs £4.50, on a par with Keswick Prices.

    Pen y Ghent is now appearing to look much bigger as we get closer.
    Pen y Ghent is now appearing to look much bigger as we get closer.
    What we'd done so far. the path back to Bracken Bottom.
    What we’d done so far. the path back to Bracken Bottom.

    By 11:04 we were all booted and readied and on route to the hill. Bracken Bottom was the first named area that we traversed, with fond memories I flashed back to the last time that I was here and displaying a ‘tally-ho’ attitude towards the steep trek up this field akin to the farm. On my Y3P day I held nothing in reserve, today I was more than happy to take in the scenery and chat with Chris. We did see a number of people on route but the only ones whom passed us, we then passed at later stages in the walk. We both enjoyed the little scramble stages as we headed east towards the first major wall stile. The route then gets a bit more gentle as more limestone to be surmounted; juts out of the ground. I especially like this way of tackling the mountain as it is such a varied route. Yes, although the overall trajectory is unmistakeably up, there are both flat and downhill sections.

    In your face. The nose of Pen y Ghent is now within touching distance.
    In your face. The nose of Pen y Ghent is now within touching distance.
    A hazy view over to Ingelborough and the two walkers behind us.
    A hazy view over to Ingleborough and the two walkers behind us.

    The last downhill section before the joining of paths soon came and went and as we neared the Pennine Way path I did wonder what had happened to the two gigantic ladder stiles which used to reside at this wall. This section seemed to serve as a natural stopping point, the couple and their dog, with whom we had been swapping places for the last half mile, decided to take a respite here and we took the opportunity to carry on up the fearsome southern face of Pen Y Ghent. Here the path gets a lot steeper (and this is coming from someone who did Ullock-Skiddaw on his previous walk!). I knew that it was less than half a mile to the summit, but even previous experience of having walked this route does not prepare one for the sight of the steep rocky staircase that we now had to ascend. We now had a lot of knee work to do…and both enjoyed it!

    The steps that had accelerated our progress so far.
    The steps that had accelerated our progress so far.
    Fountains Fell or Darnbrook Fell (or both).
    Fountains Fell or Darnbrook Fell (or both).

    Between scrambling sections there are opportunities to take photos of the two adjacent fells: Fountains and Darnbrook, but on the day I was at a loss as to which was which! It was a joy to see other walkers on route – this was still not ‘crowd-pulling’ weather so it was nice to not be harassed up the stony track, which can happen when the mountain is festooned with people attempting to walk the Yorkshire Three Peaks. It was around six and a half years since I last did this mountain purely for pleasure instead of a training walk, thus I took the chance to have a look around and fall back in love with the Dales’ scenery. On average I only tend to frequent these parts once per year and that has to change.

    Out of Edale! The Pennine Way snakes its way over from the south.
    Out of Edale! The Pennine Way snakes its way over from the south.
    The ordnance survery column atop Pen y Ghent.
    The ordnance survey column atop Pen y Ghent.

    Ultimately, the summit path beckoned. It was a pleasant surprise that the mill-stone slabbed paths are now in such superabundance. After the final scramble you are immediately greeted by a new slab-path which facilitates progress all the way to the ordnance survey column pillar at the highest point of the mountain. We’d brought our lunch with us to eat at the small wind shelter near the o/s column. Thankfully, this was occupied by three smoking ‘chavs’ a lovely looking Golden Labrador and a ‘barks-at-anything’ bull terrier sort of dog. They were not for moving nor did they speak to anyone, both of which made me arrive at the earlier noun of ‘chavs’. All the same, I was glad to not have to eat my food here amongst the remnants of dried up bananas and the cold temperatures. And the evidence of the cold? Well that was the snow on the dip in-between Pen y Ghent and Plover Hill.

    Talking of Plover Hill, on Jack Keighley’s excellent walk, which we were following, the next section should have featured a down and up trek over to Plover Hill and then down to Hull Pot. On a warm summer day I’d happily do this minor detour…Chris and I agreed, that would be one for another day! We began the drop down the north-western face of the mountain.

    Apparently a Yodel delivery for Whernside?
    Apparently a Yodel delivery for Whernside?

    As if by magic, once over the tall stile, more walkers appeared seemingly out of the ether. A couple, the man of which had congratulated his lady on completing the trek up, began to drop down on the same stony path as us. Pen y Ghent’s north-west descent/ascent is fiercely steep, I may have played this down in previous reports, but at some points I’m sure the gradient must border on forty-five degrees. I had to watch my feet. We passed by some blocks on pallets which appeared to have been randomly left. I did wonder what future purpose they would serve. After roughly a quarter of a mile, the old nemesis from last Sunday showed its face once more…snow. A patch of roughly fifty feet, on one of the afore-mentioned forty-five degree sections seemed intent on slowing us all down – our group of two (Chris and me) had morphed into a group of about eight as we each struggled to come to grips with this white demon. I decided that as last week, I would lead with my heels. Alas, this proved to be ineffective for apparently Yorkshire snow and Cumbrian snow are simply two different creatures and I went up to my knees on a couple of occasions. Chris fared better by simply shouting and me “I can’t stop” and then of course coming to a natural and calm stop!

    Plover Hill, not the most alluring of all summits, but all the same...
    Plover Hill, not the most alluring of all summits, but all the same…

    We passed by Plover Hill and I did feel some remorse over our decision to not take this summit in today. That being said, it was more snow-covered than our mountain which would have added substantially to our route’s time to get across. At times we stopped and looked back at the snow patch in order to laugh at the spectacle of other walkers struggling to get over it. It was hilarious when happening to other people. The drop down from the top is a seriously long one, I must measure this one day, for some time Whitber Hill appeared to be on our route and although we could have made it over this 420 metre lump, neither one of us actually wanted to do so. Fortunately, Horton Scar Lane eventually came into view and we duly turned left here to head back to Horton in Ribblesdale once more.

     

    A last longing view back at the lovely Pen y Ghent.
    A last longing view back at the lovely Pen y Ghent. Will I feel the same in May when I have to do it at speed once more?

    We were passed by a number of younger walkers, early to mid-twenty year-olds at best but they never really shrank into the foreground. I think these had been the ones making most noise when confronted with the snow patch and they seemed in good spirits.

    Horton Scar Lane can be described as the longest ever walk back, if nobody else agrees with me then I still hold fast to that belief. I don’t know for how many miles we ambled along its length, but it seemed like three! But finally we arrived at the B6479 (bing maps does not give it a real name!) and we made our way to the car in order to change out of our boots and for me to get rid of the backpack which had been giving my shoulders a real ache. the Penyghent Café now beckoned and having bypassed lunchtime (thanks to the chavs and their dogs) I had suggested to Chris that we have a sausage butty! It was absolutely lovely, especially when I added English mustard. The two mugs of coffee that I consumed were also lovely and it was nice to sit in the café during one of its more obviously quiet phases. We listened to other excited walkers regale tales of their walks, nobody mentioned the snow, I wondered how many had fallen at that particular hurdle. Chris was in her element to have completed the walk, her fitness is coming along in leaps and bounds…Helvellyn next? We’ll see!

    In all the walk took just a little over four hours, which given that neither one of us was in any particular rush and the snow patch certainly had an impact, I thought was brilliant. Our various apps report a distance of seven miles and an altitude of two thousand and three hundred feet, fantastic. I can hardly wait to get over to this neck of the woods again, in May, in order to successfully lead Darren over the Yorkshire Three Peaks. However, it did cross my mind, has anyone ever thought of making an alternative route: Pen y Ghent, Fountains Fell and Plover Hill?

    There was no song of the walk…apologies, we were too busy gabbing on!

    Farewell for now, you beautiful mountain, you ‘hill of the winds!’


  • 2015 My Walking Year in Review

    Well now, this was a good walking year!

    Hard to miss…the Jubilee Tower atop Darwen Hill
    Hard to miss…the Jubilee Tower atop Darwen Hill
    Great Hill hazed out by a stinging snowstorm.
    Great Hill hazed out by a stinging snowstorm.

    January saw the start of my walking year…I know how obvious that sounds but some years I haven’t started walking until March.

    I had decided to have another bash at joining Southport Ramblers after 2011’s falling out with them. This time around I found that I was much better prepared to keep up with them – picking category ‘C’ walks at first proved to be a wise decision. I have to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of the routes offered by the ramblers. We seemed to traverse muddy fields simply for the sake of traversing muddy fields. The highlight of each walk definitely was the company. Our first outing to Longridge in order to take in various country lanes, could essentially have been anywhere. Likewise two weeks later saw us at Saint Asaph for a walk through some more washed-out and verdant fields! Late January saw the weather take a turn for the colder as Karl and I enjoyed a walk in the snow over Darwen Moor. Karl and Anne and I traversed the hills on my mission to acquaint myself with the route of the Anglezarke Amble (I did mention that I’m doing this in February 2016 didn’t I?) This was to be my first West Pennines yomp of the year and a thoroughly enjoyable one…minus a couple of minutes when I had to climb over a barbed wire fence and nearly became an alto singer! A further expedition along Southport’s thought-provoking Coastal Road gained me some more leg milage – twenty one to be precise. The 22nd of February saw me with the Ramblers at Rivington in a very enjoyable, snowed-out walk over Rivington Moor and Catter Nab whilst taking in the sights of Rivington Lower Reservoir and the Yarrow Reservoir on route.

    Longridge, Pendle and another top on the distant horizon.
    Longridge, Pendle and another top on the distant horizon.

    Until the end of March far the most challenging walk of the year came about when we (The Southport Ramblers) went to Chipping, walked over six mile’s worth of muddy fields then took on the steep southern face of Parlick Pike. This would put me in good stead for the rest of my walking year as not even Whernside or Snowdon (the Llanberis route) can measure up to the ridiculous gradient this aspect proffered, by the time I reached the summit, I was shattered. Parlick had been on my ‘to-do’ list for the year, although I had meant to set about it from the top of Longridge Fell – I still intend to do this iconic walk…maybe next year.

    Further trips in the first quarter of the year saw Karl and I back at the West Pennines in order to take in Turton Moor and another section of the A.A. whereby we wandered over the side of Turton Heights then back over past Cadshaw to Green Arms Road. I’d never walked in this locale prior to this and was taken aback at just how scenic the West Pennines (including Winter Hill) can be. Another attempt at doing a section of the A.A. on my own resulted in a ten mile walk over Rivington Pike, Winter Hill and many, many miles of roads as my legs started to moan under the stress of so many walks in such a short time. The walk in itself was fantastic but the company was a bit irksome! This would improve dramatically as in March Chris and I enjoyed a quite balmy walk on one of the many trails through Delamere Forest.

    April saw me return to do the Coastal Road once again and a trip with the Southport Ramblers to Besston. I’d never heard of the place before and to be honest, I could quite easily forget all about it now as we took in a tiny summit (the name of which I cannot recollect) and we visited a candle factory (be still my beating heart!).

    The Middle Way
    The Middle Way

    May brought with it a couple of Bank Holidays and one of these saw me return to good old Pendle to do ‘The Middle Way’, on a walk which I laughingly referred to as ‘Pen-ny not so dreadful’ I completed my objective of ascending Pendle the undisputed hardest way. The climb itself was hard, but the time to complete the steep ascent was a breathtaking sixty-nine minutes. I had no idea that I could walk so quickly uphill! As this was training for the month after’s Yorkshire Three Peaks attempt, my confidence was escalated beyond my wildest possible expectations. Another walk two days later which would take in Winter Hill via the east and again ran in at around ten and a half miles, left me feeling that this time, more than at any other point in my past, I would be able to get around the infamous Yorkshire three peaks of Pen-Y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough.

     

    24.5 miles, five thousand feet, one county top and two aching legs!
    24.5 miles, five thousand feet, one county top and two aching legs!

    And thus onto June and on the sixth I booked a car from Enterprise (A wonderful little Corsa), drove up to Horton in Ribblesdale, met up with the lovely Linzi from Southport Ramblers and Mark – an old acquaintance from my Bolton days and took on the challenge of Yorkshire’s finest. It’s tough going but at no point did I consider not completing the twenty four and a half mile course. I would go on to to scale bigger mountains throughout the year but nothing could compare to the sense of sheer unprecedented joy of arriving back at the Penyghent Café to be informed that we had completed the route in time…eleven hours and four minutes. I believe that there were many factors which contributed to my success: yes the weight loss had definitely been principle among these, but also the twenty-plus mile walks along Southport’s stunning Coastal Road had definitely played a part – as had May’s ascent of Pendle’s ‘Middle way’ – even Ingleborough seemed less challenging than this (though not to be taken lightly, I still paused a number of times). Mark was excellent company – even if he did comment to the effect that I dropped down the hills like a sheep (A sheep? Not a GOAT?) and it was a shame to lose Linzi at Chapel le Dale. I had vowed ‘never again’…that promise would last but two short months as I returned to do the reverse route with Darren and Colin at the end of August. Alas our bid was unsuccessful after some wayward rambling put us on a path which never seemed to get use any nearer to Pen-y-ghent.

    The end of the Fairfield Horseshoe - Low Pike!
    The end of the Fairfield Horseshoe – Low Pike!
    The Coniston Range as seem from Low Pike.
    The Coniston Range as seen from Low Pike.

    In between the two Yorkshire assaults there were a few walks – including two trips to the glorious Lake District. The first trip was again with the Ramblers under the pretence of ‘We’re going up High Street’ – this was a blatant mis-direction as in fact the hill which we did ascend was the much lower (but still a Wainwright!) outcrop of Arthur’s Pike. Although the walk in itself was ‘lovely’ and the company was as good as ever, it just didn’t seem to be that much of a challenge a week after completing the Y3P. The second return to the Lake District however, was a real belter as four of us took on the impressive Fairfield Horseshoe. Karl and Sue were almost apologetic for the abysmal weather that stuck with us for over half of the walk…I was overjoyed to not be able to see the route in full and thoroughly enjoyed the whole day. If I only stick to one intended walk next year it would have to be another one of these Lakeland Horseshoe routes – preferably the Kentmere Horseshoe. That being said, there is another return to Horton in Ribblesdale planned in May!

    From here on in the walking year became considerably easier. Yes there was a rather boring ascent and hair-raising descent of Winter hill and a record attempt at Pendle’s stepped path from around the back of Pendle house – in just fifty-seven minutes. On the same walk I also discovered the wilder side of Pendle at Churn Clough and Deerstones – locations to which I will surely return.

    Yr Wyddfa - Or Snowdon as the rest of us call it!
    Yr Wyddfa – Or Snowdon as the rest of us call it!
    Connor and Darren in front of a hill which I cannot name!
    Connor and Darren in front of a hill which I cannot name!

    Ultimately, the ‘big walk’ came around. If the Y3P taught me anything it was a sense of perspective, we can only ever walk one footstep at a time. This would be a good motto onto which I would hold on as Darren, Connor and I took on the Welsh giant of Snowdon from Llanberris. Yes, it did prove to be easier than I could have hoped, but, was this only relative to the rest of my walking year? If I hadn’t already done two speedy (for me) walks up Pendle, the arduous trek up Parlick, the two Y3Ps and ultimately Fairfield’s Horseshoe would it have seemed as easy? Snowdon is a beacon in every sense of the word, it’s a challenge even once one has ascended it and I can hardly wait to return in the spring of next year to complete the challenging ‘Watkins Path’ again with Darren – though I’m not sure we’ll be roping in Connor to do this one! There would be few walks for the rest of the year, save for one adventure to do Rivington Pike with Chris…and a last visit to Pendle for All Saints Day, more stunning sceneryand the walk re-routed at Under Pendle, which is never a down-turn given that it’s my faourite part of the area.

    It looks a long way to the top...but it really wasn't, thankfully.
    It looks a long way to the top…but it really wasn’t, thankfully.
    The sun sets on my walking year...it's been a fantastic, challenging and thoroughly rewarding year.
    The sun sets on my walking year…it’s been a fantastic, challenging and thoroughly rewarding year.

    In October we visited the lovely city of Edinburgh and on a leisurely amble I ended up climbing to the top of Arthur’s Seat – a hill of which I’d never heard before our visit. It was a thoroughly enjoyable dash to the summit and I’d love to return to take in a more circuitous route as opposed to the ‘up and down’ direct approach that I took.  Finally in November, Karl and I met up once more with the intent of completing another section of the Anglezarke Amble, but, with the main road from Egerton to Belmont being something of an ice rink we headed to the east – Edgworth and took in the bleak but captivating Holcolmbe Moor. This was about as remote as I have been all year, I doubt that I saw twenty people on the walk and would certainly not want to do this one on my own. We must go back one day when it’s warmer to ‘bag’ Bull hill but for now I’m glad to have made it through the day without falling over!

     

     

    And so ends my walking year. It’s unlikely that I’ll add to my twenty four walks total – the greatest number (by far) that I have completed in one year. I can congratulate myself that I’ve taken on some big challenges in the Yorkshire Three Peaks, The Fairfield Horseshoe and the completion of Snowdon and I’ll be hard pressed to surpass this next year…but surpass I shall as I intend to re-visit Horton in Ribblesdale (with Darren) and to complete the Anglezarke Amble, the Watkins path up Snowdon and there are still those wretched four missing peaks from my ‘Top ten of England’ to tick off. Of course there will have to be more trips to Pendle – I’ve not completed all possible routes up there yet and well, I still love it there. I’m hopeful that Karl and I can get back to Keswick to do the classic Skiddaw via Ullock Pike and wouldn’t it be wonderful to replicate Julia’s walk over Broad Crag and Ill Crag before arriving at the mighty summit of Scafell Pike – it’s been too long since I last went there! For now it’s a case of feet up and build up the calories on mince pies ‘cos come February they’ll certainly be getting burned off again!

    Oh I nearly forgot to mention: the hardly-coveted ‘Walk of the Year for 2015’…well I’m afraid that vanity wins out. Whilst achieving Snowdon with Darren and Connor was very rewarding and a great summit to tick off, and the Fairfield Horseshoe was again a great walk with great company…I did the Yorkshire Three Peaks for God’s sake…that was the ultimate highlight!

    Andiamo!