Great day on Great Whernside!

Hills: Great Whernside
Hewitts: Ditto
Ydiotts: (Yorkshire Dales ‘ills Over Two Thousand) ditto
When: 13 September 2015
Who: self, the mountaineering minion, and Ibex Mountaineering Club
Weather: lovely!
Distance & time: 8 miles, 4 ½ hours
Bog Factor: mostly okay, though pretty glutinous in parts

It’s been a long lay off from the hills, with us deciding – given the foul weather we usually get in Scotland in August – to dispense with our normal 2 weeks holiday to the Highlands in favour of two weeks in Egypt, snorkelling, looking at tropical fish, drinking cocktails and generally chilling out. However, before too long the mountains were calling; I’d arranged to go to Yorkshire with my London walking club (www.ibexmc.org.uk) and hopefully tackle a couple of the hills there. We were staying near Kettlewell in Wharfedale, a place I hadn’t been to in years but which I had been to many times on family holidays when I was younger.

Inevitably there is a transport debacle of some sort to contend with on my walks and this was no exception. The traffic on Friday night heading out of London was spectacularly bad and it was midnight before we got to the bunkhouse we were staying in. After a companionable couple of glasses of wine with club members it was nearly 1am before I actually got to bed. I then slept appallingly – I often do when Stuart’s not there and also when in dormitory accommodation. I can’t even blame it on snoring as nobody was! On Saturday morning, we awoke to torrential rain and although the forecast was for it to clear up late morning the idea of going up a hill did not inspire. I settled for an 8 mile flat walk with another member of the club, which was a nice walk with a pub stop en route and a good waterfall. It chucked it down until about 2.30pm at which point it finally did clear up, but we were soaking wet by that point and I was delighted the bunkhouse had a half decent drying room which was more than necessary!

I was also delighted to find that Sunday’s forecast was actually rather good, not least because I had been asked to lead a walk on Sunday and needed to finalise exactly what I was going to do. I’d thought of a few options, and Great Whernside seemed to fit the bill being a short(ish) hill walk that looked as though it would give good views. Given the need for a long drive home nobody wanted anything too epic and it also had the benefit of being close to where we were staying.

I’d not led a walk for the club before so I think it’s fair to say I was a bit nervous, the fact my boots still weren’t exactly dry from the previous day wasn’t helping and nor was another rubbish nights sleep in spite of a few glasses of wine. By the time everyone had had breakfast and packed up it was gone 10am, and we finally left the car park at Kettlewell at 10.45 in glorious sunshine. It’s always nice when you can see your target from the car park – it was even nicer when I found 3 minions in a garden at the start of the walk. I’m a bit minion obsessed (as might be apparent from the fact I carry one up the hill with me) and this cheered me up no end.

I often think that finding the start of the walk is the trickiest bit of navigation and there are so many paths out of Kettlewell this would be no different. Fortunately it was pretty easy to locate the correct one and we picked up a clear grassy track which leads out of the village on a reasonable gradient up a long ridge to a building called ‘Hag Dyke’. This is a scout hut which is reputed to be haunted, presumably by the aforementioned hag. The views as we walked up were pretty good, and helped the morale – I was puffing and panting a bit and feeling the layoff from the hills, but still managing to maintain a reasonable pace and having apologised for being slow in advance of leading the walk was told I wasn’t, which was nice to hear.

We stopped for a coffee break at Hag Dyke before pressing on with the final 200m or so of the ascent. The path (which is pretty clear throughout) negotiates a rocky escarpment, which is quite steep but there is no real need to put hand to rock; it then crosses a rather boggy section on a gentle gradient, with marker posts to indicate the path (or possibly just the less boggy bits of the bog). Compared to some Scottish bogs we have encountered, or for that matter the major bog on Bleaberry Fell, it was not too bad and the views got better as we climbed; we could see right over to the Yorkshire Three Peaks in the West, and south to Pendle Hill with the Pennines standing out to the North.

After the bog, there is another steep-ish pull to negotiate, but it is very straightforward, and we popped out at the trig point at about 12.30 to more cracking views.

An executive decision was taken to have lunch at the summit and we chilled out for about 20 minutes before pressing on. I’d decided to make the route a circuit, so we walked along the escarpment taking in views East into Nidderdale before dropping West off the escarpment down a rather steep slidy path which at one point required the use of five points of contact. The path then degenerated into more bog for a bit (thankfully on a more gentle gradient) before we crossed a minor road, then taking a clear track which contoured another escarpment before dropping back south-east down to Kettlewell on a broad ridge. We were back at the car at 3.15, and it only remained to sort out gear before the long journey back to London.. it was very late when I got home, which probably contributed to completely forgetting walk report protocol and forgetting to take a picture of the post walk drink. Never mind, at least I had a picture of the mid walk drink from the previous day as a substitute!

A nice short day on the hill, and an interesting walk in good weather, though I think it wouldn’t be much fun in mist. My boots, however, have yet to dry out!

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4 thoughts on “Great day on Great Whernside!

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