Pen y Ghent: a perfect winter day

  • Hills: Pen Y Ghent
  • Classification: Hewitt, Ydiott
  • When: Monday 7 December
  • Who: me and the mountaineering minion
  • Distance: about 6 miles
  • Time: 4 ½ hours
  • Weather: Glorious (again!)
  • Conditions underfoot: Snow and ice – very glad of the microspikes.
  • Post walk drink: Malbec
  • Post walk watering hole: The Dalesman, Sedbergh
  • Uses of the arse crampon: MIA again despite conditions

For those that are wondering, a Hewitt is an official designation for a Hill in England and Wales In excess of Two Thousand (feet). An Ydiott is a most definitely unofficial term for a Yorkshire Dales ‘Ill Over Two Thousand!

Since my last blog post crawled out of the ether on the last day of 2020, once again actually putting virtual pen to equally virtual paper seems to have taken a while. I had hoped that after the Christmas break a couple of things would happen, firstly that we would be starting a more positive year and secondly that work might be a little less manic. The second has shown no signs of happening, and in spite of the positive news about the vaccine, neither has the first. With not only virologists but politicians talking about the possibility of lockdowns extending into the summer, it is difficult to find very much to feel positive about. The whole situation is also a health time bomb for a whole host of reasons, not only the obvious one of the virus itself but also how many other serious health conditions might be getting missed as a result, from heart attacks to cancers and a whole lot of things in between. The effect on mental health isn’t great and the longer all of this goes on for the more difficult people, even people who have had no issues with their mental health previously, will find it – personally I am finding this one, in winter and with no end in sight, harder than before. Attitudes like that of one person who told me that worrying about mental health at the moment was ‘a luxury’ don’t help either. I am starting to wonder if pubs were all a dream… Anyway, at some point one of my blog posts won’t start with a rant!

After a slightly iffy Sunday, the weather forecast for Monday 7th, my last day in Sedbergh, was once again glorious and it would have been perfectly possible for me to head to the Far Eastern Fells again. However, I’ve had a notion to do Pen y Ghent again ever since doing it in dreadful weather when we did the Yorkshire Three Peaks. I remembered that the paths, apart from over the semi scramble at the steep end, were pretty decent and doing the hill again would round off my sort of Cumbria and sort of Dales holiday nicely. Plus I had a notion to go and visit Hull Pot after seeing it from far away on the Y3P and it being what Bill and Ted would have called a ‘totally deep hole’.

Once again I didn’t sleep too well but it took me ages (and several cups of tea) to get going, sort out my stuff and bundle myself into the car. I got to Horton in Ribblesdale at about 10 and was quite surprised how few cars were there – though I suppose it was a weekday. Pen y Ghent was clearly plastered with snow and I dithered for a while as to whether to take the ice axe and crampons – in the end I decided not to though it was obvious taking the microspikes would be sensible. The sun was beating down but it was seriously cold so the chances of meeting ice were high. Rather than go up the steep side it made sense to me to go for the more gradual path which I’d used on the descent last time – which I dimly remembered having a gentle angle with just some steep steps at the top. After the inevitable faffing it was about 10.20 when I finally got going!

The route up is pretty gradual to start off with, and there was some nice limestone scenery to look at too, with the hill itself looking very impressive. I started finding patches of ice and snow about 500 yards from where the ascent proper starts and looking at the path it was clear microspikes would be needed! I put them on once the patches of ice started to be harder to avoid – and also once I started seeing that people coming down the hill already were sliding about all over the place and/ or trying to find deep soft snow to walk in.

With the spikes on, the ascent was straightforward and I had been right about the gentle angle of ascent – thankfully! I was able to crunch my way fairly easily, if slowly, up to where the path meets the ridge and then on to the stepped path which heads for the summit. Other than a woman wearing crampons who was descending, and another woman with microspikes, nobody seemed to have any ironmongery on their feet at all – had Kahtoola set up a stand at the summit they could probably have made a fortune! I hit the summit at about 12.30 to stunning snowy views all round and spent quite a bit of time up there taking them in and also taking the inevitable summit selfie. It was seriously cold up there though once I stopped moving.

There were quite a few people now getting to the top – I can hardly blame people for wanting to be up there as it was a glorious day to be out. That said some of the footwear choices of fellow walkers definitely left something to be desired! A group of young American blokes spoke to me at the top and I was horrified to notice that two of them were wearing trainers – and had come up the steep route and were going down that way too. Definitely rather them than me as at least one of the trainer wearers clearly had no grip at all and seemed to be regretting his choice of footwear. I also got overtaken by a woman in trainers as I descended although given the speed she was moving I suspect she was a fell runner who was taking it slowly!

The views continued to be stunning on the descent and with the microspikes on I was able to descend easily and (for me) relatively quickly. On returning to flat ground I took the spikes off and detoured over to Hull Pot which really is impressive. Wainwright’s ‘Walks in Limestone Country’ says that it doesn’t usually have a waterfall going into it but today was one of those days and it was a good spot to have a rest, without going too near to the edge of course!

I got back to the car shortly after 3 and after the inevitable gear faffing drove back to Sedbergh via the Ribblehead Viaduct and Hawes which was a nice scenic drive, stopping for photos at Ribblehead. Back at the apartment I packed my stuff and then went to the Dalesman for a final ‘substantial meal’ (which definitely was substantial!) and inevitably a few glasses of Malbec – though not many as I had a long drive home the day after.

I ended up driving home over to Swaledale (the road over from Kirkby Stephen being a bit hairy at times) visited a waterfall which I’d been to loads of time before and drove down through the whole dale eventually picking up the A1M. Another long drive and I was knackered when I got home – but not too knackered to go out for another substantial meal (well a pizza at one of the local pubs).

All in all an excellent day on the hill and it was nice to revisit some old haunts, having been to Yorkshire loads of times when I was growing up but not been there that often as an adult. And it had been really good to be able to squeeze in another few days on the hill before everything went to hell in a handcart again. Let’s just hope it won’t be too long before something vaguely resembling normality resumes!

4 thoughts on “Pen y Ghent: a perfect winter day

  1. You’d have been fine up the steep end as it’s south-facing and so never as icy and snowy as the side you went up and back down. We always go up the south/steep ridge and down the way you went (I can’t do out-and-backs – I’d find them too boring)

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  2. Kahtoolas – the bondage jelly beans – I remember using mine a few times – brilliant things – especially for dog walking on ice! I can’t help but feel the Yorkshire “Ydiott” thing is a bit of a piss-take lol. Hope you are staying healthy Tessa and many thanks for the recent Facebook “like”.

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