Jul 10 2010

Walk 14: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…

Pen-y-ghent from near Rainscar

route: fountains fell, fountains fell south top, darnbrook fell, plover hill & pen-y-ghent from horton in ribblesdale
Date: 10th July 2010
distance: 16.7 miles
ascent: 3,559 feet
time: 11 hrs
walkers: dave, gill, graham, holly, leanne, roger, roland, ryan, sandra & simon

I had a feeling that today was going to be a bit of a challenge due to the fact that we had five more peaks to tick off and we would be tackling our longest walk yet. As always we were in no rush and as long as we completed the walk then everyone would go home happy.

We set off on the short journey to Brackenbottom full of beans and ready for anything the day would throw at us. As usual the route was packed with hoards of three peak walkers setting off on their mammoth journey. Ours was going to be a fair old trek too and as we reached Brackenbottom and went through the little gate our climbing began in earnest. I was soon huffing and puffing as I started the climb but all the walking we had done previously had certainly improved my fitness, and I could continue for longer before stopping for a quick breather. We continued at our own pace but there were dozens of other walkers to chat to should anyone wish.

The climb continued and although we were stopping from time to time we were making good progress. I have to say that I find the climb up Pen-y-ghent a lovely one in every sense. I like the fact that you can see your target almost all the way from Horton and it has a bit of everything too, from gentle walking to scrambling up the higher slopes. Today though, those higher slopes would have to wait, as once we joined the Pennine Way we had a brief rest before going the opposite direction and heading for Fountains Fell that we could see in the distance.

As we began the slight descent away from P-y-g, Roger decided that Ryan wouldn’t be able to do the full walk and that he was already beginning to lose interest so they turned around. For them the day would consist of climbing P-y-g then back to Horton before driving to the Falconry Centre nearby. The rest of us had a lot more walking to do but for the next half an hour or so the walking was pretty easy with a track and then a road to walk on. We reached the bottom of Fountains Fell with minimum of fuss and after a short wait for the others we were ready to climb.

We were still on the Pennine Way so the route was fairly obvious as we climbed the front edge of our first peak. Technically we had already done three quarters on P-y-g but it would but ticked off until we reached the top and that was a long way off yet. The path up Fountains Fell cut into the hillside to take the sting out of it and once over the lip we I reached the summit plateau to see those who were faster than me waiting by a big cairn. I made my way over to break the bad news that this wasn’t the top and we had a little further to go, although we could see the summit cairn from where we stood. Once the back markers had caught up we set off for peak number one.

As we made the short journey to the cairn the weather closed right in and the fabulous views we had a few minutes earlier disappeared. The disappointment of not having a good look around was balanced by us reaching the top of Fountains Fell and knowing that we didn’t have far to go to our next port of call. After taking our pics and putting on our water proofs we set off looking for Fountains Fell South Top which would be our second peak of the day.

This wasn’t on our original list of peaks to do but after a little research I decided to add it along with six others to make the list forty strong. We reached the top of peak two or should I say we think we did. The weather had closed right in and whilst my GPS said we were there, we couldn’t find a cairn or anything to signify we were at the top. This may be something to do with the fact that it is lower than the cairn we had previously visited and therefore may not be deemed important enough for a few stones to be piled up. Not that any of this was bothering us, we were too focused on moving on and staying dry as the mist that enveloped us was now throwing some drizzle our way. As we left the top we made a slight error of judgement and one that would cost us a little time and distance. We could have back tracked to the initially cairn we found upon reaching the summit plateau but instead decided to drop down of Fountains Fell South Top to the Pennine Way once again. We did this no problem and the only thing of any note was a poor sheep floating face down in a tiny tarn. Once we made the Pennine Way we stopped for a quick map check before carry on.

It was becoming apparent the this path was going to take us back to the cairn we initially came to when we first came over the ridge onto the the top of Fountains Fell. It would have been much easier to retrace our steps but it was too late now we had some climbing to do. As we made our way back up we encountered a little caterpillar trying to cross the footpath. I watched him for a bit but it was going to take him ages to do the Pennine Way, and I don’t mean from Edale to Kirk Yetholm, I mean from one side of the path to the other.

As we arrived back at the cairn the mist had cleared slightly and we could see the top of Fountains Fell only a hundred yards away give or take a few. It had been one mighty long short cut we had taken and we felt the need to refuel.

Once we had replenished our food stocks we set off for Darnbrook Fell which we could see to the north east of us. Thankfully it was lower than we were although we would have to drop slightly then climb up to the trig point. The ground was fairly wet in places but we took care and made good progress.

As we neared the last little stretch to the top we came across a wire fence that had barbed wire running along the top. The boys were fairly confident of getting across but the girls were unsure if their legs would be long enough. As if by magic there was a loose wooden gate right next to the place we were looking to cross. A couple of people climbed the fence as Roland and G placed the gate in fron of the fence. The girls could then use it to climb up before being helped over the other side. Once the girls were over G put the gate back and climbed the fence before we walked the last few yards.

Peak three done and everyone was still feeling fresh, the weather was picking up giving us great views, what more could anyone ask for? To be honest I couldn’t think of many things that would’ve improved my day and even a short rest at the top of Darnbrook Fell seemed like an age. Things were definitely going our way today and we set off from the top following the fence we crossed a short while back. As we walked we could see Pen-y-ghent sat there waiting for us. On the same ridge but to the right would be our next port of call though, Plover Hill.

After descending a little way we encountered a wall that we managed to get over although the drop on the other side was quite a big one. With us not being on a footpath there was no gate or stile to be found. Fortunately two walls joined and we could use the corner to climb as this makes things a lot easier.

Once over here we had a straight drop down to the bridleway that would lead us to through Dawson Close. As we continued down I spotted a little movement down to my left and after waiting for it to move again we had found a little frog/toad. We had a little look for a couple of minutes then left him to his business as we went about ours. Fifteen short minutes after this we had made the bridleway and we would now have the luxury of a flat walking surface for the next mile or so.

We made our way along the track and with the decent going we increased the pace slightly. All the time we had P-y-g staring us in the face and remind us of what we still had to do.

After a while the stony surface was replace by a grass one and that can sometimes help keep the feet from hurting. I guess it depends on what boots you have on but a smooth grass surface is much softer than the rocky track we had previously been walking on.

Just as we were approaching the end of the bridleway we came across a herd of cows blocking our route. After letting the doubters know that the cows would be more afraid of them than they were of the cows we moved up slowly. Sure enough they moved to one side and watched us go through the gate and on our way.

Once through the gate we swung right and made for the road that ran below us. In front of us now was our fourth target of the day, Plover Hill.

We rested at the bottom before setting off on the tough climb through the heather and bracken. We saw a couple more of those bouncy amphibians as we made progress up the hill side. The progress made was slow, or at least in my case it was. I was having trouble with my breathing again as I did when climbing Swarth Fell. I took my time and with Wu Tang encouraging me along we slowly but surely made our way to the grouse butts. My loyal companion Sherpa G-String was waiting for me and made sure I was fed and watered before we carried on. By the time we came over the ridge on the top the others were relaxing by a wall. Roland had even taken his boots off and hung his socks up to dry.

As I reached the others I said I didn’t want to rest there as i may not want to get going again, so I went straight for the summit cairn. That sounds a lot more dramatic than it actually was as the cairn must have been about 75 yards away and only about 10ft higher. I made the top and we rested up for quarter of an hour. As we left for P-y-g my batteries seemed recharged and the breathing issues that had troubled me on the climb were now gone. We jumped over the wall near the top and picked up the footpath to the top of our highest peak of the day.

The ground between Plover Hill and Pen-y-ghent is quite boggy in places but we made good progress. Upon reaching the bottom of the last little drag up to the top the weather was still lovely and we were looking forward to some spectacular views once we reached the summit. As we climbed the last little bit that was all about to change and the weather rolled in. I looked to my left and I could see a wall of mist about to swallow us.

Once at the top the celebrations had to be put on hold as we first had to stick the waterproofs on as the rain had just started. That wasn’t going to spoil the mood though as we had ticked another five peaks off our list. We had initially planned to follow the Pennine Way route down and take in Hull Pot along the way but due to some aching limbs we decided that the more direct route down to Brackenbottom would be best. We made our way through the mist and towards the steep areas that require you to scramble when on the way up.

We took our time to descend the steep parts, making sure everyone went at their own pace to not feel rushed. We safely made it down to the gate we had reached some ten and a half hours ago before we turned off to Fountains Fell. We followed the usual three peaks ascent route down to Brackenbottom and as we did the day brightened up again. It wasn’t until we were half way down and we turned round did we realise that we had walked out of the mist rather than the mist going. It was still hovering over the top.

We split up as we descended and I waited with a couple of others on the wooden footbridge in between Brackenbottom and Horton until everyone caught up. We walked back to the cars as a group and were happy to get changed before heading to the pub. We had a drink or two and slowly seized up before we headed home. Today had been our longest walk by quite some way. We had all proved that we could do it although if you asked around at the end you wouldn’t find too many willing to walk that far again. It didn’t matter about the future right now, that would take care of itself, for now we had ticked five more peaks off the list and my thoughts turned to the Howgill Fells in two weeks time. I just hoped that everybody’s legs would have recovered!

Sir Edmund


Leave a comment