Aug 08 2010

Walk 16: Passing The Buck

Buckden Pike as seen from Birks Fell

route: buckden pike & birks fell from buckden
date: 8th august 2010
distance: 10.9 miles
ascent: 2,957 feet
time: 8 hrs
walkers: dave, graham, leanne, sandra & simon

This was meant to be the penultimate walk but for one reason or another we still had two to do. The main reason for this was the fact that we had to leave the Howgills without completing them all due to the weather. The weather didn’t look like it was going to play a major part in todays proceedings, with the day being overcast but not too cold. We parked up outside the Buck Inn and after preparing, we finally set off.

We walked up the side of the pub and between some houses until we came to a gate. Once through this we were at the bottom of Buckden Beck, which we had chosen to be our route to the top. I once climbed Buckden Pike with school and I recall going up the beck so thought it would be the obvious choice. From memory I thought we kept the beck on our right but there was a sign post on the other side and I was overruled.

After choosing the rickety old bridge or the stepping stones we made our way up the side of the beck as the day started gently.

As we continued up the footpath, those at the front decided that the path was a lot easier to follow on the other side so we crossed back over. Fortunately there was a concrete step that had been built across and with the water only trickling over we could cross safely. From here on the gradient increased slightly and we came across the first of numerous waterfalls that made the route so easy on the eye.

After continuing a little further up we came across another waterfall and the height of it basically meant we had come to a dead end as there was no way up or round it.

After looking around, there was a track leading away from the waterfall going higher up the valley side away from the beck, and that led to a little scramble up between some rocks until we hit a little ledge. After traversing the ledge we came across a similar scenario and another little scramble up, which we all managed to get up ok. Both scrambles weren’t difficult but we had to persuade L’Autobus that it was the best route to take. Once up here the path was an easy one to follow, although the ground was very muddy in places. By now we had climbed a reasonable distance and as we looked back we could just see some rooftops in Buckden, and behind that, Birks Fell which would be our second destination of the day.

The climb continued at a reasonable rate and we were making good progress. I was glad we had chosen this route up as it seemed to have a lot more character than I imagined the route up Buckden Rake to have. It was extremely scenic, and the constant sound of running water was a pleasant backdrop.

Shortly after we arrived at the old Buckden Lead Mine and paused for a breather. The climb had been stop start in places and that meant we had probably got further than usual without having a regroup. In fact we had never really been separated and that added a nice little touch to things.

From here the climb changed. Gone was the beck and the beautiful waterfalls, to be replaced with the thick grass and slightly boggy moorland we had become used to. As we looked back we could see an oldish guy walking on his own towards us. He took a step every second or so. It was certainly a lot slower than we were walking, but after while we began to tire and he kept going. We would have spurts then pause, he would just keep moving, and before long he passed us as we exchanged pleasantries and on he went. I tried this technique for a while after, but I still got tired, so sacked it off and returned to the usual big push then gasp for air. Graham and Beaky walked on as I found myself with L’Autobus for the final few hundred yards. We joked about reaching a ridge and thinking it was the top, only to be confronted by more climbing when you get there. We spotted the ridge and were sure it would be the final one, and I even broke out into a little jog! As I made the ridge I could see over the wall to my left and we could indeed see the top. We climbed the stile and after avoid the big mud bath on the other side, made our way to the trig and cairn. In between these were around 100 big stone slabs that must have been flown in by helicopter. I guess this was to place around the summit to avoid erosion and to assist the walker in avoiding wet boots.

After taking our customary snaps to prove we had made the top we headed for the memorial that can be found along the plateau to the south. It wasn’t that far at all and though the ground was a bit soft it was ok to walk on. Various patches looked nasty, and a quick look over the wall made me thankful we didn’t have to walk on that side. We made the cross and I found the whole thing a bit moving. I dread to think what it felt like to be in that situation, in those conditions (for the full story visit this site). It must have been absolutely terrifying!

It felt a bit weird to be contemplating things like the sacrifice people made for their country during World Wars during a walk, but being someone who is interested in World War 2 especially, I couldn’t help but feel immense gratitude and respect towards those who have served their country at any time.

The mood within the group had changed whilst we were here. A much more refined and thoughtful bunch, we sat 15 yards from the memorial and discussed things beyond our comprehension. A couple of other walkers came and went and soon we had to move on too, as we still had Birks Fell to conquer. We followed our footsteps back towards the lead mine but instead of dropping down into it we stayed on the high ground. The girls were a bit wary of getting down the two scrambles we had done earlier and wanted to find another way back. As much as we tried, it became obvious that staying up here would take a long time to descend, so after a quick chat and some reassurance, we dropped back down into the beck and continued down.

We approached the first of the little scrambles and manoeuvred our way down successfully.

We then made our way down a slippery patch of wet mud before we found our way on to the ledge. It must have been an immediate 20ft drop to our left, followed by a further slope of 30ft or more to the beck, and whilst it didn’t bother me, Beaky had to make sure he lent into the hillside and take things really steady.

After negotiating this thin stretch we dropped down the second of the scrambles before we joined back up with the normal path.

Once down this it was a simple case of following the beck down (without crossing it!) and finally we came to the water plant at the bottom and we had made it back to Buckden. The sun had come out now and as we walked through the village I decided to treat the troops to an Ice Cream.

As we sat on the benches outside the village store and savoured our treat, I would have been quite happy to sit there for a while longer in the sun and call it a day. I know L’Autobus wouldn’t have taken any persuading, but we had to carry on. As we took the road to Hubberholme I thought I would take a snap of the team with Yockenthwaite Moor in the background. It was then I realised I had left my camera on the bench, so I took off my rucksack and I was off. Anyone who knows me understands I am not built for speed and I wasn’t exactly sprinting, but 100 yards of jogging at this stage in my day was enough to get the old lungs going. I was still panting as I rejoined the others who were watching some duckling further down the road.

We turned off the road to our left and began the long, gradual climb up the side of Birks Fell. We skirted the edge of Water Gill Wood and came across a few bridleway marker posts to signify we were going the right way. As we got higher the weather closed in and it looked as if we were going to get a soaking, but thankfully that never came. As on other peaks in the Dales there was now a purpose built stone path to keep people out of the very boggy terrain. It was here we bumped into a guy on his way down who had been talking to Beaky further up the path. He told us, he had been doing the same tick list (as found on thewalkingenglishman website) and we had a good old natter for quarter of an hour or so before we both moved on. It was nice to meet a fellow walker and one that we had something in common with. We had soon made the flat top of Birks Fell but instead of heading North West to the top, we headed South East to tick off the Firth Fell trig point. We had another well earned rest and a nosey at the surrounding peaks before moving on.

We passed Birks Tarn to our right as we made our way over the soft spongy ground to the cairn on Birks Fell. From here we had a great view of Buckden Pike towering over the village (see main pic). We were now thirty six peaks into our adventure and the finish line was nearing. We decided not to stay too long as it was a Sunday and we wanted a little recuperation time at home before work the following day. We had the option of trying to go straight down from where we were but it seemed a little steep, so we ventured back to the path that brought us up and followed it down.

After passing through the little sheep pen we had most of the descent done. We came out onto the farm track where we encountered a farmer using his quad bike and dogs to round up some sheep. We stayed out of the way and he acknowledge us as we moved on. From here we were back out onto the road and just had the short distance back into Buckden left to go.

Ten minutes later we were back and had completed another really enjoyable walk. It seemed hard at times, especially the climb up Birks Fell. I know Leanne and Sandra didn’t enjoy that climb at all, but in reality it was probably the effects of climbing Buckden Beck that made life hard later on. It certainly wasn’t a nasty climb compared with some of the others we had previously done. With the Buck inn closed we jumped in the car and headed home vowing to stop at the first pub we came across that was open. It was nearly 5pm and I wasn’t sure if some of the country pubs have all day opening, but thankfully we only had to wait until Starbotton. We somehow managed to squeeze the cars in and had a beer sat outside as the sun shone. I had really enjoyed the whole Buckden Beck experience and would recommend that route for anyone wishing to climb Buckden Pike. The only downside of the whole day was the fact that as it was Sunday it was back to work in the morning. Roll on the next walk!

Sir Edmund


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