Mar 27 2010

Walk 4: The Long Road Home

Simon Fell & Ingleborough

route: ingleborough & simon fell from ingleton
Date: 27th march 2010
distance: 12.7 miles
ascent: 2,398 feet
time: 6 hrs 30 mins
walkers: carol, dave, graham, jane, leanne, marc, sandra & simon

Today was the day we took on one of the big boys of the Yorkshire Dales. Ingleborough is the second highest peak and one most of us have had a little experience with in one form or another. In the past, five of today’s walkers had climbed Ingleborough whilst doing the Three Peaks of Yorkshire, albeit a long time ago. The three that hadn’t climbed it were nervous and slightly worried about their ability to do it, but after plenty of reassurance they seemed to relax and understand that it would be tough but perfectly achievable. The route from Ingleton was a new one to all of us, so in some way, we were going on a journey of discovery together.

We left Ingleton on the road to Hawes and shortly after leaving the village there was a signpost and a footpath showing us the way to the top. It wasn’t going to be as easy as that sounds in a physical sense but from a directional one we couldn’t go wrong. As we made our way up the track we climbed gradually until we could look back and see the rooftops as Ingleton became more distant. Already we were going at our own pace and people were stopping whenever they needed a breather. It was only our fourth walk and we were far from fit, but we do keep going after a break. Away to our left we could see Gragareth and the ridge round to Great Coum, and just a little further on we could see Whernside. This is the highest point in Yorkshire and we had decided right from the start of this whole challenge to leave that until last. Half an hour later Ingleton had disappeared and the climb continued relentlessly.

We were finding that there would be a short sharp climb followed by a relatively steady stretch and we used these areas to fill the lungs and refresh the legs. The weather was causing some concern too, as our destination went from being clear to covered in a matter of seconds. I have to say that in my limited experience this is quite normal for Ingleborough and I find it can often have a little cloud cover even though the surrounding skies are clear.

By now we were approaching Crina Bottom, and as the track turned into grass we were still able to follow an obvious route. Visibility was still good at ground level although the top was sinking deeper into the thick mist.

From here the climb changed a little with things getting steeper and more serious, which meant we rested more often and the general pace of things was reduced somewhat. After crossing a little stream and being passed by a family with two young kids (putting us to shame) we had reached what I would consider to be the last section of the climb. The lush green grass had gone and was now replaced with a thinner version. There was a lot more rock around and things were quite a bit colder as we continued to climb.

In places there were purpose built steps to make things easier, which no doubt they did, although it might not have actually felt that way. I inched my way to the top along with Wu Tang and Ramblo. G and Carol were just in front of us along with Marc and Jane. Beaky had disappeared what seemed like years ago. Still the quicker you get to the top, the longer you have to wait for the rabble. We could now see the last little ascent that would take us up and onto Ingleborough’s flat top and boy did it feel good. We made our way to the trig point for a picture and then over to the shelter nearby. As we were now all there we had a little surprise for Beaky, or should I call him birthday boy. We had a card, some French Fancies and a bottle of fizz.

We ate our sandwiches and washed them down with a swig of sparkling before the weather dictated it was time to move. The wind was howling and whilst there wasn’t any rain there was certainly a wind chill factor! Our snaps safely in the can, we made our way across the top before descending towards Simon Fell.

This path is the one taken by three peakers on their final climb to Ingleborough from Chapel le Dale. The view away to our left was outstanding as we had a full side on view of Whernside, some of it bathed in sunshine and other parts in shadow. Sat below it, almost lost, was the Ribblehead viaduct, which anyone who has stood next to it will know, is a big old thing, but it just seemed so small next to Whernside.

Continuing on we made our way onto Simon Fell and came across some frog or toads spawn just sat on the grass. The place was certainly damp enough though and we had to negotiate a couple of areas of boggy terrain before moving on.

After a slight bit of faulty map reading the cairn at Lords Seat was mistaken for the top and we made our way over none the wiser.

With more pictures taken and our mission for the day complete we headed off towards the footpath at the end of Park Fell. Fortunately, as we headed over to it we crossed the top of Simon Fell and whilst we didn’t actually realise it initially we soon cottoned on to our earlier mistake. From here we were aiming to pick up a footpath that runs between Park Fell and the B6479 that would then lead us out to the road back to Ingleton.

After making our way off Simon Fell and just before we started to climb up Park Fell a few of the team became a little irritated and commented that we were wandering aimlessly. We weren’t lost, but what quickly became apparent was the walk was going to be an awful lot longer than the six or seven miles I had suggested it might be. I learnt my lesson right there and then and I will never be so committal again. In all honesty I had made a mistake but I could see how that could affect morale. If someone says something is so long, when you near that distance you begin to think you are nearly done. Suddenly there was at least another five miles to do and I had a mini mutiny on my hands. Someone suggested that instead of going up and over Park Fell we dropped off the top and made our way over Keld Bank to pick up the footpath. I was happy for some additional input and happily agreed that this would be the best idea. As we descended the steep slope I came across a poor sheep or should I say, what was left of a poor sheep. I had the impression that unless I kept my head down I may be joining it soon!

With the descent complete we made our way towards the footpath. Not many words were said at this point and I was happy to tag along with anyone who would offer a friendly look. I know it was only frustration but for an hour or so I was convinced I had seriously upset some people. With the impressive sight of Ingleborough behind us we made our way across the limestone to the path and eventually the road.

As we came out onto the road we were about half way between Ribblehead and Chapel le Dale and though we had various options to finish the walk, it was decided that the road would be the quickest and easiest. Who was I to disagree? As we passed the Hill Inn there was a little compound opposite with pigs in, one of which was trying to escape by burrowing under the fence.

Some other walkers dropped a couple of big stones into the gap to ensure he remained within his boundaries and we carried on. The wind was blowing straight at us making life fairly unpleasant but we noticed that the sheep had a better idea of sheltering behind the wall. We however, didn’t have that luxury!

It was clear by now that we had miles of this fairly open road in front of us. Not only was it cold and windy, we had the added danger of the oncoming traffic. Some cars must have being going well over the speed limit. It wasn’t just cars but big wagons too. I know that some members of the team were more than a little edgy as things approached. I on the other hand had decided that I was going to push on. The safest place for me was to be at the front although I had to keep the pace high to avoid the knives in the back. After what seemed like an age I came across a sign.

I knew that we had yet to pass White Scar Caves so we still had a bit to go and to me the fact we now knew it was 2 ¼ miles to go was a blessing. Before we were walking blind almost and we had no idea how long we had to go and at least I could now visualise how far or how long that would take. A few of the others saw the funny side as Marc and Jane looked for the reaction when L’Autobus spotted the sign.

Although not happy with the distance everyone now knew that we had about 45 minutes of walking to go. There was no use in moaning or whinging about anything, we just had to do it, which is exactly what we did. Eventually passing White Scar Caves before we saw another sign.

Another mile ticked off and the closer we got the more peoples spirits returned to normal. A short period of time later we came across another sign.

That was it we were just about done. Everyone was pleased to be back although I had discovered that some hadn’t entirely forgiven me.

With the walk complete we nipped in to the pub for a drink. A couple of drinks later and everybody was all smiles again. The day had been a tough one. In fact it had been a lot tougher than it needed to be. In hindsight we would have been better coming back over Ingleborough and retracing our earlier steps. I took the criticism on the chin, held my hands up and vowed to never again make such a silly schoolboy error. I wasn’t too hard on myself as I still felt I had been doing a good job as all round planner and El Presidente. It takes a lot more than a few disgruntled friends to put me off planning the next walk, I enjoy it all too much. I would be going to do Dodd Fell and Wether Fell in six days time, the question was, would I have any friends with me?

Sir Edmund


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