Apr 02 2010

Walk 5: What’s The Wether Like?

Drumaldrace (Wether Fell) as seen from Dodd Fell

route: dodd fell & drumaldrace (wether fell) from hawes
Date: 2nd april 2010
distance: 11.3 miles
ascent: 1,872 feet
time: 6 hrs 30 mins
walkers: becka, carol, dave, graham, leanne, mick, roger, sandra & simon

It was Good Friday when we set out for our fifth walk. I had purposely chosen the Friday rather than any other day over the long weekend that Easter brings, because it would enable us to enjoy the rest of the weekend with the walking done, rather than be wary of it coming half way through the weekend. As much as we were enjoying the walks we also liked our social lives and I was conscious of finding the correct balance. Something obviously appealed as we had our biggest turn out since our first walk, with nine of us ready for our two peak challenge. The temperature seemed a little cooler than we had previously experienced, and every single one of us commented on the cold as they climbed out of the cars to get ready. Some of our earlier walks had been done in snow and ice but the temperature felt a lot colder today and it was probably the wind that was the difference. It didn’t dampen our spirits though as we wrapped up ready for the off.

We left the main car park in Hawes turning left towards the adjoining village of Gayle. We soon passed the Wensleydale Creamery before entering Gayle and pausing for a quick map check. I had learnt my lesson last time so though it better safe than sorry. We picked our route and soon we were walking down a little farm track and civilisation was slowly disappearing as we looked back. From farm tracks we picked up a sign for the Pennine Way and began to follow it. Another sign shortly afterwards told us it was 2 miles to Ten End and we continued to climb slowly through the very wet fields. I can’t recall too much rain so I can only assume it was caused as much by thawing snow as heavy downpours. As we carried on the terrain changed slightly. The initial walking was done through what I would class as a traditional field with normal grass, fields you could imagine being used for hay making, whereas the fields higher up were more rugged and natural. The grass was thicker and grew in clumps rather than an even covering. There were plenty of nice short walkways though and it actually made for easier going as the lower slopes had seemed to hold the water and were much more slippery. We then reached another sign post confirming we were still on the Pennine Way and therefore still on course for our planned route. The post pointing back the way we had come said Gaudy Lane 2miles. We were now at Ten End and after a little breather (which to be fair we do every 100 yards) we continued on almost adjacent to Widdale Fell and Snaizeholme Pasture. The general consensus was the views were nice but the wind could do with dropping a notch or two, but those are things nobody can control and I was thankful that we were enjoying another dry day in the Yorkshire Dales.

Things had now levelled out a bit and our ratio of walking to resting had increased because of this. It is always nice to have a chance to fill the lungs up before the ensuing scramble to the top bursts them again. There was a clear track to follow now and it ran beside a wall to our right that helped shelter us from the wind a little. In truth it meant our bodies were sheltered and our heads were battered, or maybe that just applied to me being the tallest. The only other hazard we had at this point was a few very large puddles that had formed on the track. A couple of people slipped as they tried to go up and round them but no serious harm was done. I tried to be clever and walk through one, only for it to be deeper than I thought and the water flood over the top of my boots leaving my feet soaked. I haven’t done that since!

As we approached a gate on the track we turned to the left to go up the hill and make for the top of Dodd Fell. The ground was wet, and a deep footprint I came across suggested someone just in front of me nearly lost a boot, so I took note and skipped round it. As usual we were now strung out all over the hillside as we pushed on at our own pace, regrouping every so often for Kendal Mint Cake and the odd photo for the record books.

The next 15 minutes or so weren’t too bad as again the terrain had levelled out, and the only concern was the uneven walking surface that is hard on the ankles. The wind continued to get stronger, and the temperature colder the higher we went, but we were soon at the top and the majority of the days climbing had now been done.

The wind now whistled past us and for the first time since we started walking (7 weeks ago) we had the fantastic idea to find shelter before having our lunch. On the previous four walks the top of the highest peak meant lunch time, regardless of how cold it was. Five walks in and we were gradually starting to apply more sense to our decision making, and after taking the relevant pictures for our personal records, we set of for Drumaldrace or Wether Fell, depending on which name you want to use.

We only spent 10 minutes at the top but that was peak number 6 of our challenge done, and it always feels good to reach the summit. I often forget that reaching the top doesn’t mean the walking is over, in fact sometimes the descending can be more difficult than the climbing. For now though we were all focused on heading off the exposed tops and staying out of the squelchy bogs that gave the impression they could swallow one of us at any time. After half an hour or so of bog hopping we spotted a wall that ran alongside the old Roman road (I think the tarmac has been put down since the Romans) and headed over to it for shelter.

This walk was giving me a totally different feel to the previous ones. The first three had been snow covered so were different to anything I had experienced before, and the last walk took in Ingleborough which I was familiar with. This was the first time I had been out walking somewhere new without the snow to make things feel exciting and different. The ground was soaking and the wind blowing, but I was enjoying it just as much as anything we had done previously. We were slowly learning about the best way to function out on the fells. Map checks were fairly often and now the girls accepted they didn’t mean we were lost, it just meant we didn’t want to get lost. The clothing had changed with new bits of kit being added after each walk. I think more than anything else our understanding of the elements, and what may be required to complete the Yorkshire Tops challenge was sinking in. Walking can be leisurely and relax you more than anything else but it can also be hard work. With each walk that went by we took a little piece of knowledge with us to the next one and slowly we began to earn our walking stripes. Once we reached the wall we sat down and enjoyed our sarnies in relative comfort and shelter. With lunch soon walloped off, we followed the wall for a short while until we found an opportunity to cross it and dived through a collapsed part, beneath the wire and out onto the Roman Road.

Wether Fell could now be seen bang in front of us as we followed the Roman road or Cam High Road as it is more commonly known.

It wasn’t long before we had merged with the Oughtershaw Road, and soon we let that drop steeply down towards Hawes as we forked right to stay on Cam High Road. The road surface had reverted to a track but the climb wasn’t too steep as we approached our second peak of the day. I reached a gate and I waited for everyone else to join me. The sheep carcass over the wall made for interesting viewing but before anyone could look in any great detail, we were all together and ready for the final little climb. It took no longer than 15 minutes from here to reach the top. There wasn’t much going on at the top but I felt the sense of achievement once again. It is a nice feeling when you reach the top of a peak and one I was more than happy to recommend to anyone that would listen in the coming weeks (not that anyone seemed to).

My research before we began led me to believe that Wether Fell may be a little more difficult to navigate than Dodd Fell because of the peat hags and the like. That’s the stuff that you feel like you could disappear into at any time! It was fine on the way up to the top however, and I was beginning to think I must have misread or we had just been lucky that the ground had taken any water well. That was until we set off on our way back to Hawes. The firmish ground turned a little squelchy and we could see the little streams of water running over the short grass. A few people had scares as they stepped forward only to jolt back quickly once they realise their foot didn’t meet much resistance. The sound of the wind was broken from time to time by some nervous laughter from one of the girls as we made our way towards what look to be a dry patch. The ground we ended up on was indeed dry but as we reached the top of the little mound it unveiled a whole new challenge.

There in front of us was a huge expanse of peat bog with island like clumps of grass offering a route through. Each person followed the one in front where possible, and we plotted our path carefully as we went.

A few little slips and the odd slide was the only real worry, and again this new challenge had added something to the whole experience. This to me was becoming the whole point of walking. It was the various challenges, terrains and weather conditions that made it so special. It wasn’t a well trodden route in fine weather, and to me that meant I was becoming a rambler. Not only me, but my friends too. The Rambling Badgers!

As we started to head down from the fell top and pick up the footpath to Hawes we were caught in some fine rain (as a well known comedian said, the stuff that soaks you through). This was the first taste of rain we had encountered but as the waterproofs went on we were all still smiling. I think this had as much to do with the fact that we were on the home stretch now, I am sure had we still been on Dodd Fell the rumblings of discontent would have surfaced. It didn’t matter though as we headed through the gloom and down towards our finish line and a nice cold beer.

As I mentioned on my profile page, I like to take plenty of pics as we amble around the countryside, often taking over 200 pics per walk. On this occasion it actually contributed to us becoming slightly off track. As I took the picture above and a few other shots, I detached myself off the back of the group to get everyone in. It was during this time that the people at the front missed the footpath back to Hawes and unfortunately in my haste to catch up I didn’t check my GPS. By the time I did, we had overshot by a little way, but we had descended a fair few feet in the process. We had two choices, the first was to climb back up the path until we picked up the footpath, and the second was to try and cut across and pick up the footpath further down. Now I know, I have said in various places on this website, how much I enjoy the walking, but doing more climbing wasn’t on the agenda at this point.

We plotted a new course and made our way for the footpath, finally linking up with it after climbing a few walls.

From here on it was all pretty simple stuff as we walked over the rolling fields and through the sheep and dozens of new born lambs that filled every one. There was even a couple of barns full as we left the green walkways behind and returned to tarmac for the final half mile or so.

Within minutes we had reached Gayle, then Hawes, and walk number five was done. I had worn new boots for the first time today and they felt comfy and hadn’t given me any blisters despite being full of water. The same couldn’t be said for Mick, who had a boot full of blood and a golf ball sized patch of raw oozing skin when he got home that night. I guess things like that affect how much you enjoy walking but as my feet were fine I had no reason to complain. We had done another two peaks and seen new challenges today. With each walk I felt like my understanding of the Dales was increasing. I am far from confident with my decision making but whereas before I would shrug my shoulders, I now feel like I can make the correct choices, not only for me but the team. As we headed for the pub I felt good once again, like I had earned the two pints of Fosters I was about to polish off. The social side of the walking was great, and the after walk drink just rounded things off nicely. Nice times, with nice people, what more could a guy ask for…

Sir Edmund


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