May 08 2010

Walk 7: One Peak, Two Peak, Three Peak, Four….

A dried up river bed near Ease Gill

route: gragareth, green hill, great coum & crag hill from leck fell house
Date: 8th may 2010
distance: 9.1 miles
ascent: 1,779 feet
time: 5 hrs 50 mins
walkers: dave, leanne, sandra & simon

I was nervous as we drove along the A65 towards Cowan Bridge. This wasn’t because we were almost at our starting point of Leck Fell House, or the fact that it had been three weeks since we were at Mallerstang, it was to do with the fact that if Leeds Utd won that afternoon, they would be promoted back to the Championship at our third attempt. I thought about how much this meant to me and I realised how much the walking must mean, for me to be out on the fells rather than be listening in a pub or even at Elland Road. I was confident they could do the business, and pretty sure we could manage our task for the day too. We arrived at Leck Fell House and parked up in the layby 50 yards short of the farm. As we got out to prepare it felt freezing, and I think it had to be the coldest I have felt yet. The wind was gusting and if someone had offered me a get out of walking and get back in the warm car card, I would have taken it. We are made of tougher stuff than that though, and we wrapped up and set off for walk number seven of our Yorkshire tops challenge.

We left the car, went through a gate and up on to the open hillside, before following the worn track. Our first port of call was the three men of Gragareth which we could see standing above us. No more than a hundred yards from the start of the walk, we spotted loads of little tadpoles swimming around in a puddle on the grass. This was the second time we had seen this, as we saw some on our earlier visit to Simon Fell. After watching them for a minute or so, we decided it was too cold to stand still so we began to move again. We had printed off some directions from a website and Wu Tang was voted our tour guide for the day. She said the track would climb away from the three cairns before turning back to head straight for them. We assumed that this was to take the sting out of the climb although it wasn’t that big anyway. After a while, and with no sign of the path turning back we decided to not worry about the path and just go straight for the three men. This certainly raised the heart rate a little as we huffed and puffed our way up. The usual formation took shape and Beaky powered on, with me trying in vain to keep up, as L’Autobus stopped every 20 yards for a breather and became more distant. The good thing about this section was the fact that we started from a high altitude in relation to the top, so the climb was fairly small. In little more than 15 minutes we were at the three men and we paused to take some pictures and have a drink.

From here we made the short journey to the summit of Gragareth. In truth it was quite easy, with the gradient only slight and the distance not being too great. As I approached I could see a tent pitched up by the trig point. I certainly wasn’t expecting to see that and curiously made my way over. Inside there were two women who were a check point for a 60 mile race for fell runners. 60 miles! They must be nuts to do all that in one go. We had a brief chat with them and then said our goodbyes as we walked towards our second peak of the day. To our right we had a great view of Ingleborough. I just love the profile of it as it stands so big and proud, with its flat top. It is a totally unmistakable and awesome sight. We continued to follow a rough path formed by numerous walkers causing the grass to wear thin as we headed for Green Hill. We could see the remaining three targets in front of us. They were all part of one long ridge and to be honest it seemed like cheating to class them as four separate entities. We don’t make the rules up though, so four it would be, and one tenth of our forty peak total would be ticked off in one day.

The going was generally good but from time to time we came across a squelchy patch and had to be a little careful. We weren’t in any danger of sinking in, but we wanted to keep the boots dry if possible, so we often had to hug the wall to stay on the dry ground.

The land then dipped slightly, before climbing again to the top of Green Hill where we couldn’t see any real cairn to signify the top. Just over the wall there was a wooden pole that had been driven into the ground. We thought this may be there to mark the top but we weren’t sure. We didn’t hang around long with nothing to take a picture of, and with the top just feeling like a little hump on the ridge it was a bit of an anti climax. We left Green Hill behind and the terrain sloped downwards, but we could see it climbed again to Great Coum. To our right there was now nothing, and the wind was whistling through. Wu Tang lent into it and the strength of it kept her upright. I was wondering if she could have regained her balance if the wind stopped but I never got to find out as we dropped down hillside and it became more sheltered.

We went through a gateway in the wall in front of us and started to climb back up towards peak three. It was a bit of a tougher little stretch but nothing too serious at all. I think I had just got used to the level walking along the ridge and this was just enough to remind me that we were out on the fells. As we approached the top of the main climb we could see some stone over the other side of the wall. I couldn’t work out if it had been put there by man or it was natural but it was impressive none the less as we sneaked a look over the wall. As we got back to the walking we were being watched all the time by some nosey sheep but they let us pass without incident.

We had now climbed the last real climb and could see the wall we needed to follow. Once there we could see the cairn on the other side and another tent alongside it. We hopped over the wall and our third peak of the day was done.

Again there were two people waiting to check off the fell runners and as we turned round the first couple came flying over the wall.

We let them go through and then we set off for Crag Hill, which was only a very short distance away. We kept looking back as more and more fell runners could now be seen, stretching all the way back to Gragareth. In 20 minutes or so we were at Crag Hill and we enjoyed the moment. We had ticked four more peaks off our list and I had really enjoyed the walk along the ridge. It wasn’t as taxing as some of the walks we had done previously and the wind meant that it felt cold, but it was a very enjoyable walk. We nipped behind the nearby wall to shelter from the elements and enjoyed our lunch as we sat there soaking up the views for half an hour or so.

We left our sheltered spot and followed the directions as given by Wu Tang. We could see Leck Fell House in the distance so we had an idea of how far it was to go back. We didn’t go the direct route though, and we descended down towards the farm we could see in front of us. We turned off and followed a wall towards Ease Gill where we dropped down to the beck below.

There wasn’t much water going through but the rock formation was amazing and almost looked sculpted and smooth.

As we went over the little wooden bridge and scrambled down the side we could hear falling water and see a dry river bed snaking off into the distance. As we reached the river bed we saw the entrance to a cave or so it seemed. I went in to explore as the rest waited cautiously near the entrance. It wasn’t a cave, in fact it was a water fall with the water from above trickling down, but then it must disappear underground. I would imagine that at times when the water is flowing faster it may indeed continue on down the river bed. I know Hull Pot is a bit like this. After a minute or so I was joined by the others and we took a few pics.

The sight of this really made my day. I had no idea what to expect from it until we arrived, but I have to say it was better than I expected. I love the fact that little gems like these are scattered all over the Dales, and seeing them certainly gives you the bug to go out more often as there is just so much to explore! After ten minutes relaxing we set off, following the river bed for a while, before turning up the hillside for the climb back to the car. One thing that became apparent was that we had descended well below Leck Fell House and that now meant a climb to finish the walk off. It wouldn’t have been too bad except for the fact we ended up walking through thick bracken or something. It was a nightmare, but we plodded on. Ridiculous really, as away to our left was some sort of path which we eventually went across to.

Once back at the car, thoughts of walking were swiftly put on hold as the radio went on to see how the boys were doing. It was 0 – 0 so we jumped in and headed home. There would be no pub stop today as that would have meant missing the game, and that wasn’t an option now. Half time came and went and still no sign of the goal that would take us back to the second flight. In fact, things were going against us, as Max Gradel had been sent off. It got worse two minutes after half time as we went 0 – 1 down and the wheels looked like they about to come off. Twelve minutes later Jonny Howson got the equaliser and we began to push forward looking for a winner. It only took four minutes, and Jermaine Beckford managed to slot home from close range to send most of the 38,234 fans into a frenzy. I know there were two in our car that were going nuts. The final twenty minutes was full of ups and downs, but they held on and we were promoted back to the Championship. What a way to round off a fantastic day. A really nice walk followed by this. There aren’t much better things in life to be honest. What was it that Lou Reed said? It’s such a perfect day…

Sir Edmund


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