Feb 11 2012

Walk 42: Cave The Way

The snow covered farm track near Lodge Hall

route: Cave Hill from Ribblehead
11th february 2012
distance: 8.2 miles
ascent: 1,039 feet
time: 3 hrs 15 mins (graham), 4 hrs 05 mins (Dave, Leanne, Sandra & Simon)
walkers: Dave, Graham (the previous day), Leanne, Sandra & Simon

Our first walk in the Yorkshire Dales since November last year coincided with a rare occurrence, so seldom seen, that you have to go back to 29th January 2011 for the last time that I wore anything other than shorts. Technically I did travel in shorts and fully intended to wear my shorts but as soon as we parked up at Ribblehead and I opened the car door I decided to change to my combats. The reason was partly to do with the fact the car still said -3 (it felt colder) and partly to do with the fact that Sherpa G-String had done the walk a day prior to us and said it had been bitter. Now people who know me may feel I don’t pay any attention to them (Leanne & my mum to name two), instead choosing to do what I want even if it goes against conventional wisdom, but that isn’t the case. I do always take on board everything and then and only then do I make my decisions based on all the data I have at my disposal. In this instance Graham’s words of warning coupled with the severe chill I felt when I stepped out of the car was enough to convince me I may be wrong.

With the team shot in the can, we began to walk towards Horton on the B6479, which is a route often followed by those doing the Yorkshire 3 Peaks walk. In fact, we would be reversing the route usually taken to the Ribbelhead Viaduct for approximately the first 3.5 miles before we made our way to Cave Hill, so it was a route that didn’t need any navigation for a while. That worked well as it allowed us to focus on staying warm until our bodies heated up through movement. Even the sheep looked a bit cold as they sheltered behind whatever wall they could find to keep out of the wind.

In what seemed like no time we had reached the farm track that will be familiar to three peakers and we turned down it, taking great care to stay upright as it was extremely slippery under foot. Graham had warned us that the underfoot conditions were treacherous in places so it didn’t come as a surprise but it didn’t make it any easier as we used the wall to retain our upright posture.

The crunch of the half frozen snow sounded lovely as we stomped our way through the farm buildings and over the cattle grid that was full with snow meaning we didn’t need to choose our foot placement carefully. Myself and Beaky pushed on as L’Autobus followed at a distance that grew a little larger with each passing stride. As we reached the flat bridge that crosses over the early part of the River Ribble we decided to halt proceedings and wait for the girls.

We didn’t hang around for long though, as standing still soon made a difference to our body temperature and we decided to keep moving to stay warm. We soon reached Nether Lodge and had to take care to cover a vast expanse of ice leading to a gate which in turn leads to the humped wooden bridge over a beck. The bridge was frozen solid with an inch of ice and meant every single step needed care and attention otherwise you could easily hurt yourself. Once over the bridge we covered the short distance to God’s Bridge and once again myself and Beaky chose it as a convenient spot to wait for Wu Tang & Ramblo.

As we took a couple of pictures and had a drink and a snack we were joined by dozens of sheep coming from an adjoining field. It was weird for sheep to be walking towards us as usually they are ultra cautious and normally move away, but even more weird was the fact they seemed to be queuing up for something. It was all a bit bizarre but interesting at the same time.

With the crazy sheep still in a line we could wait no longer and passed through the gate and climbed up a section that can sometimes be a little boggy but in today’s conditions we would be fine due to the frozen ground. Ahead of us stood two sheep almost as if on sentry duty and once again they didn’t pay us too much attention as we went by them.

It was at this point we would leave the three peaks route and instead of going around the southern side of Dismal Hill we would turn north and join the Pennine Way. Here we found more sheep huddled behind a wall to stay out of the wind whilst at the same time feeding on the hay left for them by the farmer. One sheep decided to hog all the grub and had found a way inside the feeder.

Once on the Pennine Way we only had a short distance to cover to reach Cave Hill which could be seen straight ahead of us.

We came across a gate and to the right a stile leading to a waterfall. Beaky went over for a closer look as Ramblo took a few pictures from our side of the wall. Wu Tang and myself went through the gate to see if we could see the waterfall from a higher viewpoint, but we couldn’t see anything so we began the climb up to the trig.

Two minutes later we reached the top and ticked yet another trig point off our lists. Personally this was my 37th of the 54 trig points that fall within the Yorkshire Dales Nation Park boundary, meaning I was now over 2/3 way through. As I have mentioned on more than one occasion the tick lists aren’t the be all and end all of our walking but they do ensure we visit different places and do different routes each and every time, which I feel is essential to keep interest high. Don’t get me wrong I could happily do routes again and I have and will continue to do so, but if we did the same five routes over and over it would be hard to retain enthusiasm.

We dropped down off Cave Hill back to the Pennine Way and for the next mile or two we would be following the route used by Oxfam for their Trailtrekker challenge we would be doing in May. Part of planning this route was to have a little look at this section as large chunks of the route are already familiar to us from previous walks. We reached the track at the bottom and turned right to head up towards Cam End. On the ground we could see a set of footprints that looked fairly fresh and we assumed they would be the ones left by G the previous day. We weren’t sure about the prints alongside him though. He has a dog but we knew he didn’t bring her so it was either someone else’s prints, or he was being followed by a wolf and had a lucky escape. I am fully aware that wolves don’t roam the Dales before anyone comments, it was probably a bear!

The path enabled us to cover ground reasonably quickly especially if we used the fresh snow rather than the already compacted stuff that was a lot more slippery. Myself and Beaky discussed various fundraising options for our Trailtrekker walk as we went and behind us L’Autobus were no doubt discussing something equally as important..

We soon reached Ling Gill Bridge and had a snack break along with the usual chit chat before we took a few pictures of the frozen beck taking care not to slip and fall in.

With the photographs taken we moved on once again continuing up the Pennine Way and still on the Trailtrekker route as we covered the mile up to Cam End. I decided this would be my chance to push myself a little bit and I lead the way as the path climbed gradually.

A gap had appeared between myself and Wu Tang and I set myself a target of the next mini ridge before I would stop and wait for her. Wu Tang was pleased I had waited as she commented her legs were feeling a bit tight on the climb. We were also soon joined by Beaks and Ramblo who gave the impression she wasn’t enjoying it as much as the rest of us. After a minute or two to catch our breath, we pushed on once again with only ¼ mile to Cam End and Beaky relished the final climb to the junction of the Pennine Way and Dales Way.

The girls were pleased to hear it was all downhill from here but we all knew it was the conditions more than the climb that had made things more difficult. Without the snow it would have been a gradual ascent but the snow made it tough on the legs. I got the impression that cold temperature and tough walking meant the morale may be a little lower than is usual so I decided to ask the troops if they were feeling ok. Sometimes various members don’t always enjoy certain sections but we always appreciate things at the end of the walk. We wouldn’t swap anything at any stage as it adds variety.

With team morale clearly not affected by the conditions we joined the Dales Way and headed back to the car. This downward stretch was just as problematic as we had to be sure of our footing otherwise we would end up flat on our backs. The areas just to the side of the track seems to offer the most give and also would be the softer fall so that was our plan.

The pace certainly increased as we descended and we soon reached the bridge over the frozen beck. In all honesty we could have walked over the beck it looked that solid but no need to mess about, especially as Beaky ignored my request for him to try it. The bridge was actually a sheet of very thin perfectly smooth ice which we skidded across held up by the hand rails.

The Dales Way brought us out onto the B6255 which runs between Ingleton and Hawes and we followed the road back to the car. We soon caught a glimpse of the viaduct in the distance which was certainly welcomed by 50% of those in attendance although no names need mentioning here.

I know you are wanting to know so I will give you some clues in a hangman style. R_mblo & W_ T_ng.

The car park was soon in sight and it was now populated as usual and there was a few people with expensive looking cameras set up on tripods setting up and pointing them towards the viaduct. At first we thought it may be people just photographing the viaduct, then we noticed about 30 people on the banking at the far side of the viaduct and we realised something was going on. It turns out that the Oliver Cromwell would soon be passing over but we only managed to catch a glimpse from the pub (see The Station pub reviews). I got a comment from someone asking if I was mad as I had changed back into my shorts as we headed to the pub even though the car still said minus 2. I wasn’t mad at all. How can anyone who gets out of bed early on a morning and goes out to sample the beautiful scenery of the Yorkshire Dales be classed as mad?! It is well documented that there is only a fine line between genius and insanity though, and sometimes that line is very thin.

Sir Edmund


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