Nov 03 2012

Walk 56: Wild West?

route:  black hill & west nab from wessenden head
Date: 3rd november 2012
distance: 6.1 miles
ascent: 1061 feet
time: 3 hrs 10 mins
walkers: dave, jane, lewis, lucy, marc, roger, ryan, sandra & simon

It had been almost two months since we last laced up our boots and I was itching to get going as we pulled up in a lay-by opposite the entrance to Wessenden Head Reservoir. A short time later Roger and Ryan arrived and not long after that we were joined by Marc, Jane and Lucy which meant we would have 9 in attendance today. One notable absentee was Wu Tang, who at 7 months pregnant had decided enough was enough. She had managed to do our last five walks but now the task was too large, and she was no doubt all warm and snuggled up in bed as we opened the car doors and stepped out into the howling wind. In the last three years I can’t really recall feeling like I had made a mistake with my attire, but I did today. I had (as usual) decided shorts would be ok, but for the first time ever I regretted that decision. It was freezing and in all honesty I was a little annoyed with myself as I usually put my walking trousers in too as a back-up option. For some reason I hadn’t done that today so I would have to grin and bear it, especially since I had a cold and was going to have to take it easy as I had been struggling for breath getting dressed earlier that morning, but on the plus side at least it was dry.

We set off along the road towards the A635 but less than a minute since taking the team shot the rain started, and it was driving rain due to the wind. Up ahead we could see the cloud just sat on top of Black Hill and once again I cursed myself for being a little foolish in wearing shorts. A quick glance at the surrounding landscape offered some hope that once we crossed the A635 and began our way up Black Hill we would be sheltered from the wind. Already the rain had stopped and maybe, just maybe, things were looking up. We could now clearly see the path ahead of us and although it looked like it could be wet at least it offered us a definite route.

We crossed the main road as a burger van was just setting up for the day. Now they must know exactly what they are doing but I couldn’t help feel there wouldn’t be that much trade out here, especially on a day like today, but I am sure I would be wrong in assuming that. Once over the road we soon spotted the Pennine Way sign and followed it through a gate then onwards to Black Hill. It was instantly noticeable that we were sheltered and it seemed a few degrees warmer already which was nice and maybe the shorts would work out in the end.

The underfoot conditions were quite wet and but fortunately with the Pennine Way being a well-used Long Distance Path, there was an actual stone path to follow. This makes such a difference in certain areas and you usually find that the areas that are very boggy have them to stop people struggling along. It made such a difference as a foot either side of the path it would have been squelchy underfoot but we made good progress on the paved stones, although you still had to be careful as they were a little slippery in places.

After a short distance of level ground we dropped slightly into Reap Hill Clough and skipped over the stream at the bottom before climbing up the other side. It was no major task though as with a couple of minutes we were back on the level path once again. Shorty we came across Dean Clough which was slightly bigger than Reap Hill Clough. I led the gang down the path where we found the stream was a little wider than the previous one, and at times I can imagine this would be very hard to cross, especially after large volumes of rain. Fortunately there were a couple of places to place your feet but still keep them dry and I helped each of the Badgers across before re-joining the back of the line and following the others upwards before the path levelled once more.

For the next ten or fifteen minutes we bounded on, covering the distance pretty quickly due to the gradient being very shallow. Then the path began to go uphill and I could feel my chest straight away, which I knew was going to happen so I let everybody slowly disappear and kept on at my own pace. As has been mentioned numerous times in the walk write ups, it doesn’t matter who is at the back or the reason for it, those who are leading the way, wait from time to time for us all to regroup and today was no different. I didn’t have to rush as I knew nobody would be putting any pressure on me to keep up, and that makes a massive difference when it comes to enjoying yourself.

I reach the top of the climb to find the other Badgers chatting away as they waited for me. I had a couple of minutes stood looking at what surrounding features we could make out then we set off for the summit. That makes it sound far more dramatic than it actually was, because in truth we had done all the hard work (and given normal circumstances it wouldn’t have been hard) and the rest of the way was virtually flat. As is the norm, Beaky went on closely followed by Lewis, as the rest of us took a more leisurely stroll chatting about what we had been up to since we last saw each other.

The low lying mist that had lifted a little descended once again and as we approached the trig point we could just make out Beaky alongside it, and soon after Black Hill became another tick from our Peak District tops and Peak District trigs lists, as well as the fourth ever county top we have reached. Black Hill is the highest point in West Yorkshire and follows Green Hill (Lancashire), Whernside (North Yorks) & Black Chew Hill (Greater Manchester) all of which we reached over the last few years. I doubt this will be a list we will be actively looking to complete though due to the distances involved to get to the other county tops but it is still something to keep an eye on. I informed the other Badgers of the significance of Black Hill as we posed for the customary pictures and then it was on our way once again. The plan now was to retrace our steps back to the car, before heading a short distance in the opposite direction to reach West Nab. This seemed be ok with everyone and we began our return journey as the snow began to come down.

The flakes were certainly a decent size and what I would call proper snow but after a few minutes we had reached the edge of the summit plateau and began to descend out of it. It may have been that it was just a little flurry and it stopped or it may be it carried on in the cloud above us, either way it was nice to experience the snow for the first time in 9 months and my mind flicked back to our various other snowy encounters, especially our very first walk. It still amazes me how much we have done and how much we have learnt since we climbed Great Whernside in jeans and trainers back in February 2010. Thinking back on all we have done makes me very proud both personally and of the Rambling Badgers as a whole. I was talking to Ramblo and Jane about this very fact as we reached Dean Clough and this time Beaky did the honours assisting people across if they required help.

It was only a small climb but I didn’t hang about as I knew the others would catch me up when I slowed due to my breathing and I was half way up before Marc and Lucy had even crossed the stream.

Sure enough they all caught me and I was happy enough to let them go on as I took a couple of pictures and tagged myself on to the back of the line as we negotiated Reap Hill Clough before the final little climb back up to the A635 where once again everyone was waiting for me.

It was at this point that Ramblo told me she would be stopping when we got back to the car as Lewis had said he had had enough. As we walked back to the car I told her that we were only looking at a mile or so round trip and mentioned the possibility of all going on but in the end she did the right thing and stopped. At this point things got a little confusing and we ended up losing a couple more, one intentional and the other not. I saw Roger open his car and Ryan got in and seemed to suggest he was done for the day. Ramblo and Lewis climbed in Beaky’s car and we bid them farewell and began to head off along Wessenden Head Road. Now it turns out Roger wanted to carry on and had nipped off to powder his nose only to return and find out we had gone. He had a quick chat with Ramblo but neither of them knew here we had gone and so, after a brief solo expedition to find us and with the mist restricting his view, he accepted defeat and climbed in the car.

Meanwhile the five of us had left the road and had clambered over a wire fence topped with barbed wire, not noticing the stile that was 50 yards to our left. We chuckled as in typical Badgers style we had made a simple task that little bit more difficult but we were all over safely and now half way up the little ascent to West Nab.

Once again I was last to the top and as I reached the trig I found the others investigating a geocache they had found under a pile of stones.

Jane signed a message from the Rambling Badgers and Lucy added a few words too then we took the badge of the front of my hat and left that in the tub as is customary with geocaching. We were going to leave a business card but none of us had any with us, or at least we thought we didn’t until Beaky checked his wallet, so we dropped one of those in too, sealed it back up, took our pictures and began the final leg of our journey.

After our early discovery we headed straight for the stile which made things a lot easier, but only after we managed to negotiate the bog around it.

Once over this we re-joined the road and had the simple task of following this for a little less than half a mile back to the car and the walk was done. It was only at this point we discovered that Roger wanted to come with us and I felt guilty we hadn’t double checked rather than assuming he was either A) stopping or B) knew which direction we were heading off in. He wasn’t too bothered and I think Ramblo possibly wished she had cajoled Lewis into continuing as we had been no longer the 35 minutes. It didn’t matter in the long run though as everybody had enjoyed themselves yet again. Ultimately the number of walkers doesn’t alter my enjoyment, but there is something about having a few more faces that adds an extra few percent to the overall experience. I had been very pleased by a turn-out of 9 but it has to be said I had missed Wu Tang and I was looking forward to getting home, but not until we had our post ramble pint… or two.

Sir Edmund

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