May 15 2010

Walk 8: A Double Slice Of Wensleydale

Drumaldrace (Wether Fell) taken during the descent from Great Shunner Fell

route: lovely seat & great shunner fell from hardraw
Date: 15th may 2010
distance: 10.7 miles
ascent: 2,205 feet
time: 5 hrs 50 mins
walkers: carol, dave, gill, graham, leanne, roland, sandra & simon

I was slightly apprehensive as we parked up in Hardraw and waited for the others to arrive. I had some limited experience with Whernside and Ingleborough but today I was about to tackle the third highest peak in the Yorkshire Dales and I didn’t know what it may involve. It wasn’t that I was worried but psychologically when you know something is ranked quite highly it is easy to imagine that it is tougher than it actually is. Time would tell on that!

We moved off, passing the pub before somehow finding the footpath that took us through someone’s back garden. We only just spotted the sign on the wall, but spot it we did and we nipped through the gate and said hi to the rabbit sat quietly in its hutch before continuing into the field.

We climbed slowly away from Hardraw using the purpose built steps built into the slight incline until we came across another house. Outside there were two tubs full of sticks for sale. There were two different prices with the more expensive ones priced at £5, having handles. After a good nosey, G decided not to purchase and we moved on, passing Simonstone Hall on our left before we came out onto the road.

For the couple of miles or so we would be following this road know as the Buttertubs Pass rather than go up the front edge of Lovely Seat. The initial climb sorted the men out from the boys and I found myself with the women! As always though, we are in no rush and everyone does things at their own pace. We spotted a note left on top of a stile informing some walkers of their friends destination, which whilst good in a way, I think defeats the object of going for a walk as a group. I guess everybody has different ideas and as long as people are happy then who am I to comment.

Soon after this we reached the top of the initial drag up and paused for a breather. The road had levelled out in front of us so things were about to get a bit easier for a while. We took in the views, had a drink and chuckled about everything and nothing before moving off once again.

The walking on the road was nice and easy and I found myself at the front and pushing the pace along to stretch my legs. This continued for a while until we reached the point of departure, and I sat down with G and waited for the stragglers to arrive. I dished out some Kendal Mint Cake or “Mindal Kent Cake” as it was renamed after our southern member, then we set off. Back on the uneven ground the pace had slowed but we still made reasonably good progress up Turned Hill. We eventually spotted a cairn and some people thought that was the top, but as we often find, that is there just to mess with your head. Fortunately the top wasn’t much further and after crossing the wire fence we were at the top of Lovely Seat.

We picked out the various surrounding peaks and looked across at Great Shunner, which didn’t look that tough from here but then again, we did have to descend this first. We went back to the wire fence and crossed before following that down to the road. As we neared the road we spotted our first grouse whilst we had been out and about, closely followed by the second one. I know they are a common sight but to us it was a first and we all enjoyed the moment.

We reached the road and huddled together for a team meeting. On the agenda was the best route to take to the top, although we differed in opinion slightly. Some were all for taking the most direct route whilst others wanted to arc round and approach from Little Shunner Fell to reduced the sharp climbing. We weighed up the pros and cons and eventually decided to go more direct. We couldn’t go straight for it as there were signs up asking walkers to keep out of a certain area due to grouse breeding or something. We nipped over the next fence and made tracks towards Grimy Gutter. As we went we spotted what can only be described as the world’s smallest field, a 4ft by 2ft fenced off area.

We soon reached Fossdale Gill where we found a log across the beck that had a trap positioned on the top. This is to stop stoats and the like from crossing and attacking baby grouse. As an animal lover I don’t like to see traps and things. I don’t see why we should interfere with nature but we left the trap alone and crossed the stream.

The decision to go the direct route was now beginning to bite and we had a nasty like climb out of Fossdale Gill which caused us to thin out a little. As usual Beaky was up front followed by G. Gill and Roland were making nice progress followed by L’Autobus and I was at the back struggling. I had ben ill for a little while but I thought I was fully over it, but that obviously wasn’t the case. Whereas resting for five minutes and having a snack and a drink would normally recharge my batteries, it wasn’t doing so today. There was no other option than just to keep going, which I did slowly until I caught up with the others as they sat having a sandwich near to a row of grouse butts.

Most of the climbing was now done and while there was still a little way to go we had certainly done the bulk of it.

It wasn’t long before my eyes caught sight of the shelter that signified the summit and we were yards from standing on top of Wensleydale.

It was quite busy at the top, possibly due to the fact that the Pennine Way goes over it but we found our own little space and relaxed for a while. Numerous people came and went before we finally said goodbye to the top and began to follow the famous footpath back to Hardraw. The rest and the fact that we were now descending meant I was able to keep up, in fact I was the one at the front as we made good progress. At one point no more than 2 yards to the side of the path was a grouse with two young ones. I managed to get a snap of the parent before it flew off but the chicks just vanished. The camouflage they have is quite remarkable as they just blended into the grass.

The route down from the top was well defined and everybody went their own pace with no danger of getting lost. It was a clear day too so everyone could be seen from a distance and with that in mind I took a breather and let everyone pass before I overtook everyone as I made for the car and a well earned beer.

We neared the outskirts of Hardraw and picked up a farm track that would lead us all the way back. Straight in front of us we had Wether Fell that we had done earlier in the year (see main pic), and shortly after this we could hear the running water that must go over Hardraw Force. We walked the last few yards with the sun beating down and another two tops were done. We had to wait five minutes for Beaky to come with the car keys and the rest finished at short intervals before we grabbed some money and walked to the pub. The plan was to visit the falls but there was some folk festival on and with seats being limited we didn’t want to lose them. Instead we grabbed a table outside and sat there soaking up the county air as walkers came and went. Having now completed Great Shunner Fell I know there is nothing to fear in climbing it. Sure it had its moments but then they all do, and they are all worth it in the end!

Sir Edmund


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