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Pen-y-ghent and (mainly) friends

Pen-y-ghent and (mainly) friends


Postby Alteknacker » Tue Jun 16, 2020 5:15 pm

Hewitts included on this walk: Birks Fell, Darnbrook Fell, Fountains Fell, Pen-y-ghent, Plover Hill

Date walked: 09/06/2020

Time taken: 12.75

Distance: 33.3 km

Ascent: 1685m

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The long spell of dry sunny weather had come to an end some time ago, and I’d been scanning the oracles of the weather sibyls in the hope of at least a bit of a break, such that a hill walk wouldn’t just be a clag-and-drizzle fest.

Image

Eventually this forecast appeared for June 9th...
Image

... and so, notwithstanding the fact that, at least where I live, a forecast of no rain practically guarantees rain, and vice versa, I could wait no longer and decided to take the half-opportunity.
As with my walk a fortnight ago, I elected to aim for the Dales once more, in the continuing expectation that there would be fewer people there than in the Lake District. And below is almost the route I chose to go for, one among many planned some weeks ago when full lockdown was in operation (I hadn't originally planned to take in Sugar Loaf - this is the actual route I took).

our_route.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts


Pen-y-ghent might seem an odd starting point, given that it’s one of the most popular hills in the Dales, but I hadn’t been up it for many decades, and I figured that if I maintained my usual early start, there would be few folk about, even on this top ten favourite.

I seemed to struggle to get to sleep the night before, but after what seemed like only a few moments I hear the irritating "Morning Glory" jingle of the alarm. 03.00am! In the car at 03.30, I arrive in Brackenbottom just about bang on 06.00 after a wonderfully encouraging drive from the M6: cloudless clear skies; no-one stirring :) .

Not having been to Brackenbottom before, I’d no idea whether there will be anywhere to park; and as it turns out, there is only one parking space that wouldn’t potentially interfere with someone’s property/frontage. I think that next time, if there is a next time, I'll be going straight to Horton to park.

Quick breakfast, and off up the well-signposted path - veeery slowly and steadily.
Image. 20200609-061741. Looking back west just after starting, the rising sun casting long shadows.

Image. 20200609-062502. A few minutes later, this time looking a little north of west, so that, in the far background, the other two of the 3 Peaks are visible: Ingleborough about a third of the way in from the left, and Whernside a little over a third of the way in from the right. The call of a cuckoo compounds my elation at being out in the hills again on such a fine morning :D .

Image 20200609-063217-2. Pen-y-ghent silhouetted against the rising sun...

Image 20200609-065113.

Image 20200609-070055-2. Just before the ascent steepens appreciably, I stop to take in the views - this is looking more or less south east towards the last couple of hills I've targetted for the day: Darnbrook Fell, about a quarter of the way in from the left, and Fountains Fell centre pic.

Then I put my head down, and start to slog up the track. Almost immediately I start heating up, and take off my beanie. After around 10 minutes and about half way up the last pull, I suddenly realise I'm no longer holding my beanie - must have dropped it while taking the last photo :( . Damn, damn, damn! For a moment I contemplate leaving it - after all, I've got multiple bits of clothing and gear scattered all over the Highlands :roll: ; but this is a favourite, so reluctantly I head back down the track. And sure enough, there it is. 100m or so of extra ascent :( .

Now there's a guy coming up the track rapidly behind me. Just as he passes at the regulation 2m distance, I see two more appear at the bottom of the ascent. They also catch me up quite quickly, but the older of the 2 slows down to chat and we slowly approach Pen-y-ghent summit. They're walking most of the 3 Peaks today, and walk, cycle and pothole regularly in the area; so we reminisce about some of our various potholing experiences for the further 10 minutes it takes to get to the summit.

Image 20200609-073322-R. ...where they very kindly take a someoneelsie for posterity ... :roll: Plover Hill in the background, left. It must be almost exactly 50 years to the day that I was last up here, on a 3 Peaks walk with a very young (12) and super-fit Dr Frank.

A quick second breakfast, then on to Plover Hill.
Image 20200609-073537. Looking north east, Plover Hill is the flat-topped lump centre pic.

It's an easy walk, with only the odd damp spot. And it would be quite easy to navigate in clag because all one has to do is follow the wall - this is where OS 1:25000s come into their own, showing as they do walls and fences (though not always wholly reliably!!).

Image 20200609-082220. View from Plover Hill "summit", looking back south west towards Pen-y-ghent. Now there's a cairn to inpire great mountain deeds :roll: .

From here it's a gentle and comfortable descent eastwards along the shoulder of the hill, still following the wall, before a sharp almost 90 degree turn right, down towards the Hesleden valley.
Image 20200609-084353. To the south east Darnbrook Fell (left) and Fountains Fell (centre) are starting to pick up haze, giving the impression that they're much further away than they in fact are.

Image 20200609-084803-2. Looking back west on the descent from Plover Hill. It's pretty dry under foot, but the cotton grass everywhere indicates it might quite a different story after some more characteristic rain.

Walking between Pen-y-ghent and Plover Hill I've been hearing Golden Plover calling frequently, and now they've been joined by - joy of joys - curlews :D :D :D . And not just one of them! At least six of them are circling overhead, calling in great excitement...
Image 20200609-090749-zoom.
I can't resist recording them as well....
https://www.mediafire.com/file/62trxga08h8242o/Curlews_2__20200609.m4a/file
Curlews_2__20200609
I've noticed that over quite some decades they seem to have been becoming rarer and rarer in uplands areas, so it's wonderful to be hearing their bubbling call again, both on this and my previous walk.

I continue down the hillside towards the Hesledon valley.
Image 20200609-090901. The minor road I have to cross is just visible in the centre of the pic, slightly under half the way up the pic.

I'm aiming for the bridge over the River Skirfare, thinking that a bridge will be necessary to get across what I expect to be a fairly decent sized watercourse.
Image 20200609-094922. But in the event not much water to be seen...

A goodly amount of water in many watercourses disappears underground into caves in this limestone area, and when there's not much water anyway, it all seems to go that way. I stop at the bridge for a bite to eat and to refold my map, before heading off up the hillside

Now it's a pretty steep climb up the north east side of Littondale to get up on to the flat ridge I'm aiming for before bearing left towards Birks Fell. No path, and the initial grass and bracken gives way to quite deap heather after 100metres or thereabouts of ascent. I pause for a few minutes to draw breath before tackling the heather. And realise that I no longer have my map with me...

Image
After a minute or so of cursing, wailing and gnashing of teeth, I drop my sac and head off back to fetch it.

Then it's a long slow and quite tiring flog through the heather - I really could do without the big leg lifts...
Image

Now my original plan has been to go straight to Birks Fell; but right from the start of the ascent, Sugar Loaf is very prominent - indeed it looks to be higher than Birks Fell - and most attractive. So I change direction and head for it.

Image 20200609-103841. Pic taken on one of the many rest pauses, looking slightly north of north west, taking in 4 of the day's 5 Hewitts.

Image 200609-103841-labelled.

Image 20200609-113348. Looking towards Sugar Loaf at roughly the point I change direction.

I top out on Sugar Loaf shortly before midday, and find that it's not quite the highest point - this, a few hundred metres further north, at 609m, is. So I pay it a short visit.
Image 20200609-115323.

Then, on to Birks Fell.
Image 20200609-120725. View east from the 609m point to Birks Fell. A bit on the flat side..... (= quite boggy in places, notwithstanding the recent dry spell).

Navigation from here to Birks Fell would be pretty tricky in clag, were it not for the dry stone wall that can be followed to within a few hundred metres of the cairn.

Image Looking back west about half-way towards Birks Fell: Sugar Loaf just to the right of centre; Plover Hill a shade left of centre; and Pen-y-ghent a bit further left again of centre.

Image 20200609-125429. Birks Fell cairn: a somewhat underwhelming cairn (I hesitate to use the word "summit", for obvious reasons!!!).

Image 20200609-130138. Just along from the cairn is this partially derelict building, which I understand had something to do with the lead mining that took place in the early 19th Century.

From Birks Fell it's a long and generally quite easy descent of Crystal Beck valley to Litton, at least until the final 500m or so. There's a good deal of bracken on the lower hillside, but it's neither too high nor too dense, and the downhill slope contributes notably to progress! I planned this route down from Birks Fell because the valley looks very steep sided, and a waterfall is indicated on the map - so should be worth a visit. Which it is; but sadly, as with many other valleys, the beck is dry.
Image 20200609-131714. View looking down the Crystal Beck valley from Out Moor, in the early stages of the descent.

The last half kilometre or so before I hit the short length of track that leads down into Litton is a bit of a trial, involving contouring through the bracken on the very steep hillside.

Again, I needn't really have headed for the footbridge in Litton: the Skirfare is completely dry.
Image 20200609-140957.

Now the start of the ascent to Darnbrook Fell.
Image 20200609-142025. Looking back down the ascent track to the very attractive village of Litton.

Now it's a long and steady grind up to Darnbrook Fell...

Image 20200609-151210. View back north to Littondale taken somewhere along the final pull.

Image 20200609-154807. At last the trig point...

Image 20200609-155234. ...which is perched on a large platform, presumably because the peat ground has a tendency to sink. This pic is taken looking east, with, in the far background, Pen-y-ghent on the right, and Fountains Fell - the next destination - on the left.

So far the threatened risk of rain has not materialised: perhaps, as in Staffordshire, the weather forecast for the Dales is a good predictor of its opposite... :D .

After a bite of lunch, I set off towards Fountains Fell as the crow flies. Which proves to be a bad idea, since it takes me through rough heathery ground, with hidden water-filled holes (= wet feet!). The best thing to have done would have been to follow the fence running WNW past the trig point until it meets a wall on the left hand side, and then follow that. In the event, after flogging along the trackless route I'd initially chosen for a kilometre or so, I bear right to get to the wall, and then follow it to the first cairns on Fountains Fell, where I plan to walk along the Pennine Way for a short while.

Image 20200609-163702. This shot is looking back ENE on the ascent to the Fountains Fell cairns area towards Darnbrook Fell.

Once I hit the Pennine Way, I follow it south east for about half a kilometre before cutting off right past...

Image ...Fountains Tarn, on the way to...

Image 20200609-171913. ...Fountains Fell cairn - which I think takes the prize for the underwhelmingest cairn of the day! In the background is Pen-y-ghent, the next target.

For once I've learnt something from the recent experience, and follow the wall, alongside which there is, as usual, a sort of track.

Coming off the shoulder of Fountains Fell, I can just see in the far distance the Pennine Way as it rises up the shoulder of the ridge south of Pen-y-ghent.
Image 20200609-174703.

Image 20200609-174703-zoom. Clearer to see on this zoomed shot, slightly to the right of centre. The track I'm following is also clear to see to the right of the wall.

Image 20200609-180620. Looking back towards Fountains Fell, shortly before I hit the road, along the broad verge of which I walk for a couple of hundred metres before joining the Pennine Way again at Dale Head.

The track rises gently but steadily to the top of Pen-y-ghent lower south shoulder, where it takes a sharp right turn to ascend the hill.
Image 20200609-184015.

After a few hundred metres, I turn left through a gateway...
Image 20200609-184147. ...and follow a farm track that runs parallel to the footpath I started on first thing in the morning (visible as a light strip on the RHS) and back down to Brackenbottom.

Image 20200609-184156. Farewell!

Once back at the car I find no irate "Private land - do not park here" notes under my windscreen wipers, and so relax for a while consuming a can of suitable liquid in order to replenish some of the minerals and vitamins undoubtedly used up during the day ...

...before heading off on the 2.5 hour drive back home.

Image
Last edited by Alteknacker on Tue Jul 14, 2020 10:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Alteknacker
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Re: Pen-y-ghent and (mainly) friends

Postby arjh » Tue Jun 16, 2020 10:00 pm

Almost identical to how I did these 5, except I started from Rainscar and thus dodged the up/down at either end :lol: But made up for it by adding Horse Head :crazy:

I remember I had to motivate myself for the plod up Darnbrook in the afternoon - that seemed an interminable climb.
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Re: Pen-y-ghent and (mainly) friends

Postby malky_c » Wed Jun 17, 2020 9:21 am

Some good memories of cycling in that area last year and walking the year before :D . Did you actually get to the summit of Fountains Fell? From the map it looks like you made a great effort of going everywhere except the summit :lol: .

Sounds like I’m not alone in losing things without noticing, at least. In the last week while at work, I managed to abandon the key for my hire car (resulting in an unplanned train journey home), my hard hat, and almost my bank card. Shamefully, these were all separate incidents!
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Re: Pen-y-ghent and (mainly) friends

Postby johnkaysleftleg » Wed Jun 17, 2020 10:57 am

Glad I'm not the only one who drops things and has to go back :lol: I did once re-trace my steps for about two miles in the Lakes only to decide somebody must had scavenged my fleece. :evil:
On the subject of Darnbrook Fell I remember looking over the wall as I made my way there from Fountains Fell thinking how glad I was to be on this side as it looked horrible. Thank you for confirmation. :wink:
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Re: Pen-y-ghent and (mainly) friends

Postby martin.h » Wed Jun 17, 2020 6:19 pm

Another good day out in the Dales AK, considering these are my "local" fells I never think of putting together a route like this one :roll:
If you ever want to repeat this route once the virus thingy allows us to get back to "life as we knew it" :lol: set off from Helwith Bridge, once finished you can visit a "cultural, historical and architectural establishment of distinction" very close by, and enjoy the really good beverages they have on offer :D :lol: A good, unspoilt, Dales meeting place :D
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Re: Pen-y-ghent and (mainly) friends

Postby Alteknacker » Sat Jun 20, 2020 3:09 pm

arjh wrote:Almost identical to how I did these 5, except I started from Rainscar and thus dodged the up/down at either end :lol: But made up for it by adding Horse Head :crazy:

I remember I had to motivate myself for the plod up Darnbrook in the afternoon - that seemed an interminable climb.


Well, i learn something new every day: now I know where Rainscar is!!!

I also contemplated Horse Head, but given the fact that practically every top along these uplands is at the same elevation plus or minus a few metres, and I was already going to be way later than promised getting home, I didn't find it too hard to give it a miss... :wink:

malky_c wrote:Some good memories of cycling in that area last year and walking the year before :D . Did you actually get to the summit of Fountains Fell? From the map it looks like you made a great effort of going everywhere except the summit :lol: .

Sounds like I’m not alone in losing things without noticing, at least. In the last week while at work, I managed to abandon the key for my hire car (resulting in an unplanned train journey home), my hard hat, and almost my bank card. Shamefully, these were all separate incidents!


:oops: :oops: :oops: Oh dear, I misread the map! Firstly I was led to the actual top I claimed because the Fountains Fell label is right next to it; and secondly, I misread 668 as 658 (my excuse is that my eyesight is deteriorating - which is true, but a very poor excuse!). How embarassing :oops: :oops: :oops: .
Oh well, maybe I should claim that it's the novel tantric way of bagging a top: you walk all around it, chanting arcane texts, while never actually standing on it!?!

Can't tell you how reassured I am to hear that I'm not the only one incapable of learning from their (repeated) mistakes...

johnkaysleftleg wrote:Glad I'm not the only one who drops things and has to go back :lol: I did once re-trace my steps for about two miles in the Lakes only to decide somebody must had scavenged my fleece. :evil:
On the subject of Darnbrook Fell I remember looking over the wall as I made my way there from Fountains Fell thinking how glad I was to be on this side as it looked horrible. Thank you for confirmation. :wink:


What is so irritating is that I never seem to learn from these events...

Darnbrook Fell: yes, it was a fair old slog getting up there, but not as bad as the way up from Barbondale to Crag Hill undertaken on my first post-lockdown outing...

martin.h wrote:Another good day out in the Dales AK, considering these are my "local" fells I never think of putting together a route like this one :roll:


If you ever want to repeat this route once the virus thingy allows us to get back to "life as we knew it" :lol: set off from Helwith Bridge, once finished you can visit a "cultural, historical and architectural establishment of distinction" very close by, and enjoy the really good beverages they have on offer :D :lol: A good, unspoilt, Dales meeting place :D


Thanks for the tip. I've looked up the establishment of cultural, historical and architectural distinction you draw attention to, and it looks entirely suitable. I don't doubt they will be able to proffer just the tonic required to replenish all the minerals and vitamins inevitably depleted by a day's walking... :D
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