Monday, 31 January 2011


Reminiscent of a lion at rest, with the village of Horton-in-Ribblesdale nestling at its feet, Pen-y-Ghent is my favourite of Yorkshire's Three Peaks.

Parking in the village, I proposed a counter-clockwise traverse for a change, approaching from Brackenbottom.  There were the usual critical comments from Nick about uPVC window frames in the many renovated buildings, which I've become used to on our walks.  

Pen-y-Ghent from just above Hunt Pot

It was the perfect walking day with clear blue skies, crisp air and firm ground underfoot

Pen-y-Ghent from the Brackenbottom path

The first section of the walk climbs up onto the limestone bench which is riddled with many caves systems, the most extensive being Penyghent Pot, a grade 5 cave with a flat out crawl in water for around 700 or 800 feet made more challenging by the requirement to drag ladders and lifeline (or SRT ropes) for 350 ft of vertical descent in ten pitches to the lower streamway.  I went down the cave once or twice in the 80s but never quite bought into why it was considered to be one of the great caving trips in the Dales.  It's a dark and gloomy place and the section of streamway to the terminal sump is along narrow canyon having a floor broken up by frequent cross-joints that require your full concentration to avoid being tripped up.  In recent years, some significant extension have been made in the lower reaches of the system and from what I have read, these are a serious undertaking and require and enthusiasm for extreme discomfort which I lost (or grew out of) some years ago.

But enough of la recherche du temps perdu, today it was good to be above ground in bright light and expansive moorland with views of Pendle Hill, Ingleborough and the blot on the lanscape which is Horton Quarry.

All of the Three Peaks are made up like layer cake of three distinct bands of rock, with the Great Scar carboniferous limestone overlain by a series known as the Yoredales and topped by gritstone.  It is the impervious nature of the upper two layers which have given rise the extensive cave systems in this part of Yorkshire by channelling rainwater and snow melt into cracks and fissures in the Great Scar limestone and opening them out into networks of horizontal tunnels punctuated by vertical drops and chambers.

As you continue up the hill, the observant walker can spot the boundaries between the three layers, that between the upper two being more obvious than between the Carboniferous limestone and the Yoredales.  Even if you miss the actual horizons in the rock you should notice a change in vegetation.

Above the stile, are two steep sections of rock steps, which give some easy scrambling fun followed by a gentle stroll to the summit.

Looking down the final ascent

For some reason, I forgot to take a summit photo (too busy eating I think) but after crossing the wall onto the west side of the fell, the ground took on a white hue with frost covering the low lying vegetation.

Wind blown frost crystals

The descent from the summit looks across to Ingleborough, Whernside and further rightwards towards the fells of the northern Pennines, whilst looking down onto the limestone bench the eye is drawn to a large gash in the ground, Hull Pot.

The dark gash of Hull Pot from the western flank of PyG

But before reaching Hull Pot, the track back to Horton passes close to another open shaft, Hunt Pot.

Hunt Pot

Water from a beck collected high on the flanks of Pen-y-Ghent plunges 90 ft down Hunt Pot onto a ledge, bouncing off the far wall on the way down.  Below the ledge is a further 60 ft drop to the floor of the shaft, where the water sinks through boulders to be seen again in Penygent Pot before rising at Brants Gill Head above Horton.  It's possible to exit Hunt Pot via a different route, coming out of Shrapnel Pot, a small hole in the north-west edge of the Hunt Pot shakehole.  To do this requires a series of pitches to be laddered first, usually by a second party, who will exit up Hunt Pot.  Shrapnel is very tight and loose at the top and a through trip exchange is a serious undertaking to be undertaken by experienced cavers (so don't be tempted to crawl into the entrance of Shrapnel for a quick look as that way is likely to lead to the cave rescue missing a pint).

The edge of Hunt Pot

After pausing to photograph the ice formations decorating the top of the shaft, we carried on to Hull Pot.  This is an even more impressive feature, especially in wet weather when the water from Hull Pot Beck plunges 60' into this tear in the rock.  I seem to recall reading somewhere that it can fill to the top but I think that may be apocryphal.

Hull Pot

From here it's back to the gate and a brisk stomp down the track into Horton.

The route from Hull Pot, rays from a weak afternoon sun piercing the darkening clouds.

Distance 6.75 miles, Ascent 1700ft

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Edale and Ringing Roger

I'm a little late with this post - it happened the weekend before Christmas.

Every few months, my old university caving group meet up, often taking over a Youth Hostel or climbing hut for the weekend. The group has grown over the years through the addition of children and friends and the children of friends and their friends and so on, to the extent that filling a hostel is no problem at all. This particular weekend they all came to Hathersage, which is a) just about my back garden and b) where I have just moved my office to (if I'm going to have to work for another 9 years while my kids get through university, I might as well have a nice view from my desk).

After my walk over Derwent Edge two weekends before, in fluffy deep snow and under bright blue skies, I'd suggested a route from Edale along the southern edge of Kinder Scout, thinking that it would offer good views without any real navigational problems.

We drove out of Hathersage under leaden grey skies and as we ploughed through the deep snow into Edale car park, I started to think we might be about to make a mistake. But the Hull group is like a supertanker and once set in motion it is difficult to change course so we headed off through the village under dark and threatening skies towards Golden Clough.

Golden Clough - though it looks more silvery here (photo CHK)

The track up the clough is narrow and steep and offers a satisfyingly remote and wild feel -  if you like that sort of thing. The snow was a few inches deep with variously ice and boggy ground underneath.

A weak sun squeezes through clouds over upper Edale (photo CHK)

When topped out onto the edge, we left the shelter of the clough and were hit by a biting, Arctic wind. My thoughts were to keep going and get to somewhere more sheltered but there were calls for a lunch stop.

Lunch Stop at the top of Golden Clough

As well as the wind, there was a lot of ice underfoot and without crampons, people were falling or being blown over like nine pins. The original plan had been to follow the edge as far as Hope Cross and then drop down to Edale.  We consulted the map for an escape route.

Too many cooks? We should go along here.  No, let's go over there. (Photo CHK)


We could see another party of walkers below us, coming up from the valley, and made the decision to continue along the edge a little further and then pick up a track which drops down below Ringing Roger and goes via The Nab back to Edale.  (We tried ringing Roger for advice but he didn't pick up).

Below Ringing Roger (Photo CHK)

Approaching The Nab

The clouds thinned out a little as we approached Grindsbrook Booth

Best described as a bracing walk but seemingly enjoyed by everyone.  

Distance: 4 miles, up: 1100'

Friday, 7 January 2011

Borrowdale - The Other One

It was day two of the new year and another crack of noon start when Nick and I headed out in Nick's car to go to Little Langdale and walk up Pike O'Blisco.  As we drove out of Kendal by a back road, I happened to ask Nick what the hills were out of his window.  It went something like:

Me: "Is that Shap over there?"
Nick: "No, it's Borrowdale.  Shap's further north"
Me:  "Don't be ridiculous.  It's in the wrong direction for Borrowdale"
Nick: "Ah, yes but this is another one.  Shall we go there instead?"

So having stopped the car to look at the map and realised that neither of us had a map for this "other" Borrowdale, we drove back to Nick's house, got the sheet we needed and started all over again.  It was still quicker than driving over to than Langdale.

Borrowdale "The Other One" or Borrowdale "TOO" (geddit?) lies about 8 miles north of Kendal and runs between the A6 and the M6, which crosses it by a viaduct.  If you go under this you are straight on the edge of the Howgill Fells.  There is a convenient layby on the A6 just before the bridge which crosses Borrow Beck and signals the start of this small dale.  The gate onto the footpath was padlocked and a sign posted by Cumbria Council said that the path was closed because of 'dangerous' erosion of the river bank.  But we are made of strong stuff and undeterred, we vaulted (well struggled manfully) over the gate and negotiated the erroded bank.  If you've walked down Glen Feshie, south of the bothy with the impossible name, you'd know what erosion was and this was nothing like it so we say pah! to Cumbria Council.

The actual plan (and remember this was already plan B) was to cross the hill, north over to Bretherdale and then walk back down Borrowdale but as we reached the top of the climb we spotted a path running east along the ridge line and this looked so inviting that we instigated Plan C - along the ridge and back up the valley bottom.  And so that's what we did.  And it was grand.

Climbing up out of Borrowdale, shortly after the dangerous bit

Despite it being a grey cold day, there were some splendid views across the M6 and over to the northern Pennines.

Looking towards Dufton Fell and High Cup Nick

The M6 south of Tebay, the Howgills and (probably) Wild Boar Fell in the far distance

The view along the 'ridge' towards the Howgills

The track, despite not being marked on the OS 1:10k was clear enough and the going underfoot was mostly short, springy grass.  Really, quite pleasant.  We came across some wild ponies who approached us expectantly, looking to scam some food but we had to disappoint them. 

Wild Ponies

We somehow walked past the bridleway which crosses the ridge and which would have taken us down into Borrowdale, so we cut down the fellside to the bottom of the valley and came out near one of the bridges which crosses Borrow Beck.  We made a brief stop for lunch of pork pie and cake and then followed the valley path back to the car.

Eastern end of Borrowdale looking west.

7 miles and 1500' (more or less)

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Hutton Roof - Farleton Fell

For new year I visited my friends Nick and Anne in Kendal.  New Year's day was cold and grey and after some 'what about' around the high lakeland fells (from the comfort of the kitchen table) we opted for something completely different and headed for the M6.  I've driven past Farleton Fell many times.  It's the limestone outcrop you see from the M6 just south of the S Lakes junction with the A65.  I think it's the eastern end of a band of limestone which runs west through the Furness region of southern Lakeland.  There are no caves there (as far as I'm aware) although there are caves in Furness and there is a chapter on Farleton crags in a climbing guide for the area. 

We parked at Hutton Roof and headed west up onto Hutton Roof Crags. 

Sign in Hutton Roof

The area is short grass and low limestone crags and boulders.  On a warm summer's day it must be lovely!

Hutton Roof Crags

Hutton Roof Crags

Dropping down to the road, we crossed over to Newbiggin Crags and passed between limestone pavements up to the summit of Farleton Fell (265m).  The limestone here dips to the south east, away from the summit.

Dipping limestone pavement on Farleton Fell

On the summit of Farleton Fell. 

Farleton Crags

We had a brief lunch stop below the summit, sheltering from a biting wind and then walked along the base of the crags running along the western edge before scrambling up a couple of benches to reach some magnificent limestone pavements.  These were decorated with sizable limestone boulders, presumably deposited by a glacier in the last ice age.

Limestone boulders on Farleton Fell

Dropping down to the quarry at the southern end of the hill, we turned west and headed back to Hutton Roof, pausing only to view a couple of Ravens riding the thermals. (Thermals when it's that cold?  Well I guess it's all relative). 

There look to be a lot of interesting nooks and crannies to explore on both Hutton Roof Crags and Farleton Fell and some nice looking opportunities for mountain biking and climbing / bouldering on a warmer day.  In clearer conditions there should be some good views of the Lakes and Pennines.  As it was, we only caught a few glimpses of Ingleborough and Morecambe Bay.
6 miles and a 1000' or thereabouts.