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


Kenburg said...

I enjoyed that, interesting and informative. Looks like a cracking day out.

Mike Knipe said...

I like Ingleborough... but which is best? Ingleborough or Penyghent? There's only one way to find out......

Tony Bennett said...

Ken: yes it was indeed a cracking day out. Most times I go up there it's blowing horizontal rain!

Mike: Ingleborough eh? So what's it to be then, shakeholes at dawn?!

The Odyssee said...

Enjoyed reading it Tony. A good day out.

Martin Rye said...

Grand as they say up in Mike's part of the world. Terrific down here. Thanks for that.