On Day 1 of my 3 day Jaunt (found in part 4, oddly enough) I went for a wander up Pen Y Ghent to retrace my steps from my Three Peaks attempt 2 years ago.
Day 2 and my plan was set. A train left Horton-in-Ribblesdale just before 10am, going in the Carlisle direction. I went one stop, to Ribblehead, home of the famous iconic landmark and feat of Victorian engineering, Ribblehead Viaduct, and also Whernside, the highest mountain in Yorkshire. I had decided to be brave and climb Whernside again. This is the place where my original Three Peak attempt came to a tearful end after aggravating an old injury. I’d climbed it once before, endured snow and a very minor dogbite, so third time lucky?
As I set off along the track, my plan formulated (so I thought), the sun was fair beating down on my already sore arms. Now you’ll probably wonder what kind of an idiot sets off on a sunny day without a hat and sun protection. Well that’s not usually me. Coming from a chilly Northern climate I don’t do hot sun very well and am normally kitted out for it, but this heatwave was sudden and unprepared for. Now when I say heatwave, I actually mean somewhere around the low 20’s celsius, but when a high of 14 degrees is predicted…well I was just unprepared.
Having climbed/heaved myself up Whernside a total of twice, I knew the ascent from Ribblehead was a long horseshoe round Blea Moor and up, and the descent all shiny limestone and loose stone-y, which meant I took my time and crapped it a bit as I have a fear of slipping and falling. And I wanted to see something of the valley bottom. So the decision had been made in my head to do the route tother way round.
Up this path I walked, to the viaduct. The other path up (or down for me) veers off to the right of this picture. That’s Whernside in the back.
This impressive structure, also known as Batty Moss Viaduct, was designed by John Sydney Crossley, and was built between 1870 and 1874. It was opened in 1875 to carry trains across some of the most stunning scenery in England on the Settle-Carlisle line, which actually starts off in Leeds. The viaduct is 400m long, 32m high and has 24 arches. During its construction, up to 1000 navvies (railway labourers) worked on it, many of whom lost their lives due to accidents, Smallpox and fighting.
Before this, the nearest I’d been to this immense structure was from the path going up. Now I was by myself, following my own plans, I went underneath.
And this is what it looks like underneath. The arch is seems to be strengthened by red brick.
Now of course, it being me, no trip is ever totally without incident. I knew roughly where I was heading, but no clear idea of how exactly to get there. The track looked like it ended at a farm. I knew there was a bridleway further to my right which would get me higher up towards Whernside, but I’m beggared if I could figure out which path from here on the map led up to it. I saw a guy pass by and hop over a stile further up, but by the time I’d figured all this out, he was long gone. I found the stile, went over it and there the path died, leaving me glancing nervously round an indistinct field with no clear direction.
I strode on, hopefully, and saw a small road. Sadly this road led to another farm and didn’t appear to go any further. Plan B, I would just follow this small road back to the main B6255, walk along that till I reached a lane where my journey 2 years ago came to an end. A bit of a long way round, and it probably cost me about three-quarters of an hour extra in faffing about, but I got there in the end. I should just have continued on the path under the viaduct to end up coming this way.
I found the lane back down easily enough. There’s a barn in one of the farm buildings which has toilets and serves ice-creams, and stuff, so I thought I’d just have a little break. Wrong again, only open weekends. Sod’s Law. But at least I knew where I was.
Good old Whernside. Much as I respected it, I vowed I would conquer it today with no more Jill-tastrophes.
I remembered stopping for dinner somewhere round here once, near a rocky outcrop.
The picnic place was a good bit further up than I remembered, but I stopped and ate a few bits there and carried on up the path shown above. Now the hard bit starts at the gate. The bit you can’t actually see is not far off vertical (not quite, but seems like it) and reminded me why I didn’t want to come down this way.
I struggled up to the ridge where the drystone wall stretches along like Whernside’s spine. Thought I’d make a few more images in B/W, as stone looks quite good in it and the light, being the middle of the day was high and flat. This picture was taken looking back along the tail. I’d just joined the ridge at a 90 degree angle here from the steep side.
No, that’s not the summit!
Still not quite there.
Within about 3 and a half hours of arriving at Ribblehead station, I made the top of Whernside. That was with my diversion, stopping to take pics and eat dinner, and the slow ascent of the steep bit. Above is the summit when I looked back on it. Ingleborough lurks greyly in the background. It appeared on so many of my photos that it’s almost daring me to have another go at it. Should I? That gully climb was damn scary and proper freaked me out on the one time I tried.
It was a decent distance back down, continuing along the path, but a steady and easy descent. Glad I did this route round. The light was not the best for taking photos or making the most of the landscape, which is another reason I did a lot in black and white.
The path continues round a loop, past a waterfall and runs parallel with Force Gill, the stream above till the railway line turns up as well, and the Blea Moor signal box. Almost journey’s end, a mile or so to the viaduct.
I had a train to catch, they are infrequent, but there is a pub right on the main road.
I found out I had plenty of time to spare, headed straight for said pub, downed a pint of water, and also managed to put away two beers and a much needed coffee before catching the train back to Horton. This is the life, or it would be if my arms and hands didn’t feel so sore and sunburnt.
Day 3 I thought I had all sussed out, but I left Ribblehead a smidge uncertain. Should I attempt Ingleborough all by myself, or was that tempting fate?
I’ll let you know in part 6.