Finally, day three of my little three- day minibreak by myself to the Yorkshire Dales. Originally, I had intended to catch the first train back to Leeds after breakfast, but break my journey by getting off in Bingley. The small West Yorkshire town of Bingley is situated on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal and is famous for its three-rise and five-rise locks, the system of getting canal boats uphill on a stretch of canal. I’ve never seen these locks and thought it might be a good opportunity to visit and take photos before hopping back on a Leeds train.
Well that didn’t happen. All I could think about was having to lug all my heavy gear around all day, up the canal a stretch, and back to the station.
Instead, Ingleborough, Yorkshire’s second highest peak, was taunting me to climb up.
The first time I climbed Ingleborough was two years ago during an early spring three peaks practice with Whernside (see earlier parts). There was a tiresome steady slog, followed by a slippery clamber up a gully to the loose scree-covered summit plateau. The gully, known as The Devil’s Staircase, I found quite frightening, and really had no wish to revisit.
The second time I should have ascended by the same route would have been a couple of months after the first attempt, on the actual day of the Three Peaks Challenge. This was a peak too far, and an aggravated injury stopped me after completing both Pen Y Ghent and Whernside.
As Ingleborough has been present in lots of my pictures during these three days, it has been tempting me to challenge myself, face my nemesis and go back. The final leg of the official Three Peaks route descends Ingleborough from another side and takes a four and a half mile path straight into Horton-in-Ribblesdale. This is the only part of the official route I haven’t seen.
So I was up and out much sooner than originally intended. 7.30am saw me heading up to the station where this path begins.
A lot of the landscape round here is made up of these outcrops of limestone, which can get awfully shiny and slippy when they are well-worn, eroded and wet. They are known as Limestone Pavements, and appear pale and featureless from a distance, or from above on aerial views.
In the above picture, you can notice the shiny chunks which make up the footpath.
By now, with two days of sun and windburn on my face, arms, hands and head, I was beginning to get quite sore. I kept my white cotton hooded cardi on to protect me a bit. The path is very croggeldy* in places, and although not challenging at this stage, care needs to be taken round the bouldery bits and slippy limestone. Ingleborough still looks far off.
Part of the path needs to be picked round. It would be so easy to slip and break your ankle here.
Almost within touching distance.
The best thing about this walk was I didn’t know quite what was up ahead. Having never been this way before, it was exciting to keep moving forward and see new views. At this point in the above picture, the climb started. It doesn’t look so steep here, but appearances are deceptive.
I rounded a corner and suddenly the whole valley to the right of me opened up. A huge wind caught at me and threatened to tug me sideways. It was a very OMG moment and literally took my breath away! I realised this had got quite dangerous if I didn’t have my wits about me, so I crouched into these rocks to take some pictures, before scrambling slowly and carefully round, keeping as much to the side as I could.
Up on the stony plateau, the second highest mountain point in Yorkshire, I felt a million miles from anything and anyone. The wind was fierce, I clutched my hood with one hand and my camera with the other, and plodded slowly on to the trig, looking at several cairns to try to remember where my path back was, as there are several, on a windscoured and fairly featureless terrain. It reminded me of Pathfinder’s images of the Martian surface, very remote and eroded.
Here’s what I mean. Above is my original black and white image, and also a tinted comparison. Not Mars, honestly, but Northern England.
And here is the trig point which I smacked delightedly before hurrying to the windshelter to have a glug of water and to try ring my Other Half. Reception in these here parts is pretty rubbish so I sent a text instead, telling him I had made the summit at 10.15 (I had stopped briefly a couple of times en route). The peak at the top of this picture is Whernside, yesterday’s challenge.
The trip back down was now bothering me. So far I hadn’t seen a soul. Just me, alone on a mountain with a very blowy corner to negotiate. I was getting just a smidge edgy. One careless step and I could have been over. Somehow, with me, daft ideas always seem good at the time. Slowly and very gingerly, still clutching camera with one hand and steadying myself on rocks with the other, I crept down and round to a slightly safer footing.
Here is the view from part-way down the dicey descent. To the left is Whernside, and in the middle of the valley is Ribblehead viaduct. I picked up the path, and had gone several steps along it before realising I’d branched off to the left, which would have originally taken me along the ridge (pictured right). I came back over this ridge with colleagues on my only other time up Ingleborough. It had been windy then, and further on I had slipped on some loose stones while coming down off the ridge, and had rolled arse-over-backpack not quite knowing when I was going to stop. This path would have taken me right away from my destination. I quickly found the other path.
Here’s a view of Pen Y Ghent from the limestone pavements. In part 4 I mentioned that I thought PYG kind of resembled a type of long-snouted monkey from certain angles. Oddly enough so does Ingleborough. Maybe it’s due to wind direction and erosion?
I wanted to be back in time to grab my gear and catch the 1.24 train back to Leeds, so I needed to fly back down to Horton as quick as maybe. Quickest 4.5 miles I ever flew, over dodgy terrain too! Maybe it was the springs in my heels after managing three peaks in three days, despite somewhat stiff joints.
I made it back through the limestone maze, the Ingleborough Nature Reserve and back to Horton with an hour to spare. Phew. That called for a drink. Seen here is my reward to myself for facing my Nemesis mountain today, a pint of Theakston’s Old Peculier (obviously already partly enjoyed). And for anyone not familiar with good old British beers and ales, that is the correct spelling.
And so ends a fab three days, despite dusty boots and sore swollen skin. I left home a springy little lamb and returned thither the creaky-jointed old Grandma which I, in fact, am. But I had an ace, awesome time. The staff at The Crown were kind and friendly, and I would do it all again.
*croggeldy used in this context to describe a cobbly, crooked or rough track. I also used it to suggest how stiff my old bones were feeling after racking up three days of mileage.