For some reason it had been four months since I’d been hill walking. This was by far the longest gap between walks since I’d started regular trips off in 1995. Was there a malaise? In reality there must have been. Just to emphasise this point Paul and I were the only ones who would make this trip. That being said when we set off for the dales it was clear to see that the rest would be missing out big time. The weather was gorgeous and there was some degree of snow around to add a little extra spice. So as we rolled into Horton in Ribblesdale our first thought on this cold morning was a fresh cuppa from the Pen Y Ghent café. Not only did this do the trick, but the owner kindly allowed us to park the car there all day (saving of at least £3). Our side of the bargain was to return for a snack later in the day. This was no problem as it was part of our plan.
Brilliant blue skies and pure clarity.
Pen Y Ghent through the reeds
So, with the two of us well and truly wrapped up against the cold we set off under clear blue skies and headed for Pen Y Ghent. We had climbed this hill many a time and for a change chose to take in a different route. This time instead of climbing straight up the southern flank we chose to traverse around the west side and take in Hull Pot. This great collapsed cave was pretty peaceful today, however back in the café there wads a picture of it totally flooded. Oh, how I could have clambered in for a play. With relatively short daylight hours we didn’t really have time to stop and explore, so onwards we meandered all the time walking parallel to Pen Y Ghent until we reached an escarpment up the flank of Plover Hill. I could have walked all day along such terrain. All the time the scenery was slowly changing, the ground was rock hard and the sun was glorious. Why o why had we ignored the hills for so long this winter?
Due to the low angle of the winter’s sun we soon found ourselves walking in the shade of Plover Hill. Wow!!! It was freezing. To make matters worse the steep ground required a fair amount of hands and feet work. Maybe I had now realised why we had not hiked much during the winter. “C’mon Firthy, yer soft git shut up moaning and get going”. With a fifteen minute scramble behind us the gradient slowed right down and we immersed out on to a large snow drift that had been formed by old snow that hadn’t really seen the sun. This was much better, but for a while a pair of crampons would have helped no end. Although Plover Hill is well know in Yorkshire I’d not been up it before. This was despite half a dozen previous trips up its well know neighbour, Pen Y Ghent. On its own I don’t suppose there is a great deal to it, however the traverse of a mile and a half between the two on such a day is right out of the top drawer. You could see for miles and as long as we were hunkered up against the wind it was a real treasure. The nearer we became to Pen Y Ghent the more populated the hillside became. Everyone else appeared to have fallen into the same trap that we’d done previously; they simply clambered up the south side of Pen Y Ghent, traversed across towards Whernside or returned to Horton.
Ahh the pub.
Pen Y Ghent from Horton
On reaching the summit it was time for the remainder of our snap. The beauty of this particular summit is the first class protection provided by the maintained summit wall. It was quite a giggle sitting there watching and listening to all manner of walkers as they puffed and panted their way up the final sloped to the trig point. One clear observation about this particular hill is that due to its proximity to Horton all manner of walkers have a go and climb it. This is no bad thing as it introduces plenty of folk to the hill walking hobby. What it does do as well, is attract ill prepared day trippers who quite often are not dressed correctly. On a day like today, there were no particular issues with the weather. It was simply very cold. If someone wasn’t happy they could simply turn around and go back to Horton. If however it had been claggy, windy, wet or foggy it would have been another kettle of fish. The group at the summit did include folk out in jeans and trainers, however I’m pretty sure they would have managed ok today.
The walk had been pretty short and so rather than simply descend straight to Horton we chose to take an old bridleway back to Helwith Bridge. Part of the reason was that with any luck the pub would still be open and we’d be able to squeeze in a quick pint. The track down was ideal, in fact with a mountain bike you’d certainly be able to descend that way. As a result of the easy gradient we found ourselves in the pub a mere forty minutes later. The pub was brilliant. Y’know the sort where the nationwide pub chains have failed to get hold of it and thankfully left it as a locals pub with no stained glass or plastic plants. Better still they were serving my favourite pint “Old Peculiar”. Unfortunately we couldn’t stay there all afternoon and so prised ourselves away and set off along the river bank on our way back to Horton. The sun was still shining, we had great views of Pen Y Ghent and all was well with the world. In fact en route we glimpsed a kingfisher dashing across water. In no time at all we were back in the café at Horton and true to our words digging in to some nosh in lieu of our free parking.
Why o why had we had four months off? Never mind we would ensure that we take in regular walks from here on in.