Sunday 29 December 2013

Dales at Christmas , chancing it!"

Christmas for me is never a good time of the year. This year the urge to get away was strong. Despite advance booking, fares took their usual Christmas hike. Train companies almost double their normal fares, a rip off. The other problem of course is not knowing in advance what the weather is going to be doing. Early indications where for rain, strong winds and storms! Windy conditions always give me a sense of trepidation.
Due to travel early on the Monday, my first inclination was to roll over and go back to sleep. my mojo was on no go! However, I finally stirred myself and  travelling by train and bus arrived early afternoon in Grassington. The weather was wet and windy. A bite to eat, fought off the temptation to go for B&;B and finally headed out.Finding a spot out of the worst of the weather somewhere on Lea Green I snugged the tent down for the night.

By morning the worst of the wind had died down. However, ominous dark clouds where rapidly building up. A flurry of sleet and then a heavy shower of snow. My intention had been to head up the track marked as the  Bycliffe Road, over Sandy Gate and down toward Scar House Reservoir.
However, as I climbed higher toward Sandy Gate the snow showers where becoming more prolonged and the wind was rising. Despite it being still early I decided it would not be wise to press on. My main concern was the forecast for more bad weather during the week. My plan had been for a fairly high level route. Not a good idea in adverse weather. Thus I back tracked to the remains of an old sheep pen.The ground was saturated and a tad muddy. There was a better pitch close by but exposed to the now, strong winds.

Things had calmed down by morning and it had become mlider. The downside was that there was heavy hill fog.

 If there is one thing that gives me the heeby jeebies it is mud. The ground sheet was plastered in it and I wasted precious time sluicing the muck off. This meant a late start. After a perusal of the map over supper, I had devised a plan B.
Heading back down and in to some lovely clear weather, I headed over toward Kettlewell. Walking up the road toward the village, I met a gent out walking his dog. As is my want. I gave him a smile and said 'good morning'. "It's afternoon now!", was the curt reply. Oh dear, his problem, not mine?
Skirting the village, I made my way up the hill and through Knipe Wood. Coming down the hill toward Hawkswick  was unpleasant. Cattle had churned the ground in to a quagmire. A flooded lane led me over  in the direction of Arncliffe Cote. Reluctant to camp too high I pitched on the hill not far from the farm.
Five a.m., dueling cockerels from the farm below, trying to out crow each other. Owls calling to one another across the valley. The tent, wet from mt the previous day, had frozen overnight and then thawed in the early hours. It was streaming wet, horrible!
The five day weather forecast had predicted bad storms for Friday. Not wanting to have to do too much if the weather turned nasty, it looked as if the Thursday was going to be a long day The first half of my intended route looked alright, it was the second half that concerned me.
Anxious to put an early start in, I was packed up and underway not long after daybreak. The sodden tent adding significant weight to the rucksack. Another cause for concern was the weather. Thick hill fog blanketed the fells and grew denser as I climbed higher. My route was up and over High Lineseed Head and down to Malham Tarn. The higher ground was snow covered; a monochrome world of grey and white. The need for constant navigation slowed things down. The compass kept close to hand. Droplets of ice formed on stray tendrils of my hair. Stopping for a quick break, noticing my damp rucksack was now beginning to freeze. The Gordale beck had morphed itself in to a wide lake, very difficult to get through.
A couple of parties of guided walkers by Malham Tarn. 'Yay'! they looked almost as mud splattered as me!, Fantastic, I was not alone in my scruffiness!!
Stopping for a nibble and drink at the tarn, I studied  the map with a certain degree of apprehension. If memory served me right , Fountains Fell could be difficult in bad conditions. Well, there was nowt to do but to gird up ones loins and go for it. Following the Pennine Way over to Tenant Gill it was then uphill once more.It did not take long to reach the snow level and it was deeper too. Oh my, the climb seemed to  go on for ever, it was wearisome. Being cocooned in thick greyness, the grey clag surrounding everything like damp cotton wool, was unpleasant.
Unfortunately the descent was even worse. Thick patches of drifted snow, bare  rock that was greasy and treacherous. Lower down the ground ran with water, slick, slippery mud and bog had me skittering every which way, poles flailing to keep upright.
What followed next was uncomprehensible, a mental aberration? Certainly it made no sense. Standing by the cattle grid, aware I had only half an hour or so of daylight left;my map is (was!) a double sided affair. Trying to turn the map over to get get the side\I needed, with showers of hail and sleet rattling off my waterproofs, I lost it. Total insanity, I set off down the road and route marched by road to Horton, ( In Ribblesdale) Madness, I was only a few miles from the village.Sticking with the Pennine Way, I would have been fine. Also, I have done that route before.
Booked in to one of the pubs which had a bunk room. Basic and cheap, which was fine by me. A bit to eat and a collapse in to the sleeping bag.

During the night I woke to hear the roar of the rising wind. Friday morning saw me heading in to the cafe for a breakfast of a bacon butty and mug of tea. The folk there warned me the forecast was dire with wind speeds hitting eighty miles an hour, impressive?
A quick study of the map and a low level, short route over to Ribblehead was worked out. Took the road up to High Birkwith and then over God's Bridge, Nethies Lodge and on to Ribblehead. The wind was certainly awesome. At times it was difficult to make headway and I got slammed about a bit. However, it was bad, but not that bad. Being in no rush I was content to just to move slowly along and let it all happen. Going with it, not fighting the elements as it where.
Originally I had looked at booking in to the pub bunkhouse. However, the proprietor had made a generous offer of B&B and evening meal at a greatly reduced rate. It was my special treat.


  1. Total insanity? Nah....that was second sight. Given the choice of a bunkhouse or a tent I'm damned sure which choice I'd have made!

    Oh, and the grumpy old git you met? He'd be a Yorkshireman....although most of them are delightful!

    I'll grab tin hat...


  2. Thank you John. Maybe I frightened the old fellow??

  3. Well done Dawn, character building stuff. Impressed.

  4. Thank you Alan,I think even Mike may give a nod of approval to that one?

  5. I'm a bit worried by the way you seem to be attracting stormy weather... Knipe Scar/ Wood, eh, though?
    You're very determined at the moment! This is a good thing!!

  6. Incidentally, that sheep fold had some rather disturbing remains in it quite a few years ago - just under the stones at the back. I wouldn't have spent the night in there! (Brrrr....)

  7. Lol Mike,please,no bad weather next week!!!

  8. Yes,some remains are still there,bits of bones and the like.

  9. Don't think that was total insanity - sounded more like a sensible decision to me! Geoff and I once had an epic going over the tops to Ribblehead viaduct in a gale, on the Dales Way. At one point, he just sat on the ground and said he was never moving again! I had to kick him...

  10. It was the wet and tiredness that got to me Chrissie.