We had a family break away for three days in half-term, and I wanted to show off a couple of favourites to Marianne. Firstly, we booked to stay at the Tan Hill Inn, a favourite of Jimmy, Liam and myself for after-activation drinks, and first enjoyed by Jimmy and myself on the Pennine Way in 2006. It is a great place with a unique atmosphere and welcome to it. It also has great beer (the Tan Hill Inn Ewe Juice was dangerously drinkable for a 5% beer), decent food (the rare rump steak and chips was great) and good company (the staff were very friendly, as were the kittens and rescue dogs that wandered about the place).
On the Thursday, we did a couple of gentle walks, one from Hawes Wensleydale Creamery to the Green Dragon Inn at Hawdraw, and later a short stroll on the Pennine Way and C2C near Keld to view the waterfalls.
Friday was the day we intended to introduce Marianne to another ‘gem’. Last year, Jimmy, Liam and I had enjoyed a long circuit from Ribblehead, taking in Whernside G/NP-004. The forecast promised a stunning day, and the early morning sun and high wispy cloud was cause for optimism.
By the time we set off down the track towards the Ribblehead Viaduct, low cloud and mist was in, the sun hidden, and the temperature a paltry 3 degrees. Nonetheless, we all enjoyed the walk by the Settle-Carlisle railway, past the signal box and over the footbridge by the tunnel entrance.
We then turned and climbed towards the end of the ridge to the summit. Upon reaching the wall, Marianne and Liam decided that they had had enough, and were going to turn back, and retrace the 3 miles walked so far. My assurance that they were only 15/20 minutes from attaining the summit had zero effect!
They turned back, and I pressed on alone. Jimmy, by now, was well ahead. Suddenly, the ridge had a great deal of snow knocking around. A couple of tricky manouvres were required to climb high snowdrifts to maintain the general direction of the route, now buried under 6 to 10 feet of snow. I didn’t like the look of the snow-covered path to the left of the wall, fearing that half of it may be corniced over the steep edge to the left. I crossed the wall and completed my ascent along the top of the gentler sloping fellside. Jimmy, it turned out, had simply walked right by the wall all the way.
As I neared the summit, I was listening in to Jimmy conducting his activation with his 2m FM handheld and rubber duck. His set-up didn’t inhibit him, as he worked through a pile-up of 12 stations. He announced a 5 minute soup QRX as I arrived on summit, and we warmed up with Heinz leek & potato.
That important job done, I took over activating duties, but failed to match Jimmy’s efforts, attracting just six stations into the log. And that included two pairs of co-located stations, so in some purists’ eyes it would be just four ‘distinct’ stations!
An icy wind was blasting the snow-topped Whernside, which was surprisingly busy with several lone or pairs of walkers passing over at regular intervals. Jimmy and I continued the circular walk by descending the south end of Whernside, working our way carefully down several steep and rough stepped sections, and then through farms and meadows to the viaduct.
As we arrived at the car, there were Marianne and Liam waving at us through the window of the Station Inn. We joined them after changing out of our muddy boots, and got stuck into pork & black pudding pies, carrot & ginger cake and Black Sheep Ale (water for Jimmy as usual). Then it was a long long drive home through Friday evening congestion on the M6. That was tiring, and we were glad to be home.
Many thanks to all stations that worked and/or spotted us. For me, it brought up a little landmark in the form of being my 750th SOTA activation.