I had originally planned to spend a few days in Snowdonia – extending a route I undertook in September to cover thirteen summits. However, with rail strikes on the horizon I thought it best to stay closer to home. I opted to spend a few nights in the Yorkshire Dales.
I have previously cycled through the Dales on many different cycle tours, it’s a great venue for cycling. I was not quite sure how well it would turn out for wild-camping and walking, but was about to discover the answer.
I took the train to Skipton, followed by a taxi ride to Kettlewell (taxi cost about £30 –which didn’t seem too bad). The taxi pulled away at about 1930hrs, leaving me in the evening sunshine. It was a very warm night, and the centre of Kettlewell was busy with people eating/drinking outside the two pubs. I opted to take a quick pizza and lemonade at the Racehorses Inn and so started walking at 2000hrs BST.
I headed up the Leyburn road, rapidly gaining height, my pack was heavy with 4 days worth of food, but I was looking forward to a great adventure. The plan for the evening was to find somewhere quiet to camp, and make for Great Whernside in the morning. The forecast was for 40+mph winds on the summits the following day – so I did not fancy a summits camp that evening. It was a warm and humid, and had been fairly dry for the preceding few days, so was also concerned about whether I would find any water. The small stream running in the valley alongside the road (Park Gill Beck) was a mere trickle, and made me more worried about water.
I soon reached the cattle grid at SD 986758 and turned eastwards, noting that the dike here (Tor Dike) offered great shelter from the forecast south-westerly – it was apparently not so effective at protecting from Romans in AD70. After about 500m I found an idea grassy spot essentially a broad part of the path, since all around was tick-infested deer grass. I pitched the tent and then clambered over the dike to drop down towards a waterfall marked on the map. After dropping around 50m in elevation I could hear water, running deep in a crack. I eventually managed to find a spot where water could be found – presumably a reliable source since all else was very dry.
With plenty of water I headed up to the tent for the night – it was now around 2100hrs. This was a perfect tent pitch – sheltered, nearby running water and all around were curlews and lapwings, calling out late into the night. It really was a delight to camp here.
When packing my bag for this trip I had originally decided to take a tarp (a Trailstar clone), a last minute change led me to bring the Hilleberg Akto. I was glad to have brought a tent since there were plenty of midges around in the still, evening air. Furthermore, the tent was more suited to pitching on long grass, whereas a tarp would have been somewhat less ideal - specially given my obsession with Lyme disease.
In the morning , the strong winds had failed to materialise (at least in this location), and it looked like bing a nice day. I packed up the tent and was on the move by 0800hrs BST, heading SE towards the summit of Great Whernside.
The summit of Great Whernside (G/NP-008) sits on eastern border of the Yorkshire Dales; it felt like this marked the proper start of my walk towards the western boundary of the park. The summit is marked by a limestone outcrop, providing some good spots to wedge a backpack and antenna pole. I setup my flowerpot antenna on a 7.2m pole (wedged into the rucksack) and called CQ at 0830BST.
G4MYU was first to respond, followed by M3GCA, G4OBK and G7SXR. I made a total nine contacts from ths summit over a time spent of about half an hour. This was a lovely place to sit and look out to the east and south< the wind was brisk, but not too strong, and the clouds gave dappled sunlight – perfect walking weather.
I was carrying plenty of radio kit on this trip includig the following:
- VX6 and VX8GE Handheld radios (the later with APRS and built-in GPS)
- tr(u)sdx radio - 60m, 40m and 20m SSB and CW HF radio
- Flowerpot antenna for 2m
- 60/40/20m linked dipole
- Two RH770 telescopic antennas (one as a spare -they are fragile)
- 2m/70cm whip
- 2m/70 rubber duck
- 4200mAh LiFePo (to power tr(u)SDR and charge handhelds
- 20Ah USB Powerbank with USBC to 13v DC barrekl jack cable (to charge handlhelds and 'phone)
- 7.2m telescopic fibreglass pole
I headed off the summit just after 0900BST, heading along the ridge at first to explore some of the rock formations. I eventually dropped down to my previous nights camping spot. As with a few other occasions on this walk, it might have been sensible to cache most of my equipment rather than carry out-and-back to the summit; however, I never bothered as I like the reassurance of knowing everything is with me.
I crossed over the road and headed NW towards Buckden pike (G/NP-009) – following a clear trail, before heading more motherly along the fence-line. I was really enjoying the walking here – good conditions underfoot were making the going good.
I stopped to sit on a ladder style for a break – I try to ensure I remove my boots for at least 5 mins every hour, and find this avoids any foot problems. The memorial cross provided some historic interest to the walk, and the summit was reached a short distance further.
The wind had picked-up, it was indeed gusting around 40mph. The sun was still shining, and the despite the wind conditions felt very warm. I chose to use a telescopic antenna on my Yaesu VX6, and stood behind a drystone wall to call CQ at 1105 BST.
G4JNN was first to respond followed By G7SXR, MQ1DHA and G4VUN. I was pleased to hear M7BIA/P calling me from Shining Tor (G/SP-004), giving me a nice summit-to-summit. M7BIA was also experiencing the strong winds and sunshine, making it difficult to wear a sunhat.
I made eight contacts in total, and left the summit at about 1140 BST, heading south and then southwest to descend rapidly to the village of Buckden. The decent includes a couple of interesting clambers down rocky rakes in limestone escarpments – within the gorge of Buckden Beck. The beck also provided a good source of water – I was hesitant at first given the disused lead mine at the head of the gorge, but since Buckden village takes its water from this beck (a big sign informs walkers not to pollute the river) , it was good enough for me.
I reached Buckden at about midday and stopped at the Buck Inn for lunch. I was impressed by the hot chicken sandwich and chips (very filling), washed down with lemonade. I left Buckden at about 1315BST, crossing the River Wharfe and the route of Wainwrights Pennine Journey (well worth a read of his book describing this – not to be confused with the Pennine Way).
The route climbed steeply up the side of Birks Fell (G/NP-031). The summit ridge forms a large activation zone, and I chose to site myself at the trig point at 1510BST
I activated on 2m FM at first, took a around 15 minutes to make the four contacts – G6LKB, G7SXR, 2E0VOE and G7KUJ. I had planned to make this summit my first ever CW activation; however the weather had other ideas. It was clear and sunny when I arrived at the summit, bout I could see rain moving in from the direction of Pen-y-Ghent.
Not wanting to postpone my first CW activation, I quickly setup a 40m dipole, and sat inside my bothy bag. I was using a tr(us)SDX and a a set of portable paddles bought from AliExpress. I had set an alert for this summit, so that RBNhole would raise a spot; I also had sufficient ‘phone signal to allow me to check if the spot appeared.
Sure enough, after calling CQ a spot appeared via RBNhole, now the difficult bit of trying to copy chasers. For some reason, everything was very different to operating CW at home, I think I made mistake of starting to concentrate – a fatal flaw since my brain wouldn’t properly kick into Morse mode.
I managed to copy G4ELZ (my first CW chaser) followed by ON7GO and ON3EA> I was struggling a great deal and couldn’t seem to get the filters set correctly in the radio (500Hz seemed to wide, whereas 200Hz was not receiving well at all).
It had now started raining heavily, and I opted to start packing away , pleased with my first CW activation. On uncovering myself from the bothy bag I was amazed at the change visibility had dropped to around 20m as the rain and mist had moved in. The route off the summit, and down to the village of Litton, was quick and easy.
I paused briefly in the village to check the route ahead and decide where to make for as a camping spot, It was now about 1730BST (I had spent a lot of time on the summit), and raining. I chose to make a steady walk around to Fountains Fell, with the option of stopping to camp if a good spot emerged.
The River Skirfare was bone dry as I crossed the bridge leaving Litton. A broad track rises across the northern flanks of Fountains Fell/Darnbrook fell. This area was heavily grazed, and stank of sheep excrement. I was getting rather thirsty and so took some water from an almost dry stream.
Visibility was down to 20m at times, sometimes better. The track reaches an elevation of over 400m and the mist shrouded me from the valley of Pen-y-Ghent gill below. I was tempted a by a few possible camping spots – the sheep nibbled turf, and nearby water. However, with such heavy grazing (there were lots and lots of sheep), I felt I could find somewhere less smelly.
I reached the unfenced road at SD 856729, with backpack loaded down by around 2.5litres of water. I planned to camp just off the road, on the path up to Fountains Fell (part of the Pennine Way). It turned out that the path was a narrow trod, flanked by waist high deer grass – not making for good camping. I continued walking, expecting that I would end up camping at the summit (but really didn’t want to have to carry this water much further!).
I eventually found a broadening of the path at SD862720, where I was able to camp – for the second night running, using a path as a camping spot. It was now pouring with rain, with little visibility, and I was joyous at finding a suitable spot to pitch the tent. It was now a little after 2000BST – I had spent a lot of time scouting for potential camping spots in the past hour.
Dinner this evening consistent of sweet and sour chicken (dehydrated) after which I rapidly went to sleep.
I was again glad I had packed the luxury of a Hilleberg tent, with plenty of space to sleep, and great protection from the rain. My sleeping bag was a PHD Minimus, which as the name suggests is minimal - it has no zip, keeping the weight down.
I awoke to hear someone walking past the tent – not a great surprise since I was pitched atop the Pennine Way. Peaking out of the tent door I was surprised to find a lovely sunny day.
One of the great delights of pitching a tent in poor visibility it to find your location revealed the following morning. The previous night’s mist had lifted revealing Pen-y-Ghent across the valley fom me. The lush vale of Heselden lay a couple of hundred metres below me, and a short distance above, the summit of Fountains fell (G/NP-017).
Spurred-on by the fine weather I was quick to pack away my gear, I was glad to find that the morning sun had cleared most of the rain water from the tent outer, lightening my load for the day.
By 0800 BST I was off, climbing the last 200 metres of elevation to the summit of Fountains Fell. The map here shows a dense array of pot-holes, shake holes and mine shafts. The summit was indeed full of interesting features having been intensively mined in the early 19th century – there is even a substantial stone coke oven.
I left the Pennine way and followed a faint track alongside a drystone wall to reach the summit – peering down into the occasional pot hole. Being such a lovely morning I setup my flowerpot antenna properly – guying out the 7m pole instead of stuffing it into my backpack.
This is the southernmost 2000ft summit in the Pennines and affords brilliant views over moorlands towards Manchester and Leeds. Hopeful of some good contacts I called CQ at 0840 BST. First to respond was 2E0VRX, followed by G6LKB, M1DHA and MQ7TKL. I made nine good contacts in total, taking time to chat about my plans for the day. At this stage I was not sure how far I would walk –planning to camp on either the eastern or western side of Whernside.
After spending some time at the summit, and eating a spot of breakfast it was time to pack away and commence the walk across to Pen-y-Ghent. The decent of Fountains fell was easy, and I was soon striding along a short stretch of road before heading north west on a broad track ( a Byway-open-to-all-traffic, or BOAT) towards Pen-Y-Ghent.
Stopping at a path junction to air my feet (sticking to my rule of 5mins per hour with boots off) I ate a second breakfast, and watched large gaggles of walkers in the distance, climbing the final few hundred metres to the summit. I sson joined the busy line of walkers, and reached the summit at just before 1100 BST.
What I found at the summit was messiest, most littered mountain top I have visited – and that includes Scafell Pike and Snowden. Countless banana skins, empty water bottles and other small bits of detritus were everywhere. The site was so littered it felt uncomfortable to sit down – not knowing what I would sit on (or in).
I setup turned on the radio (2m FM) at 1100BST, using the VX6 and telescopic antenna. I immediately heard G4IPB on G/LD-017. And so made a quick S2S. Moving to my own frequency I was called by G4Jnn, G7SXR, G4ZRP and G6LKB followed by 2Q0DIJ and finally M5RJC/P on G/WB-007.
I now decided to give CW a try again. After setting up my antenna on the busy summit, the ends of the dipole seemed to become a magnet to other walkers to site themselves. However, the 60m band links, plus a extra few metres of cordage a the ends meant it remained compliant with the EMF risk assessment limits!
I made four contacts on CW, including a summits to summit with G4YBU/P. I must say that my primitive morse skills struggled with the summit-to-summits, so appreciate the patience shown by G4YBU. As with the previous day’s activation of Birks Fell, my Morse skills appeared to vanish atop the summit and I again found myself concentrating too much, rather than allowing my mind to automagically decode. Still, I was pleased to ow have two CW activations achieved. The tr(u)sdx appeared to perform mediocre - or perhaps it was the user that needs to understand the operation of this radio a little better?
It was around 1215BST when I packed away and began making a move off the summit. The majority of other walkers were heading northwards, following the Pennine Way (and the anti-clockwise route of the 3-peaks). I went against the flow, and retraced my path southwards, to join the Brakenbottom Scar route to Horton-in-Ribblesdale. The path here is mostly paved, with occasional lengths of duck-board, making for quick progress. The weather was remaining fine – dappled sunshine with a stiff breeze.
Horton was bustling with visitors and several charity-organised 3-peaks challenges (for the sum of around £300 or other people’s sponsorship monies, you too can be provided with a marquees handing out water bottles, a t-shirt and blister plasters).
I rested on bench in Horton, eating lunch. Rather than buy a proper lunch, I chose to eat from my pack (the quicker its eaten, the lighter the load I have to carry). At 1315BST I started of again, crossing the railway line and starting the long march to Ingleborough.
The route here crosses a nature reserve, with extensive limestone pavement and lots of nesting lapwings. The route climbs slowly, with Ingleborough lying on the horizon and never seeming to draw closer.
I was starting to worry about water – the map showed several good streams on the eastern flanks of Simon Fell, but all were either dry or had a rather gruesome look, so I passed them by day-dreaming of lemonade. I continued onwards, eventually finding a wonderful stream at SD752746, where I drank my fill and replenished the water bottle.
A convenient boulder gave opportunity to air my feet again, while looking back over the route towards Pen-y-Ghent – already looking distant. Replenished with water and Kendal mint cake I headed on to the summit.
Ingleborough (G/NP-005) has a fairly large summit plateaux, with a large cairn and shelter. The view was amazing with the Ribblehead viaduct looking like a model trainset. I turned-on the radio as I was walking across the plateau, and made a contact with MW0NLG on GW/NW-016 using just the whip antenna on my handheld.
I setup the flowerpot antenna on the 7m pole, properly guyed-out again and sat down for a rest while calling CQ on 2m. 2Q0DIJ was first to respond followed by G7SXR, G6XBF and G6AEK. I good pile-up followed, yielding 15 contacts. Iw as pleased to work G1OAE across in West Cumbria, I was very weak with him, but he was a clear 55 signal with me.
I spent some time exploring the summit, and admiring the views in all directions. This was followed by a session examining maps in order to decide onward plans. The eastern side of Whernside did not look too good for camping, so it seemed likely to be a case of making for the summit today, so I could camp on the western flank. I opted to make a decision when I reached the hill. Fortunately, from my current vantage point, the route to Whernside looked much easier/shorter than the path I had covered from Pen-Y-Ghent.
I left the summit at about 1630 BST. The route drops steeply fom the summit at first, and I was going against the flow of traffic still. I soon arrived in Chapel-le-Dale – recognising the road from having passed through on my cycle numerous times.
Passing the campsite at Gatekirk I noted a couple of vending machines, with chilled bottles of lemonade, what a find! Unfortunately the machine was contactless card only – and would accept neither of my three cards, or the contactless payment on my ‘phone. It was tormenting to be separated from bottles of lemonade by a pane of glass and some temperamental firmware.
The route road out of Chapel le-Dale was a pleasant walk, with views borth to the Ribblehead viaduct. Every few minutes I would meet, walking in the opposite direction, a tired and limping 3-peaks challenge walker. Several of these asked for directions in weak voices. Given that the finish is back in Horton, these walkers had yet to tackle Ingleborough and the long walk over Sulber Nick: I would have offered some of my Jelly Babies, but I had none to spare.
Just as the map suggested, the eastern side of Whernside did not look good for camping, and I wanted to get off the three peaks route for some peace and quiet. So I rested for a while at the trail head before starting the climb to the summit of Whernside. A fresh (and final), family sized packet of Jelly babies was opened, and consumed in full over the next 5 minutes. Once the sugar rush kicked-in I made good progress up the steep slope, soon gaining the ridge for a final push to the summit.
It was almost 1900 BST when I reached the summit, 11 hours after setting off from the camping spot that was now quite a distant memory.
I called CQ and was surprised and pleased to hear GM4WHA in SW Scotland, followed by M1DHA, G4JNN and G7SXR. I made 10 contacts, a finished the activation at about 1920 BST. I was operating with a flowerpot antenna, the pole was stuffed into the rucksack for support in order to save a bit of time.
With the excitement of the activation over, it was now time to find water and a camping spot. Heading west off the summit I left Yorkshire and entered Cumbria. I found the slopes gentle and covered in cotton grass – with many grassy shelves suitable for camping. Making my way to some reeds covering a flush on the hillside, I managed to find some water – good clear water too! I camped a little further down the hill, siting my tent on an old quad track where the grass had been flattened nicely. It was about 2000BST when I pitched the tent.
Dinner was sweet and sour chicken (again) followed by apple and custard. After stand-up bath in a small pool of water near the tent, I retired to the sleeping bag – leaving the tent open to the evening breeze.
I slept in a little on Sunday, and didn’t get started until 0900BST. The day looked fine again, and the wind of the previous two days had slackened considerably.
Ahead of my lay some smaller hills than the previous days – one of which was only a 2-pointer. I anticipated an easy day, but this was to underestimate some of walking required.
The hanging valley between Whernside and Great Coum has a spot height of 468m near to the crossing point I took – making this one of the easier crossings of the walk. A broad Landrover track heads westwards, and skirts around the top of the Gastack Beck valley at SD707824 I turned off the track to head cross rough ground, climbing to the saddle between Great Coum and Green Hill. It was a short climb of only 100m in height, followed by a pleasant ridge walk to Great Coum summit (G/NP-011) (not to be confused with the trig point on nearby Crag Hill).
The weather had closed in a little, and I nestled in the junction of two drystone walls, sitting on a stone step to activate. Again using the flowerpot antenna with pole stuffed into rucksack I called CQ on 2m FM at 1024 BST on 145.525MHz. I surprisingly long pile-up followed, with G4UJNN starting proceedings, follows by G4MYU, G6AEK and G6LKB, at 1057 BST I QSY’s to 145.550 as I was starting to hear chatter from some (non-chasers) about RSGB news. My final call was with 2Q0DIJ.
Dropping N off the summit over pathless grassland, I picked up a faint track alongside a stone wall, heading NW, within about 2km this joined a clear Landrover track, that snaked down to the Bardondale road. Head I could see the steep flanks of Calf Top – a direct route to the summit did not look like a good idea.
I left the road on a footpath that soon turned away from my required direction, so I made NW up the hill. I have rarely experienced so many false summits as when trying to gain the ridge on this hill. The hill just kept on going, up and up. At long last I reached a wall on the ridge, and walked the kilometre or so to the summit trig point.
As with several other hills, I could have left my pack short of the summit, since I needed to retrace my steps. Indeed, in this instance I could have left it at the road-head. I never feel comfortable doing this; not because of theft risk, but more because I like to be sure I have everything with me.
The view from Calf top (G/NP-022) , westwards to the Lakedistrict contrasted well with Friday morning’s view eastwards to Nidderdale. I had now reached the westernmost parts of the Yorkshire dales. The silhouette of Great Gable could clearly be seen on the horizon.
I made six contacts on a telescopic antenna, before retracing my steps to the road. It was around 1500 BST when I reached the road. The next hill (Aye Gill Pike) was a 2 pointer, so surely should be easy?
The route joined the Dales High Way for a short stretch – the path was overgrown and in general poor condition, given this is a waymarked route.
Once I crested the ridge of Aye Gill Pike I was already a little tired – I had been carrying water for much of the day due to the poor availability, and the extra weight was feeling burdensome. The route to the summits was 3 km of slog up a steady gradient, through tall grass – made worse by the fact I would need to retrace my steps.
On reaching the summit I called CQ on 2m at 1715BST using the handheld and telescopic antenna – receiving no replies. I had no ‘phone signal and could not raise a spot. I had anticipated that this hill might be difficult and had previously alerted for CW in order to allow me to get spotted by RBNhole. However, I was somewhat later than expected at the summit, and now wanted to avoid setting up HF if required.
I swapped to the flowerpot antenna, which yielded three contacts – G6LKB, G6AEK and GW4ZPL. A little more persistence gave my M1DHA as my fourth contact (to whom I was extremely grateful) followed by weak G7SXR.
With five contacts achieved I packed up and headed back down. The successful activation re-energeised me, and I jogged back dowen the grassy slope. As I headed westwards to retrace my steps, I noted the summit of Baugh Fell4km NE as the crow flies. Had this been the Lake District I’m pretty sure that both summits would have a direct route down to the valley, but such routes do seem to be less common in the Dales.
I joined the Garsdale road (A684) near to the vantage point above Tom Croft Cave – several camper vans were parked up, I stopped briefly (to air my feet again) before moving on in search of water. The first few streams I came to were dry. And it was not until I reached Great Dovecoat Gill that I obtained water – this presumably being a reliable source of water worth noting.
I followed the gill in order to gain some height and distance from habitations before pitching the tent at SD700921. It was great to be pitched next to flowing water again – it was a very warm evening with fine weather forecast for the following day, so I was pleased to have a good source of drinking water… Dinner this evening was vegetable hotpot.
Monday was a bright sunny day; from within the tent the heat of the morning sun was excessive even at 0700 BST. I got all my gear packed away relatively quickly – everything is so much quicker and easier in fine weather. After drinking my fill of water, and topping up the water bottle, I headed a short distance across rough grassland to meet the fenceline, and begin the climb up Baugh Fell.
I was very curious to see the op of this fell since I have passed by on foot many times. A favourite walk of mine is to head home from Garsdale Station via the Rawthey River, Howgills and Lake District fells; the Rawthey runs along the north side of Baugh Fell, and I have often looked up to see three sentinel cairns on the Baugh Fell summit. The Rawthey valley is itself an interesting and remote walk, following a segment of Wainwrights Pennine Journey – it is a bleak place in poor conditions.
The fenceline follows the small stream of Ringing Keld Gutter, which was quite convenient in the warm weather. The going was fairly easy, with a faint track taking me onto the plateau, where a drystone wall continued along the ridgeline.
On reaching the trig point I setup my flowerpot antenna, with the pole guyed out. Logging on to SOTLAS in order to raise a spot I realised I was not at the true summit, and quite possibly outside the activation zone. I quickly dismantled the antenna, and jogged across to the true summit to start again.
The true summit is entirely unremarkable, with only a wall junction to identify the location. The antenna was soon back up and on powering the radio I heard G8CPZ on WOTA summit LDW-123 – on his way up to SOTA summit St Sunday Crag, this was a welcome first contact for the day. I then called CQ for the final time of the trip, with G6LKB first to respond, followed by G4OBK, G0TDM and G6AEK/P, a further three contacts were made before closing down (G1FVA, G7SXR and M7ASK). It was around 1015 BST by the time I was on the move.
Checking train times heading north from Garsdale while walking – one was due in 40 mins, followed by another an hour later. I moved purposefully, jogging at times. The path passes over a few peat hags, and I alternated between sides of the fence to choose the best line.
As the summit plateau ended I could see Garsdale Head, and the old coal road across to Dent Station. A faint track continues down tp SD770919 where a borad gravel track (not shown on OS maps) carried me to the road at Riggs. I re-joined the A684 Sedbergh-Garsdale road at about 1100BST,. And spotted a north bound train pulling out of the station a couple of kilometres away. Not a problem – I quite fancied an hour resting at Garsdale station, and the opportunity to change into some clean(er) clothes from my pack.
Many of my longer distance SOTA walks seem to end up with eleven summits gained, recent walks in the Lake District and Snowdonia netted me over 80 points for a three night walk covering eleven summits. The points count in the Dales had been somewhat more modest, but I felt the walk was tougher since longer distances were required between summits.
I would also note that access points onto the feels appear to be fewer in the Dales compared to Lakeleland. A good example is the walk from Aye Gill Pike to Baugh Fell – a distance of a 3km as the crow flies, which would surely have a direct path if in Lakeland. However, there is no access to either fell along almost the entire length of Garsdale – being blocked by farmland with no public rights of way. Simillarly, Fountains Fell/Darnbrook Fell could benefit froma direct route of ascent from Littondale – the open access land does not quite make it far enough down to the valley to allow this.
I did find the walking in the dales extremely enjoyable, the long stretches of walking over open fells were an absolute pleasure, there was always lots of interest to see both natural and man-made. Camping spots were easier to find than I had expected, although water was a problem at times.
I’ve generally seen the Dales as a cycling venue more than a walking venue, but am already looking forward to my next trip when I will try to cross off a few more G/NP hills.