Despite the forecasts of a very wet and miserable Sunday that had been given all week, the 10.25pm forecast on BBC1 just before Match of the Day gave it dry all day for Cumbria and Northern England.
We got up at 6am as usual, put the soup on and were away before 7am. By 7.30am we were happily breakfasting on bacon, egg, sausages, fried bread, mushrooms, beans, hash browns and fresh orange juice at Lymm Truck Stop. Pulling away from there, some menacing black clouds loomed to the north.
There were few people to chat to on the radio, either simplex or via repeater that morning. Even the WACRAL lot were conspicuous by their absence. I switched between BBC Radios 2, 3, 4 and 5, no network outlasting my boredom by more than 5 minutes at a time. However, once we exited the M6 at J33, we tuned to 936kHz Yorkshire Dales Fresh AM. This stayed with as for the rest of the day, and was an entertaining local station with some quality music from years gone by and local features. I was amazed that Liam was able to singalong to records that were out before I was school age myself.
Jimmy accurately navigated us to Ingleton and then out on the narrow lane towards Dent. This lane cuts between Great Coum G/NP-011 and Whernside G/NP-004, our two targets for the day. I did really want to do Whernside from the Station Inn, Ribblehead, as I’ve heard that is a super walk, but Great Coum and Whernside make such an obvious “pair” from the Ingleton to Dent road.
We parked in the entrance to the bridleway, and put on our gaiters. I had heard that parts of the bridleway were hugely boggy and eroded. As it turned out, the first mile or so appeared to be newly surfaced in most places and a doddle to walk (or cycle) on. Around the corner there was a grassy bit, but the ground was firm and our boots remained dry. Around the corner again, the surface was stony and very uneven. Difficult for cyclists here I would have thought. We weren’t quite sure which way to strike for the summit, but I noticed the clear saddle ahead of the summit and suspected I might see a route heading that way.
In fact there wasn’t a trodden path to follow, but a small wooden gate halfway up a dry stone wall was spotted, so we used that to enter the access land. We then plodded uphill in the general direction of the lowest point of the ridge. Once on the ridge, the going was a lot easier. We paused in the shelter of some large rocks for chocolate Hob Nob bars, and then followed the cairn and wall gently uphill to the summit.
The summit itself could have been anywhere towards the middle of a large flat field, but we then spotted a nominal cairn with a wooden stake in it. That’ll do, we thought! Another cairn in the adjacent field appeared to be very slightly lowere, so we didn’t bother to investigate further.
There was 100% cloud cover, but the weather forecast was being true to its word of being dry. It was also being true to its word of the strong westerly winds, which were driving across the summit. Fortunately, a junction of two walls was close by, so we bedded down in the corner for total shelter and reasoanble comfort. The SOTA Beam was set up, but left to the decision of the prevailing wind as to its heading.
Quite a lot of stations were worked, which was pleasing as I had suspected this hill not to have the best of take-offs for VHF. After about 30 minutes, we decided to get cracking, and wait until the car for the soup break. We decided to follow the wall steeply downhill, directly back to the bridleway. I had seen this route described on the internet somewhere, and assumed it to be OK. Other walks had also descended that way a few minutes earlier. However, when we got to the bottom, we were blocked by a wall topped with barbed wire fence, so we had to divert to the left (north) until finding a point where the wall and fence were low enough to step over.
It was rather cold, so back at the car we got in and turned on the heater while we enjoyed the rather excellent Baxters Highlanders Broth soup, which Liam had chosen. We drove the short distance to a large pull-in/passing place close to the path up to Whernside G/NP-004, but it had started to rain. We remained in the warmth of the car for a while, enjoying the music on 936 Fresh AM and monitoring the weather. The rain stopped and the skies appeared to brighten up. I got out of the car to don rucksack and poles for the second climb of the day and was nearly knocked over by the force of the wind. It was much worse now, without the shelter that the Great Coum ridge had afforded for most of the morning. “How about we just go for a drink in a local pub and then go home early?” I asked the lads. They unamimously agreed to my proposed change of plan, and we drove back down towards Ingleton. Within five minutes, it was lashing it down, and there was a sense of satisfaction at a wise and well-timed decision.
We called into the Royal Oak at Hornby, and I had, for the second weekend in a row, a pint of the excellent Thwaites Lancaster Bomber - which was also what G3CWI was supping after his “training” exercise to Arnside Knott last week. Another break at Forton Services had us indulging in triple chocolate cookies and mugs of Super Hot Chocolate with whipped cream and Cadbury’s flake!
Another enjoyable day, another unique and best of all, Whernside missed, so we will just have to allocate it a day all to itself and ascend it from Ribblehead. My glass remains, as ever, half-full…