Finally a day without incessant rain. Indeed, the precipitation before the clearance had turned white with a change of wind direction. That said, the forecast was for further snow to arrive by late afternoon.
I had half considered attempting a winter round of the Yorkshire 3 Peaks. It is, perhaps, as well that this did not happen because I left home too late and the promised snow arrived a lot earlier than forecast. The winter round could wait.
I was delayed further because the A59 at Blubberhouses was closed. The wet weather had rendered the hillside unstable where the road rises to the moor, so I had to divert around by Otley and Ilkley which lengthened the journey by 30 minutes or so.
I decided still to go up Ingleborough and then walk over to Simon Fell, an outlier of Ingleborough that (for all the times I had been up Ingleborough) I had never been up. So it was that I parked up just past the Old Hill Inn at Chapel-le-Dale around 10am. Jet was with me today to have fun in the snow.
Despite it being freezing, the ground was not as hard as I had expected as we made our way across the fields towards Ingleborough on the traditional 3 Peaks’ route. Here there was little more than a covering of snow. It was cold enough for the sheep to be huddling together. They watched Jet warily as we passed by. There is short rise to an area of limestone pavement where the track weaves through a break and then past a pot. The track then lifts gently to a gap in a wall where a gate leads to a flagstone path that takes you all the way to the base of the final steep rise up to the edge of the escarpment.
With some thawing and refreezing, the flagstones were largely covered in ice, so we had to walk on the grass and peat next to the path most of the way to the base. Looking up at the path as it winds its way up, I saw our first people of the day. A pair going up and one coming down! We eventually passed the one coming down. He was carrying some fancy camera equipment. He said that he had been up on the Ingleborough summit since around 6.30am so he could get some sunrise shots. He looked, and admitted he felt, cold. I hope the pics were worth it!
Jet and I were soon up the steep slope and we caught up with the pair that we had seen going up. The forecast had been for a stiff breeze but any wind only hit us on reaching the escarpment. Even then I did not need to put on any extra layer. Up above a steel grey cover of cloud looked as though it might break up. Ahead the snow looked deeper.
Indeed, for a while, it was a little slippy and care was required. I just had my normal summer boots on, so they did not provide much purchase. We then weaved our way up through the rocks leading to the summit plateau. Here there are three cairns to aid with navigation, probably when one would do.
The summit shelter can be seen a few hundred metres away on the far side of the plateau. The snow thinned out again on the windswept terrain. We were soon at the top. It was, I think, the thirteenth time I had climbed this iconic hill.
We took shelter in one quadrant of the summit shelter. Having given some food to Jet, he became more interested in a couple who were using one of the other quadrants in the hope they would feed him. He was out of luck!
The view east was decidedly wintry.
But Jet looked as though he was at home in the conditions.
After our brief stay it was time to reverse our route. This time I followed the western edge of the escarpment. Here there are expansive views to upper Ribblesdale and the famous viaduct with Blea Moor behind.
Near the three cairns I had this view towards Pen-y-ghent with its hint of distant blue sky.
I slithered back down through the rocks and to the path at the point where I had emerged on the escarpment. I was now passing a few more people coming up both via my route and the route from Horton in Ribblesdale. Here is the view back up at that point. The weather was now looking a lot more promising.
Whereas Ingleborough would soon be swarming with people. Simon Fell was empty. And the going was a lot harder. Whereas Ingleborough is rocky, Simon Fell is a boggy moor. So the snow had collected here and was anything from ankle to knee deep. Still the view from the top marked by a small cairn with nearby fence debris back to Ingleborough was fine.
There was also sun now on Whernside.
I then ploughed my way back down to the edge of the escarpment in the direction of Whernside. It was hard work! The snow was not consolidated and even Jet was sinking up to his chest. Here the path was just about discernable under the snow, the wind had thinned the snow with the rocky going now underfoot. There was now a different profile to Ingleborough.
I continued north for half a kilometre or so, at one point hopping over a wall with a stile, before descending initially steep slopes to the north west. With loose rock and scree under the snow, this was a little awkward but passed in 10 minutes or so as the moorland levelled out. We then picked up the outward route near Great Douk Cave.
Back at the car I had some lunch. Looking at my map, and bearing in mind that it was still relatively early, my eyes fell upon Calf Top about 12 kilometres and two valleys to the north west. This was a 609m Marilyn that I had not done. So I drove around to it via Kirby Lonsdale to a point where a public footpath leaves the Kirby Lonsdale to Dent road at 683 865.
By now the blue sky had disappeared with the oncoming front. This climb would be a seven to eight kilometre round trip with 270m of ascent. The shallow slopes before the steep rise to the ridge were a swamp requiring nimble footwork to avoid the worst, the public footpath being left after walking about 300m. We were then able to follow an ATV trace that went straight, and steeply, up to a gate in the fence at around the 410m contour.
From there I traversed just south of west to ease the gradient (and provide a more direct route) until a stone wall was reached. I followed this north west to another wall. At the junction of the two walls was a stile. So we went over this and joined where a track comes up from the north. Today it was hidden by the snow. We then followed the wall south west. Again the snow’s depth was variable and hard work. At the feature marked as Barkin Top on the map there was this view of the summit of Calf Top looking a long kilometre away under threatening clouds.
The wind from the west was chilly and stiff. But in time we made it. An hour and a quarter up. It was 3.30pm. There was a view to the Howgills as seen in the next photo but not much else to the west with the approaching wall of grey. A few flakes flew past in the wind.
Jet looked interested in something to the east.
It was not a place to stay today. We beat a hasty retreat, my footsteps from the ascent providing a reliable guide as the flakes became thicker and we were back at the car in 50 minutes. By now the road was starting to be covered but a second objective had been achieved.
It would be a couple more weeks before I was able to be out again in the Yorkshire Dales as the Atlantic storms that have plagued us this winter resumed their assault. However, I did manage a trip to Scotland and this will feature in the next post.