Saturday, 9 February 2013

Great Whernside from Kettlewell 6.2.13


A circular walk, 9.4 miles.

A high level Yorkshire Dales walk that incorporates one of the lesser trod high points of the national park.

At the 6th highest point in the Yorkshire Dales, Great Whernside is a vast sprawling fell that, along with its neighbour - Buckden Pike, dominates upper Wharfedale. Great Whernside itself is a popular walk from Kettlewell, however the fell, and indeed Wharfedale doesn't receive the volumes of visitors that near-by Ribblesdale gets, probably down to the fact that Ribblesdale is accessible by rail as well as road. But none the less, if hiking in the area you simply must visit this quieter side of the Dales.

My journey consisted of getting a train from Leeds to Skipton, then taking the number 72 bus service from outside Skipton railway station, to Kettlewell. The bus journey from Skipton takes around 50 minutes, but is a pleasant run taking in some fine scenery en-route. And during the working week is a regular service unlike in other parts of the Dales, with buses running every two hours.

The weather was set to be the best day of the week so far, with good visibility but a very cold northerly wind blowing.
 Here arriving into the pretty village of Kettlewell...
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To get to the foot of Great Whernside I walked through the village along Middle Lane towards Dowber Gill Bridge...
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 From the Dowber Gill Bridge, a footpath allows you along the edge of the Dowber Gill Beck which is sign posted for Hag Dike in Providence Pot...
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The pathway then cuts left from the beck and heads out onto the snowy fell side...
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The pathway is easy to follow here, and is pretty steep too. In all it's a 500 metre climb from Kettlewell to the summit of Great Whernside...
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Great Whernside top comes into view in her winter clothing...
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The dry stone walls have squeeze stiles to pass through...
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Here approaching Hag Dyke...
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Hag Dyke is a Scout Hostel, and at 1525 feet it is the highest in England. There is a hay barn attached to the property that has been converted into chapel, that in turn is also the highest chapel in England. The building also stands as a beacon to passing hiker's knowing your over half way to the summit of the fell.
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The path passes through the grounds of the hostel, cutting just in front of the building through a gate in the dry stone wall. When on the other side of the building, this is where the path becomes much more rugged and steep...
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Walking poles and my new on test Kahtoola Microspikes being used at this point... DSCF1859_zpsc5437b73.jpg DSCF1861_zps3137b8c8.jpg
The top of this particularly steep and shattered rocky ridge is marked by a cairn...
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Once your over the ridge the summit is your next goal. A series of marker posts keep you in the right direction if in low cloud...
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The wind at this point was fierce, around 60 mph making the going tough, and it felt very cold too. The snow was around 7 inches deep here...
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And eventually onto the steep and icy summit approach...
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Once again, glad I had bought the Microspikes, this was sheet ice here...
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The summit comes into view...
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This was a rather nice moment, as the sun came out at this point too...
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Great Whernside summit is marked by a Trig Point and a huge cairn at 704 metres...
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The view was pretty spectacular in the snow...
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Me at Great Whernside summit...
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The wind was furious and was whipping the snow up into drifts on the summit plateau, and it felt very harsh. So after some light refreshment, it was time to move on across the Arctic-like tundra (from which the wind was coming directly from) in a northerly direction across an area of the fell called Long Crags...  DSCF1892_zps928f26c1.jpg
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The far north western part of the fell, where the path turns steeply downhill, is simply known as Whernside. Again marker posts are here to guide you, but beware - I remember on my last visit to the fell, this is a boggy old place and this part in particular is quite nasty. But on this day all the bogs were well and truly frozen up, if anything the entire north western side of the fell was a sheet of ice with some deep patches of snow covering it...
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Neighbouring Buckden Pike looking good snow covered too...
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Fountains Fell, Pen-y-ghent and Darnbrook Fell...
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Once over this stile it's a very steep descent towards a small road next to an area on the map called Tor Dike...
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Once you've crossed over the road, the still clearly defined path leads you out onto a much flatter part of the walk. The green sign in the right of the below picture welcomes you to Richmondshire...
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The path splits at Cam Head, giving you the option to head back to Kettlewell earlier. I opted for the right hand path towards the village of Starbotton...
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Coming out of the snow and following this substantial track back down into Wharfedale here...
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Onto the valley floor here passing through the tiny village. The path in the below picture allows you to cross the River Wharfe via a footbridge...
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The path on the other side of the bridge splits. You can either walk along the riverside, or to avoid the mud as I did, continue along the substantial path that cuts up the hillside...
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The path is again actually pretty steep, and you quickly find yourself high up above Wharfedale once again. Here looking back towards Starbotton village from the lower slopes of Moor End Fell...
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The River Wharfe snaking its way through Wharfedale below, with Great Whernside looking quite impressive high above...
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Back above the snowline again now, heading towards Moor End Farm here...
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Buckden Pike from Moor End Fell...
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After finding your way through Moor End Farm yard, Kettlewell comes back into view...
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The path becomes a rough track and brings you out onto the the B6160 - the main road that runs through Kettlewell. Here heading across the bridge back into Kettlewell (with Great Whernside above) before catching the bus back to Skipton...
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Summing up, a great little walk that takes in one of the finest fells in the Yorkshire Dales. In a working week you could easily do this walk without meeting another soul outside of Kettlewell. And the walk, when more light is available, could combine neighbouring Buckden Pike too and perhaps a bit more of an explore of Moor End Fell.  Kettlewell is worth a visit in itself, with plenty of pubs to choose from, tea shops, and easy access to a large section of the Dales, whilst never being to far from civilisation.
 Thanks for reading.
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