Pennine Way adventures in the Yorkshire Dales: Part 316th April 2007
The weekend forecast got me returning to Yorkshire for the continuation of my Pennine Way quest, this time for a day trip on Saturday. The fact that I had no driving lesson to do allowed me to head off. It was an over and back trip with no overnight stays involved. My target was to head from Malham Tarn to Horton-in-Ribblesdale, crossing Fountains Fell and Pen-y-Ghent along the way. To get there, I caught the first train from Macclesfield to Manchester at 07:10 and onward connections via Leeds got me to Settle in time for the 11:30 minibus to Malham.
That got me to Malham Tarn around 10:45 and the prospect was much, much better than it was on Easter Monday. The spring sunshine, however hazy, lit up the scene more fully than I had ever seen it before; my 2002 visit was a cloud-bound affair. I retraced my steps around the tarn and made my way to Tennant Gill, from where the ascent of Fountains Fell began. That ascent is a long-drawn-out affair, but with the prevailing conditions, it was a delight, though the day was beginning to heat up. With my now well-worn OS OL2 map duly changed over to the correct side (the breeze and the bone dry conditions underfoot meant that it was placed on the ground to do this), I trooped over the fell, only to lose a lot of the height that I had gained.
The bulk of Pen-y-Ghent was temptingly close, though some miles were to be trodden before I was to reach it; the Pennine Way never goes at anything directly… After a spot of road walking to Dale Head, the ascent began again. Strangely, it didn’t seem to take a lot out of me until I encountered that testing step near the top of Pen-y-ghent. Maybe, it was my taking it nice and easy, so that explains it. Nevertheless, I always find it strange that the Pennine Way goes up and over Pen-y-ghent when it could easily go around it. That would avoid the piece of clambering over limestone slabs that nearly caused me to bottle it. Nevertheless, I did conquer myself and go to the top of Pen-y-ghent for the second time. On the event, I did feel a little queasy after the clambering, and I don’t know whether it was vertigo or something else that caused it.
My first trip up Pen-y-ghent followed the Pennine Way from Horton, but an inspection of the map convinced me, rightly in my view, not to come down the southern slopes of the hill; that was where I ascended on my second visit. Instead, I walked over Plover Hill and came off that way. The way down was still steep, yet I managed it, and I then followed a bridleway from Foxup Moor until I rejoined the Pennine Way to return to Horton. That was in April 2004 when the wall on the top of Pen-y-ghent was a standard affair with two stiles over it. Then, I got myself told off for descending from one of those in the wrong fashion as I was heading for the hill’s trig point; I had been facing away from the wall rather towards it. Later that year, a spot of refurbishment was carried out, and this added wind shelters and more manageable stiles than the traditional wooden ones that did the job previously. Apparently, it was done to celebrate 50 years of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
Returning to the second Pen-y-ghent encounter, the seats in the wind shelters allowed me to rest a while in an attempt to settle myself down before the descent to Horton. That descent is known territory to me from my previous outing, and I took it easy and enjoyed the way down as much as possible; without walking poles this is a knee-jarring stretch, so my full attention was required. It is also a stretch where you should not be rushing to catch a train, so I discarded any thoughts of using the 17:44 departure, which proved to be just as well; I would have been more than 15 minutes late. The evening was glorious, and I rediscovered views that I first encountered three years previously. Awaiting the 19:29 train allowed me to fully settle down after the day’s exertions. Though that train was late, I still got home as I had planned, and the day out had been as good as I had hoped.
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