Three Peaks: Day 1 – Pen-y-Ghent in wild weather

8.73 miles 5h 56min ascent 533m

Pen y ghent on a clearer day

Horton-Brackenbottom-Pen y Ghent-Plover Hill-Foxup Moor-Horton Moor

As soon as we arrived in Horton it was obvious we would be walking in waterproofs. We began with drizzle (which my mother claimed would wet you more than any other type of rain), but did have some proper heavy rain though much of the day featured drizzle fine enough to be regarded as “not raining”. I would like to congratulate my jacket and waterproof trousers on a successful day. I cannot say the same for my boots, which have had the football manager treatment – sacked and replaced at the end of the week.

Because of the rain I did not take as many photographs as I might otherwise have done.

We began at the Dales National Park carpark, walking past the Pen y Ghent cafe, where Three Peaks walkers would have started in the olden days. In better weather we might have investigated, or visited St Oswald’s church but we noticed it in passing turned up the quiet road to Brackenbottom. This ran beside a pleasant stream which I presume to be Douk Ghyll. The water was surprisingly low despite the heavy rain – limestone country.

At Brackenbottom we swapped road for moorland track. The drizzle was joined by mist and a steadily increasing wind. The moorland track was a gradual climb, the mist coming and going but never revealing the summit. There are paved sections on what would otherwise be very wet ground and long sections with stepped stones. A couple of rocky sections, such as the climb up Brackenbottom Scar were somewhere between a steep walk and easy scramble but nothing was too difficult.

The wind grew steadily stronger as we climbed and gusts would blow me across the path. My foot didn’t always land where I had intended it should. By the time we reached the rocky scramble below the summit the wind was strong enough to make walking difficult. If we had been walking on a path wide enough I would have linked arms with Audrey but the path was too narrow for two. I’m pretty sure that the scramble at 650m would have been no problem in nice weather but it was a bit challenging what with the wind and the wet rocks. I was pleased when the was behind us and doubly pleased that we hadn’t chosen to walk clockwise, which would have meant descending that section.

The final section of Pen y Ghent leading to the scramble

It took us about two hours to reach the summit. There wasn’t much of a view and the photograph below makes the visibility look far better than it was.

Pen y Ghent is the lowest of the Yorkshire three peaks at 694m. The name is Cumbric, Pen y meaning “head of” or “top of”, but the source for ghent is uncertain and might mean border or heathen (pagan). So we were either on the border hill or the pagan’s hill.

Shelter on Pen y ghent
Shelter on Pen y Ghent summit

Our break for lunch didn’t offer much of a view other than the carvings of fossils in the stone wall. There were carvings of ammonites and trilobites on our side. And rather strangely, there was a fresh green grape lodged beneath the trilobite. I’m not sure what the three on the other side were. One might have been a sea urchin.

There was no escaping the rain but we were at least shielded from the worst of the wind. I say the worst of the wind, because even though it felt sheltered, the coffee I poured out was chilled by the time I had finished my sandwich. I had poured a coffee and tucked into my sandwich. Then lifting the coffee to my lips I found it cold. A first I thought the flask had failed, but the next cupful was piping hot. So there was enough wind to chill a hot cup of coffee in short order.

Ammonite carving

Those doing the Three Peaks 12 hour challenge would leave Pen y ghent down its western slopes on the Pennine Way. Refuelled and rested, we took the “Public Footpath” (ha ha) to Plover Hill.

We trudged off for Plover Hill with me wondering if I would recognise a plover. (Spoiler alert – I wouldn’t have). I did see one bird I didn’t recognise at first, but research that evening suggested it was a female wheatear.

The way to Plover Hill’s summit follows a wall but the boggy areas meant we had to make a few detours. The hidden geologist within both of us realised that we were no longer walking on limestone. The photograph below doesn’t really capture how thick the mist really was. The visibility was much worse to the naked eye. There wasn’t really much of a defined path so we just made sure we kept the wall in view.

Heading for Plover Hill

My boots had become completely sodden during this section, which helped since I could just march on through any standing water. And once we realised that the black peat wasn’t going to swallow a foot, my boots not sinking more than a centimetre or two, it was easier picking a way across the moor.

Coming off Plover Hill. This isn’t the steep bit – no photos there

There is a rocky stairway down the north face of Plover Hill. In places it was quite narrow with a steep drop on our right hand side. The most trying feature though was that the rock “steps” mostly sloped downhill and were slippery with the rain. There were violets beside the path, a flower said to symbolise faith, mystical awareness, inspiration, spiritual passion, and innocence but below us I noticed a coffin-shaped rock to remind us to take care. I didn’t photograph the “coffin” from the path because I didn’t feel like fiddling with a phone while keeping my footing. Once we were off the steep bit the rock didn’t look like a coffin – strangely appropriate.

Foxup Moor – walking down to the bridleway

We could stride out more easily once we were onto a more gentle descent to Foxup Moor. We followed what was an obvious walked track down to the bridleway which is marked on the OS map as “A Pennine Journey”. By now we were out of the mist but had the visibility been poor it would have been very easy to miss the bridleway which is more a “right of way” than a defined path. A signpost about 100m to our left marked where, I presume, the original track off Plover Hill used to join the bridleway. The was no sign of that track now.

Hull Pot

The bridleway was easy walking and gradually became better defined, with bridges over a couple of the larger becks. We made a short detour to visit Hull Pot, the largest natural hole in England according to wikipedia, at 300 feet long, 60 feet wide and 60 feet deep. Hull Pot Beck disappears into the Pot to reappear as Brants Ghyll Beck a mile or so away. I do wonder what constitutes a “hole” as opposed say to a hollow or dale.

Pen y ghent from the bridleway

From Hull Pot our route was more like a drove road. We had good views across Horton Moor to Pen y Ghent, its summit still shrouded in cloud and the hedgerows beside us were bursting with spring flowers.

Sheep above Tarn Bar

This had been our first three peaks outing and despite the weather and poor views I think we enjoyed the outing. My feet were wet – but that was soon remedied and my waterproofs had held up surprisingly well. Two peaks to go.

This entry was posted in Dales and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *