“A bad day on the hills is better than a good day in the office”. Fortunately I don’t have to make the choice, the hills being the office nowadays. Today’s choice was Pen y Ghent, my favourite peak in the Yorkshire Dales. Why my favourite? All sorts of reasons, I suppose – It’s a short day if time is limited, but it feels like a longer day, and although it’s a straightforward enough walk there is extra interest in the band of crags on the southern approach. In fact it’s one of those hills where I’ve never had a bad day, whether walking, running or even skiing.
Pen y Ghent – even the name promises great things. It’s a strange, ‘other-world’ sort of name, that sounds as if it should be in Wales. No surprise about that, though. This area was once inhabited by British tribes whose language was a form of old Welsh. They were certainly here when the Romans arrived and were still here when the Romans left. Unfortunately they didn’t hang on in this area when the next wave of invaders arrived – the British tribes were defeated by the Anglo-Saxons in about 600 AD, changing the local language for ever. Pen y Ghent translates as “Hill of the winds”. Those who have walked there would probably agree that it was well named!
The weather forecast mid-week was so promising that I felt I should share the day. My old mate John Bamber was an ideal candidate, so arrangements were made. It’s usually me that’s slightly late, but today it was John, delayed on the way by a phone call asking if he was available to travel to the Arctic in a few weeks. John is officially ‘technical support’ on the annual Polar Challenge race, but he’s also a resourceful “Mr Fixit”. On top of that he knows how to use a shotgun, a useful skill in an area where 80% of the world’s polar bears live.
These days John is much more likely to shoot a polar bear with his camera, with which he is equally skilled. This makes him a useful addition to any hill day, as he takes care of the photography. So, with the addition of Chris (‘me missus’), and “Mist” the Border Collie, we had a team. I’m a creature of habit, and so I suggested my favourite route – Out by Brackenbottom scar then up the craggy south side of Pen y Ghent.
The first part of the route is just “steady away” as they say up north, gradually gaining height in a relatively painless way. When the path joins the Pennine Way things start to get steeper, but a succession of small crags, limestone at first followed by gritstone, make a series of interesting mini-scrambles that provide suitable entertainment. Even the dog was having a good time, but unfortunately the rock doesn’t last long, and we were soon on the summit.
Despite it being in the middle of the week, and the weather being on the cool side, the shelters on both side of the summit wall were occupied, so sandwiches were delayed until we reached Hunt Pot on the way down. I frequently get confused by the proximity of Hunt Pot and Hull Pot, often getting the names mixed up. Well, Hull Pot is the huge, spectacular hole that fills up like a bath when it rains hard, and Hunt Pot is the one that thousands of people walk past every year, despite being within 50 metres of one of the busiest paths in the Dales.
The day ended with a pleasant stroll down Horton Lane to Horton in Ribblesdale – The end of another hard day at the office.
Text and images © Paul Shorrock – Images tagged (JB) © John Bamber