3 November 2010

Great Whernside Washout

A long walk cut short: An ascent of Great Whernside by Dowber Gill and Sweet Hill, before returning by Hag Dyke.
Distance: 5.3 Miles | Time: 2h 39m | Difficulty: Easy

Well, what a day that was. We'd convinced old Telfaller to take the day off work to join us on a walk up Dowber Gill to the summit of Great Whernside and then back along the old Top Mere road. That morning I'd tweeted "The weather might be rubbish but a #walk up Great Whernside in the #YorkshireDales is calling", I'd have done just as well saying "Off to take a shower with my clothes on" for all the good it did.


Bonnie looked like a drowned rat, my waterproof jacket decided that it was under-appreciated and what it really wanted to do with its life was be a sieve, Terry's boots leaked so much they started sucking in water like a sponge, and it was my day to be the 'Faller as I went up to my waist in the bogs and skated downhill on my backside. All in a day's work for another write-up though...

Quick links: the map | photos on flickr | gpx file for your gps device

The torrential rain and slowly flooding lanes didn't faze us as we made our way to Kettlewell, even as we sat parked in the Fellmobile with the torrents of water drumming on the roof, waiting for an opportunity to get togged up. Eventually the rain abated  and the sun made itself known for a brief moment, so we quickly donned waterproofs and headed down the hill (having parked at the foot of the old Top Mere road) to pick up the route up Dowber Gill.

Following the gill as it gently winds its way up towards Thorn Clod Hill, the path rises through a series of sheep paddocks, slowly gaining height, alongside a mixture of waterfalls and rapids swollen by the morning's rain.

Changeable Weather

Even with stopping every few minutes to swap in and out of waterproof jackets and over-trousers (I tend to run pretty warm so can't stand waterproofs when they're not needed) as the weather intermittently pelted us with water, progress was steady up the trail.

Just before the abandoned Providence lead mine the gill splits (or merges depending on which way you're looking at it) becoming Dowber Gill Wham and Hag Dyke Gill Beck. Heading right up Dowber the path becomes one to make your own, either as an enjoyable little scramble up the side, or over the steep, grassy, bluff to the right.

Dowber Gill Wham

Half-way up this final section of the gill it meets a stone wall coming in from the right, and this is where we met some serious weather. The Met office had forecast an 80% likelihood of blustery showers, but this was far closer to torrential downpour with buffeting gales than mere "showers", with the wind increasing in it's ferocity as it blew us up towards the summit of Sweet Hill.

Reaching the top of Sweet Hill we headed north along the fence-line over the top of Whernside Pasture to pick up the first of the cairns, near Stone Head Crag, running along the top of the ridge.  It was over decidedly wet and increasingly boggy ground we made our way to the rocky outcrop at the summit of Great Whernside, the broken Millstone Grit providing a comfortable refuge from the ever increasing wind.

At this point I have to apologise for the lack of photos and factual information from this point forwards.  With the winds picking up to the point of it being difficult to walk in a straight line and the rain coming down horizontally we decided to severely cut short the walk and make our way back to the car via Hag Dyke.

Heading downhill through the bogs looking like a set of desperadoes with faces covered to keep out the stinging rain the only lasting memory is of myself recreating Telfaller's famous bog dive from Buckden Pike as we passed near Cam Hole.

Whilst one foot found a firm footing on a grassy tussock the other sank without mercy into the cold, wet, unforgiving bog. This is where decent waterproofs and gaiters pay or themselves, whilst my waterproof jacket had decided to quit its day job and take up work as a kitchen implement, the lower extremities were warm and dry regardless of being well and truly dunked into the water-logged hillside.

Laughing it off (what else can you do but burst out laughing in such situations?) we left the bog and scrambled down the rocky path to the scout hostel at Hag Dyke. From here we took the direct footpath over Hooksbank back towards Kettlewell, slipping and sliding our way down to the foot of the hill, before heading back up the lane to the awaiting dryness of the Fellmobile.

All in the route was 5.3 miles, a good way short of our intended 9 miles, and nowhere close to 3 hours to complete. In good weather it'd be do-able in under 2 hours. Understandably, after such an utter failure, morale amongst the assembled FellFallers was decidedly low. So, with the Fellmobile pointing in the direction of Richmond, we thought it only right we flog on through the rain-lashed lanes to Masham and visit another gem of the Dales; the Black Sheep Brewery.

The Map

OS Maps: Landranger 98 | Explorer OL30

View the trip at | See all the pictures on Flickr | Or go get the GPX file
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