11 January 2011

Pen-y-Ghent and Plover Hill

An ascent of Pen-y-Ghent and Plover Hill via the Pennine Way from Helwith Bridge. Returning to Horton-in-Ribblesdale by Foxup Road and then along the Ribble Way to Helwith.
Distance: 11.3 Miles | Time: 6h 13m | Difficulty: Medium (Weather Depending)

Combining my target of 500 miles of walks this year with TelFaller's desire to tackle Pen-y-Ghent from Helwith Bridge; last weekend provided us with a suitable opportunity to kill two birds with one stone, and bag Plover Hill on top of the regular Pen-y-Ghent route.

Fawcett Moor

The Friday beforehand had dumped 4" of snow on us - admittedly not a huge amount, but as any Brit will tell you; enough to bring the country to a standstill - fortunately the temperatures rocketed to a balmy 3.5 degrees overnight leaving little snow to be seen come Saturday morning. Never-the-less we broke out the reserve Fellmobile (shod with a set of meaty Scandinavian winter tyres) and headed out into the Dales.

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

We really needn't have bothered with the winter-ised Fellmobile, as we pressed further and further into the Dales the snow that'd been enough to provide a thin coat of white in Bradford had disappeared into nothingness as we pulled into Ribblesdale.

We were expecting a deep blanket of snow in the fields and mounds of ploughspill at the roadside, instead we saw large puddles, hiding seemingly endless pot-holes, and rivers swollen by meltwater. At least it'd make for an easier route over the cloud-obscured tops we thought - how wrong we were...


I'll gloss over the beginning and end of this route as it's identical to the last time I did it. It's only the middle section with any real interest, so we'll pick up the route just as we reached the base of Pen-y-Ghent at Fawcett Moor.

Until this point it had been like any wintry ascent of Pen-y-ghent, a few iced-over puddles, but a warm sun and good visibility to make up for the chill. Upon reaching Fawcett moor we dipped into the bottom of the cloud layer that was making it's way over us from the west, visibility dropped to a matter of meters and the snow, which had been notable in its absence earlier, started to become thicker underfoot.


Heavy foot traffic over the last few weeks had turned the snow on the path up the southern face to a sheet of ice, coupled with melt-water cascading down down the rock, every surface was developing a mirror-like smoothness - made all the more slippery by a top coat of icy water.

The path wasn't much bother if you took your time and assessed every step carefully, but had the potential to be quite lethal if you went a bit gung-ho and tried to race up there. Maybe the thick, enveloping, cloud was a subtle hint of what was to come, but as we passed the scrambly section of the summit the skies cleared - revealing the tops and surrounding valleys in all their glory.


From the shelter, the route over to Plover hill drops down alongside the dry-stone wall that runs the length of the massif. Normally this route is one long, seemingly endless, bog with a dry footing being a mere pipe-dream. But, as with Whernside a few weeks previous, the cold weather had made for firmer ground underfoot - or at least as firm as soft snow of varying depth can get.

Coupling drifting snow, howling winds and a cloud layer that once again descended heavily upon us, what should have been a quick yomp over to the next peak understandably turned into a bit of a energy-sapping trudge; so it's not surprising that upon reaching Plover Hill we dug a hollow out of a drift and stopped for a well earned meal of malt loaf and mint cake.

The path off Plover Hill drops down to Foxup Moor via a series of steep stone steps, or at least it does in better weather. Unfortunately it seems Plover had borne the brunt of the previous weeks snow and turned the steep stairs into an even steeper slope, with only a hint of where the top step should be.

Perhaps, in hindsight, using a well-secured wire fence as a temporary ladder wasn't the most sensible idea I've ever had for a descent (some may call it hare-brained); but it worked - and upon reaching the bottom of the crags we had opportunity to put the theory that waterproof trousers can be used as a makeshift toboggan to the test to cover the last 50m...

Hull Pot

Following our reckless descent, the path passes through a squeeze stile to join onto the old Foxup road - an ancient pack horse route from Horton in Ribblesdale to the hamlet of Foxup. From here it was a gentle couple miles back to the infamous Hull Pot, where we could rejoin the main route off Pen-y-ghent.

All in the route was just shy of 11.5 miles, covered in slightly more than 6 hours - not counting time taken to consume a few cheeky pints of Old Peculiar in The Crown in Horton in Ribblesdale (after the route to and from Plover Hill reducing our average speed we thought it only right we stopped for a couple mid-walk, and post-walk too...).

Overall it was a good walk, hampered by the conditions, but I fancy another crack at it come better weather. Many thanks to Tel for providing a large chunk of the pictures - I really didn't want to take off my cosy Rab gloves to piddle about with the iPhone.

The Map

OS Maps: Landranger 98 | Explorer OL2

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