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Yesterday afternoon, we headed out to Ribblehead, for an overnight stop in preparation for climbing Pen-y-Ghent today. I think its fair to say that Ribblehead is one of the most popular visitor destinations in the Yorkshire Dales, for walkers, motorhomers, and train spotters alike. There are lots of good ‘wild camping spots’ in this area, and the Station Inn, situated right by the viaduct itself, welcomes campervans and motorhomes with open arms.

We found ourselves an ideal, relatively level little spot right by a small stream. I say ‘relatively level’; the mild slope was soon rectified by backing up onto the small levelling ramps we carry with us in the van. I must confess to having a bit of a love/hate relationship with these ramps, having struggled to get them to stay in place when maneouvering onto them, on the odd few times that we’ve felt they were necessary, and commonly abandoning the idea after some trial and error, preferring to be parked on a slight incline to the faffing about that seems indicative of their use. However, on this occasion, we actually managed to get them to stay put (and both the fridge and the water pump always work better when the van is level). Once parked, we took a leisurely stroll up to the viaduct, for some photographs in the late afternoon/early evening light before heading back to the van.

One of the things that I always love about being in a spot like this overnight is being able to look out into the night, seeing nothing except stars and hearing nothing but the incessant munching of the sheep on the adjacent moorland. Having said that, it was a little overcast, so it wasn’t a totally clear night, but enjoying dark skies without any light pollution is a rare treat.

In the morning, after breakfast, we headed towards Horton-in-Ribblesdale a few miles away, our planned start and finish point for a hike up Pen-y-Ghent. Having climbed Whernside and Ingleborough over the last few weeks, Pen-y-Ghent completes the ‘Three Peaks’ trio, and should hopefully provide me with sufficent raw material for a forthcoming painting project.

One of the benefits of staying locally in the campervan is that it places us in the area ready for an early start without the need for travelling from home and having to get up at stupid o’clock. It also gives us the opportunity to get a good parking spot ahead of the day visitors. What surprised me today, however – it being a Friday, and not a weekend – was just how many folks seemed to be about from a relatively early hour, so much so that we even checked online to see if there was some sort of event on. Admittedly, we had been a little lax in getting ourselves organised, and walkers were already arriving in their cars at the viaduct as we were leaving, and by the time we arrived at Horton-in-Ribblesdale, all the roadside parking spots were taken and the official car park was also quite full. The good news is that the Golden Lion hotel had a board outside advertising ‘All-Day Parking for £2; 3 Peaks Walkers Welcome’… perfect!… and much cheaper than the official car park in the centre of the village, which is around about a fiver for the day.

We were accompanied by large numbers of other walkers as we headed up the lane to Brackenbottom. From here, a well-used, easy to follow footpath leads up the hill to Brackenbottom Scar and Pen-y-Ghent beyond. At 2,277 ft (694m), Pen-y-Ghent is the smallest of the famous ‘Three Peaks’; Whernside has the distinction of being the highest, rising to 2,415 ft (735m), with Ingleborough taking up the middle slot at 2,372 ft (723m). Of the three, however, Pen-y-Ghent is one of the most distinctively shaped and easily recogniseable, and the most popular with walkers of all abilities, by being the most accessible. It does feature a little bit of a scramble as you climb the middle part of its front face, however, which takes a few novices by surprise.

Up until the point when we reached the base of the hill, pausing only to take photographs at the scar, we’d done quite well with the weather. Despite there being a lot of cloud around, there was no shortage of frequent sunny spots, so it was a little disappointing to find ourselves shrouded in mist as the low cloud blew across, obliterating the views as we climbed. Fortunately, when we finally reached the summit, which was so busy you’d think a bus had just dropped them all off, the clouds lifted as we sat and ate our lunchtime sandwiches.

The way back down Pen-y-Ghent’s Western flank is much gentler, and easy to follow since it is well-used by walkers and runners ‘doing’ the Three Peaks. A common challenge is to attempt to climb all three peaks within a 12 hour period, a circular route of 24 miles. The record for completing the entire route as it currently stands (which has been altered and made slightly longer over the years) is 2 hours and 50 minutes, which to my mind is nothing short of amazing (although, I see the record for completeing the 270-mile length of the Pennine Way has been broken in the last few weeks, by John Kelly – a phenomenal feat. His fascinating account of the run is here.

Once back down at the bottom of the hill, there was just one final diversion we needed to make before heading back to Horton…

Hull Pot is a big hole; a collapsed cavern, to be precise, measuring roughly 300 feet in length, 60 feet wide and 60 feet deep. If you’re lucky to catch it after heavy rain, Hull Pot Beck cascades over its edge in an impressive waterfall. Today, however, it was dry, so no waterfall; it’s still an impressive sight, though, with great views over towards the crouching shape of Pen-y-Ghent.

The 2 miles of lane walking back down, past Horton Scar, to the village is all downhill, relatively straightforward, and just a tiny bit tedious in places – and always feels like its further than 2 miles. The walk was made a little more interesting, though, by a farmer steering a herd of noisy sheep up the lane right past us.

Back at the van, we relaxed for a while, enjoying a well-earned cup of tea, before heading home.

This concludes our ‘Three Peaks’ trilogy, and sets things up for a painting and filming project that I hope to start putting together very soon. On a technical note, this was my first trip out with a new camera (and only the third time out with my new gimbal). During the walk, I was slightly anxious to discover that every time I connected the camera to the gimbal (which allows me to control the camera from the gimbal’s hand grip), the LCD monitor kept going dark. I’ve since discovered that this is a ‘thing’, and it wasn’t until quite late on in the walk that I disconnected gimbal control altogether and chose to operate the camera manually, which cured the dimming monitor screen immediately. Sadly, this was not before I’d made some adjustment to the exposure control that basically blew out all my footage… something I didn’t discover until I got home and previewed my videos… Aargh! Fortunately, the footage is somewhat recoverable through a laborious process of post production, albeit not a perfect solution (the perfect solution is not to overexpose your video in the first place). Lessons learnt… an error I won’t be making a second time…

Sadly, the blown-out video footage was unrecoverable and totally unuseable, so a repeat visit will be needed sooner rather than later (to complete my raw material in preparation for my ‘Three Peaks’ project). Watch this space for Take Two…

Here’s a map of the route…

gpx file (Right-click and click on ‘Save As…’)

Peter Woolley

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