The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Monday, 17 March 2014

Pen-y-Ghent and Helwith Bridge

The main event, and driving purpose behind this weekend away, occurred last night (Saturday 15th) when we went along to a fund-raiser at Horton School to hear John Manning talk about his 2004 Pacific Crest Trail Thru-Hike.

It was an excellent night, both for John’s entertaining presentation (the time flew by!) but also for the hospitality laid on by the school.

With that event having placed us in Horton overnight, we were well-placed to take a walk up Pen-y-Ghent this morning, and leaving Colin at 9.30am we found it to be not a bad morning. The cloud base was sitting at about 450 metres or so, but beneath it, visibility was pretty good:


Alas, the good visibility didn’t last for ever. By virtue of Pen-y-Ghent being nearly 700m, we were soon up in the cloud, and by the time we got to the top it was cold, very windy and mizzling on us. However, it wasn’t as miserable as Ingleborough on Friday, and Pen-y-Ghent was only a small portion of this walk, so we were looking forward to dropping back down below the cloud.


Lending more evidence to my theory that in a few years’ time the Pennine Way (PW) will be a surfaced path the whole way from Edale to Kirk Yetholm, we could see from the summit shelter (per the photo above) that the PW path up to the top will soon be flagged.

Not long later, a huge digger emerged from the gloom…


… and the other side of that digger was a laid path.

Now comes the first of two rants. I know that Pen-y-Ghent is a popular hill, but its popularity seems to be at silly levels just now. One side effect of that is the quantity of banana skins that litter the place. There are dozens of the things. As if the wet, worn-to-a-shine rocks aren’t hazardous enough, there are now banana skins to slip on, and marring the landscape into the bargain.

The second rant concerns large groups and hill etiquette. On our way down we passed two very large groups on their way up (the backmarker of the first group told us it was a training outing for a group intending to do the 3 Peaks Challenge later in the year). I can live with people studiously ignoring our cheery greetings, but it does irk me when groups barge past, walking three or four abreast, shoving you off the path with an apparent presumption that all others will naturally move out of their way.


The queue for the ‘step’. “I didn’t know I had to do rock climbing” said the one woman as we passed

I suppose it could have been worse. We could have been stuck behind them.

Thankfully, once we passed the path up from Horton, solitude reigned. In fact, the whole way down to Helwith Bridge we didn’t meet a soul, and only two were met between there and Horton.

It seemed to take forever to drop below the cloud and, disappointingly, when we did, the visibility wasn’t fully restored and the mizzle didn’t stop. Even worse, as we made our way along the riverside we had to conclude that it had transformed into a persistent light rain. Again, the sort of rain that gets you really wet (sigh…).IMG_6109

Gloom, even down by the river

We arrived back to the shelter and warmth of Colin (for a cooked lunch and copious amounts of tea :-)), having covered just shy of 9 miles, with 1700’ of ascent.

Meanwhile, I see that a number of friends on Facebook have been posting glorious blue-skied photos of the weekend. Harrumph!


  1. Shame about the path, the people, the weather, the banana skins, the etiquette, the facebook friends with good weather. It was glorious just a few miles away with smily cheerful people. There was still litter around and we find it annoying too. If you bring it then take it home, whats difficult about that.

    1. Nothing difficult at all, for a considerate person. I almost always have a good supply of rubbish bags in the back pocket of my pack. Just really flimsy freezer bags that weigh about a nano-gram each, but which happily hold a few banana skins for later disposal (sometimes very-later disposal when I forget about them...).

      Whilst I often pick up plastic bottles, bags and crisp packets, for some reason I draw the line at picking up other people's banana skins.

  2. The whole of humanity's atop that hill on a weekend.
    The only thing missing from the top of Pen-y-Ghent is a Circus Elephant.
    It was beautifully sunny down here!

    1. It certainly seemed that way this weekend. That was my fourth time atop Pen-y-Ghent (and twice I've been up the shoulder but bypassed the top) and never before have I seen more than a 'normal' number of people. (Hmmm, perhaps the answer is that this time we were walking against the flow of the crowds, and thus passed people who we may not have known were on the hill had we been walking ahead of them in the same direction?)

      (I'm studiously ignoring your comment on the weather!)

  3. I did the Yorkshire 3 peaks with a group of friends and an entourage from Mountain Monkeys last year. Whilst it was a relatively gruelling walk, there was no greater pleasure than being at the top of Pen Y Ghent as 8 in the morning looking down on a layer of cloud in the valley behind it. A splendid moment

  4. Unlucky, Gayle - I've been up Pen-y-Ghent many times, usually in good weather and in good company of friends and strangers alike. Also many memories of a bit of bog en route to Whernside, which tends to generate camaraderie.
    (Can't believe you missed the summer.)