It was supposed to be an easier day, only 6 miles, and a bit of Amateur Radio thrown in for good measure. Today, the Yorkshire Dales had other ideas.
When we set off from Huddersfield, the weather was not too bad. A rainbow in front of us, a little blue sky even. It was quite different in the dales. The Ribble was swollen, fields flooded, and even many of the roads covered. Still, we had driven quite a way, so we decided to try.
We parked in the car park at the far end of Horton-in-Ribblesdale, and got ourselves organised. Good boots, check. Gaiters, check. Waterproof trousers, check. Waterproof coat, check. In the packs we had storm shelter, first aid kit, food, water, spare dry clothing in waterproof bags, map, compass, gps and spot, as well as the camera equipment and radio gear. Throw the rucksack cover over and we are I think pretty well equipped, and covered for eventualities. Over-prepared? possibly you might think so, its 12’C in the car park, with light drizzle. The walk is only 6 miles, expect about 3 hours. We are carrying about 10 kilos each, which is not too bad for too big blokes, and at our age, feeling you are prepared for the worst does give a modicum of satisfaction.
Feeling like too intrepid explorers, we headed down the road, past the famous cafe, and turned left through the field to the wooden bridge. The water in this normally quite tributary was flowing fast, and only about a foot below the bottom of the bridge. As we got to the middle, we looked at each other and both at the same time exclaimed “pooh sticks!”. I have no idea who won. before you could turn around the sticks were gone.
Following the road for a short way, we were able to see just how much water was tearing down the hill, tremendous volume, brown like a chocolate river in Charlie’s chocolate factory, but turbulent as if it needed to destroy everything in its way. The rain stopped. Just kidding, the rain stopped pretending, and came on strong. Even the sheep were having a bad day.
We started up the track at Brackenbottom, where the field was leaking great torrents on what should be the track. Sheets of rain could be seen tracing their way across from left to right. The wind was starting to pick up too.
Half wading, half slipping, we made our way to the top of the first field, with a couple of pauses to catch a breath. The wind was at our backs, which, remarked Dave, “is a good thing, it would be awful walking into this!” Oh joy.
Sheep , it seems, can have more sense than people. We would be the ones sheltering behind a wall later on.
For now, though, we feel good as we reach the first wall at Brackenbottom scar.Water cascades over the edge. “See that water fall Dave, that’s the path”. It turns out that up until now, the wind hasn’t been strong, NOW its strong. Hardly here yourself speak above it. On to the second wall.
Water cascades over the edge, and gets flung back by the wind. Its a “waterclimb”! It turns out that up until now, the wind hasn’t been strong, NOW its strong. Just about hear Sam and Tom. They are as mad as we are. Sam and Tom have been staying nearby over the weekend, in a tent, and walking all 3 peaks. Turns out they may actually be even less sane than us!
I think that this is the first point at which we raised the spectre of not playing radio at the summit. Only a few yards further and we met a group from UCLAN. They had turned back without reaching the summit, forced back by strong winds.
How bad could it be? Young, fit, fully equipped yet they couldn’t get to the top? Dave and I looked at each other, turned and put our heads down as we put our feet to the hill again. By the time we reached the gate with the Pennine Way, the wind had picked up. It turns out that up until now, the wind hasn’t been strong, NOW its strong. It takes both of us to open the gate against the wind, and it near launches Dave as we just get through. We crouch behind the wall, like sheep, and discuss possibilities. We decide to see what it is like over the next section, a paved step section of about 100 yards. It turns out that up until now, the wind hasn’t been strong, NOW its…… oh bugger, back to the shelter of the wall.
Decision made, we send a Facebook message that we are abandoning the try. The temperature reading is -1’C. Thirteen degrees colder than the car park. The wind is not gusting, its just a constant. It sings through the fence, and makes the wall leak droplets like a wet sponge lifted out of the bath, but these droplets peel out horizontally. Fighting the gate open, we set off back down. Now we get the full force of the monsoon at us. It turns out that up until now, the wind hasn’t been strong, NOW its strong, and its wet. And its hard! Should rain feel like you are been sand blasted? I can’t talk over the gale, so I can’t thank Dave for his earlier comment about it at least blowing from behind, but I think harsh thoughts. 🙂
With each drop in altitude the pitch of the wind drops by an octave and we can hear normally again. We meet a couple heading up. They don’t look prepared. He has the small day pack, she is wearing jeans. Hoping they will be sensible, we advise that they should assess the climb at the next step up along the path. We give the same advise to at least 3 more groups we meet on our way down, and we see at least one pair make the right decision and follow us off the hill.
Back at the car and it seems that all the precautions I took were not enough. My new camera is fogged, having got wet through. Battery out, hopefully it will dry over the next few days. Hopefully.
Our adventure at an end, we retire to the nearest bar, for what I am starting to believe should be a tradition. The Selfie with beer in hand at the pub.
That should be the end of the story. After most outings it would be, however, I must quickly give a review of the Crown at Horton in Ribblesdale where we took the selfie. The beer was good, but that I am afraid is all that was good about this pub. Hardly two sentences did we get from the staff, and both of those indicated that wet walkers were not welcome. After she disappeared to who knows where, we started to notice all the printed paper pinned around the room. Don’t do this, don’t do that, no dogs, no mud, no wet, NO INTEREST! We quietly finished our beer and left. I will not return. The Golden Lion will have our custom when we return later this year. If you read this before your visit, I hope that you will consider the Lion before the Crown too.