|Outline Map →||Route file →|
Date: 17 Mar 2004
Start / Finish: Malham. Limited roadside parking opposite the Buck Inn, or main car park (fee, toilets).
Maps: Outdoor Leisure 10: Yorkshire Dales South & 30: North & Central.
|Day 1||Gordale Scar & Great Whernside||16 miles / 3670 feet (25.8km / 1118m)|
|Day 2||Conistone Dib & Weets Top||14 miles / 1380 feet (22.5km / 420m)|
A circuit of the Yorkshire Dales to the North-East of Malham. The route is generally mid-level except for the pitch on Great Whernside.
Crossing the footbridge opposite the Buck Inn and taking the Pennine Way (PW) S, a signed path leads off L to the waterfall of Janet's Foss. Reaching the lane beyond, road works were in progress and the stream had been diverted along an artificial channel. A surfaced path from the lane leads into the gorge of Gordale Scar, where it soon became clear that the photos we had seen in magazines do not do it justice, unlike Malham Cove where they tend to be flattering. We had intended to climb through the gorge, but after clambering up to the foot of the real rock scramble, a combination of things made us think again. A recent worrying but improving hip problem, together with the weight of the backpacks, meant that we did not dare risk any regression. The scramble itself up the steep central spine, although very short and not especially difficult, was not as easy as expected either and required some rather awkward leg stretching, which was asking for trouble. The limestone was also very wet with some outward sloping holds, and a cold howling wind whistling down the gorge made the whole thing feel treacherous. Maybe one day with light daypacks we might return, but today we grudgingly descended and retreated to the lane and followed it to the end at 925644.
A footpath heads NW to the Monks Road path, a bridleway that meanders NE high above Cowside Beck to Arncliffe. A riverside stroll leads SE to Hawkswick, where a path climbs at a very civilised angle over the shoulder of Birks Fell and down to Kettlewell (public toilets). A final climb to Great Whernside above Dowber Gill Beck gave us a grand view of the sun sinking over the western Yorkshire mountains and a breezy pitch a short distance back from the escarpment, somewhat sheltered from the main force of the wind.
As sometimes happens, a clear view of the stars against a dark blue sky was annoyingly blotted out by thick windblown mist as dawn approached - no sunrise photos today. Setting off by compass bearing SSE, we roughly paralleled the ill defined plateau edge to locate the two cairns marked on the map. At the second cairn a fence, not marked, leads SSW to the slight rise of Sweet Hill. Navigating S away from the fence through a trackless area of peat hags, we then turned W and descended easier grassy slopes to pick up a path near the disused shafts, and the cairns above the intake wall appeared through the mist. A good path follows the wall SE and crosses a couple of tiny streams to arrive at a multi-way finger post by the old mines at 001705.
In the thick mist, the post pointed directly across a trackless boggy area but after threading our way around some dark pools, a path appeared that lead easily to the trig point at Capplestone Gate. The Conistone Turf Road, an easy grassy track, heads down to the limestone pavement above Conistone Dib and the narrow cleft at the head of the valley. Aerial studies of this pavement reveal geometric sheep enclosures within the limestone blocks, fashioned by Cistercian monks from Rievaulx Abbey. Another attractive narrow gorge at the foot of the valley opens out at Conistone and the road bridge over the Wharfe. The return route from the B6160 ascends around Cool Scar and joins Mastiles Lane, a surfaced track that climbs over the moor to the shallow dry valley at the head of Bordale Beck, 931656. Heading S then W to cross the valley, the track leads round to the outward route at the farm on Smearbottoms Lane. Climbing to the trig point on Weets Top, the heavy rain started but the nearby hills were at least visible now. Descending SSW to a finger post, we took the rightmost route through the gate and over Hanlith moor that later becomes Windy Pike Lane. Joining the PW, an easy walk N leads across the fields to Malham.