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Upper Wharfedale / 3 days / 29 miles (47km)

OS Route Map → Map GPX Route file →

Date: 17 Mar 2003
Start / Finish: Kettlewell. Car park & toilets.
Maps: Outdoor Leisure 30 Yorkshire Dales North & Central.

Day 1Great Whernside, Buckden Pike & Yockenthwaite Moor13.8 miles / 3400 feet (22.2km / 1036m)
Day 2Horse Head Moor & Sugar Loaf6.7 miles / 1000 feet (10.8km / 304m)
Day 3Birks Tarn & Firth Fell8.5m /- (13.7km)

This backpack around Upper Wharfedale was curtailed by a knee injury sustained a few days before. An honourable injury, incurred in the line of duty on the hill?. Of course not, it was in the house the night before the previous trip packing a sleeping bag. Trying to cram it into a tight space in my pack I squeezed it between my knees, then I felt a sharp pain in my left knee. It disappeared after a few minutes and I thought no more about it but it flared up at the end of the first day here. I did notice a little discomfort at the end of that last trip but I attributed it to initial aches after a long layoff, it was clearly more serious.

Day 1 - Great Whernside, Buckden Pike & Yockenthwaite Moor

The lane E from the village leads to the footpath that climbs directly via the Hag Dyke building to the trig point on Great Whernside. An easy walk along the edge NNW leads to Black Dike End where the signed path leads NW to the minor road and a junction of tracks. An obvious track leads WSW directly to the bridleway track but a prominent notice proclaims that the bridleway starts a third of a mile down the road R!. Thinking of a suitable response, we set off on the first track and joined the bridleway marked Starbotton Road which descends a short way to Sandy Gate where it turns R uphill and contours N to meet the path from Starbotton. Climbing R we passed the memorial cross and squelched along to Buckden Pike.

Great Whernside summit
Great Whernside summit (17 Mar 2003__09:50:50)
Buckden Pike Memorial Cross
Buckden Pike Memorial Cross (17 Mar 2003__13:15:36)
Buckden Pike summit
Buckden Pike summit (17 Mar 2003__13:37:25)

The steep section of the descent path W has been repaired and we followed it down to Buckden Rake, where we turned R and walked NNE to the signed footpath L at 944790 that leads down to easy stepping stones and the B6160. The path opposite heads W on an attractive contouring route above woodland to the footbridge over Strans Gill (dry at this point) at 916788, where we turned N to the top of the field and crossed a gate to the open fell. Following the edge of the enclosed area we arrived at Strines Gill where we collected water. Heading NW and diverging from the wall on the L of a shallow ravine, we made an easy ascent veering N at the edge over quite easy ground with traces of an intermittent vehicle track to help. Arriving at Yockenthwaite Moor trig point, I could feel some pain in the knee.

Full moon & cloud sea from Yockenthwaite Moor]
Full moon & cloud sea from Yockenthwaite Moor (18 Mar 2003__06:13:19)

Day 2 - Horse Head Moor & Sugar Loaf

A frosty start gave great views over the lower mist and we descended S to Yockenthwaite to join the Dales Way W to Beckermonds, where the pain in my knee was getting worse. We decided to cut the circuit short and ascend directly S on the footpath to Birks Fell. Eventually we arrived at the ridge wall and turned L to the trig point on Horse Head Moor 605m. The map shows springs lower down the slope and after a little hunting around we collected water. Almost a mile further on is the highest point on Birks Fell, Sugar Loaf 609m on the W side of the wall; to access it without climbing the wall we walked a little further to a cross fence and turned R down a wall to find a breach a little way down. We stopped early today and I put my leg up.

Sunrise over cloud sea from Yockenthwaite Moor
Sunrise over cloud sea from Yockenthwaite Moor (18 Mar 2003__06:13:48)
The Wharfe & a pied wagtail
The Wharfe & a pied wagtail (18 Mar 2003__10:37:44)

Day 3 - Birks Tarn & Firth Fell

Fortunately Birks Fell barely gains or loses any height along its several miles which meant that my knee felt reasonably good for most of this slow relaxed day. We followed the ridge walls on the L side to Birks Tarn and then to the trig point on Firth Fell. A long way further is another trig point 434m and then the footpath that turns N under the limestone outcrops and leads back to Kettlewell.

Full moon over Pen-y-Ghent & Plover Hill from Birks Fell pitch
Full moon over Pen-y-Ghent & Plover Hill from Birks Fell pitch (19 Mar 2003__06:28:42)
Moorland peat & nameless pool on Birks Fell ridge
Moorland peat & nameless pool on Birks Fell ridge (19 Mar 2003__08:44:49)
Birks Tarn
Birks Tarn (19 Mar 2003__09:45:14)
Buckden Pike, Little & Great Whernside from Firth Fell summit
Buckden Pike, Little & Great Whernside from Firth Fell summit (19 Mar 2003__10:19:59)
Birks Fell south top 434m
Birks Fell south top 434m (19 Mar 2003__13:09:00)