Day 4 was a day that didn’t turn out as planned – the best laid plans of mice and men etc….. 🙂 !
It started off warm, from the moment I got up and packed away my tent. I pulled on my rucksack and made my way out onto the trail again, and immediately started to climb upwards towards Smearset Scar. This was the day I had been concerned about from the moment I started to plan this walk, because the route follows a track up over the top of Ingleborough with a very steep descent into Chapel Le Dale. That descent would test even the best knees with a 35 lb pack on. But I was determined to do it!
My fears were quickly confirmed though when I had to don my knee brace whilst crossing the Scar itself, even though by this time, the path had levelled out. In addition, my right ankle started to give me grief – this is something I have got used to because arthritis set in some years ago, probably brought on by the fact that that ankle was pinned back together following a football accident when I was a teenager. By the time I reached the start of the drop off the fell, I had to sit down – this was barely two miles into the walk.
I sat gazing down at another awesome view, thinking about the issues that could easily bring a premature end to my walk. Was it the weight I was carrying? Was it the extreme heat? Was it the twenty something miles I walked yesterday? Or was it simply something to be expected when you are only a couple of months short of 70? Are my best backpacking days behind me?
Having rested for a while, I continued down into the valley, using my walking pole to take some of the strain, but by the time I reached the little hamlet of Feizor, I knew something had to be done!
I was surprised, and I have to say delighted, to find in this tiny hamlet that sits at the end of a dead end country lane there was a tea room, and not only that but a tea room that was open! Apparently, Elaine’s Tea Room is a very popular place, and rightly so – it was certainly popular with me!
I sat under the umbrella with a welcome pot of tea and I thought through my options. Initially I thought that if I could avoid Ingleborough, I might be able to limp through but I couldn’t find a suitable route. I could have simply stopped walking for the day in the hopes that my joints would recover for tomorrow but I didn’t think that was very likely and in any event, it would throw my schedule out and I had a train home booked for later in the week.
In the end, I decided that if I could get my backpack transferred to my next campsite, I could probably manage by carrying just my stow-away light rucksack with food and water, and so I started making phone calls – amazingly I had a signal. The staff at Elaine’s were most helpful, providing me with various phone numbers etc and they were quite happy for me to leave my pack with them to be collected later in the day.
And so it was that an hour later I left that hamlet with a lighter back and a lighter spirit – although I have to say that I was absolutely gutted to have had to give in! At the back of my mind was this nagging fear that age and arthritis might have finally brought an end to my backpacking days, and I wasn’t ready to stop! Despite this, I knew that it was the right decision and later in the day this would be proven.
As I made my way along the track, Ingleborough came into view in the distance, a great lump of a mountain. I hoped that with a lighter pack, I would be able get over that. In any event, I really appreciated not having my pack on – some of these ladder stiles just weren’t made for crossing with a wide backpack 🙂 !
The track from Feizor took me to the next hamlet of Wharfe, another delightful tiny settlement. At this point I almost missed a turn off but a lovely lady who was painting her gate called out and corrected me. Having gone a short distance along the correct track, I decided that it would be a good opportunity to restock my water so I went back and asked her if she would mind filling my bottle, which she willingly did. We passed the time of day for a while, talking about life in the hamlet and then I bade farewell……..and promptly forgot my turn off again. Fortunately she called after me for a second time 🙂 ! You know you are getting old when you forget things so quickly 🙂 !
A little further down the track, I reached a beautiful place known as The Wash Dub. With two old clapper bridges thought to date from the 15th century, this was once a place where local shepherds washed their sheep, temporarily damming the stream to increase its depth. Now, it is a popular picnic site – and a good spot to refresh hot feet!
With refreshed feet, I left The Wash Dub and continued along another ancient byway before climbing up a lovely grassy path to reach a large limestone plateau. With limestone pavements everywhere, this was almost a lunar landscape, and all the way, Simon Fell and Ingleborough looked on.
The route took me first of all up the flanks of the former, to reach the top of a lesser ridge. I was relieved when I reached that point, to see that the path onwards followed the contour line around Simon Fell – I had expected to see it drop down into a valley, only to rise again up the face of Ingleborough. Instead, I was able to at least partially rest my joints as it was an easy and level walk to reach the foot of the last part of the climb.
Of course, there was still a lot of climbing to do but by taking my time, I eventually reached to summit plateau of Ingleborough itself. And what an amazing place with 360 degree views taking in, amongst other things, Morecombe Bay and the West coast of England.
The protective wall on the summit, so useful for getting out of the wind in winter, wasn’t needed on this day. The wind that blew across the top was most welcome!
To the North, the panoramic views took in Ribblehead with its famous viaduct. All being well, I would pass that tomorrow, and in a few days time I would cross it in the train on my way home.
On a day such as this was, I never like to rush away from such a lovely spot with views in every direction, so I sat for some time in various places, just drinking in each different vista. Ultimately though, I had to leave and I made my way back across the plateau to the point where the track drops steeply off the top.
As I started on my way down, I knew for certain that it had been a right decision to have someone carry my bag forward for me. The steepness of the path here will probably not come across in the photos although the tiny people at the bottom may give a clue. I just knew that had I tried to go down there with weight on my back, my knees and ankle would have almost certainly given out!
It was a relief to reach the foot of the steepest part where there were numbers of charity walkers preparing to climb up. They were doing the Three Peaks Challenge to raise funds for the Candlelighter charity that supports children with cancer and I stopped to chat with them. They had already climbed the other two peaks, Pen Y Ghent and Whernside, so this was their last for the day before returning to Horton in Ribblesdale, their starting point early that morning. I admire them for making the effort to walk 24 miles and climb all three peaks in one day, especially on such a hot day as this.
Wishing them luck, I left them to start their climb, and later when I turned to look back at Ingleborough, most were at the top.
Even after the steepest part of the descent, there is still a lot of downward walking to do, and all the while, tomorrow’s objective, Whernside, dominated the view. Having climbed Ingleborough, I felt encouraged that Whernside was a realistic aim, especially as the descent would not be as fierce as today’s.
As early evening approached, I reached my campsite, grateful to find that my main pack had been delivered safely. I set up my tent in a shady spot at the foot of the field and I sat brewing a cup of tea on my stove, thinking back over my day. In the end, it had been a really great one!
It had been a thankfully shorter day, less than 14 miles, but my knees and ankles had held up, allowing me to climb the mighty Ingleborough. I had already arranged to transfer my bag again tomorrow (I did that whilst sitting at the top of Ingleborough 🙂 ) so I was really looking forward to achieving my third peak even though the main route doesn’t go over the summit – tomorrow was to be another self-guided day. I heard later that I definitely wouldn’t have that peak to myself!
Despite having to – to use that American expression – ‘slack pack’ for the first time in my life, I remain eternally grateful that at ‘three score and ten’ years, I can still climb mountains and walk distances when so many can’t! I determined that when I got home, I would look at my packing list and find ways to take some of the weight off so that I could continue my backpacking adventures!
In case you missed the previous posts in this series, there are links below:
Day 0 – Arrival in Saltaire
Day 1 – Saltaire to Skipton
Day 2 – Skipton to Gordale Scar and more
Day 3 – Gordale Scar to Stainforth plus an afternoon climb to Hull Pot and Pen Y Ghent
Thanks for stopping by.
Until next time,
The Dorset Rambler
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