Monday, 16 June 2014

The Dales Skyline

So on Saturday it was another epic outing in the hills for me, Harry, Hester and Gavin, this time following a humdinger of a route called the Dales Skyline. And with a total distance of 35 miles, ten peaks and 9,600 feet of ascent, it sure was an epic outing too, made especially so by the warm, sultry (aka sweaty as flip) weather. This fantastic route by the way was ‘invented’ by Duncan Elliot of Bowland Fellrunners three or four years ago and, as viewed from his home turf of Bowland, we were running pretty much the viewable skyline of the Yorkshire Dales. The start is in Barbon to the west, near Kirkby Lonsdale, with the route then hacking over all the main peaks in a wiggly line between there and Settle to the east: Calf Top, Crag Hill, Green Hill, Whernside, Ingleborough, Pen y Ghent, Fountain’s Fell, Malham Moor, Rye Loaf Hill and Warrendale Knotts. A description of the route can be found on the Gofar web site as can Duncan’s original write up of his inaugural running of the route.

So armed with a trusty Harvey's map of the South West Dales, we left Hester's and Gav's cars in Settle for the finish, then drove over to Barbon for the start in mine and off we jolly well went. The first two hills, Calf Top and Crag Hill, were new to me and, having got to the top of Calf Top after about 3.5 miles, we then had to descend a near vertical 1,200 ft slope down to the Kirkby Lonsdale to Sedburgh road before hacking through about 1.5 miles of grassy tussocky moorland from there to reach the top of Crag Hill. Crag Hill has a trig point and was presumably chosen as a top by Duncan because of that - in fact Great Coum (which we then proceeded to go over anyway) is actually a bit higher but doesn’t count as a peak on the Dales Skyline – Duncan’s route so Duncan’s rules ☺︎. We then ran round the top and along the ridge to the top of Green Hill which (interesting fact of the year alert) is the highest peak in Lancashire – Barbon, Crag Hill and Great Coum are all in Cumbria but Lancashire, for some weird reason, sends a spur of county line north which encompasses a thin triangle of the Dales including the peak of Gragareth (about one meter shorter than Green Hill and a couple of miles to the south) and just about squeezes in Green Hill too. Fortunately, after the uninvited interloping of Cumbria and Lancashire into the Yorkshire Dales, the route was all genuine North Yorkshire from this point on.

From Green Hill we descended into Kingsdale, one of my very favourite (and very unspoilt) Yorkshire Dales, before climbing Whernside and joining the 3 Peaks jamboree that was kicking off up there. The 3 Peaks charity walkers were out in spades on Whernside and, for a while on our descent to Hill Inn, the route was busy, busy, busy. We were then each able to drain (in great big thirsty gallops) pints of orange squash and greedily consume slabs of cake (and get a sausage for Harry) at the 3 peakeroo's farm shop just before Hill Inn (at £1 a pint business was booming) before commencing our assault on Ingleborough. Thankfully we'd now left the ‘pelaton’ of the 3 peak crowds behind and Ingleborough was a relatively civilised jaunt up and trot down to Horton. The 3 Peaks cafe in Horton too was another handy pit stop for even more drinks and cider lollies all round. At this point, when we had about 20 miles in the tank, we very much expected Harry to want to toodle home (just round the corner) but he was not inclined to do that at all and was maybe the most enthusiastic member of the whole team, scampering about and chasing stones, as the rest of us sweatily trudged up Pen y Ghent.

After Pen y Ghent, rather than follow the traditional line of the Pennine Way to Fountain’s Fell via Dale Head, we took a more direct route down...... and more flipping tussocks and bog hopping ensued. From there though Fountain’s Fell was a relatively easy climb, as was the running along the top of the ridge to the summit cairn and the line down from there to the trig point, our 8th peak, at Malham Moor. 

Rye Loaf Hill was next up and yet again we took a direct line through the tussocks to get to it and, after what seemed like an age of trudging (yes we were definitely trudging by this point) we eventually summitted Rye Loaf Hill, thank the lord. Now with Warrendale Knotts, our final peak, firmly in view with a glimpse of Settle beyond, the end was now in sight. We ran to Attermire scar and zipped up to the trig on Warrendale Knotts before racing down to Settle for the finish. 11 hours 45 start to finish so, yep, a long day out in the hills. What a cracking day out though.....

Ze Route

Not a bad route profile then with the 3 Peaks of Yorkshire sandwiched between 7 others

Hester leaving Barbon behind

Our 'line' to Crag Hill viewed from the top of Calf Top

Looking back at Calf Top with our almost vertical descent down from it plain to see - also Gav, Hes and Haz
if you look closely

Green Hill cairn - the high point of the whole of Lancashire!!

Crows on the way up Whernside

Haz and Hes chilling at the top of Whernside with Gav powering on

Ingleborough ahoy!

The Three Musketeers and Dogtagnan on top of Ingleborough

Horton-in-Ribblesdale coming up with Pen y Ghent next

Cider lollies at the Horton Cafe

The team grind their way up Pen y Ghent

No I didn't carry Harry all the way round!

Descending Pen y Ghent en route for Fountain's Fell

Harry's not particularly skilled at fence jumping

Looking back towards Pen y Ghent

H1 and H2 on top of Fountain's Fell with Pen y Ghent (centre), Ingleborough (left) and Whernside (far middle right)
all in view behind

Fountain's Fell cairn

The Malham Moor trig point with Pen y Ghent now being left further behind

Buttercup sheep

By gum it was a trog and a half getting to Rye Loaf Hill

Harry and Hester at the very final trig on top of Warrendale Knotts


  1. Congratulations - glad you enjoyed it.
    A lad called Ian who I met on Parlick tonight told me you had done it.
    If you e mail me the times I will put you on the completions for Tony to update at the end of the year.