Tor Dike, Hunters Sleets,
The weather projections for Bank Holiday Monday morning look a whole lot more favourable than those we had for Sunday, suggesting that the worst of the lingering rain should be done before 9am, and as I've got my camera working again and all my clothes dried, with a potential six and half hour window to use before the last #874 bus runs back to Leeds, it makes total sense to tilt again at Buckden Pike and hang the consequences of a dozen extra miles walked when I still need to return to work on Tuesday. So rise for breakfast at 8.45am, again eating as much food as Zarina will put in front of me to sustain another trip out, feeling teased by the suggestions of blue skies and sunshine breaking through the light clouds as I watch an early starter walk up the ascent up to Gate Cote Scar across the valley, but as I make plans to leave an hour later, the weather looks a whole lot less favourable, and I'm already mentally revising my plans as my hosts agree to allow me to leave my bag containing my clothes and ancient laptop at the tearoom to collect on the way back. Step out at 10am, cursing the fact that Upper Wharfedale never seems to bring the weather that you'd like to have, striking back along Middle Lane again as I choose to get the long ascent up to 500m altitude done early, rather than retracing steps up the main road back to Starbotton, stepping past the Village store again and walking up the north side of Kettlewell Beck, past the various cottages and farmsteads to the former village school at the bottom of Cam Gill Road. The ascent here starts in earnest, and even before we've risen above the tree cover, the drizzle has shifted to a steady rain, and I'll pause overlooking the village to look to the north west to see if the weather shows any sign of relenting, which it doesn't and so we get fully waterproofed up again as we hit the slippery limestone-clad track of Top Mere Road, wondering aloud if we're getting yesterday's weather back, returning for a bonus downpour or two over Wharfedale again. The steepest stretch of the days' ascending is the rise to 350m, the regular 150m ascent from the river valley being something of a West Riding tradition, and looking back down the valley as we go gives a distinctly shifting view of the weather as the cloud level changes with nearly every look, sometimes revealing Barden Moor all the way down the valley, and at other times offering nothing further away than all the marquees around Kilnsey, and hopes for high land progress feel stymied once I get sight over to Great Whernside, with cloud shrouding it above the 600m contour.
|Kettlewell from Top Mere Road.|
|All of the weather in Upper Wharfedale.|
|Great Whernside lost in cloud.|
Rising on a gentler slope for a while we can look hopefully over the northern stretch of Wharfedale to keep hoping that the light band in the sky beyond Firth Fell is indicative of the rain being due to ease off, but it shows no sign of doing so, and we lose views in that direction beyond the craggy end of Cam Pasture around the 400m contour, as the green lane favours the sheltered passage up the side of the Cam Gill watershed off the exposed ridge, and so we continue on with cloud hanging heavy to our east and the mile or so to the junction of Starbotton Cam Road feeling very long indeed. Haul uphill on the track between widely spaced limestone walls for about half the distance, and then move onto exposed pasture above 450m, and at the very least the coming horizon looks familiar, with Tor Dike describing the 500m contour pretty plainly but it's along trek to get to the road junction, with at least one wall and gate teasing you with the belief that you are closer than you are. An hour in, we hit Starbotton Cam Road and retrace our steps from yesterday to the east, and both maps and guide book indicate a bridleway route that rises from here before we reach the headwaters of Fears Gill Beck, but I get no sight of it among the undulations, and despite seeing another pair of walkers departing the track to seek it ahead of me, no need at all is felt for wandering into the long grass as the rain continues to fall. So around the western edge of Tor Dike I go, knowing that a wall rises directly northwards that should be easy enough to follow to meet the edge of the high declivity at Hunters Sleets and this is easily met to follow the ground in track across the damp turf to briefly see the way over into Coverdale, and then find the way to the north west and on to Top Mere Top, but unfortunately, this turn puts us right in the face of the oncoming rain, and I've not reached the 550m contour before my brain is ready to go home. I could probably have faced it down if I'd had another night in the B'n'B to come, but when a 3+ hour ride homeward is due when I've got 4+ hours still to go on the trail in makes no sense to continue into the wind and rain that show no sign of abating, as I already feel as wet as I want to get, and so we turn right around and pace the half mile back down to the Park Rash pass, down a clear enough route to the sub-500m depression, but with absolutely no sightline back to Buckden Pike as we go down, so despite what the forecast suggested, this is clearly not the sort of day to be out here on the hills so high.
|Top Mere Road on Cam Pasture.|
The Ascent to Starbotton Cam Road.
|Tor Dike and the 500m crags.|
|The best view of Coverdale from the watershed.|
|As close as we'll be getting to Buckden Pike today.|
At the cattle grid I get a time check that tells me it's only an hour until the early bus back to Ilkley leaves, which means I've got to get down from 300m up and 2+ miles distant from Kettlewell, starting off downhill in the driving rain that prevents the best of views from altitude, losing 50m of height pretty rapidly, which immediately illustrates why this road was picked to be a featured climb of this year's Tour de Yorkshire, a ride that would be testing for even the most seasoned of cyclists, one that's not all that much fun to go down. The next 50m down are a bit less steep, dropping down into the Kettlewell Beck catchment and losing the wind that was coming over the high ground to the west, only getting steep again as we pass the farmstead at New Laithe, the highest active one in the locality at 410m up, with trees coming along the roadside as the view into Fears Gill opens up, with West Scale Park farm being located, looking distinctly habituated at 350m elevation. The Leyburn road is still going down super steeply from here, finally revealing a grand view forwards and looking like it's going to bottom out long before we reach its end, and this is where we meet the sharp turns of Park Rash itself dropping down alarmingly quickly as we head down to the point where Fears Gill and Park Gill converge before the road settles in at the side of Cam Gill itself, a great spot to have to didge traffic that isn't expecting to meet you there. The rain of the weekend has been so heavy, that the road has been inundated by the many springs cascading from the valley side, and that at least means we can consider our Summer heatwave to be officially over, and some paddling is needed before the road starts to rise from the valley floor, elevating us to get a special sort of view up the valley as we land ourselves exactly between our ascent routes from yesterday and earlier this morning. We are offered teasing views up Dawber Gill, and out down Wharfedale, long before the rise out of Cam Gill crests, and as we meet the tree cover and the signage for Kettlewell, it's still raining hard, indicating a correct choice made as the day's circuit is completed three hours early, as steps are made back down Middle Lane to retrieve my bag from Zarina's Tearoom, and not get the tea and cake that the day's end needs, sadly. That's because the #874 bus is due at the Blue Bell corner five minutes after my finish time of 12.25pm, but still, I leave with the feeling of having unfinished business and the satisfaction of having tried and failed today, and so I make a promise to return to Belk's B'nB to Zarina, and to return to Upper Wharfedale for my own benefit, to enjoy a warmer, drier weekend in the future, as there's still so much more to see out here.
|The Park Rash Pass, the top 50m.|
|Cam Gill, from above Park Rash.|
|Park Rash, from Cam Gill.|
|Out of Cam Gill, and back to Wharfedale.|
|The Racehorses Hotel, and the Blue Bell Inn, Kettlewell.|
5,000 Miles Cumulative Total: 3496 miles
2018 Total: 402.6 miles
Up Country Total: 3152.3 miles
Solo Total: ????.? miles
Next Up: Back Down Country to complete the Leicestershire Round in the County's West.