Today's freezing adventure takes us from Dalehead, on the Stainforth to Halton Gill road (surely one of the wildest roads in England) along the foot of the western face of this wonderful mountain to some exquisite limestone features - some not bettered anywhere else in the UK. Colin Speakman wrote in Walking in the Yorkshire Dales that Penyghent is 'one of the great mountains in England' and he is not wrong in his assessment of this majestic 'hill of the winds.' There's an honesty box just over the cattle grid at Dalehead (SD843714), so having parked up, we take the Pennine Way behind Dale Head Farm ...
From this angle the joints and bedding planes in Churn Milk Hole can be clearly seen - as can the way Penyghent sits proudly on the 600 feet thick limestone plinth. Enlarging of prominent joints by solution in the limestone beneath, over a massive period of time, has caused the surface rock to collapse inwards and form the hole.
The curious name? Probably a reference to the fact that it was on the path and was once a convenient place to store churns of milk long before refrigeration. A large hole - but chickenfeed compared with the giants to come ....
Just beyond Churn Milk Hole, the way on is over the rough moorland behind this signpost - the only way it isn't pointing - as we want the first part of the adventure all to ourselves. If we head about 200 metres over the tussocks, we'll meet the corner of a wall next to the first of the day's truly breathtaking natural wonders .. and it doesn't even have a name! (SD833718) A dotted line indicates the path on the OS map.
Hands up if you're now a member of the Sugar Basin fan club? Many attempts have been made to connect the hole with other well known cave systems. Who knows what secrets may lie beneath?
From the Sugar basin, walking directly west and keeping Ingleborough in our sights as a guide - we soon drop over the brow of a hill and this view opens up. Of course the trees hide another wonder - you knew that!
Lined up on the same fault as the other two, Larch Tree Hole is more a conventional pothole, formed by a now absent stream. It's about 15 metres deep and surrounded by a wall so our woolly friends don't fall in . Having said that, it's full of bones, farm debris, bits of corrugated iron ... oh, and more bones ..
When they have been around here, though, they've done some pretty strange things. Notice the sheet of rusty iron? This covers a hole known as Gavel Rigg Pot - and the spoil the cavers have dug out of it is neatly walled in on the right. It doesn't lead in very far, is too narrow for me, and is yet another attempt to connect the underworld beneath Penyghent.
The mountain is watching over us all the time - of course ...
This innocent looking hole is the most daunting, notorious and exhausting stream pothole in Great Britain - the stupendous Penyghent Pot.
The 'boulders of dubious stability' described in Northern Caves - have been made safer with scaffolding. The cave was discovered in 1949. You can just see the stream glinting below.
Perhaps the more cowardly water droplets prefer to delay their descent into hell by being frozen in time.
Hull Pot - 270 feet long and 60 feet deep, pales into insignificance all other surface openings in the UK - or Europe, for that matter. Formed on a fault - it has been ground out by water action from a stream which, nowadays, only plunges into the chasm after flooding.
There is no way into the hole, except with full climbing gear. In extreme floods it fills completely and even overflows, causing chaos ... but what a view with Penyghent behind.