Saturday, 20 June 2015

Great Whernside

Wharfedale at its Wildest

Great Whernside, at 2310 feet, is not as high as 'Whernside' itself - but far more splendid as a mountain.  It is Wharfedale's highest spot - and today I set off to climb it the classic way, from Kettlewell via the Tor Dyke.

Here's a typical Wharfedale barn near Kilnsey - heading up the dale.

Kilnsey Crag is Yorkshire's most famous truncated spur.  The end of a protruding nose of limestone was effectively trimmed off by the Wharfedale Glacier some 12,000 years ago.

The overhang has always been a serious challenge for climbers.

From Kettlewell, an old lead mining village - I wandered up the ancient Top Mere Road, with a fine view down the dale towards Kilnsey Crag and the distant Cracoe Fell.

Kettlewell nestles in the dale: a cluster of cottages beneath the limestone terraces.

Peeping through this interesting old gate on the right, Great Whernside's massive sprawl dominated the landscape, passing in and out of shadow.

I loved this particular view - with the clouds parting to generously allow light to spread over Wharfedale.

A massive apron of Great Scar Limestone can be seen here to the west of the mountain, cut by two very obvious meltwater gills:  Caseker Gill on the left - and Dowbergill over on the right.  The two are infamously connected underground by Dowbergill Passage - a confusing two dimensional maze that has baffled - and trapped - many a caver.  I'll take you in one day.

The gills of Great Whernside are well worth exploring in their own right.  This view is of Hay Tonge Farm, with Caseker Gill and Park Gills splitting the limestone to the left.

The sun has arrived at last - and what a road to paradise Top Mere can appear to be at times like this.

Zoom into a lone walker - lost in his own thoughts, heading into Wharfedale.

Fossilised worm casts on the path.  At first they look like ancient carvings!

As the path swings to the east we meet the impressive Iron Age earthworks of the Tor Dyke. Reputedly created by the Brigantian leader Venutius in about AD 70 against the Romans, it basically follows the contours of the hillside and presumably tried to prevent attacks from the valley below. You can spend hours exploring this and it is certainly one of the best archaeological sites in Yorkshire.

Earth has been banked up to fortify the already stepped contours of the hillside.

View from the Tor Dyke down Fears Gill Beck - a great name.  Perhaps the Romans approached up this - bringing more than a few fears with them!

The ramparts of the Tor Dyke are very impressive.

Here's some idea of what it might be like as a Brigantian warrior ...!

A great view opens up along the tail of Great Whernside - sweeping across the fell to the cute summit of Little Whernside.  This is wild country - but breathtaking in its beauty.

This view is looking south-east along the ramparts of Tor Dyke with the gritstone uplands of Great Whernside sweeping down to the valleys below.

This view looks along the length of Tor Dyke.  The gills would have provided natural defence - so this huge open sweep was vulnerable and needed  a lot of work !!

A fabulous view of the ramparts of Tor Dyke, with Wharfedale far below.

Looking east across Tor Dyke to Great Whernside.

Looking back to the west - the fortification becomes even more obvious.

And our final view of the dyke - from its ramparts down the intersecting gills leading into Wharfedale.

Leaving the dyke behind - we head up onto the steep Yoredale slopes of Great Whernside itself - and the first gritstone boulders begin to show.

The slope is unrelentingly steep - but the views across get better with every step.

It's another world as we pull ourselves onto the summit ridge at Blackfell Crags.  Here we meet moorland birds such as the dunlin - surprisingly plucky despite the approaching Oldfield!

One or two lonely, peaty tarns shimmer with a deep blueness on the mountain top.

Views open up to the east with Penyghent and the cap of Ingleborough becoming more prominent.

Then, at Blackfell Rocks - the summit ridge of Great Whernside is the give away to its name: the Old English cweorn side meaning 'the hillside where millstones were got.'  The gritstone here was formed by rivers washing gravels into a shallow sea in the late Carboniferous.

Everywhere the scene is spectacular.

This precariously balanced bed of Grassington Grit contains the 'Old Man' - but can you spot him?

Attempt at a self portrait.  Actually the fifth attempt as the wind was constantly blowing the camera over - hence my annoyed look!

Looking north towards Great Hunters Sleets and Buckden Pike.

The Old Man of Great Whernside - complete with cap, prominent nose and shadow moustache.

He looks like some grumpy farmer scanning the landscape for a lost sheep!

See if you can spot him by wandering off the path into the superb rock formations.  He's well worth it.

Looking back at Blackfell Rocks.

Erosion has caused some wonderful rock sculpture.

The well-worn wind shelter on the summit of Great Whernside - 2310 feet above the sea - and still effective against the westerlies at least ...

I call these two monster boulders 'Adam and Eve' - and why not?  Stand on top for a sensational view.

Here they are - amidst a chaotic jumble of boulders.

The Great Whernside summit rocks have some lovely striations caused by wave and wind action.

Top of the world - or so it seems.

The summit of Great Whernside.

Another self portrait - hugging the trig point on the summit.

These feet were made for walking - but not at this point - more like a snooze under the sky.

Reptilian rock, like the face of a giant prehistoric flying reptile, as I head off the summit.

Glancing back up to the summit from the path down to Dowbergill.

An old bell pit by Dowbergill - a primitive form of lead mining from centuries ago.

Dowbergill is an impressive ravine cut out of the Great Scar Limestone - and containing the old Providence Lead Mine.  The pothole of the same name follows Dowbergill Passage to Dow Cave, in Caseker Gill to the north.

A view up the ravine of Dowbergill with Great Whernside watching over all.

Portrait of Great Whernside and Dowbergill - well worth a wander up in its own right.

A glimpse down Dowbergill towards Kettlewell and Wharfedale - with tributary meltwater valleys cut into the limestone.

Evidence of ancient field systems just to the north east of Kettlewell.

Approaching Kettlewell; looking across the spectacular limestone benches to Old Cote Moor.

Cam Gill Beck has one or two beautiful little waterfalls.

Kettlewell itself is a place of beauty - a great place to begin and end an adventure.

This is a great circular route from Kettlewell to a wild mountain top.  The views throughout are some of the best in the Dales.