The 3 Peaks, Yorkshire Dales (Chapel-Le-Dale)

14th May - 16th May 2004

Jenny van der Meijden, our longstanding secretary of the hiking club probably doesn't realise it but the notifications for these two hikes went out on 11th May, precisely one year apart!  Not withstanding this useless bit of information, it is a location that has long been a favourite venue for many.  On the Western part of the Yorkshire Dales national park, the Old School Bunkhouse in Chapel Le Dale is a suitably positioned base for attempting the Yorkshire Three Peaks.   Geologically, the peaks are formed of millstone grit on a limestone base.  Whernside is the highest at 736 metres, followed by Ingleborough at 723 metres and Pen-y-Ghent at 694 metres.  Indeed, many set out and easily conquer all three in one day, a distance of some 26 miles to be covered in about 12 hours, though they are the poorer cousin to the more challenging national three peaks additionally involving 500 miles of driving in one day, these being Scafell (England), Ben Nevis (Scotland) and Snowdon (Wales), which must be completed within 24 hours!

I had packed hurriedly on the Friday morning prior to going into work. Colleagues Evrin and Ravi required lifts, the latter's full name being Ravishankar Anantharamu. He hails from India whilst Evrin Erdem is Turkish, so the the hiking club caters for all nationalities, it would seem. After meeting around six, we headed off on the M1 all the way up, navigating through Bradford's somewhat convoluted route when passing through the city centre.   Ravi's alertness was razor sharp as he scanned the sidewalks, having heard so much about the beautiful Asian women in town.

  We missed the turn-off to Chapel-Le-Dale, but we finally got there around 23h00. Rob and Dave, resident rock 'n rollers, had brought their music gear along. A Mexican theme was scheduled for Saturday evening, so we were in for a treat. On the Saturday morning I had overslept and so it was that I missed out on breakfast in my attempt to rush off and catch the group up ahead who were heading off over Ingleborough.

 Views of Whernside shortly after commencing the Ingleborough walk; A break in proceedings on Ingleborough.

It nearly finished me, as I desperately tried to scale the near vertical ascent in double-quick time.  Coupled with the fact that I could not resist the odd photo or two anyway, that usually accounts for the fact that I end up at the rear of the group. In particular, my imagination was captivated by a single solitary tree amidst a scattering of cairns spread across the lush, green landscape. I could not haul them in and I finally capitulated in my attempt - I simply wasn't fit enough. The view from the summit was astounding, the path we had taken clearly visible below.  Pete Mathews and the others, whom I had been trying to catch, came by on their return from Ingleborough beacon. Judging by the haste in which they did so, I decided this was no group for a straggler like myself to attempt to latch on to. I cannot recall now whether he was attempting to do all three peaks but it did seem as if he had a plane to catch.  I seem to remember that Peter Karran (or PK as he is known) and Bonnie were attempting it that day.

Be that as it may, I waited for the next bunch to arrive, led by Chris Newton.  I simply wasn't fit enough. Their target being somewhat less ambitious but appealing nonetheless, their aim was to head on down to Clapham and Ingleton, before returning back to the bunkhouse, a walk that would still end up taking us most of the day. The group paused for tea and a snack at the cairns just beyond the beacon, which offered us some shelter from the cold.  Thereafter we began the descent towards Clapham Bottoms.


Ingleborough cairns and a tree; Views from the summit of Ingleborough; Chris Newton arrives at the summit.

The Yorkshire Dales area contains a labyrinth of underground passages and watercourses hollowed out of the limestone rock over thousands of years. The glaciers of the Ice Ages advanced over the area and have left behind a unique and picturesque landscape, but it is on the south side of Ingleborough, near Clapham village, where there are the most famous caves of the British Isles. In retrospect, I regret that we did not enter and explore these caves. I shall have to return at some later date as a matter of priority!  High on the mountain, Fell Beck drops into Gaping Gill pothole with Britain's highest waterfall into the largest underground chamber in the British Isles. Fell Beck then makes its way through large underground passages to finally emerge lower down the mountain at Ingleborough Cave. 
  The Cave has attracted many thousands of visitors ever since its discovery in 1837 and regular tours are conducted 0.5 km along large and beautifully decorated passages, all spectacularly floodlit. Fell Beck drops some 100 metres vertically  into the main chamber of Gaping Gill.  My website search brought me to the attention of a caving club based in the Yorkshire Dales known as the Bradford Pothole Club.  What a brilliant,  ingenious name for a club! Their website contains a stunning photo of the cavern.  Lower down past the entrance to the caves, Clapham Beck runs into a lake. Whilst I had been engaged in taking photos further upstream, Peter had waited for me at the entrance to Ingleborough cave.  








I understand that the possibility of visiting the caves was considered but given the entrance fee and the fact we still had a fair distance to cover, the group proceeded on down to Clapham village.   Peter and I walked briskly to catch up to the others.

Trow Gill limestone Gorge near Ingleborough cave; Clapham Beck just before the Lake.

Clapham is a stunning little village.  Ingleborough Cave is located about 2 km from the Clapham car and coach  park. Above the village is an old Sawmill, powered by water turbine, still in use, and there is a trail from the cottage in the yard from where tickets for a trail may be obtained.  The path leads on into beautiful woodland and by the lakeside where Reginald Farrer (1880-1920), the famous botanist, introduced over a hundred new plants into Europe from the Far East.
You can see Himalayan Rhododendron, bamboo and other unusual plants in a constantly changing scene. The lake is artificial, up to 15m deep and provides power to the turbine at the Sawmill.
It also used to provide the village with its water supply. We rushed through the village of Clapham as a result.  Clapham, along with a viewing of Ingleborough Caves, is pencilled in my diary as worthy of another visit . I remember very little of the walk between Clapham and Ingleton, save to say that it was flat and mostly off-road.    


   I do recall that Nikki and Evrin were fast reaching the conclusion that they had had enough for one day.  Nikki and Bonnie Parker had driven up with Peter Hartman. At the Three Horse Shoes pub in Ingleton, Chris, who had been doing most of the navigating, consulted the map on the best route back.  

Ingleton coffee shop; Time for a snack break on the long way home!

    After debating and checking of all of the options vis--vis bus timetables, it was agreed that we would leave Evrin and Nikki in Ingleton but not after a much-needed cup of tea and a pastry. It was arranged that we would fetch them later, though we still had an hour or two of walking to go.

Tree canopy on the road up past the Old School Bunkhouse at Chapel-Le-Dale; View of Ingleborough from the same road.

Avoiding the B6255, we took a route out of Ingleton past the waterfalls on the stream below the level of the farm road. Peter and I decided to have a quick look and so we were left behind once more, eventually heading back along the road to the left of the River Doe until we reached the main road again at Chapel-Le-Dale.  Peter and I were about to head back in the car when Bonnie, who had done the entire three peaks with Peter Karran, demanded to know the whereabouts of Nikki, when her position had clearly been taken care of.  She barged in, insisting on going back with Peter Hartman to fetch her and Evrin. In the evening the royal feast began. Martin and Vanda had offered to cook dinner, the first time this had happened in my time with the club.

Chilli con carne, the stuff that is to hikers what rocket fuel is to Space Shuttles, was on the menu. Rob and Dave had brought their musical equipment along and so it was that we rocked till the early hours. Sombreros and ponchos were worn to complement the Mexican theme and Maeve Weber supplied dessert. An evening of great mirth and jollification followed!  Stirring, heart-rendering vocal performances, especially Martin's passionate serenade to Vanda, dancing, impromptu, unrehearsed performances by trios and quartets were witnessed, though some might have been worthy of a Simon Cowell going-over.  Who cares? It was brilliant stuff! 

On the Sunday Evrin, Ravi and I came back through Leeds, where we lost our way, then on to the M1, after first stopping off at Bolton Abbey for a few hours with the weather being so good, reaching Welwyn around 21h00.


Dave, our fiendishly brilliant rock star!


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