Pennine Way – Gargrave to Dufton

First, a confession. The original plan had been to do the whole Pennine Way (North to South probably) but a two day hike in the Lake District a couple of weeks before made it quite clear I wasn’t fit enough (walking fit, which is a bit different from being able to knock out a half decent 5k or sprint tri) to do this, or at least for it to be anything other than a hard painful slog. So a quick change of plans and I decided to do about 100 miles of the PW and the Gargrave to Dufton section seemed the most accessible (trains at each end) and take in some of the best scenery (and also act as a recce for the last third or so of the Spine Challenger).

More photos from the walk are here.

Day 1 Gargrave to Fountains Fell

Straightforward journey to Gargrave only slightly complicated by the trams not running and initially getting on the wrong train at Leeds. No point in starting walking on an empty stomach so I got a good lunch in first at Gargrave, eaten by the river watching a family of ducks. The route to Malham is quite easy and a good warm up, basically following the river all the way to Malham. Plenty of time so I detoured to Gordale Scar an impressive cleft on the landscape with plenty of tourists and a few climbers. Back to Malham and a quick bite to eat from the shop there before pressing on upto the Cove and then the Tarn. A steady climb up Fountains Fell then over the other side where the search for somewhere to camp began, eventually finding a good flat piece of grass with just enough room for the tent in amongst the thistles. Food, read paper, bed.

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Day 2 Fountains Fell to Hawes

I was looking forward to waking up to a fantastic view of Pen-y-Ghent from the tent door but unfortunately it was shrouded in cloud and would remain so until I was over the top and down the other side. Reached Horton-in-Ribblesdale at about 10:30 and straight to the cafe for a full English and a cup of tea, proper walking food. Set off again at about midday and it was turning into a hot one now that the cloud had burnt away. The walk from Horton to Hawes is about 13 miles,  all on good tracks and in the first four or so miles there are a good few caves and holes to have a peek into, the most impressive was Browgill Cave with a waterfall into a tantalising (for a hot and sweaty walker) subterranean lake. Fortunately a little further on there was just enough water in Ling Gill for a swim to cool off; and luckily no-one came along the path whilst I was drying off after just in my pants! The remaining miles to Hawes are fairly unremarkable to be honest and arrived at about 5pm. Checked into the YHA then off to the White Hart for a lovely dinner of pie and chips with a pint of Semer Water bitter.

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Day 3 Hawes to Tan Hill Inn

Full english number 2 starts the day, which is a bit ominous with some thunder and half an hour of heavy rain. But with a little extra faffing by the time I’m ready to go the rain has basically stopped. Into the Spar for some provisions then back onto the PW. The first stage of today’s route is over Great Shunner Fell (716m) a pretty steady climb which would usually be boggy I expect but not after the long period of dry weather we’ve had. By the time I reach the summit the cloud is down and for the second time on this trip I see nothing from the top of a hill. By lunchtime I’m in Thwaite and stop at the Kearton tea rooms for probably the best food of the trip, lovely fresh BLT sandwiches which came with bonus chips I wasn’t expecting. Recommended! The path onwards to Keld is very alpine, traversing the side of a hill with good views into the valley. Took a small detour to Kisdon Force which was well worth it, double waterfalls with some perfect wild swimming pools; didn’t go in as I’d left all my stuff back up the trail but will definitely be back for a swim there at some point. Another detour into Keld for some cake at the tea rooms there, filling my boots today as I know the next two days had little chance of food stops. A steady 4 miles to the Tan Hill Inn; camping for a couple of quid next to a pub – sounds OK to me! Strange place though, a pub in the middle of nowhere in Yorkshire yet the bar staff sound like they should be in Eastenders! Another short storm to end the day but my little tent was up to the wind and rain thrown at it.

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Day 4 Tan Hill Inn to Middleton-in-Teeside

A bright and still morning so a leisurely start to let the tent dry off. Decided that a 3rd cooked breakfast in a row would be pushing it so stuck to some flapjack. On the trail by 9:30 for what was a bit of a transition stage (using the parlance of the Tour de France) with not a whole lot going on. A long section over moors and (dry) bogs was (rudely) interrupted only by streams of cars and lorries on the A66. The last 6 miles were more farmland but still no villages and hardly a soul to be seen, although some interest was provided by the fighter jet training above. With not a lot to delay me I just cracked on with it and was in Middleton-in-Teesdale by 3:30pm. Checked into the Teeside Hotel (yes I know I’m getting soft in my old age but it’s supposed to be a holiday!), ate a late second lunch, then ate tea, then went to bed. Rock and roll.

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Day 5 Middleton-in-Teeside to Dufton

Up and away early for a long day on the trail (22 miles) to Dufton, following the River Tees upstream and over the fells. Three famous waterfalls are passed along the way; Low Force (bit impressive), High Force (very impressive) and Cauldron Snout (quite impressive). After lunch just above Cauldron Snout continued the steady climb before a curious expanse of flat ground and then suddenly the ground falls away from your feet and the amazing High Cup Nick opens up in front of you. Very impressive and a great place to sit and comtemplate life over a cereal bar for a few minutes. All that remained was a five mile stroll downhill to Dufton, coffee and cake there and then I arrived at the YHA minutes before a heavy shower, my weather radar had been working pretty well all trip!

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Day 6 Dufton to home

I had been toying with doing another day over Cross Fell but had pretty much decided against it, and my foot was sore when I got up which confirmed that decision. The 3rd full english of the trip then a 3 mile stroll to Appleby on a beautiful morning to get the train home, which included the bonus of going over the Ribblehead Viaduct!

Kit List

  • Rucsac – Go-Lite Peak – bought on a whim a year or two again (well it was half price) 38 litres, very light, perfect for this kind of thing
  • Tent – Alpkit Delta – sold with some caveats but perfectly fine for solo use although I’ve not tested it in any really filthy weather yet
  • Sleeping Bag – Mountain Hardwear Lamina 35 – 2 season synthetic, 1 season would have been more than adequate with hindsight.
  • Sleeping Mat – Decathlon Lightweight 3/4 self infalting mat – very comfy, folded into 5 and shoved into the back of my rucsac to carry
  • Shoes – Montrail Badrock – last minute purchase so straight from the box into a near 100 mile walk. Possibly a touch high in the arch for me but otherwise very comfy, they have a rock plate under the forefoot for protection which I find I need for multi-day walking otherwise I get sore feet
  • Walking clothes – 2*Merino T-shirt, 2*decathlon 2 layer socks, decathlon 3/4 running pants – perfect, 3/4 pants instead of shorts so I have less leg to cover in sunblock!
  • Clean clothes – T-short, trousers, socks
  • Shell – OMM Kamleika Pullover and Pants – top only used very briefly, pants not at all
  • Insulation – Rab Generator vest – almost got left at home but I needed it to use as a pillow!
  • Long sleeve baselayer and pertex gilet – not used
  • Cap and sunglasses
  • Towel, washkit, wet wipes, P20, midge spray
  • 2 litre bladder, 1 litre flexi-bottle, collapsible cup, chlorine tablets – just the bladder full or nearly full was enough for a day.
  • Maps, compass, whistle, altimeter watch, headtorch
  • Phone, Kindle, charger, camera
  • Money and cards
  • Alpkit dry bags

The weight of that lot was 8kg not including food and water.

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