Ingleborough (723m) is the second highest of the Yorkshire Dales summits and sits in the middle of the three peaks, straddling Ribblesdale, Chapel-le-Dale and (I think) Lonsdale. In aspect, it closely resembles Pen-y-Ghent: a gritstone summit plateau buttressed with cliffs; a long, boggy ridge trailing away to the north; limestone pavement skirting its lower flanks. Simon Fell (650m) is an outlying sub-summit mid-way along the waterlogged north-ridge.
Clapham. Park up, boot up. Cool and dark, slippery under foot through the old tunnels and out into muggy sunshine as the track follows the eastern fringes of Clapdale Wood. Flies harass my ears and neck as I plod the length of Long Lane, panting slightly in the breathless air. God, I’m unfit. A goldfinch perches briefly on the fence ahead of me.
Fresher air greets me as I climb, turning northwest, parallel to Trow Gill. A breeze sees off my insect escort. I pause for some coffee and poor photography at a pothole just south of Gaping Gill. For all the times I’ve been up Ingleborough, I’ve never ascended via Little Ingleborough before. This is odd as it’s exactly my kind of ascent: a brief walk-in to warm up and then swift, direct height gain. I glimpse a peregrine falcon skimming around Ingleborough’s bulk. In no time at all, I’m stood on the ridge looking north to the summit plateau. I’ll be using this route again.
Below me, the hill’s haunches are clad in dark green – rushes, sedges and grasses. The heather is not yet in bloom. Beyond Gaping Gill, limestone pavement punctuates the foliage; the flora is less dominated by wet species and, from this height, is a brighter green. Above me, the summit is broad, flat and sparse. Loose flakes of rock are strewn across the bare gritstone.
Although the weather forecast (and the sky to the south) threatens rain, the horizon is obscured by a humid heat haze. The breeze has a bit more to say for itself up here and my windproof comes out of the pack while I eat some lunch. Whernside lurks out to the northwest as I chat to a lovely Somerset family on their first trip to Yorkshire. We talk about the Dales – they are staying in Bishopdale – and they promise they will be returning.
Dropping from the summit plateau to the northeast ridge, I aim for Simon Fell. I’ve been along this ridge once before but never up to its summit. I handrail the east side of a drystone wall to the top of the hummock – it’s wet underfoot here, and there are patches of bare peat. From Simon Fell, I head southeast to Lord’s Seat and am rewarded with splendid views down into Ribblesdale from a vantage point I’ve not had before. Following a wall south over boggy ground, my gaiters earning their place in today’s kit, I descend to the Horton-bound track.
Below the ruins of the shooting hut, I strike out across CRoW land on a Land Rover track that I first used on the CRO challenge in May. It’s firm going on a well-drained track, which winds its way through swathes of limestone pavement. Meadow pippits and wheatears flit ahead of me. The deep ‘pruuk’ of a raven has me craning my neck upwards; it folds one wing and rolls, tumbling, soars upwards once more. Sheep peer at me with their strange, horizontal slit pupils. Note to self: find out more about sheep-breeds, even though they have strange, horizontal slit pupils. I can only identify Herdwicks at the moment. I think these are Swaledales. It’s bright enough now that I have to wear sunglasses.
A pleasant stroll takes me gradually down in to Crummack Dale. Further round to the east, it’s all classic limestone escarpment: grey-white teeth studding green gums above a sheer jawbone. This dale is absolutely beautiful. Rolling pasture and scattered patches of wood, divided by winding Austwick Beck, nestling beneath rugged scars. My attention is drawn up to the blue by a high keening. A buzzard circles overhead and then glides past me only 10 metres above the ground as I stride up towards tarmaced Crummack Lane. Crummack Lane leads me to Thwaite Lane (scene of the agonising backward kink at the end of the CRO challenge), leads me to the tunnels and back to Clapham. A day of (mostly) brilliant sunshine turns to thunder and rain just as I get into Grunty. That’s my car. Yes, my car’s called Grunty. Because so there.
For those of you who are interested in these things my pack (a Macpac Amp 25) contained: Rab Demand pullover, Haglöfs Lizard windproof, Rab Bergen pants, Lowe Alpine Mountain Cap, Marmot XT gloves, OS OL Sheet 2, Silva mirror-sighting compass, Julbo sunglasses, Benchmade Presidio lock-knife, iPhone, coffee, water, sandwiches. I wore Garmont Vetta Mnt boots, Montane Vortex Stretch gaiters, Montane Terra pants, Mountain Hardwear Canyon LS shirt and some CK microfibre t-shirt I got from TK Maxx. I don’t know what it’s called. Blue Steel, probably…(for the record, I have not been sponsored, paid, blackmailed or bribed to mention these products)