Yorkshire Dales Walks
Whernside & Scales Moor
Date: 4th May 2015
Distance: 14.6 miles
Ascent: 1936 feet
Time: 7 hours 15 mins
With: On my own
Start Grid Ref: SD764790
A superb and lengthy ramble exploring some of the many features of Whernside including waterfalls, pot holes, a tarn and gritstone crags.
Route Summary: Ribblehead - Blue Clay Ridge - Force Gill - Greensett Tarn - Greensett Crags - Whernside - Combe Scar - West Fell - Rigg End - Ewes Top - Scales Moor - Ellerbeck - Bruntscar - Ivescar - Gunnerfleet Farm
Photos: Click on the photos below to enlarge.
Walk Detail: Although lacking the more obvious aesthetic appeal of Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent it is Whernside that has always been my personal favourite of the Three Peaks. This judgement is perhaps a result of the foul weather I experienced on my first encounter with the other two and that Whernside was the first Dales summit I enjoyed a clear view from.
Whilst going through some old photos I realised I hadn't actually visited Whernside for over five years and so, although it wasn't on my 'to-do' list for the year, I made a return visit a priority. This came round sooner than I expected when a bank holiday camping trip to Hadrian's Wall was cut short on the Saturday evening due to bad weather. Fortunately Bank Holiday Monday was glorious and so it was that I went out for this extended ramble to revisit some of my favourite spots on Whernside whilst also exploring for the first time the long south ridge of the fell.
When I arrived at Ribblehead the top of Whernside was still covererd by cloud but the skies quickly brightened up as I walked past the viaduct, a feat of engineering that never fails to impress me. For the first couple of miles I followed the popular route past the viaduct and Blea Moor signal box. Once across the aqueduct I left the main path to head up Force Gill visiting first the main lower waterfall, surely one of the most impressive in the Yorkshire Dales. Continuing on alongside the stream I passed a fewer smaller waterfalls before arriving at the second large waterfall, sometimes called The Mare's Tail.
Tracing the stream all the way to the spring where it literally gushes out of a small limestone outcrop I then pottered about a bit over some nearby limestone pavement and visited a small cave also near the head of Force Gill. Next I crossed some moister ground to visit Greensett Tarn. On my previous visit the cloud was so low I couldn't see from one end of the tarn to the other, this time this lovely sheet of water was backed by the impressive main escarpment of Whernside. It was such a nice and peaceful spot that I sat and ate my lunch there while counting the distant figures on the main path above me (at least sixty people by my reckoning).
After lunch I doubled back from the tarn to investigate Greensett Crag which turned out to be a modest but dramatic enough limestone scar with some great views of Ribblesdale and towards Ingleborough. Heading south along the diminishing crag I then continued alongside a broken wall to reach the 'steep' route up Whernside alongside a broken wall and fence. I'd been up this way a couple of times before and it looks a lot worse than it actually is and very soon I found myself on the summit ridge for an easy stroll north to the summit.
Surprisingly I managed to have the trig point to myself for a few minutes before I carried on a little bit further north to get some pictures looking back down at Greensett Tarn. Turning around I then retraced my steps past the summit to drop down to the path that descends to Bruntscar. This is the furthest south that I'd been on Whernside and it was with some relish that I once again left the crowds behind and set off to explore the long south-west ridge.
Initially I ignored the thin path heading alongside the wall and instead I made a bee line for the steep gritstone crag of Combe Scar which provided some more dramatic views, especially down towards the scattered farms around Ribblehead and to the limestone covered Scales Moor further along my route. Eventually making my way back to the the wall I made one further diversion (to a sprawling cairn on West Hill) before reaching the shelter on Ewes Top. The main features of note on this stretch was the hirsute standing stone which the wall had been built around and the suitably moist ground at the wonderfully named Moss at Back o'th Rigg.
From Ewes Top I turned around and headed in a generally north-east direction as I went on a ramble around the limestone plateau of Scales Moor. There was a nearby bridleway that I could have used but I thought it would be more interesting to once again forsake the path and go exploring myself. In addition to some fine limestone pavement I found numerous pot holes and some erratics including one particularly impressive boulder. Gradually I worked my way back to the bridleway in the vicinity of Hard Rigg. Once back on the bridleway from where it was a straightforward walk back to Ribblehead via the farms and houses at Ellerbeck, Bruntscar, Broadrake, Ivescar and Gunnerfleet.
This was a fantastic expedition, more of an extended ramble of exploration than a more traditional walk. During the course of the walk I visited waterfalls, a tarn, limestone and gritstone crags, pot holes, limestone pavements and enjoyed superb views. I couldn't really ask for anything more.