Climbing Fountains Fell via the Pennine Way

Fountains Fell from Malham Tarn

Walk Summary

A super walk along the Pennine Way on to Fountains Fell from Malham Tarn before a less obvious return over Knowe Fell, Black Hill and the Gorbeck road.

Distance: 13.0 miles
Total ascent: 2100ft
Walk Rating: *****
Parking: Car park, Malham Tarn
Route: Download Route [GPX]

Photo Gallery

Walk Report

This route is similar to one I last did way back in July 2004. On that occasion my friend Matt and I, on one of our earliest walks in the Yorkshire Dales, encountered lots of cloud and persistent rain. All in all it was a very soggy walk indeed. Although I’d been back to Fountains Fell twice since then this was the first time since that original walk that I’d followed the Pennine Way up on to Fountains Fell from Malham Tarn.

I have to confess though I’d not actually planned to start from Malham Tarn. My plan had been to start from a small layby just before Tennant Gill Farm on the minor road to Darnbrook. A ‘road closed’ sign put paid to that idea so I had to begin a couple of miles further away at the parking area just south of Malham Tarn.

“Upon reaching the trig point on Knowe Fell I was treated to a beautiful contrast of sunshine and dark dramatic clouds passing over Ingleborough, Pen-y-Ghent and Fountains Fell.”

As it happened the extra distance added to the walk worked out quite well. Although I’ve visited Malham Tarn many times I still enjoyed the walk around the lake, passing below Great Close Hill and into the woods surrounding Malham Tarn House. An extra bonus, though slightly surprising given the time of year, was some extensive displays of snowdrops in the woods.

Upon leaving the woods I continued north on the Pennine Way. This stretch leading to the road below Tennant Gill was muddy in places. Ample compensation was to be had in the latter stages of this section with some good views of the valley of Cowside Beck.

Apart from a couple of short steep sections the climb on to Fountains Fell from Tennant Gill was fairly steady. The retrospective views improved with height especially towards the likes of Great Whernside and Parson’s Pulpit. At the top of the Pennine Way I didn’t immediately make my way to the summit of the fell. Instead I crossed a wall at a stile to continue north on the Pennine Way. Arriving at the point where it begins its steep descent towards Rainscar I stopped to enjoy the spectacular view towards Pen-y-Ghent and Ingleborough.

Retracing my steps back to the wall I crossed back over the stile. I then took a thin path heading for the summit. Along the way I passed the remains of Fountains Fell Colliery, a coal mine that was active in the early 19th century. Along with a deep fenced off shaft another feature of interest wasthe well preserved remains of a coke oven.

Having reached the pile of stones marking the summit I took shelter behind the nearby wall to have some lunch. After lunch, rather than taking the direct path to Fountains Fell South Top, I made a short detour to visit the shores of Fountains Fell Tarn. From the tarn it was a short climb up to the small pile of stones marking the summit of Fountains Fell South Top. A slight mishap occurred when I tried to take a photo of myself next to the pile of stones. As I posed waiting for the timer to finish a gust of wind blew over my tripod. The camera went down lens first into some deep peat. After much wiping I managed to clean it off and fortunately no damage was done!

From Fountains Fell I continued south following a broken wall all the way to the trig point on Knowe Fell. It was fairly easy going with a faint path to follow much of the way. Just before reaching the trig point I came across a common frog on the path. A further ten metres and I saw at least a dozen more in a small, shallow reedy pool. Funnily enough I remembered this pool being full of frog spawn when I’d last passed this way many years before.

Upon reaching the trig point on Knowe Fell I was treated to a beautiful contrast of sunshine and dark dramatic clouds passing over Ingleborough, Pen-y-Ghent and Fountains Fell. The last time I’d visited this trig point visibility was less than 10 metres. This time it was pure magic.

Finally tearing my way from this superb spot I crossed a nearby fence and broken wall to follow another wall south descending Dick Close Pasture. Upon reaching the spot where a bridleway passes through a gate I went through the latter and then angled down the next pasture to bring me on to Henside Road. Turning left I walked along the road for five minutes or so before taking a path to the right just above Capon Hall.

I didn’t stay on the path long. Instead I climbed the tussocky slopes up on to the top of Black Hill. Although not the most interesting hill in the world the weather hadn’t been great on my first and previous visit to this top. With the conditions so glorious on this occasion I couldn’t resist making the detour to revisit the summit.

From the top of Black Hill I headed south to reach the Gorbeck byway. Turning left on this good solid track I followed it to the road at Langscar Gate. From there I took a path leading around the edge of Langscar to finally bring me back to the start.

Due to concentrating on a new website on the North Pennines this was my first proper walk in the Yorkshire Dales since January. In between times the weather hasn’t been the best. On this occasion I got lucky and as a result enjoyed a glorious day that will live long in my memory.

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