Great Whernside

Great Whernside via Top Mere Road

Walk Summary

A superb day out in the snow under clear blue skies as we took a roundabout route on to Great Whernside from Kettlewell via Top Mere Road.

Distance: 10.0 miles
Total ascent: 1870ft
Walk Rating: *****
Parking: Kettlewell, car park
Route: Download Route [GPX]

Photo Gallery

Walk Report

After media warnings of thunder snow and the hastag #snowmaggedon trending on Twitter it was somewhat disappointing when the merest sprinkle of the white stuff fell over Harrogate. No matter, the important thing was that there had been some snow in the Dales and so when it came to the weekend Paul and I met up at Kettlewell to climb one of the Dales giants – Great Whernside.

It was a truly beautiful morning when we arrived in Kettlewell. There was plenty of blue sky, sunshine and a smattering of cloud. Rather than taking the most direct route up Great Whernside, via Hooksbank and Hag Dyke, we took a more roundabout approach initially by heading up the steep lane called Top Mere Road. Within minutes we were enjoying great views up and down Wharfedale and down to the snow topped roofs of Kettlewell.

“We timed our arrival well for just after we had taken a few summit photos and sat down for our lunch a party of over 25 scouts arrived in twos and threes from the Hag Dyke path.”

With Great Whernside, our main objective, in view for most of the way the gradients gradually began to ease for a nice easy walk up to the top of Top Mere Road and thence on the path around the head of Park Gill. Just below the path for this section of the route was the landmark known as Tor Dike.

Eventually we crossed the snow covered summit of the Kettlewell – Coverdale road at Hunter’s Sleets. On the other side of the road we crossed some boggy ground as well as some of the deeper snow that we’d encountered, some of which came up to knee height. After a short steep pull we clambered on to Black Dike, a diagonal path that slants up to a stile on a wall that drops steeply down the hillside.

Last time I came this way was just over a year ago when it had been so windy it was hard to stand up. Mercifully this time, despite the forecast for strong gusts, it was more like a strong breeze and despite a windchill of -7 degrees centigrade it actually felt quite pleasant in the sun.

Gradually the path slanted up to the weighting summit cairn and trig point set above the rash of the large gritstone boulders of Long Crags. We timed our arrival well for just after we had taken a few summit photos and sat down for our lunch a party of over 25 scouts arrived in twos and threes from the Hag Dyke path. By the time they had all arrived there was quite a cluster around the cairn!

Again, rather than taking the most direct route back to Kettlewell, we took a longer route back by walking south along the long broad ridge to Sweet Hill before dropping down to the public footpath above Langcliffe. For the most part the ground underfoot wasn’t too bad though in places we did encounter a few bogs and one large section of peat hags to negotiate. Every so often the frozen ground would creak alarmingly underfoot though on only one occasion did one of my feet break through into a cold wet bog below.

Having dropped down Hill End, passing a boundary stone and a solitary stone grouse butt, we continued following the fence down to reach a wall. Passing through this we then followed a mixture of tracks and grassy paths slanting across the limestone pastures of Langcliffe. All the while we enjoyed wonderful views up the dale towards Birks Fell and Buckden Pike. Eventually the track wound down to Kettlewell above the steep sided Dowber Gill.

This really was a super day out. The wintry ground wasn’t too challenging and with lots of blue sky and superb visibility it really was a day to remember. One of those days that makes you feel blessed to be able to enjoy our wonderful Yorkshire countryside.

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