Whernside and the upper reaches of Force Gill

Whernside via Force Gill

Walk Summary

A fascinating variation on the usual route on to Whernside by escaping the crowds and following Force Gill upstream passing some wonderful waterfalls.

Distance: 8.2 miles
Total ascent: 1600ft
Walk Rating: *****
Parking: Roadside parking at Ribblehead
Route: Download Route [GPX]

Photo Gallery

Walk Report

This was the fifth in a series of practice walks that I was leading a group of friends from work as we prepared for the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge walk. As part of the training programme I’d devised I wanted to, not only take the group up each of the Three Peaks individually, but also show them some of features that we would not have time to see when we do the Three Peaks walk itself.

We arrived at the traditional starting point at Ribblehead with clearing skies and, especially exciting, a thin layer of overnight snow on the upper slopes of Whernside. For the first couple of miles we followed the standard route passing the Ribblehead Viaduct, Blea Moor signal box, the aqueduct and the entrance to the Blea Moor tunnel. I’ve passed these so many times I almost take them for granted so it was nice to see how everyone else reacted to seeing everything for the first time.

“Thankfully I could take my mind off the hordes of walkers by enjoying the quite wonderful views, probably the most extensive I’ve enjoyed to date on Whernside.”

Just after crossing over the railway line I deviated from the main path to take the group up Force Gill. It still amazes me how little known this route is when it lies so close to the ‘tourist’ path. Considering that two of the finest waterfalls in the Yorkshire Dales can be found in the gill makes this state of affairs all the more remarkable.

First of all we visited Low Force which despite the name probably has a higher drop than High Force further upstream. In between the two waterfalls and indeed all along Force Gill there are also a number of smaller cascades. The group’s reaction was suitably impressed and I felt more than vindicated in bringing them this way.

I doubt they were quite as impressed with the wet tussocky moorland of Greensett Moss at the top of the gill but it was worth a few people getting their feet wet to visit the lonely Greensett Tarn. This was my third visit to the tarn and it looked especially lovely with the sun reflecting off the steep snow covered upper slopes of Whernside.

Another moist section brought us back to the main path which was quite frankly heaving with people. Thankfully I could take my mind off the hordes of walkers by enjoying the quite wonderful views, probably the most extensive I’ve enjoyed to date on Whernside. As we walked along the summit ridge I was able to point out numerous distant summits including Scafell Pike in the Lake District and Cross Fell in the North Pennines.

After lunch in the shelter of the wall and the obligatory photo by the trig point we continued on along the ridge with Ingleborough dominating the scene ahead of us. Eventually we came to the steep descent to Bruntscar. It is not one of my favourite descents but the sun shining down on us made it pleasanter than expected. Indeed by this time almost all the earlier snow had melted. From Bruntscar it was then a nice easy amble back to Ribblehead via Browside, Ivescar and Gunnerfleet Farm.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Whernside, not least because I’m usually blessed with good weather when I visit it. This walk, my eighth visit to date, continued my winning run. The fact that everyone else could enjoy such fine weather on their first visit was a real bonus and I think a few of them might even be catching the Yorkshire Dales bug!

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