The climb above Park Gill

Great Whernside via Park Gill

Walk Summary

A bracing walk in very windy conditions from Kettlewell on to Great Whernside taking a more roundabout route via Caseker Gill and Park Gill.

Distance: 7.5 miles
Total ascent: 1900ft
Walk Rating: ***
Parking: Kettlewell car park
Route: Download Route [GPX]

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Walk Report

I've done the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge twice, the last time way back in 2005. I hadn't felt any great desire to do it again but when some friends at work said they wanted to do the walk to raise money for a mental health charity I couldn't refuse to join them.

In fact I soon took on the task of planning a series of practice walks as most members of the team hadn't previously done any hill walking of note. Ideally I would have started them off on Pen-y-Ghent but due to the closure of the A59 at Blubberhouses for over a month this was not practical. Instead, for their first practice walk, I took them up the nearest big hill - Great Whernside.

"It was not until we began the boggy crossing of Little Hunters Sleets for the final section of the climb on to Great Whernside that we finally grasped how windy it was."

This was my sixth time visiting Great Whernside so to add a little bit of interest for myself I picked a route that included the path above Park Gill Beck which I'd never visited before. To reach this we left Kettlewell on the initially steep road that heads for Park Rash and over Little Hunters Sleets for the head of Coverdale. Although this initial stage was wholly on the road I don't we passed a single car and we enjoyed good views down Cam Gill Beck.

Just above Park Foot Bridge we finally left the road to take a lovely little path above Park Gill Beck. At a footbridge we crossed the beck before making a short detour into the steep confines of Caseker Gill where I nearly came a cropper slipping over in a rock pool trying to get closer to a waterfall. Somewhat chastened by this experience we didn't attempt to cross the stream to visit Dow Cave.

Next came a very steep pull up the bank above Caseker Gill, something that probably came as a bit of a shock to some of the group. Having given everyone a breather when we got to the top we then continued on a nice grassy path past East Scale Lodge and then over a ford in the upper reaches of Park Gill. Once across the stream the track then led us back on to the road just below Little Hunters Sleets.

It was not until we began the boggy crossing of Little Hunters Sleets for the final section of the climb on to Great Whernside that we finally grasped how windy it was. As we got higher the wind kept getting stronger and by the time we'd slanted up to the wall dropping down Black Dike it was getting difficult to stand. From Black Dike, with the wind behind us, we were fairly blown uphill until the wall turned north and we could finally duck behind it for some shelter and to have our lunch.

After lunch we began heading for Blackfell Crags only to be constantly buffeted into the nearby fence. As we got to the crags the ground got rockier underfoot so to minimise the chances of being blown over I insisted everyone link arms with a partner. It was like this that we then crossed the summit plateau of Great Whernside to finally reach the cairn and trig point.

There was not the shelter to relax and enjoy our achievement so we didn't hang around long before beginning the descent towards Hag Dyke. With a drop in height we were finally able to get some respite from the wind. Next we had to negotiate the boggy terrain just above Hag Dyke. My friends all soon learned not to step in the bright green bits. Having dropped down to Hag Dyke the walk concluded with the lovely path on Hooksbank that drops down to Kettlewell above Dowber Gill.

Now I've experienced plenty of windy days in the hills but I have to say the wind speed on this walk equalled anything I've been out in before. With this in mind I think the group did brilliantly. What was even more remarkable it didn't put a single person off, indeed most of them felt a sense of achievement from their battle with the elements. All in all I was very proud of them.