An interesting walk on to Simon Fell via Great Douk and the limestone features of Middle Washfold, returning via Park Fell and the limestone pavements of Fell Close.
|Parking:||Layby above Old Hill Inn|
|Route:||Download Route [GPX]|
Prior to this walk I'd been on Simon Fell twice, both times on my way back to Ribblehead from Ingleborough. There is no doubt Simon Fell is greatly overshadowed by the higher mountain and for a while I'd had it in mind to climb it directly and resist the temptation to climb Ingleborough as well.
There had been some snow over the weekend but it was not until a couple of days later that there was the promise of some blue skies. I'm lucky to be in a job where I can take a day off at short notice and so it was I set off for Chapel-le-Dale to climb Simon Fell and hoping there was still some snow.
"Typically, as had happened on my second visit to Simon Fell, low cloud blew over obscuring the view. Exposed to the bitterly cold wind and with nothing to look at I didn't hang around long."
Parking at the second, larger, layby above The Old Hill Inn I was immediately struck by how windy it was. Not apparent on the drive it seemed that the valley was acting like a funnel and such was the strength of the wind I had difficulty getting my boots on behind the shelter of the car door.
Crossing the road I initially followed part of the Yorkshire Three Peaks route before turning off on a track signposted for Great Douk. The track wound its way through an area of limestone to a stile in a wall. Crossing over the stile I descended a steep path on the right down into Great Douk.
This was my first visit to Great Douk and I have to say it is a spectacular spot. Great Douk is bascially like a large wooded hole in the ground. Within Great Douk a stream issues out of a cave mouth via a waterfall before quickly returning back underground. This is the main entrance to Great Douk Cave, supposedly one of the best 'starter' caves in the Dales. Just below the stream there was also a scaffolded entrance to a very deep hole which looked very uninviting!
Having lingered in Great Douk for some time I climbed back out and into the strong wind to take a path winding round the back of the enclosure. Passing through a wall and some other pot holes I arrived at the spot known as Middle Washfold in the area simply marked as 'Caves' on the map.
It was a fascinating spot with some fine limestone pavement hiding a number of cave entrances including Upper Douk which links with the Great Douk system. At the eastern end of the pavement a stream could also be seen dropping steeply underground.
From Middle Washfold I continued on the path as it headed south to pass through a wall. Here I turned left to commence an increasingly steep half a mile climb up on to Simon Fell. It didn't take me long to reach the snow I'd hoped to find. For the most part the going was fairly easy. It was not until the final fifty metres or so that I had to kick footholds into the windblown snow.
Having reached the 'edge' path above Chapel-le-Dale I turned right. The views on this section across Humphrey Bottom towards Ingleborough were exceptional. As the path met steeper slopes I broke off to climb up to some snow covered boulders and on to the wall that runs across the top of Simon Fell. Turning left I followed the wall up on to the summit of Simon Fell.
Typically, as had happened on my second visit to Simon Fell, low cloud blew over obscuring the view. Exposed to the bitterly cold wind and with nothing to look at I didn't hang around long. Continuing I came to a wall junction near a gate. Passing through the gate I turned left following the right hand side of the wall over the 626m spot height on the Top of South House Moor.
Carrying on along the wall I followed it all the way up on to Park Fell, the northernmost summit of the Ingleborough massif. The view from Park Fell is normally a very good one but conditions were quite curious. By this point there was once again plenty of sunshine and blue skies but visibility wasn't very good - I couldn't even see the opposite side of Ribblesdale. Whernside however was just about visible through the haze.
From the trig point I passed over a nearby stile before following a path round to my left. This 'edge' path provided some dramatic views down into Chapel-le-Dale and Ribblehead. Reaching a fence I dropped down off Park Fell to reach the end of a quad track, this I followed as it swung beneath the slopes of Park Fell to reach the limestone pavements of Fell Close.
Passing through a gate I passed Sleights Pasture Rocks to reach Low Sleights Road. For a quick finish I could have turned left and walked ten minutes back to the start. Instead I turned down the access road to Gunnerfleet and Winterscales farms for a more roundabout return via Winterscales Beck and Philpin Lane.
This had been an excellent walk, my enjoyment of which was slightly marred by the strength of the wind. I'd also wanted to try and get across to Simon Fell's subsidary summit Lord's Seat but given the lack of views and strong winds I decided to leave that for another time. Indeed during the walk I was already plotting my next visit!