The Yorkshire Dales Top 10

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The Yorkshire Dales Top 10 is an unofficial route that encompasses the top 10 mountains of the Yorkshire Dales. It does so by starting and finishing in Hawes and covers about 79 miles. The trail itself is quite challenging and often cuts across moorland and up steep embankments.

I decided to depart on the trail In January 2022 with the aim of doing it over 3-4 days.

The mountains the trail covers are (in order of Height):

  1. Whernside – 736m
  2. Ingleborough – 724m
  3. Great Shunner Fell – 716m
  4. High Seat – 709m
  5. Wild Boar Fell – 708m
  6. Great Whernside – 704m
  7. Buckden Pike 702m
  8. Gregory Chapel 695m
  9. Pen-Y-Ghent – 694m
  10. Hugh Seat – 689m

I did these in a slightly different order which I’ll cover below.

Day 1

I started the day early morning, parking my car in Hawes. I put my boots on and hit the trail heading along the Pennine way towards Hardraw. Once there I began my ascent up the third highest peak of Great Shunner Fell.

The trail is well marked at this point and is a case of following the Pennine Way to the summit. It isn’t too challenging as it covers about 4 miles before the summit. The weather was shining bright, and the views were amazing as I travelled at a leisurely pace along the flagstones. Considering it was January, it wasn’t too boggy, and I found it easy going.

At the summit I was feeling fresh and enjoyed the amazing views, I sat and aired my feet out and took the time to eat some food. A couple of other guys came and chilled with me, they were doing another trail and we enjoyed a good conversation before they headed back down as one had lost his car keys on the ascent.

Next for me was a Western path along an unmarked area and across the open hill and moorland towards Hugh Seat, High Seat and Gregory Chapel.

I descended a couple of hundred metres and had to traverse some very rough ground with no discernible path available. I managed to avoid most of the heavy bog and peat soil erosion areas before ascending Gregory Chapel and then onto High Seat. I realized on my way back past Gregory Chapel, that I had missed Hugh Seat.

Luckily it was a short way off the unmarked path I was already following along a riverbed. I decided on taking the direct route straight up the hill and to High Seat, simple right!

Wrong!

As always with a Mike shortcut, it went tragically wrong and turned out to be a terrible decision, and one that I paid for.

As I was hiking down a section before the final ascent, I noticed a flat patch of sphagnum moss and thought to myself, this looks like an ideal place to pitch my tent. I should have thought to myself why would there be a perfectly flat section on a hill. Unfortunately, I didn’t, and I stepped well above my waist with momentum carrying me forward into a Sphagnum bog. Luckily, I managed to stop myself from submerging completely with my hiking pole, but this changed my whole trip.

After dragging myself out of the bog and having an angry spat I calmed and assessed my situation. I decided that as it was winter, and my boots were now soaked along with all the clothes I had on, it was best to take a long tiring walk back to the car and switch out my gear for trail runners and my spare clothes in the pack.

I finished ascending Hugh Seat and set back along the open moorland towards the side of Great Shunner Fell. It was slow going but the views were absolutely amazing and as much as I was cold and wet, I enjoyed the tough ground and made sure not to repeat my mistake.

I finally found a farmers track that led through Cotterdale and I was able to follow a small trail back to the Pennine way just before Hardraw.

The section from Hardraw to Hawes was tough on my feet and the wet boots were taking their toll on them. I could feel the blisters bubbling now and knew that I wouldn’t be able to complete the route as I had hoped and so would have to adapt my plan.

Once back at the car I changed out my clothes and reassessed my situation and what I would do.

Ultimately, I decided on car camping and driving to the mountains, with the aim of completing each of the remaining 6 as fast as possible.

I scored some pub food and then drove over to Wild Boar fell which would be my 5th on the trail and slept the night in my car near the base.

Day 2

I woke up early and decided to hit Wild Boar fell with a vengeance, I think I was just taking my frustration out on the incline and summited within an hour. The views were amazing on the way up and it looked like a mini version of the Matterhorn from the route I had taken.

Once at the top I spotted some cool cairns and had to take a small detour to check them out. So glad I did as they were beautiful and so unusual in their layout. I chilled at the top enjoying the beautiful sunshine before heading over to the trig point which marks the highest point.

I decided to have a little run back down and was making good time until I took a bit of a tumble and rolled a good 15m downhill across the frozen ground. Luckily, the only thing damaged was my pride. I opted for a brisk walk back down after that and quickly found myself back at the car with 5 out of 10 ticked off.

I decided to assault Whernside next and parked at the legendary Ribblehead viaduct. Unfortunately, once over the pass from Hawes Whernside and Ingleborough were completely steeped in clouds making the area seem very formidable.

I made my way up Whernside following the Yorkshire 3 peaks route which was very familiar to me from the Dales High Way. I made quick time and considering the weather, the trail was still busy. As I got higher, the wind became strong and was absolutely freezing against my skin. I pulled my hood tight and pressed on, I soon found myself above the cloud base and the views were spectacular as the clouds rolled over the mountains and hills in the distance. I soon summitted and enjoyed a little rest bite before snapping a couple of pics.

I could make out the peak of Ingleborough as the cloud base ascended over the top which was brilliant to see. I quickly descended towards Chapel-le-Dale and made my way along the path towards Ingleborough.

I met an awesome lady who I spent 5 minutes chatting to, she was leading her friends back down from Ingleborough and told me the views were amazing up top. This boosted my spirits and abated my fatigue as I was able to make my way up the steep scramble before the summit. I spent some time here, watching the clouds roll over the hills around me and felt truly blessed to have witnessed it.

I made my way to the summit of Ingleborough and chilled at the top speaking to people who were sat up there.

After a while I decided that I had best start heading back down and chose to opt for a descent via Simon and Park fell. The route was straight forward and followed a very steep section along a wall down to the road near to where I had parked the car.

I debated heading over to Pen-Y-Ghent but my stomach decided against it and I made a night of it at the Station inn, where I spent the night in the bunkhouse.

Day 3

I woke up before dawn and set off towards Pen-Y-Ghent which would be my 8th mountain out of the 10. I decided on taking the less severe route up as it was icy and I wasn’t sure about the scramble near the top. The path was lit with the beautiful shine from the moonlight and It was almost as if the great moon goddess herself was guiding me. I was feeling very fatigued by this point and had pains and groans in most parts of my body but I pushed onwards regardless.

As I ascended I could see the faint glow from the coming sunrise and hoped I could outpace the light to the summit. Luckily, when I reached the trig point at the top I was in luck and I got to witness a beautiful sunrise that lit up Great Whernside like a beacon.

I chilled here for a little stretch before making a quick descent down the Pennine Way and into Horton in Ribblesdale.

My next and 9th peak was to be Buckden Pike which I’ve not summited before. I parked in the carpark and noticed how much colder it was here in comparison to Pen-Y-Ghent. I made haste as I knew the ascent and pace would warm me considerably.

As I went up I noted how remote it felt in this area considering I was crossing farmland. The path was frozen which aided me and kept me from getting wet feet. As I ascended I met a guy who was building one of the dry stone walls that are dotted around the Dales. I stopped and watched him for a good ten minutes as I was mesmerized by his swiftness and skill before carrying on my way upwards.

The path was getting ever steeper and I knew I wasn’t far off the summit now, so I carried on slowly. I reached the summit absolutely shattered but knowing I only had 1 peak remaining.

I watched the sky from the summit almost hypnotised by the rolling clouds that formed such pretty shapes, thinking I was literally in them the day before whilst summiting Ingleborough and Whernside.

I made quick work of my descent and soon found myself back in the carpark ready for the final challenge of my trip.

I parked up in Kettlewell and made a very hasty and steep ascent of Great Whernside. I thought I was ready for a direct attack but man was it steep.

I followed an unnamed stream all the way to the summit which was tough going and slower than I would have liked as my legs were completely shattered by this point.

I could hear my heartbeat in my ears and a quick check of my watch showed it hitting well over 180bpm but I persevered nonetheless, slowly making my way up the steep embankment. Eventually I reached the summit and was greeted by a group of people who looked surprised by the route I had taken up. I had a quick chat and told them I’d done all 10 peaks now and they snapped a pic of me atop the trig point which turned out well.

I left them and descended via the route I had taken up. It didn’t take half as long and I was down within a short period and soon finished with my peak bagging trip.

I hope you all enjoyed reading about the highs and lows of my trip and even though it didn’t go quite as well as I had hoped, I enjoyed every second of it and wouldn’t have changed it for the world.

Remember to tap me up on Instagram if you want to follow more of my trips @pack_backer

Peace out and happy trails.

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