How many times have we been up Ingleborough, usually on a training run whilst chatting with fellow fell-runners or struggling up, head down, breathing hard and descending full pelt on Ingleton Gala fell race day? Today is different. Yes, we’re donning running gear and fell shoes, but call it a rest day – Jan is saving his legs for the Howarth Hobble in two days’ time, but intends to enjoy his day off exploring this mountain of secrets… and what a day it turns out to be!
Firstly, I must thank a fellow explorer whose blog “A Three Peaks Up and Under” at http://oldfieldslimestone.blogspot.co.uk is absolutely riveting stuff. Stephen Oldfield’s blogs take you on a wondrous tour of places you THOUGHT you knew well, with his wonderfully informative writing complemented by loads of fabulous photos (and videos!) from every angle so that you feel you were there yourself! Totally inspired, Jan and I start out from Ingleton up past Crina Bottoms Farm in 3˚C fog, fairly confident that we will soon have our feet in the clouds. We are not disappointed as from about 400m, we catch our first glimpse of Ingleborough’s chiselled silhouette and blue sky through the thinning cloud. By this time, we have already ticked off a few features, so close to the path, yet walked past by most. Some (ancient?) shelters on the limestone scar to the north of the path, and then a little further along, Quaking Pot, which was impressive up close with its fern fronds dripping with water into the cave below and a rock bridge splitting the hole in half. A mystical hiding place that we spent a while wondering at. Now that we have full visibility, we can hatch a plan – an ascent of Falls Foot – will that chossy-looking grit stone gully go? Since we aren’t quite sure, we trot across the tussocky ground to take a closer look. Yes, it looks do-able, so without any hurrying at all, we enjoy picking our way up the layers of grit, lime and then grit stone again and then traversing north along the top edge, always keeping beneath the summit plateau.
How happy we are in the sunshine, the inversion – a sea of cloud filling the valley below, giving Ingleborough the time it deserves for once. We take in its every feature, the patterns on the fractured grit stone cliffs, the curves of the plateau’s edge leading over to the ‘Swine’s Tail’, the curiously uniform lines of shake holes far beneath us, the perilous drop off Black Shiver… it’s not about the summit today, so when we do venture up to the very top, we ignore the trig point, and instead take a jog around the entire plateau, stopping to talk about the routes up from Clapham, Horton, the Hill Inn… reminiscing of previous ascents. Many a walker, even locals have been confused more than once in poor visibility up here… add snow to the equation, and finding the path you want requires time and careful navigation.
We are reluctant to descend as the cloud is not burning off, even though it’s nearly noon. But we still have a good view of our next objectives, Tatham Wife Hole, Green Edge and an ancient wall running east to west from this limestone feature, then Lead Mine Moss, several lovely cairns and the lone Hawthorn tree surrounded by a vast and gleaming limestone pavement, today showing off its spring buds. We find a baby Hawthorn tree just nearby, doing well in its protective mesh cage, and a sheep’s skeleton in a deep gryke – obviously limestone pavement is not a clever place for sheep to roam.
Soon after this we are back in the mist, and the drop in temperature is noticeable. On with an extra layer and we jog down to the car, chatting excitedly about all our finds! To top off our perfect day, we head to Inglesport Café for a coffee and a slice of cake (buying two slabs of rocky road for the children as we feel guilty that they have been at school whilst we have had so much fun!) As our order is taken, Fran is just serving a full English breakfast to another customer, and suddenly I am very hungry! “ Mini English for you?” asks Fran. So we treat ourselves to a mini (still substantial) version of the Full English, where the coffee is included! Fully refuelled (and yes, we had the cake too!) we head back to Settle in time for school pick up, the only deadline of the day! What a privilege to have this special day off with my lovely husband!