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Swaledale, 4-6 March 2011

The third weekend trip of the Lent term broke new ground for the club - while our previous outings to the Yorkshire Dales had always been confined to the Ribble valley, this trip saw us head for darkest Swaledale. The weather stayed dry and (mostly) sunny throughout, allowing us to venture from our base in Reeth onto the wild moors of Rogan's Seat, the delights of Arkengarthdale, the open country of the High Seat ridge, and (after a fairly epic drive) the wonderful curves of the Howgill Fells; there was even a walk along the River Swale on the Sunday! But the excitement was not confined to the walking, with a didgeridoo-accompanied rendition of the Cow Song and the fire alarm going off at two o' clock in the morning...


Tom Ashton, Valerie Brandt, Alex Broekhof, Kirsty Brown, Paul Cook, Mohammad Dmour, Michael Fordham, Matthew Graham, Owen Graham, Joe Hobbs, Sophie Holmes, Becky Howard, Kate Humphris, Mark Jackson, Dave Mackenzie, David Pettit, Ruth Pettit, Helen Phillips, James Ritchie, Mathias Scharmann, Mike Simpson, Rowena Smith, Oliver Strickson, Jessie Vahrenkamp, Andrew Williamson.

Walk Reports

Marilyn, HuMP and Nuttall bagging (AW)

Andrew, David P, Jessie & Alex

DP arrived early in the morning, having left before dawn in order to get here - he had a band concert the evening before. Mark was intending to come with us, but instead decided it would be an excellent idea to drive 45 minutes to the Howgills... (Next time the club visits the Howgills, they will be driving to Swaledale!)

We left Muker and ascended Kisdon Hill (new Marilyn for me - despite having walked over the hill before, I had not officially visited its summit) and then followed the Pennine Way to Tan Hill (Britain's highest pub, for those unaware of this fact). We expected quite a bog trot for the section to Water Crag (a Nuttall), but we were able to follow a fence to it and on to Rogan's Seat. Then followed the track to the Muker valley, finishing up the quite spectacular Swinner Gill valley, where a careless trip could quite easily have meant death.

We arrived back at the bunkhouse first, soon followed by Matthew's group, who had also ascended Rogan's Seat by a quite different route. The usual tea etc. followed, including an in-depth reading of Mark's book. We decided a club copy was definitely required, and ordered one upon our return to Cambridge.

The Howgills (MJ)

Kate, Mark, Paul, Mohammad, Helen, Owen, Mike, Rowena

It was a remarkable series of coincidences that led to this walk. First up was Mohammad mentioning on the way up that he was thinking of going west towards the Howgills, where the forecast looked better. Once he found out that a reasonable walk there would get us seven Nuttalls, Mohammad was suddenly very keen to drive there! Second up was finding that Kate had not only been to the Howgills about fifty times before, but was very keen to go again. Third was Paul signing up for the walk so that we actually had enough drivers to transport the eight people who ended up joining us. Fourth - and most crucially - was neither driver actually asking me how far it was from Reeth to the Howgills.

Nearly an hour (and one rather nervous I'm-running-out-of-petrol moment from Paul) later, we had decided that the Swaledale roads were awful and that the Howgills had better be worth the drive. Of course they were. The steep grassy slopes, deep V-shaped valleys and unexpected crags - Cautley Crag was definitely a highlight - reminded me far more of the Cheviots or the Southern Uplands than the flat, squelchy moors further east, and we didn't meet a single peat bog all day. As it was me in charge of the walk, we ended up taking quite a meandering route along ridges and across valleys, climbing 1450m and mopping up all the hills I wanted to climb - nine in fact, leading to nine pretty much identical-looking summit photos (it was pretty misty). But overall, as Paul repeatedly pointed out, it was a "cracking day".

The High Shunner Ridge (MJ)

Mark, David, Andrew, Ruth

Having stayed up until nearly one o' clock partaking in singing accompanied by a didgeridoo and having been woken up at half past two by the fire alarm going off in the bunkhouse, it was with some trepidation that I joined the Pettits and Andrew for a walk whose pace was marked on the route card as "AFAP" - apparently this stood for "As Fast As Possible", although I figured it probably stood for "As Fast as Pettit", i.e. even faster. This was also my first introduction to the intricacies of the two-car faff; cars A and B drive to X, car A is then left at X while A's driver C gets into B which is driven by D to Y; the party then walks from Y to X whereupon everyone piles into A and is driven back by C to Y where B is waiting for D to drive away in... crystal clear. Given the state of the Swaledale roads, all this took a long time, which led to us needing to beat Naismith's Rule by an hour in order to complete the walk. I had never walked so fast.

However, the lie of the land was in our favour, as we were walking from the Buttertubs Pass to the summit of the Kirkby Stephen-Keld road, which kept us above 500m for the entire walk. The route was a bit short on paths, but the ground was dry, the sun was out (eventually), the gradients were easy, and the birds were singing, and I was just about able to keep up with the other three as we strolled over Lovely Seat, Great Shunner Fell, Little Fell and High Seat. Finally, I and Andrew opted for the rather easier target of little Tailbridge Hill while the Pettits virtually ran up Nine Standards Rigg (which I and Andrew had already done) - even David commented that the pace had been "rather brisk" towards the end!

Notable quotes

  • Paul: (Friday night): "I'll go on your walk if you take your top off, Mark"


From 10 & 11. CUHWC Swaledale Trip

From 10 & 11. CUHWC Swaledale Trip