The Dales south to north – a Monsoon backpack pt1

by backpackingbongos

The last of the light was fading as I parked the van high on the moors near the Tan Hill Inn. I had set off from Nottingham in shorts and t-shirt but I found the breeze soon whipped away any semblance of warmth. To the north, banks of cloud were rising and falling over the high escarpment, a wave of white covering the distant A66, muffling the sound of traffic. I made up the bed in the Doblo and lay there with the side door open watching the cloud lap upon the moorland shore.

I had hoped for an impressive cloud inversion in the morning but it was not to be. Instead it was a world of murk as I packed away the bed and pointed the Doblo in the direction of Kirkby Stephen train station.

You would have thought that no one had ever seen anyone brew coffee and eat a bowl of bran flakes outside a railway station before. It probably is not the done thing. I had plenty of time to relax and sort myself out before catching a train south to Settle. The aim for this long weekend was to meet Chrissie in Settle and then walk back through the Dales to Kirkby Stephen. A good leg stretcher and preparation for the Colorado Trail.

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83 kilometres with 2700 metres ascent over four days.

Chrissie and I started from the very busy Settle station and within minutes had stopped at a cafe to pick up cold drinks and lunch. There was not a cloud in the sky as we toiled up the steep track that would take us onto the limestone plateau. Even early in the day the heat was punishing.

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A path led us to the south of the impressive Warrendale Knotts and Attermire Scar, however it was far too hot to even contemplate exploring this area of limestone cliffs and caves.

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There was a minor bit of excitement where it looked like a cow had got itself tangled in a wire fence. We dumped our rucksacks and bravely approached the hefty bovine beast ready to use our trekking poles for defence if we needed to. As we got close the cow simply walked away. It was all a ploy to make us look silly.

The Yorkshire Dales in early June is a riot of yellow with all the meadows in full bloom. It’s a stunning sight, although not the best when you suffer from hayfever.

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When trekking in limestone country in hot and dry weather you need to bring along someone with a large and effective water filter. Chrissie fitted the bill nicely in this respect and we were soon drinking cool and clear water from Malham Tarn. It meant that I could leave the nasty chemicals in my pack.

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The honeypot area of the tarn was left behind as we climbed past Middle House Farm and onto the old track of Monk’s Road. the idea was to follow it for a while and then pitch at a spot where I had my fingers crossed there would be a trickle of water.

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Sadly the trickle had dried up leaving just the odd puddle. Chrissie’s super filter made short work of this and we found a grassy pitch nearby with great views over Cowside Beck. The grass was fragrant with herbs, the most pleasantly scented pitch I have ever had.

The sky began to darken, haze slowly blotting out the views. It was close and muggy and I kept my fingers crossed that it would not storm.

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A light rain fell during the night and the humidity was ramped up to what felt like one hundred percent. My sleeping bag had remained unzipped throughout the night. Early the next morning wet tents were packed away and we walked back up to the Monk’s Road which was followed down to Arncliffe.

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It was too early for the pub so we sat at a picnic table on the village green and ate snacks whilst a soft rain fell. Even standing still I felt like I was suffocating in my waterproofs. Neither of us was looking forward to the long climb over Old Cote Moor.

As if reading our minds the weather gods looked down at our discomfort and punished us the best way that they could by giving us a heavy downpour. I was soaked inside and outside my hard shell as we crested the moor and dropped down into Wharfedale.

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Chrissie said that there was an excellent cafe in Starbottom but it failed to materialise, I hid my inner tantrum well. Instead we were the first people to visit the rather frosty pub where we dripped all over the floor and squelched to a seat by a window. It stopped raining for the full hour that we were inside. Pints of sugary coke and a big bowl of chips lifted the spirits.

The Monsoon rains hit us on the outskirts of Buckden, just as we has started climbing again. It was heavier than any rain in the UK has the right to be. I consoled myself with the fact that I was not as miserable as Chrissie looked.

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With the power of Google maps I had located an idyllic looking campsite on the moors above Cray. A nice grassy swarth next to a meandering stream. Google maps however failed to show the thistles which covered every inch of the close-cropped turf. We therefore filled up our water bottles and tramped back up hill to a more exposed pitch.

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It was good to change out of sopping wet clothing into my tent outfit, it’s good for morale to know that dry clothes await in the bottom of my pack. Another very warm and humid night followed, with barely a breath of wind to keep the condensation at bay. I wasn’t looking forward to putting wet clothes back on the following day.

Part 2 will follow shortly (ish).

You can read Chrissie’s version of events here.

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8 Responses to “The Dales south to north – a Monsoon backpack pt1”

  1. I only looked miserable and drenched – I was quietly and happily singing to myself inside….. 😉

  2. Nice so far. Off to read the other account at Chrissies blog.

  3. A fantastic area James. A pity you did not have a break at Kettlewell. The shop there does fantastic butties. The shop at Buckden is interesting, the chap who runs it, a proper character! Am looking forward to part two.

  4. Have to say that warm, wet, Muggy weather is my least favourite. I’d rather be out in a winter storm. Nice first day though. Like you I always carry a change of dry clothes when backpacking and it does help raise the spirits knowing it’s there when you get a soaking

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