Yesterday we ticked off another of the Dales 30 challenge, our tenth one, so we’re feeling pretty pleased with ourselves.
This challenge to walk up all thirty mountains in the Yorkshire Dales National Park has certainly been a challenge! It’s also been good for us, walking in areas we’ve never explored before and up mountains we would never usually have ventured. With hindsight whilst we have completed quite a few long distance walks where our average length of walk is 10 to 12 miles, most of it is relatively low level, along the valley bottom or on the moorland above, higher but usually easy walking. By contrast all these walks are for mountains over 2000 feet…that’s a lot of up for us!
Birks fell is at the top of Wharfedale near Kettlewell, we’ve already walked up Yockenthwaite Moor, Buckden Pike and Great Whernside, so this is the last of the Wharfedale mountains in the challenge.
Although Birks Fell can be walked from Kettlewell it does make for a much longer walk than we’re up to at the moment. We decided to walk from Littondale instead, the valley on the other side of Birks Fell. We parked at the pretty village of Arncliffe. It was a beautiful sunny morning, the weather forecast said sunshine for the first hour or so, then overcast until late afternoon. Our plan was to walk the two miles along Littondale to Litton village, ascend Birks Fell from there, walk back along the ridge and descend into Arncliffe.
The walk along Littondale was gentle, about 2 miles long so it got our legs moving before the climbing started (or that was the plan!) The river Skirfare was pretty much bone dry…
We ate our sausage roll and had a quick drink of water outside the pub at Litton and then started the climb.
It shouldn’t have been a difficult ascent, it was two miles uphill, pretty relentless but a good path. However the sun continued to shine and it was very hot, no breeze in the air at all. When we got about a third of the way up I needed a break, we sat on a convenient stone and had a welcome coffee from our trusty thermos flasks. I also ate a carrot cake muffin, mainly because I thought a bit of sugar might help and I also wasn’t sure the butter icing would survive much longer in a hot rucksack pocket.
We set off again and I soon realised the muffin was a big mistake as I was feeling increasingly nauseated and unwell. We took it very slowly and kept drinking water so I didn’t compound the problem by getting dehydrated. There are times when I was very close to saying I can’t do this. I must have looked pretty peaky as when I admitted later that the thought had briefly crossed my mind that at least the air ambulance can land where we were walking, my friend admitted she had the same thought!
We eventually reached the ridge after about two miles of up. It’s a long flat ridge without clear paths and lots of tussocky grass to make the going more tricky. The true summit was about 2km away along the ridge, although it was actually only a couple of metres higher than where we were. We sat down on a convenient rock and ate our lunch. I perked up a lot though I could only face an apple and some mandarin orange. There was a slight breeze up there which did help.
The summit was somewhere in the distance! It didn’t look like there would be a decent view from the ridge as it was so wide. We decided to call it a day and to return the same way, we knew it would be a reasonable descent and a good path back to Arncliffe.
We went down an awful lot quicker than we went up! We stopped at the lovely pub in Litton for a pint of lemonade with lots of ice cubes! The pub is the lovely white traditional building in the middle of the photo below.
We still had to walk along by the Skirfar river to Arncliffe but we made good time then as it was easy flat walking. Altogether we walked nearly eight miles, not a huge distance but a lot of up in hot weather.
We both felt it really shouldn’t have been so hard and could only think it was the heat and lack of a breeze. The sunshine just never stopped. Even at 4pm when we reached the car it was still 30 degrees.
Despite feeling ill, we still had a good day out,
So Birks Fell is ticked off the challenge, probably (and unfairly!) never to be walked again. 🙂