Whernside: My Favourite Hike
Former TV presenter, outdoor enthusiast and founder of Hike.Mountain.Trail Phil Whyman tells us about one of his favourite places for hiking: Whernside, in the Yorkshire Dales.
Whernside: My Favourite Hike
Whernside is the highest peak in Yorkshire, and can be found in the magnificent Yorkshire Dales. Along with neighbouring peaks Pen-y-Ghent and Ingleborough, Whernside makes up the challenging Yorkshire Three Peaks route, which attracts outdoor enthusiasts in their droves in an attempt to complete the challenge.
Living in South Yorkshire means I have a pretty good choice of locations when it comes to hiking, with the Peak District, the Lake District, and Yorkshire Dales all an easy commute. All of these areas offer beautiful views, and different hiking experiences, depending on what you are looking for; for me the Yorkshire Dales is a firm favourite, especially the highest peak Whernside.
I have climbed Whernside a number of times, and I never really tire of it. Starting from the splendid – and to be honest, awe-inspiring – Ribblehead Viaduct (which was constructed in the Victorian era, and completed in 1870), the route is pretty straight forward. I would say that this is an ideal route for those who are perhaps starting out on their hiking adventures, as it offers a little bit of a challenge – enough to break a good sweat – and the views along the route are pretty dang fine, with quaint little streams criss-crossing your route; you may even bump in to a sheep…or ten!
One thing you’ll soon discover when tackling Whernside from Ribblehead is that it seems to go on forever. It doesn’t, of course…it just seems like it does; at least that’s what I thought when I first climbed it. Eventually though the path starts to head up on a slight incline, and for a good while you remain on this incline; it’s certainly a tester for your calf and thigh muscles, that’s for sure…and this is where the ‘break a good sweat’ starts to come about!
Although it can seem a bit of a slog at this point, keep going…Endeavour. Persevere. And most importantly, breathe!
Thankfully nowadays the path heading towards the bottom of Whernside proper – where you begin to feel like you are about to hit the true mountain ascent – is laid with stone paving slabs, massive ones too. I say thankfully because – as can still be seen – before these slabs were put in place this area was a rather wet, muddy bog, and you can perhaps just imagine how it looked with so many people walking up and down it…and probably getting stuck or slipping over. Anyway, I digress…moving on.
The ascent up on to Whernside peak is fairly easy going, no real scramble points to speak of; don’t forget to stop and admire the pool at the foot of the mountain, it’s a perfect spot for a bite to eat on a nice day…not so if it’s bucketing down with rain, you’ve a soggy sandwich in hand, and drops of water from your hair are getting in your eyes; the view however, is still nice and that’s what counts.
Once at the top the views are brilliant, and you can see for miles in all directions; the once massive Ribblehead Viaduct now looks like a tiny model down below…and the odd sheep or two cling precariously to the steep slopes of the mountainside, hoping that the mouthful of grass they are heading for is worth the danger.
This Whernside route is circular, which is great as you don’t have to walk miles from the bottom of the route to get back to where you started, which is always a bonus. A word of warning when descending down the other side: watch your footing. Some parts of the descent are a little tricky, and you only need to place your foot down in the wrong place and you’re over; this nearly happened to me, and I almost tumbled down base over apex on one section. I would say that the descent requires a little more thought than the ascent.
So there’s Whernside; wonderful hike, with views and the odd little challenging bit (nothing serious). And sheep.