Pen-y-ghent Wild Camp
Horton in Ribblesdale to Pen-y-ghent. 3.5 miles
“You’ve got balls!”, exclaimed a man to me, on the summit of Pen-y-ghent. This in literal terms I couldn’t deny, however, his expression was in regards to more my home for the night rather than anything to do with my physical being. I was enjoying the sunset on a calm and benign Sunday evening when a group of five walkers limped up the path to the highest point of the mountain having spent the previous thirteen hours ambling up and down the Yorkshire three peaks. I’d say they were the ballsy ones, rather than my simple three and a half mile southbound walk from Horton In Ribblesdale. They’d arrived late, shattered, and still had a climb back down to complete a 24 mile walk. My apparent ballsiness, when I pointed over to my tent, faintly camouflaged in the grass, felt merely an embarrassing tag to be given.
I hadn’t planned to camp on Pen-y-ghent, in fact, I’d had no plan at all. I’d started late, a dinner in the grim Golden Lion pub just outside the village was enough to fill the stomach, and enabled a mostly energetic stroll up the mountain, a gradual climb rather than the ten minute steep ascent I’d twice undertaken when coming up the other way. Starting at gone 4:00, I appeared to be the only person heading in an upwards direction. The odd family passed me by coming the other way and more people were filtering down from the summit the higher up I got.
Also noticeable the higher I climbed was how calm and still the air was. In normal circumstances, I seem to recall upper-Pen-y-ghent being akin to a wind tunnel. Not so today, and the thoughts filled my mind of a summit wild camp. Like any sub-two thousand foot camp, the risk was there of the weather turning, dramatically, but the forecast stated favourable overnight conditions. I reached the summit in less than a couple of hours. Only a scattering of people still there, though, sadly, much evidence of this being a popular weekend destination; empty bottles and wrappers scattered around and even more depressingly, a half eaten box of sweet peppers, the remains of the food and the plastic they sat in simply left on top of the beautiful summit shelter adjacent to the trig point.
Also there were several midges. I retreated back over the stile and a hundred yards down the path leading to Plover Hill. There, among long-ish grass lay as flat a pitch as could be found, and up the tent went. Views down in a westerly direction back to Horton, the quarry behind the village the most distinctive landmark on view. Already the sky had darkened and the sun was disappearing far faster than it seemingly does in cities. The air also turned colder, and the thin hooded top was replaced by a hat, and a down jacket.
The late dinner I’d consumed earlier meant only a tasty sausage roll from the butchers in Hade Edge was required for supper, followed by a tea and a cereal bar enjoyed in the summit shelter. By this point a beautiful sunset was manifesting itself on the horizon, and an orange strip above where the sun had disappeared completely from view was an alluring and seemingly lasting sight. On the other side of the summit wall, Fountains Fell and the surrounding hills lay peacefully under now low, thick cloud. Aside from odd stands of remaining light in the far distance, it was dark well before 9pm. Still I couldn’t, or didn’t, want to retire to the tent. Only the second wild camp this year was a novelty, and simply being in a vast and open area that would be swarming with people by day, but having it to myself at night, meant I lapped up every quiet and peaceful second that I had up there.