Kingsdale, Whernside and Yordas Cave

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Start: Kingsdale Distance: 8.7 miles (13.9 km) Climbing: 539 metres
Grid Ref: SD 70278 78065 Time: 3-4 hours Rating: Moderate
GPX Route File Google Earth File About Whernside
Start: Kingsdale Distance: 8.7 miles (13.9 km)
Grid Ref: SD 70278 78065 Time: 3-4 hours
Climbing: 539 metres Rating: Moderate
GPX Route File Google Earth File
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map (1:25,000)

Summary: This walk begins in the remote valley of Kingsdale which lies between the Great Coum and Gragareth mountain range to the west and Whernside to the east. The road through the valley links Ingleton in North Yorkshire to Dent in Cumbria. Kingsdale is drained by the south-westward flowing Kingsdale Beck which assumes the name River Twiss, notable as one of the rivers of the Ingleton Waterfalls Trail, before joining the River Doe at Ingleton to become the River Greta. There are several nationally important caves within the valley. This walk begins in the heart of Kingsdale, climbs to the south-side approach fells to Whernside and after summiting Whernside returns into Kingsdale by descending to the quiet valley road which is followed back to the starting point of the walk. While walking the quiet road we make a short detour to explore Yordas Cave.

The Walk: I had been generally intrigued by Kingsdale and particularly fascinated by Yordas Cave for a long time. So in the winter of 2015 when I was planning new walks to do in 2016 I made them the target for one particular walk. And as I had not been up Whernside for a few years the task of designing a roundabout trip to include all three was an easy one. When to go? My good friend Tim Nobes helped with that. We often plan to do a walk together as early in the new year as possible and as this walk was situated between where we live it was the obvious choice. It was New Year's Day.

Pointing the way from KingsdalePointing the way from Kingsdale
Climbing to Botany BayClimbing to Botany Bay

Unlike Upper Ribblesdale on the other side of Whernside Kingsdale is a lonely place. Even at the busiest times of year the valley is spookily quiet. As I drove into the valley from the direction of Ingleton I was the only car on the road. When I parked up at the agree rendezvous point with Tim and waited for him to arrive and after turning off the engine I listened to the sounds around. Everything was still. Not one bird tweeted and even the sheep were quiet. It was an overcast and dry still day with no sound of a breeze either. The year 2016 may have been heralded with firework displays in the cities, towns and villages but Kingsdale had passed through the turn of year in a deep sleep.

After meeting up precisely as planned Tim and I set off on our walk by crossing over a stile and down a bank to cross a footbridge over Kingsdale Beck. We crossed a field towards a farm called Braida Garth. It was great to see my friend again and we chatted quite freely, as you do when there is a lot of catching up to do, while making our way past Braida Garth and alongside Braida Garth Wood while still on the valley floor. Our talking became more intermittent as we made the effort of climbing to Botany Bay. I never knew there was a place called Botany Bay on Whernside. Apparently the most famous Botany Bay in Australia was named by Sir Joseph Banks, the botanist in the crew of Captain Cook, who named it Botany Bay for the exotic flora found on its shores. I could not find any evidence of flora on Whernside's Botany Bay. But then it was midwinter and all we could see beneath our feet were tufted grasses. (Note: Whernside is notable for its outstanding assemblage of plant species, some of them rare)

Lord's Lot TopLord's Lot Top
View to IngleboroughView to Ingleborough

Our walk to the high ground continued over the spongy upland grasses from Botany Bay to Lord's Lot Top. And after the haul of over 100 metres ascent of Botany Bay the walking became much easier. We could walk and talk freely again. As we continued our walk on to the long ridge of Whernside at around 400 metres high the long distance views began to emerge. First to pop its head into view was Ingleborough. It is a delight to spot is Ingleborough, a shapely mountain from all sides. This view we enjoyed from Lord's Lot Top was no exception and in fact we enjoyed, what I reflect upon now, is the best view of the long flanks of Ingleborough, namely Park Fell and Simon Fell to our left (east) and Ingleborough Common to our right (west). A sugar coating of snow embellished the top of the mountain making it a perfect New Year's Day scene.

High Brow Hill PastureHigh Brow Hill Pasture
Approaching High PikeApproaching High Pike

From Lord's Lot Top we began, what could be imagined as a long ponderous climb, on an even unerring gradient, towards the summit of Whernside. It was anything but the like. I love high open fell walking and the target of Whernside was an inspiration which added to the thrill of the walk. Tim and I were thrilled to be out in the open air in such a lovely location on the very first day of the year. And this far we had it to ourselves. There was not another soul in our world as we walked to George's Ling Hills, to High Brow Hill Pasture, to Sand Beds High Pike and to Combe Scar. The going had been easy and steady, unerringly following a wall tracking up the spine of Whernside, which we had crossed on the way. At Combe Scar we paused and looked to High Pike. Between us and it was a more appreciable climb.

Ingleborough and the spine of WhernsideIngleborough and the spine of Whernside
The path to WhernsideThe path to Whernside

The climb up the bank of High Pike took Tim and I over the 650 metre high mark. And the start of the climb had marked the point where we met the path from Whernside to Bruntscar. We were now on the path familiar and integral to those walking the Yorkshire Three Peaks. We could expect to see people now. First though our attention turned to the views around. Gaining the extra height to the top of High Pike grands the best of all views of the dale heading east from Chapel-le-Dale to Ingleton with Ingleborough mountain filling the backdrop. he final ascent to Whernside summit was also in our thoughts now. We could see the path dead ahead.

Meeting of New Year's Day walkersMeeting of New Year's Day walkers
Reaching the snow lineReaching the snow line

Sure enough we began to meet and greet more New Year's Day walkers. They came and passed us with regularity, all walking in the opposite direction to us. They, most probably, will have set off on a circular of Whernside from Ribblehead Viaduct, walking in a clockwise direction. There may have been the odd Three Peak walker, I imagine so, though they will have had to set off early and get their skates on. The first day of the year is a short one. Night falls quickly. We had no such worries though, being well within our time frame. We came to a stile and gate on the path and on reaching it hit the snow line which had fixed itself on the top 50 metres of the mountain. It was only heel deep, no worry at all, but it made me recall a walk to Whernside from Ingleton many moons ago. Then Steve, Dave and I had climbed on exactly the same path Tim and I were approaching from, only that we hit the snow line about 200 metres lower. By the time we had reached the gate the snow was over a foot deep and even deeper in the wall side snowdrifts. Dave nearly succumbed to the snow at the gate, collapsing in a heap of exhaustion. We did make it that day but the moment Dave played his Possum move is fixed in my mind.. forever.

Summit of WhernsideSummit of Whernside
Tim and I celebrate the New YearTim and I celebrate the New Year

By meeting and chatting with more people walking on this landmark day Tim and I came to the summit of Whernside without really noticing. The final steps are on a flat tabular level rather than a clamber to a peak. Whernside summit allows you to relax and enjoy the moment and adulation of reaching the highest point of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. We made for the shelter before celebrating. Lunchtime first. As we enjoyed out New Year's Day mountain feast we chatted with more walkers who came and went. There was a steady flow of people on the mountain. Never too busy, just right. We unanimously agreed it was best to be out walking on New Years Day. A Lancashire couple asked us to take a picture of them at the trig point. They returned the compliment for Tim and me.

Huddling in shelter for refreshmentsHuddling in shelter for refreshments
Icicles of WhernsideIcicles of Whernside

Despite the still of the day it was bitterly cold on the top of Whernside and the shelter proved to be a popular place for refreshments. It had been full of walkers when we were there and the occupation had provided a little extra warmth while Tim and I had lunch. I was thankful for that and I was also grateful to keep my fingers functional by clasping a warm flask of tea. There is nothing worse than shivering over a sandwich. After our lunch and photo call we set off on our way again, heading down the west flank of Whernside on the descent to Kingsdale. I set off at pace to get below the snow and ice line.

View over Kingsdale to Great CoumView over Kingsdale to Great Coum
Following the wall downFollowing the wall down

I may have set off on the descent from Whernside a little too quickly. Perhaps so because I was not long into my accelerated descent when I tripped on a thickset tuft of grass. Having lost my balance and on a seemingly inevitable fall on my face I somehow contrived to complete a full forward roll before coming to my feet again in one seamless action. Tim was taken aback at the sight and saying "Impressive. I am convinced there is a career in gymnastics waiting for you". I replied "Ah well, if you have got it, flaunt it". Unabashed and at the same time counting my blessings I continued the descent with a little more care. We were quite alone again now. After the encounters on top of the mountain there were to be no more. Just Tim and I to the finish now. In the new silence the land of Kingsdale looked vast. Lots of moor and fell in complete isolation.

Kingsdale RoadKingsdale Road

It took us the best part of an hour to make our way safely down the west side of Whernside from the top at 736 metres to the point in the valley where we met the road at 460 metres. The steep bit between 600 metres and 500 metres needs a bit of thought or a fall like the one I made at the gentler gradient near the top would unlikely have such a favourable outcome. That noted, there was no need to rush anyway, the views to the south-west down the length of Kingsdale towards the area of the Ingleton Waterfalls Trail is a lovely sight to behold. One of those out of the way, perfectly remote, unbuilt upon valleys. Apart from Braida Garth which we had passed at the start of the walk and Kingsdale Head which we would pass walking along the road, there are no other buildings, bar barns, in Kingsdale. It is probably the most isolated dale in the Yorkshire Dales. We walked along the road following the valley down at an ambling pace for two miles and past Kingsdale Head to reach Yordas Cave. We were passed by one car.

Entrance to Yordas CaveEntrance to Yordas Cave
Yordas CaveYordas Cave

The walk along the road had been very still and very quiet apart from the odd twitter of the resident birds in the smattering of small copses around Kingsdale Head and the chatter o0f Tim and I. After the twitter and chatter we came to a sign pointing us from the road up a track to Yordas Cave. My long standing wish to explore the cave was imminent. As we left the road and walked towards the cave I was excited.

Some say the Yordas Cave was named after a Nordic giant while others say the name is derived from the Norse 'Jord ass' which means 'earth stream'. It is a former Victorian show cave and for Tim and I it was the 'welcome to 2016' cave. The main chamber which we explored has a stream running through it. I dipped my feet in the stream. To complement the acoustics within the cave Tim sang the Welsh National Anthem in a fine baritone. Thanks Tim, it was a jolly good rendition.

After the subterranean adventure and the bonus concert we returned to the light and walked back to the road before walking the short distance back to the cars. Tim and I shook hands, once again wishing each other a happy new year. It was the perfect start.

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