Ingleborough Hill is a walk-hike-scramble that I’ve completed a handful of times. Standing 723 metres above the pretty village of Ingleton, in south-west Yorkshire, it’s one of the Yorkshire Three Peaks.
The other two neighbouring peaks of Whernside (736m) and Pen-y-Ghent (694) are as yet undiscovered by my fair hiking boots. As I can say with absolute surety that I will never complete the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge – conquering the 24-mile trio in one ghastly day – I’m not sure why I always return to Ingleborough but I think it’s something to do with favouring the familiar.
I was born in Yorkshire and the county holds onto my heart as a place of childhood memories. The hills past trodden fill me with nostalgia. I can’t walk on any moor without losing myself in family memories of racing sticks in the beck with my brother, resting my little legs with a great view of Malham Cove from my Dad’s shoulders or falling asleep in the sunshine after asking my Grandad to sing ‘On Ilkla Moor Baht ‘at’ for the fifth time in succession.
Returning to Yorkshire is ‘going home’ in every sense of the phrase. I want to immerse myself in the places from my memories and to retrace the footsteps that are steeped in emotional connections. It’s a bond that I enjoy tightening as often as I can. I think if I stood on top of Whernside or Pen-y-Ghent, I’d feel a sense of guilt looking over at Ingleborough with its table-top summit.
So, determined not to venture off the road most travelled, I took my boyfriend to Ingleborough to experience the Hill one more time.
Parking in Ingleton it’s a 7.5 mile walk – 3.25 miles being an interminable up-hill slog. However, there is plenty to take your mind off the fact that your legs are aching from an incessant incline.
One of my favourite things about Yorkshire is the dry stone walls. They remind me of visiting my grandparents and watching episodes of Last of the Summer Wine. They snake their way up the hills, containing sheep as they go. Looking down over the villages below, the hill stands in serene silence; we didn’t see another walker for over an hour. We had Ingleborough to ourselves save for the sheep which looked affronted at our presence on their hill.
The walking trail hugs the side of the hill, winding upwards past a solitary house and a clear water stream. As we near the final third, to the left we catch a glimpse of the Whernside summit; sunshine falls on the peak casting shards of light across a patchwork of green grass and smooth brown stone. Daylight tumbles down casting shadows into the valley and the Ribblehead viaduct. It’s a stunning distraction.
At this point, Ingleborough becomes both beauty and beast. Motivation is spurred as the summit is in sight – or is it? I’d forgotten the pang of pain as you make your way up to the top only to find it’s not the top at all, it’s merely a plateau before another steep climb to the top. When you reach this top you find that yet again it’s fooled you. There are three false peaks as you climb, each one more infuriating than its predecessor as you urge weary legs to keep going in-spite of nature’s cruel joke.
The final, final climb takes the form of a scramble as we clutch pieces of rock in a crouched position that I expect looks not dissimilar to a frog from behind. Blessedly, the desire to conquer the final 50 metres without looking down and freaking-out serves as a fantastic cure to any self-consciousness. We plough on as a pair of shaky amphibians before leaping with delight at the final step.
It’s worth it.
The view from the summit is incredible, we can see out to Morecambe Bay. It’s so cold suddenly that when we sit down for the traditional sandwiches at the summit we wish we had hats and gloves despite it being August.
At 723 metres, 2724 feet, you can see entire weather systems moving in. There were two large patches of rain heading our way as we contemplated our descent. Fortunately they parted ways and we managed the return leg without the added concern of slippery rocks.
We made it back to the car about 4 hours after starting. How people manage to do three of these in a day, plus the walk between the bases, is beyond me. Instead of tackling Whernside and Pen-y-Ghent we stopped off to admire Ribblehead Viaduct before setting off in search of a fish and chips reward.