As winter tightens it’s grip on the outdoors, those looking to head to the hills must frequent the forecast websites before hand. On Friday night the outlook for the Lake District alerted to fog at 200m. It was enough to shelve the trip to Ambleside or quickly consider an alternative walk. The weather looked more promising according to the Met Office the Yorkshire Dales were clear of fog and visibility was good. Good was good enough. The 3 peaks of Whernside, Inglebrough and Pen-y-ghent form part of the Pennine range and now this weekend in an effort to avoid the worst of weather we agreed to SMASH one; Pen-y-ghent. The 3 peaks have a collective height of 1,600 meters so little wonder that some people see it as a challenge so much so that it is a well recognized race, most aiming to complete all three in under 12 hours, though as Alfred Wainwright says in his book Wainwright in the Yorkshire Dales “Some people have chosen to regard the walk as a race, and this is to be greatly regretted, walking is a pleasure to be enjoyed in comfort”.
We set away from the small town of Horton-in-Ribblesdale and aimed for the obvious nose of Pen-y-ghent wearing a cloud cap which didn’t look too concerning. We had company today despite the grey and wind. It’s a popular walk. This peak takes it’s curious name from the cumbrian language. ‘Pen’ presumably meant hill or head, but ‘ghent’ is more obscure. It could be taken to be edge or border. The name “Pen-y-ghent” could therefore mean Hill on the border. Alternatively, it could be mean ‘wind’ or ‘winds’ – from the closest Welsh language translation as ‘gwynt’. Thus it might mean simply ‘Head of the Winds’. By the time Abs , Anth and I reached the wall signalling the beginning of a steep climb of massive stone steps to the summit there’s was no arguing over it’s translation. The winds were reaching speeds over 80mph, the wall gave us much needed protection as we muscled our way toward thickening cloud. The waterproof trousers got another outing. After a tricky and precarious climb over wet stone we unexpectedly stepped onto a clear broad trail and gently walked to the trig on the summit. With absolutely no view we admired only our commitment to be out in such crazy weather. After a quick snack and hot drink we wrapped up tight and faced the strengthening wind . The rain felt like needles on our faces or some type of masochistic spa treatment. Somewhere would be a tea shop, beckoning us to come quickly. Wet through we began running down, the Pennine Way; but not racing. After 3.5 hours, wind battered and soaked, we knew we had faced worse than the weather we had set out to avoid. Though in true SMASH spirit it’s all part of the fun and nothing a hot pot of tea couldn’t fix.