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Is Pen-y-Ghent Possible?

This is a blog from the archives from when we attempted to climb Pen-y-Ghent in the Yorkshire Dales, back in 2016. Pen-y-Ghent is one of The Dales 30 - the mountains in the Yorkshire and Cumbrian Dales (defined by the new National Park Boundary) which are over 2,000 foot (600 m) high with a drop of a minimum of 30 metres (98.4 ft) in each direction.

Pen-y-Ghent is and will always be a special place for me.

Perhaps because it was the first ever Peak I climbed or because of its sheer size and beauty. Perhaps just because it is in my beloved Yorkshire Dales.

Whatever the reason I was just so excited to be attempting to take the TerrainHopper up to the summit.

Today we woke up to heavy rain. The hill tops lay hidden in a blanket of mist.

But weather doesn’t hold us back.

We didn’t know whether we could reach the summit or not but that is – and always will be – part of the adventure in discovering new tracks and routes. As Sam Dantzie, designer of the TerrainHopper has said, the machine isn’t invincible and there will be times when the going defeats it. It’s the law of physics. Or chemistry. Or something or other. A huge part of our philosophy is to get out there and have an adventure. Don’t simply stick to sanitised routes that offer little in the way of challenge. Get out there and challenge both the machine and yourself. Get out there and live!

The bridleway from Horton-in- Ribblesdale is relatively new.

To be honest, when Jonathan of Where2Walk was explaining this to me, I wasn’t really listening. Not out of any form of rudeness. More out of an excitement that was building. My mind was, I have to say, elsewhere.

This was going to be the first attempt at reaching the summit in a TerrainHopper. It was great that for today’s adventure Andy and I were joined not just by Jonathan, but also by Rachel Briggs, the Accessibility and Recreation Officer for the Yorkshire Dales National Park and Mist. Not mist - the cloudy stuff that swirls everywhere - but Mist, Jonathan’s uber cute sheepdog.

Jonathan helped plan our Coast to Coast walk and walked five of the days with us and has a pretty good idea of the capabilities of the TerrainHopper. However, today Rachel was able to experience the full potential of the TerrainHopper and to see how it is able to access areas of the countryside which would otherwise be inaccessible for people with limited or no mobility.

We knew that the TerrainHopper could cope with the rough ground and the Three peaks ranger thought that we would have to pick out or path around protruding rocks and boulders but we were unsure of the obstacles that lay ahead.

For the first section, the gentle climb from Horton, the TerrainHopper was in 2-wheel drive. It was only when the path got steeper and the track rougher, we put Harriet into 4-wheel drive. The steep gradient and drainage channels were eaten up easily.

As the rain began to ease and the curtain of mist opened up putting the head of Pen-y- ghent in centre stage, my heart began pounding and the beats in my chest hammered out at the panoramic wow factor views. Tears welled up in my eyes: it’s ten years since I climbed up Pen-y-Ghent and I never believed that I would ever do this again. But here I was on my mountain.

The newer track eventually gave way to a much rougher and rockier section. This was going to be the whole crux of the journey. The track was shrouded in mist and covered in bumps and bone-juddering rocks. But we were all determined. As the wind whipped the rain into our faces, we were making good progress. Andy’s learnt not to scream now when a wheel of the TerrainHopper rears into the air as it tackles rockier sections on a walk but Jonathan still needed to lend him a sock to stuff in his mouth on this section.

Just when it looked as though victory was ours, we encountered an outcrop of rock in the path that was about eighteen inches high, vertical, wet and perfectly smooth. I adopted ramming speed, gritted my teeth and slammed into it. But there was no way the TerrainHopper was going to grip and climb it. To the right of this ledge (I won’t tell you what Andy called it!) was a passable section of track, but it was still very rocky and incredibly narrow. Though keen for adventure, safety comes first and the drop to the side was just too dangerous to even think of skirting around the edge.

Andy and Jonathan took the executive decision to call this the end of the adventure for the day. Looking on the map, I reckon we at about 630m. Frustratingly close to the summit.

Am I disappointed that we didn’t reach the summit?

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t but as the gang at The Calvert Trust would say, “ It’s what you can do that counts.”

Today I climbed to 630m in the Yorkshire Dales. Every single metre I gained in height was a metre higher than I’d dared even dream about about just 18 short months ago. On the descent, the whole adventure was likened to the first leg of a European football match. The final score?

Pen-y-Ghent 2 v 1 TerrainHopper

But, importantly, TerrainHopper scored a vital away goal.

And sometime soon, in the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger: I’ll be back.

Since we attempted to climb Pen-y-Ghent we have climbed some of the other Dales' 30 summits and will share me adventures with you in futures blogs.

More information about The Dales 30 by Jonathan Smith can be found here


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