Climbing the “Dales 30”

May 18, 2022

The “Dales 30” are the thirty mountains in the Yorkshire Dales above 2,000 feet. I have loved climbing them and have done so from each conceivable direction and many differing weather conditions and seasons. I have also had a lot of feedback from those who have completed them or are presently doing so.

I therefore thought I would share some of my own thoughts on my favourites, suggestions on when to climb them and how it is best to enjoy them. I even have some bad weather suggestions!

The Best Walk

Calders from Winder
Calders from Winder

This has to be the Howgills, climbing Calders, the Calf and Fell Head from Sedbergh. After the initial steep climb the walking is so easy, undulating gently across the high grassy ridge. Rarely do people visit the Howgills so you are likely to have the mountains to yourself. The only decision to make is your route back. I am tending (different to the route described in the book) to now prefer returning west from Fell Head in to the Lune Valley and back to Sedbergh. This leaves Cautley Spout for another day.

Walk Description

The Easiest of the Dales 30

Lovely Seat from Buttertubs
Lovely Seat from Buttertubs

As they are all over 2,000 feet high any climb will involve some effort (and so it should!)

If you are looking for a short and straightforward climb to one of the summits Wether Hill above Hawes takes some beating. Dodd Fell Hill is also quick on an easy path (the Pennine Way) but combined (which they usually are) makes them more difficult.

The shortest height gain though is Lovely Seat above Buttertubs.

Wether Hill Walk Description

The Most Difficult of the Dales 30

Howgills from Baugh Fell
Howgills from Baugh Fell

This award goes without doubt to Baugh Fell. Not only is it the hardest of the Dales 30 but it also covers some remote land. In particular much of the ascent route is on indistinct paths and requires a certain amount of confidence in poor weather. However the vast summit area (in good visibility) is one of my favourite places, its a place to explore. It is one of the few Dales 30 mountains where there is no chance of combining it with a second mountain.

Walk Description

The Longest Walk

Gragareth
Gragareth

The full U shaped walk over Gragareth and Great Coum makes for a long day. Despite being on generally good terrain 15 miles is a long way and some of the walking down Leck Beck at the end of the day is tiring. Despite that it is memorable and much to be preferred to the shorter versions from the north. In addition you are of course climbing the highest mountain in Lancashire… and not a lot of people know that.

Walk Description

The Best Summit

Buckden Pike summit
Buckden Pike summit

Buckden Pike has the best summit area. The mile long ridge from the highest point to the Polish War Memorial is exceptional and full of interest. I used the summit for the cover of the Dales 30 book for a reason.

A word though for two other beautiful summits. Great Knoutberry Hill, with its squat trig point, is a personal favourite, whilst the small perfectly formed summit of Yarlside is immensely satisfying.

Walk Description

The one to Double Up

Blea Moor Station
Blea Moor Station

If you only have the opportunity to double up once on any of the Dales 30 then it should be Whernside. Not because it is the best summit or mountain as it is not (not even the best of the 3 Peaks). However a climb from Ribblehead, past the iconic viaduct and to Blea Moor Tunnel is a wonderful introduction to the area’s industrial legacy. However so is the climb from Dent to the west past the 3 Tarns of Whernside, mainly for its wonderful views and sense of isolation. Whernside sits between Upper Ribblesdale and Dentdale, both dales experienced at their best when combined with the mountain itself.

Ribblehead Walk Description

Dentdale Walk Description

The Most Maligned one

Yockenthwaite Moor
Yockenthwaite Moor

I have never climbed Yockenthwaite Moor in good weather. It is just one of those things. However many have and some say the summit area is not as bad as I describe in the book. I simply wouldn’t know as I have never seen it. It may be my weather forecasting skills or simply its own micro climate! Most people who have climbed it seem to do so from the south, Langstrothdale, and report it is very straightforward in good conditions if a little dull. It is.

Yockenthwaite Moor

The One that ‘nearly’ got away

Barbondale
Barbondale

When compiling the book Calf Top overlooking Barbondale was 2 feet short of the magic 2,000 foot height. The Dales 29 does not quite sound the same. Therefore I was delighted and relieved when the Ordnance Survey staff resurveyed the hill and upgraded the height to 2,000 feet, thereby turning it into a mountain. My plan was to include Nine Standards Rigg as one of the Dales 30 even if it was just outside the National Park boundary. Incidentally Nine Standards is a fine mountain and should be climbed by all.

Calf Top is excellent, a pleasant climb on good terrain, a return via lovely Barbondale and a fine village to end in.

Walk Description

The Best ‘Bad Weather’ one to Climb

Rogans Seat approaching summit
Rogans Seat approaching summit

The shooting tracks on Rogan’s Seat when climbed from Gunnerside make it almost impossible to get lost. To coin the word of the moment, ‘it is safe’. The paths are wide and head fairly much straight to the summit. The route from Keld is also straightforward on the climb and, although partly pathless on the return it is fine as long as you keep the river bed in view. There are no dangers here.

I would also mention Pen-y-Ghent as an easy to follow climb. However this is complicated by the fact that most Dales 30 walkers will want to combine it with Plover Hill which is certainly out on a limb. Also the rocky climb near the summit can become a little daunting for some, particularly in bad weather.

Walk Description from Keld

The Best Views to look for (not from the summit)

Deepdale and Dentdale from Whernside
Deepdale and Dentdale from Whernside

There are so many superb, often hidden away, places that have great views whilst climbing the Dales 30 that it is almost impossible to narrow them down. However here are five I particularly enjoy:

  • Dentdale from EITHER the cairns near the 3 Tarns of Whernside or the standing stones on the western slopes of Great Knoutberry Fell.
  • Ingleborough along the broad ridge from near Simon Fell.
  • The Howgills on the descent from Baugh Fell, laid out in all their glory.
  • The cairn at Hugh Seat, south of High Seat looking over Wild Boar Fell, the Howgills and more.
  • Barbondale on the descent off Calf Top.

The ‘Dales 30’ mountains are an excellent outdoor challenge , whether you do them all or just enjoy some of the best walks.

Buy the book and enjoy them and when you complete them let me know of your experiences, advice and any corrections for the next edition.

Jonathan

1 Comment
  • David Aldington says:

    I purchased the Dales 30 book with Christmas money at the end of last year. It’s now just under a year later; I’ve completed all the walks and enjoyed every one of them. The conditions varied from blazing sunshine to knee deep snow. I walked some and ran some. The information in Jonathan’s book is excellent and that bit of extra knowledge adds interest to the walks. My favourite was Great Shunner Fell and Lovely Seat for the wonderful views and variety. While completing the walks I encountered some new favourite places in the Dales which I hope to explore more in the coming year. I’ve no hesitation in recommending the book to anyone who loves the Dales and enjoys walking.

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