The schools have broken up and I have taken a fortnight off work, so what better way to start the summer break than a weekend camping with Sophie and some friends from Red Rose and most importantly an impromptu little fell run.
The campsite we stayed at in Dent was surrounded by some gorgeous looking hills and beautiful scenery but there was one hill in particular that dominated our views as we were camped practically right at the foot of it. I must admit
one of the first things I did after unpacking the tent (and getting a beer) on the Friday night was having a look on the OS map to find the name of the hill ‘Aye Gill Pike’. The clouds gently rolling down it as the evening drew in giving it a sense of appeal that I knew was only going to frustrate me over the weekend as I had not brought my running shoes. I had jokingly suggested to Sophie that we would walk up it on the Saturday but deep down I’d accepted it wasn’t going to happen.
Saturday came and a leisurely start to the day, breakfast seemed to last for hours as everyone slowly got themselves sorted for the day’s activities starting at 11am. The group split off with a number doing a 12 mile fell run over to and including Whernside and the rest of us taking a shortened route for a walk and still managing a solid 6.5 miles with some stunning scenery. By around 3.30pm everyone was back at the campsite, showers were had and the beers had already started flowing. The sun was out and a trip to the local pub for a couple in the beer garden was on the cards before it was time for the evenings barbeque.
Later on as the barbeque was in full swing bizarrely attention seemed to be turned back to ‘that hill’. Now despite not even being on the camping trip this is where Barry comes into the story. As those of you who follow strava, races, social media etc. will know Barry has been putting the likes of myself, Ben & Pita through our paces recently with an array of hill rep sessions and lots of long hilly races in the pipeline. So here is the problem,
despite having walked 6.5 miles myself and Ben having run 12 hilly miles earlier in the day we both found ourselves contemplating what would Barry do? We both knew the answer. I’m not quite sure how many beers I’d already had at this stage, I can safely say it was more than 5 pints and I had definitely had quite a lot to eat at the barbeque so the idea of running up that hill was probably not very sensible, but Barry had laid down the challenge and neither myself or Ben were going to refuse to accept.
So here we are at 7.30pm, fuelled with sun, beer and barbeque about to set off on a run up that hill. Estimations at this point werealong the lines of “it’s not that far” and “it will only take us half an hour”.
Ben already had his trail shoes on, I quickly strapped on my hiking boots (remember I had no running shoes) and we were ready to go. Despite Ben’s suggestions of taking some Beer with us we decided it was probably better not to and off we went, casual shorts, cotton t-shirts, belly’s full of beer and food and not a piece of FRA approved fell kit between us.
The first little stretch of the run was along the river, this soon got the legs loosened and warmed us up a bit before we hit the tarmac for a minute and then off to try and find evidence of a style or gate with a track
that might allow us up onto the open access land above. The first gate we approached was a farm track and a private access sign however luckily the next one was much more appealing. A welcoming sign on the entrance with a little map to navigate through the farm yard and make our way up the hill to the summit, this was our route for the taking. The climb up through the farm yard was steady on a double dirt track, we were soon over a style as the gradient steepened and a stretch of single track with some overhanging trees leading us to the open fell. I’m not sure if I read Ben’s mind but we both ended up walking and at this point probably regretting this whole idea.
As we steadily made our way up the hill we worked our way through tussocks, reeds, rocky sections and passed some horses grazing. I remember counting at least 2 false summits but I suspect it was actually 3. The talk of “it’s
not that far” disappearing as we both realised this was a steep hill and a lot higher than we both anticipated. It took us around 40 mins from leaving the campsite but in the end we made it to the top and the views were definitely worth it. A quick stop for the obligatory selfie and a wave at the distant campsite below before turning back on ourselves and heading straight back down. Chasing Ben was hard work, especially with a stitch and heavy walking boots on however it was still a great stretch of running and it definitely was easier than going uphill. Surprisingly we both ran quite well, neither of us falling over or stopping to throw up and it wasn’t long until we were back on the river and turning through the gate back into the campsite, a little sprint finish as our fellow campers cheered us home.
About an hour later as we sat with beer in hand eating barbeque food again I remember thinking it was all a bit surreal and like it never happened, plus if Barry had actually been there we would probably still have been on the hill doing a few reps!
Aye Gill Pike is a ‘Marilyn’ in the Yorkshire Dales, it is the highest point of the ridge of Rise Hill between Dentdale and Garsdale in Cumbria. Its elevation is 556 m (1,824 ft.)