Route taken: Buckden car park- Swallow Gill- Buckden Beck- Buckden Lead mine- Memorial Cross- Buckden Pike- Swallow Gill- Buckden car park.
After feeling pretty rough over Christmas, I was keen to get out (9th January). I had originally planned to do a backpacking weekend, but the Saturday had a very poor weather forecast. I decided on a quick trip up and down Buckden Pike. I wanted to spend some time doing some more extensive testing of my Kahtoola Mountain Snow Shoes, I had tried them out several times on short trips on the Lincolnshire Wolds, but they are not steep enough to get a real test. I was also going to spend some time sending OK messages on my Spot 2 Messenger device, hopefully in reasonably deep ravines to see whether this would affect performance.
Arriving at the car park in Buckden after a slow-ish journey I found half way up the slope to the upper level, that the car park was covered in sheet ice. It was impossible to get a grip and my car started to slide backwards, with me struggling to turn the car around trying to avoid hitting a large recycling bin.
I had my tyre socks in the boot, but could not stop, even with the parking brake on. I decided to slide down the exit road, narrowly avoiding a stone pillar guarding the exit and made it back on the road.
I drove around for awhile and eventually found an area to park off the road about half a mile away from the village. Good start to the day, but at least I saved the car park fee !
Back to the slope up to the car park, I put on my Kahtoola micro spikes to avoid a trip to A & E in Skipton. These are really first rate and I walked across the ice no problem. I turned down a small track at the back of the car park, down to Swallow Gill and then along the north bank of Buckden Beck, following upstream past a series of waterfalls. There was no snow on the first part of the walk, so I took off the micro spikes. On several points the path climbs above the waterfalls, so you are able to get around them. The rocks were quite slippy and you need to take a bit of care as the path runs very close to the edge of the ravine. I stopped several times to send test OK messages on my Spot 2.
Eventually, I cleared the last waterfall, and encountered the first snow at around 350 metres. I continued uphill and had the first chance to put on the Kahtoola snow shoes.
My experience of these snow shoes on this trip can be found on my previous post. Pretty soon after putting them, I was into quite deep snow, so they were proving useful. Finally after a stiff climb I reached Buckden Lead Mine.
The next stage of my walk was up to the ridge at the top of the Pike, there was plenty of deep snow, and so the snow shoes came into the own. Once up on the ridge the snow was frozen solid and there was quite a bit of ice, so I didn’t really need to wear the shoes any longer, but kept them on, for testing purposes. The wind was blowing very strongly with the forecast suggesting a windchill of around -15C and certainly felt like that. I stopped and put on my balaclava and instantly felt warmer. Under the excellent hood of my Paramo 3rd element jacket I was nice and warm. I turned right at the top towards the Fox memorial.
After a short walk I arrived at the Fox memorial and got out of the wind behind the wall at the top and spent a pleasant half hour eating lunch with a fellow walker.
The Fox memorial in the shape of a cross, commemorates the crash of a Wellington Bomber during the Second World War. Five Polish airmen from the RAF died with one airman escaping, his name Jozef Fusniak. After the crash and during a blizzard, the sole survivor followed a faint track left in the snow by a fox down off the hillside for help, hence the name the Fox memorial.
I retraced my steps along the ridge and headed along the wall line to the summit of Buckden Pike at 702 metres (2303 ft).
By now the wind was probably hitting around 35-40 mph (55-58kph), it was forecast up to 50mph and as I started back down, I was almost blown back up ! Quickly I snow shoe-ed out of the wind and followed the wall down to Buckden Beck.
Once I had reached the Beck I followed the path back down to the car park.
Footnote: All the test OK messages on my Spot 2 device were received.