THERE are three different walks up Whernside, all with their own merits.

The long steady climb from Ingleton and the excellent route from Dent are two but the most popular is from Ribblehead viaduct. However, this is much improved by the detour to the west side of the summit ridge overlooking Dentdale.

Park in the many parking places at the junction of the B6255 and B6479 and head towards the viaduct. This is clearly in view with the large bulk of Whernside behind. The viaduct was built between 1870 and 1874 with over 1,000 navies involved and includes 24 stone arches towering impressively to over 100 feet above your head.

It is best viewed when one of the steam trains passes along the Settle to Carlisle line. Do not pass through the viaduct but keep to the eastern path as it heads north.

Pass Blea Moor station before arriving (and crossing over) the aqueduct that marks the start of the climb up Whernside. Directly ahead is the one-and-a-half mile Blea Moor Tunnel, simply one of the outstanding achievements of Victorian endeavour. As you start the climb to your left is the waterfall at Force Gill.

After 350 ft of steady climbing a stile to the left marks the start of the traditional and well laid out route to the summit of Whernside. Ignore it and carry on uphill on a less obvious path (the Dales Highway). After a couple of hundred metres the path starts to flatten and wind around the north western fringes of the mountains. The views across Upper Dentdale to Great Knoutberry Hill, Dent station and Arten viaduct are superb.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Whernside tarns and Dentdale Whernside tarns and Dentdale (Image: Jonathan Smith)

Follow the grassy path for a mile north and then west to a stone wall, the Boot of the Wold. Leave the main path which drops in to Dentdale and turn sharply left alongside a wall and follow a faint path climbing steeply alongside a field boundary/wall.

After half a mile the slope levels out and you will arrive at the first of three tarns - four when wet, maybe even more after the recent weather! Before arriving at the first tarn take the opportunity to leave the path to your right and cross towards Dentdale where two large cairns mark two superb viewpoints. This is access land so feel free to explore the wide shoulder before returning to the faint path. The path continues north close by two of the tarns, arriving at a small stile next to a wall. Cross it and re-join the main, obvious path leading for half a mile to the summit of Whernside, the highest point in Yorkshire and the highest ‘Dales 30’ mountain.

Continue south from the summit following the wide path for ¾ a mile before it heads west down a steep slope. The first and steepest section of the path is unpleasant and although recently improved the large stones are still slippy in the wet. The path improves and the slope flattens after the first gate. Pass through two more small gates and arrive at the farm at Bruntscar. Instead of carrying on down the main farm track (this is the route of the Yorkshire 3 Peaks Challenge) turn left in to a field and head north east, contouring the lower slopes of Whernside. The path passes through the farms of Broadrake and Ivenscar before an obvious track on your right heads towards the viaduct.

Turn left over the bridge at the farm of Gunnerfleet and under the viaduct back to the start.

* Fact Box:

Distance: Roughly 10 miles.

Height to Climb: 480m (1,580 feet)

Start: SD 765793. Parking places on the roadside near the junction.

Difficulty: Hard.

Refreshments: Take the few minutes walk to the Station Inn.

Be Prepared: The route description and sketch map only provide a guide to the walk. You must take out and be able to read a map (O/S Explorer OL2) and in cloudy/misty conditions a compass. You must also wear the correct clothing and footwear for the outdoors. Whilst every effort is made to provide accurate information, walkers head out at their own risk.

Please observe the Countryside Code and park sensibly.

* Jonathan runs Where2walk, a walking company based in the Yorkshire Dales. He has published three books on walking in the Dales; ‘The Yorkshire 3 Peaks’, ‘The Dales 30’ mountains and the ‘Walks without Stiles’ book. All these books (and more) are available direct from the Where2walk website.

Book a Navigation (Map and Compass Skills) Training day near Settle or a bespoke day for a private group. The first available day is March 23.

New “Dales 30 Weekenders” in Hawes & Sedbergh. also features hundreds of walks across Yorkshire and beyond, from easy strolls to harder climbs.