Whernside Tarns from Ribblehead, North Yorkshire - Summary.
Distance: 9.5 miles / 15.25 kilometers
Time: 4 hours 30 minutes
Map: OS Explorer OL2 - Yorkshire Dales South & West
This circular 9.5 mile moderate to strenuous hike up to Whernside Ridge can be challenging depending on walking fitness and mid-summer heat/winter snow conditions. This route is via Whernside Tarns, starting from the Ribblehead Viaduct at Low Sleights, and returns via Bruntscar back to Ribblehead.
There is plenty of free off road parking along the B6255, with welcome refreshments available at the Station Inn and at the ice cream van often parked at the off road parking places. Note the van usually leaves at about 5pm.
At around 2415 feet, Whernside is the highest of the 'Yorkshire Three Peaks' (Pen y Ghent of 2277 feet and Ingleborough of 2372 feet, being the other two). In my opinion it also has a bit more of interest to offer, at its start it has a masterpiece of Victorian engineering - the Ribblehead rail viaduct which carries a steam engine (from Settle to Carlisle), as an extra spectacle. There are a couple of water features, including Force Gill, on the way up and it has tarns near the top.
Though the ascent is challenging, it is gradual, there are no aggressive very steep parts. But it is a long steep climb to the top along well managed paths, which can be heavy going, particularly in hot weather. From the top of Whernside Ridge there are some rewarding and spectacular breathtaking views of the surrounding area which includes views of Pen y Ghent and Ingeborough.
The descent is steep and not as well managed as the ascent, though the paths are clearly visible. The paths are less distinctive as they are not as busy as the ascent route. (Many descend the ascent route for a shorter walk). The return trail heads in the direction of Chapel le Dale to Bruntscar and then on to Winterscales or Gunnerfleet farm (depending on the route taken).
The return trail from Whernside Ridge is very scenic as it cuts through rough pasture farm land, which can be muddy under foot particularly after heavy rainfall.