Park in either the village car park (pay and display - no over night parking allowed), or walk down from the small roadside quarry further up the road.
Head up Buckden Beck, past the water inlet for the village. After an easy start, the path reaches the base of the first waterfall and curves back around to the left to cross the steep rock band, and then traveses across to the top of the waterfall. Although the actual difficulties are short, the rock is polished and the exposure on the path above the waterfall is considerable.
The path carries on following the beck, past two more waterfalls, each requiring a similar scramble over the rocky cliff of the waterfall, but just below the mine, at around 450 metres above sealevel the difficulties end. You soon reach the old mine tips and entrance to Buckden Lead mines (an obvious but narrow adit into the hill), and need to carry on up the beck. There's little sign of an obvious path, and the going becomes rougher and much wetter beyond this point.
The area is riddled with old mine workings, including mine shafts. Most are capped or at least fenced off, but you do need to be careful if investigating any unexpected holes.
Then above the top of the beck, follow the old dry stone wall to reach the fence line on the broad shoulder of the actual peak. Buckden Pike is marginally higher at the northern end, which is marked by a cairn and a trig point, and offers wonderful views stretching from the Howgill Fells, to Teeside and the North York Moors, to Pendle Hill and the other higher peak of the Yorkshire Dales. The closest peak to here is the cliff ringed bulk of Great Whernside (not the one in the 3 peaks), which looms to the east. As a hill goes, it's pretty dull, lacking the rocky and wild feel of many of the other peaks of similar height, but the views and the interesting scramble to the top compensate for this.
We wild camped in the slight shelter offered by the meeting point of two fences.
From the trig point follow the wall south to the memorial cross to mark the site of a tragic end of a world war two bomber. More details.
From the memorial either follow the path down the wall, or cut across the corner to intersect the broad bridleway of Walden Road. Although boggy in places, the path soon takes you down to Star Bottom, a pretty village further down Wharfedale to Buckden. In the village pick up the bridleway that take you to the river, cross the river, and join the pleasant and easy walking offered by the dales way as it head north towards Buckden. The path is pleasant if a little dull after the excitment of Buckden Beck, and soon you reach an arched road bridge over the infant river Wharfe, and a short walk up the road takes you to Buckden.
We arrived at Buckden at around 2:30 PM on a cold, cloudy saturday. Although the snow was cleared from the valleys, the odd glimpse through the clouds up on to the hills hinted that winter was far from over here, as this winter had been cold with frequent snow showers since December meaning that the snow pack was unlikely to have shifted much. The weather forecast gave a freezing level around the summits, with the likelyhood of the cloud lifting and a cold night.
Our objective was to climb Buckden Pike via Buckden Beck, wild camp on the summit, and return the next day via Star Bottom. Although wild camping is not specifically permitted in the Yorkshire Dales, providing you are sensible and camp high up on the hills, and leave no trace, you are unlikely to get into trouble.
After a pint and a last chance to warm up, we parked at the old quarry up the road (as overnight parking was not allowed in the village car park), and soon walked back to the village, and started up Buckden Beck. The scramble over the rock band by the first waterfall was theoretically easy enough, but damp polished rock, and a heavy load of backpacking gear, made this hard work. We passed a party including a small child and a hyperactive springer spaniel, which made me feel rather pathetic at the difficulties I had over the rocks'and the definate sense of exposure I had above the waterfalls.
After dealing with the waterfalls, the first small snow patches appeared, and as we climbed the patches became bigger, and required kicking steps over the very granular and soft wet snow that blocked the path in places. We stopped at the old mine workings of Buckden Lead mine, and clambered into the level that poked out from the hill, before deciding to get back to walking. The beck by this point was smaller, and the ground very boggy, and more of less continuous snow cover. Not only that but visibility had dropped as we entered the cloud. We filled up with water and donned gaiters to keep snow out of boots, and set off across the steep pathless moor upward. Progress was painfully slow, as the snow was thick enough to have to wade through and only sometimes firm enough to stand on. We picked up the line of the wall to follow the thicker band of snow that was easier to walk on and handy to navigate with, and noticed as we got higher, how the wall was almost completely covered by snow drifts. The light was starting to fade, and although I knew we were near the top, our progress was slower than hoped and we were going to have to find a suitable spot to camp and get the tent up pronto.
We found a fairly sheltered spot where the wind had covered the junction of two walls in snow so deep you could walk over the tops of the walls. We dug out a trench in the snow (I was thankful I had remembered a snow shovel) to pitch the tent on, and shelter the tent still further from the wind. By this time the temperature was obviously below freezing as everything started to freeze up. We briefly walked over to the nearby trig point to see the cloud was starting to lift. I wished I had taken the bigger, roomier but heavier tent, as the small 4 season tent was cramped in the cold with two people. After cooking up a meal of various pouched slop, and sinking a few drams of whisky (whisky and chocolate always taste better on the hill), I ventured outside to notice the cloud had completly lifted and you could see the lights of Teeside far away, and a huge expanse of snow covered emptiness.
Despite a 4 season down bag, a nice thick air matress (Big Agnes air core), thermal, and all the kit I wasn't wearing piled either on the ground for insulation from the ice under the tent, or put on top of the sleeping bag for extra insulation, I was actually pretty cold. Not dangerously cold, but not toasty. My equally foolharder fellow wild camper Dan, was somewhat warmer, even when we started to notice ice forming inside the tent. Inevitably when whisky and wild camping mix, a midnight call of nature happens. After crawling outside to answer the call, the sleeping bag felt much warmer. I guess the answer is to not drink whisky, but once it's dark, there not much else to do bar tell tall tale tales and sip whisky.
We were woken by the call of a grouse flapping and calling outside the tent. On going outside, I found the air was gin clear, with an inversion making the peaks stick out of a sea of white mist, with snow covered hills in all directions. The tent was covered in frost. Our boots and indeed everything else that had been piled in the rather small tent porch was completely frozen. Once the stove was fired up and some snow melting away (our water had run out by then), our spirts lifted. Although I try not to be a kit freak, I was utterly impressed by how fast my MSR reactor was able to turn snow into boiling water. A fiddly, or slow stove would have been a miserable thing indeed.
After applying liberal quantities of boiling water to the outside of our boots to defrost them enough to put on, we started the cold and alkward process of packing everything up. Naturally despite having eaten lots of food, it was a struggle to fit evetrything back into the ruc sacks, especially with cold hands. Just as we were finishing packing, and checking for stray tent pegs, a lone walker approached from the trig point.
Keen to have a chat we walked along with him, towards the memorial to the south of the trig point. The snow was now hard, and it was pretty easy to walk across the massive drifts which covered the top of the hill. The snow was so thick the fence and wall line was all but covered and you could step over the wall. Glad of the easy walking we soon reached the memorial and stopped to read the inscription on the granite cross, and examine the paper note left by the tailgunner of the crashed plane, Joseph Fusniak, who had visited the peak only last year. As the orginal crash occured in a blizzard, and the area was now covered in thick snow, it was easy to imagine just how difficult Joe's struggle would have been to get off the mountain with a broken ankle in the snow.
After the memorial and soaking in the view of the surrounded peaks, we headed down the hill over a large snow field, to join the path down to Star Bottom. At the gate at the intake wall, we could see just how thick the snow was, as the gate was far below the level of the snow. The snow started to fade away, and become more patchy. Alas, the frozen ground was covered in a thin layer of part melted mud, which resulted in many slips and falls.
We reached the pretty and compact village of Starbottom, and noticed the roads were starting to fill with day trippers as the brilliant weather had tempted many people out to the dales. We could have walked along the road, as we were both very tired by them, but choose to go the longer, but traffic free way via the Dales Way on the opposite side of the river. The walking was easy, after the snow and bogginess, but a tad dull as we were tired and had had enough by then. We made it back to Buckden about 12:30 and begin what yesterday was a short stomp, but seemed to go on forever as we trudged up the road to the car. We were later than expected and decided to ignore the charms of a pint outside in the spring air and just drive home, in a car loaded with smelly and damp walking gear. Our total distance including the extra bit to and from where we dumped the car was only 9.5 miles, but the cold, the difficulty of the ascent and the snow, plus of course the load, had made this feel like a much longer trip.