I recently took on the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge, the challenge being to walk Yorkshire’s three highest peaks and be back from where you started within 12 hours. It’s a distance of approx 25 miles.
Last year I walked two of the Yorkshire peaks on the anniversary of one of my hip surgeries and so I was determined to at least try the three together.
I persuaded a friend who was also keen to do it to join me, and a few ladies who have done the same online training programme formed part of our little group. There is a traditional way around the route starting in Horton in Ribblesdale to ascend Pen-y-ghent first, followed by Whernside and then Ingleborough and back to where you started in Horton.
I know fell runners who have run the route and heard stories about the brilliant records people have set for completing the challenge, in just a few hours. My aim was to finish, in one piece.
Here’s how we got on…
Pen-y-ghent was shrouded in mist and we couldn’t see the top of it as we set off up the hill. From the very start is a steep hill to burn those thigh muscles, already the weather was looking ominous. There had been lots of rainfall in the days beforehand so there was lots of squelchy mud. Lots of people were already out in front and we had a stream of people coming up the hill behind us too.
The wind increased as we got higher the clouds whipping around the summit. To reach the summit you have a bit of rock climbing and as I stood on the ledge of some of these rocks a sharp gust nearly blew me off my feet. Exhilarating, but gave me a bit of a leg wobble. The rain started and we reached the trig point, hoods up and a scramble to find backpack raincovers. I’d bought a breakfast sandwich at the youth hostel and although it was a cold sausage and bacon sandwich it was the best thing I’d tasted as I stood in the wind and rain. Sadly, no view from this trig point. Now on to the next!
From Pen-y-ghent there is then a long walk to Whernside along a decent and undulating path. The weather was awful and we had a mixture of wind, rain and hail. I’d packed waterproof trousers but these didn’t have chance to come out, I was soaked but then quickly dried again as the wind and rain took turns. I nearly lost the waterproof backpack cover a few times, a fell runner managed to catch it one time as he ran past!
Before you start-up Whernside there is the spectacular view of the Ribblehead viaduct and we were treated to see a steam train go over it. This is the halfway point and we had left a car here with extra supplies. My back was hurting with the amount of kit we were carrying so I took out sun cream and non-essentials to try to lighten the load. A quick sock change, a bit of lunch and we were ready to go.
Once past the waterfall, I find going up Whernside long and a bit boring. At least this time there was a view and the massive structure of the viaduct was beginning to look tiny.
A few photos at the second trig point and we made our way down the other side of Whernside. I found this the toughest section, especially as it had rained so the steep ledges going down were wet and slippy. I was terrified of falling or being pushed down the hill and it seemed to take ages to get to the bottom. I had been appalled that at times on our walk people had practically shoved us aside to gain a few minutes on their time.
Another few miles until you reach the next peak, we treated ourselves to juice and a loo stop at the farm barn where they were serving drinks. As we walked towards the last peak Ingleborough, I spectacularly fell over in a field on some mud, my legs just went from under me. Nothing but pride was hurt!
The steep ascent of Ingleborough looks daunting, but once you get going climbing up the rocks and zig-zagging up it’s not that bad. We had a group of lads in front of us who decided to try the delights of the waterfall, brr not for me. The hard thing about Ingleborough is the false summit. You think you have reached the top to be met with some more rocks to climb over. The trig point is at the far end and we carefully picked our way over, the view was awesome but that wind was chilly. We had done all three peaks but the challenge doesn’t stop here. I heard a group near us excitedly congratulate each other that they had done the challenge in 12 hours, I didn’t have the heart to tell them it includes the walk back down.
What felt like the longest four miles ever took us back to the start. I was absolutely shattered, feet sore and a bit gutted we hadn’t done it in twelve hours. I’m proud of us that we did the challenge, the amount of people and weather against us. Those peaks have been there a long time, I’m sure they can wait a bit longer for me to attempt them again!
Have you done Yorkshire’s three peaks? What are your tips?