THREE PEAKS - The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge
This ‘classic’ involves a walk of about 24 miles and over 5000 feet of ascent while meandering over Pen y Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough in the Craven district of North Yorkshire. A number of our groups have organised attempts at getting round this. Some have done it fund raising for charity but some just for the challenge.
Your editor has walked these hills for over fifty years as his climbing club has a cottage nearby and has seen all sorts of weather up there. You are lucky indeed to pick a day with good weather and fine views. He has been luckier than most in that staying nearby for weekends several times each year he could decide what to do when he got up in a morning. When planning for this epic in advance and going up specially you have to take what you get and it can be bad; really bad.
He recalls two very different trips. Once, staying at a bunkhouse near Ribblehead specifically to attempt the round with a group, they felt it unsafe to go over the mountains without water wings. That weekend it must have dumped three inches of rain. It was just not possible on the Saturday and the pubs did a roaring trade. On the Sunday morning in heavy mist / drizzle we set off to go up Whernside but passing under the viaduct we realised we could not even see to the top of the stanchions so again decided discretion was the best option and went down to Ingleton and walked the waterfalls walk. Now that was spectacular indeed.
On another occasion taking a group of Leicester Cubs to attempt Ingleborough the group found themselves on the top when freezing fog came down. He had to resort to getting them hunkered down in a hollow with a troop leader whilst he had to quarter the edges in almost zero visibility to locate the route off via Gaping Gill. They all eventually got down safely and the lads thought it a great adventure but at home 24 hours later he thought he had had a stroke. The ambulance team identified it as Bell’s palsy and he had half his face paralysed for five weeks due to a frozen nerve behind his ear.
A few years ago members of the Leicester Group had a go at this walk and it threatened to be another such weekend.
They made their way north for a five o’clock rendezvous at Ribblehead. The weather was atrocious and the journey through Bradford a nightmare. After popping into the Pen y Ghent café at Horton in Ribblesdale for a pint mug of tea and a challenge registration form they also went to one of the bunk houses belonging to the Station Inn. They were not impressed with the accommodation but it was only for one night and they decided it was all part of the team bonding exercise!!! The meal and drink in the hotel cheered them all up as they watched the horizontal rain flying past the windows.
Saturday saw them up at 05.00, it wasn’t raining and the wind had abated; porridge, toast, tea or coffee for breakfast and they set off for the car park at Horton. 06.20 saw the registration form posted through the café letter box and they were off. By the time the first few reached the summit of Pen y Ghent they had split into two groups and that’s how it stayed for the rest of the day.
Descend to Hull Pot Beck and the first problem of the day; how to get across the swollen watercourse as most of the rocks were submerged. They managed with not more than an average two wet feet per person, not a good start. Chris Mortimer was one of the party and had even managed it without damp tootsies and was just congratulating himself on this achievement when he went into a boggy bit up to the knees and could feel a cold trickle in the boots. Chris can complete the story
“We were a group of five but had become separated whilst faffing about at the beck. Once we all got together again we found out that Anne had gone in up to the waist, dragged herself out and a few metres further on did the same again, not a pleasant experience. We stayed together for the rest of the boggy section. There were further streams to cross but luxury of luxuries they had bridges!
Ribblehead, time for a drink and a quick snack before starting the long ascent of Whernside; along the side of the magnificent viaduct, up towards Blea Moor, Knoutberry Hill and the summit. Touch the Trig, long gradual descent to the farm at Philpin, drink and bite to eat at the refreshment hut and start off towards Ingleborough. A longish walk towards what looks like a wall but as you get closer a very steep path becomes apparent. I have never struggled so much on a steep path before, no energy in the legs. Half way up I started to feel light headed and thought I was going to faint! A minutes rest and I was O.K.; got to the top and found Penny sat down with Bob standing beside her. They had been forging ahead for a quick time but Penny had gone as white as a sheet and almost collapsed.
Thinking about these problems later we came to the conclusion we had not been eating and drinking enough producing a combination of dehydration a low blood sugar levels. The embarrassing thing being we were carrying everything we needed to prevent these problems but the stops had been so short we had not consumed enough of the vitals required when walking in the hills!!
A gentle slope in the cloud took us up to the Ingleborough Trig and it was generally down hill for the last 7K. Needed to use the compass and some pacing to find the correct path off the summit although the cloud did thin as we reached the point were the path began. Magnificent views of vast areas of Limestone Pavement as we descended for the last time. Eventually the sign board at Horton station hove into view, a short walk then to the café, get your time card and clock off, followed by a pint of tea. Penny Whitford, Bob Powell and Don Moore finished in about 8hrs 20, Anne Whichcord and myself came in ten minutes later. It was then time to sit in the sunshine, drink several pints of tea, chew the fat whilst the reality of what we had all achieved sank in, stroll around the village and wait for the rest of the group to finish.
Don Brown appeared at about 11hrs and mentioned that Pat was having problems with one of her knees. 11hrs 57 Pat Brayshaw, Jenny Mann and Ash Kotecha finished just inside the twelve hour deadline. We then set off for the youth hostel at Ingleton where we would crash out that night. On the way we went through a heavy prolonged shower and felt very glad we didn’t meet it while out on the hills. A hot shower in a clean and pleasant building began to return us to a state of normality and a good meal at the pub up the road completed the process. I don’t think anybody had much trouble going to sleep that night.”
Returning home on Sunday morning they drove through a series of showers. How lucky had they been on Saturday with the weather, a dry cool day with broken cloud and a gentle breeze, ideal for walking.
It is not always bad and I had one glorious walk over Ingleborough and Pen y Ghent when there was a dusting of snow everywhere and the summits were glaring white in bright winter sunshine.