The Yorkshire 3 Peaks is a walking challenge based on a circular route of reaching the summits of Yorkshires 3 highest peaks. It's a challenge popular with experienced hikers trying to improve there PB, fell runners and those not so accustomed to climbing hills. Many charities run events for this challenge, as almost anyone with a basic fitness could complete it within the 12 hour time scale. But it's by no means easy!
To give a little insight into why I chose to do this challenge is that in our pocket of friends we're starting to build a portfolio of challenges we've completed. From Coast to Coast bike rides and cycling into Europe, and myself running my first half marathon we wanted a new challenge and preferably one more closer to home.
The Yorkshire 3 Peaks fitted that bill. We picked a weekend, booked the accommodation and I started to wear in my new walking boots as much as I could.
3Peaks D-Day arrived and we're driving from our accommodation in Giggleswick to the ceremonial start of Horton-in-Ribblesdale. The sun is shining, we're lathered up in sun cream and we're ready to go. As soon as we reach Horton, we pull into the Crown Pub with a huge sign welcoming 3 Peaks walkers. £2 ALL DAY PARKING. We thought that'll do and popped two quid in the honesty box that once lived its life as an ashtray.
It was 06.40 and the car park was already buzzing with walkers. A minibus with a charity group all wearing purple tshirts was gearing up too.
Now, the traditional process at the start is to 'book in' at the Pen-y-Ghent Café. You write your name, address and time of departure on a piece of paper and put it through the door. On your return you then book out with an official time. We didn't do this, we wanted to be on our way. We did the new age thing and fired up our Strava.
Onwards we go. Our first glimpse of the map showed us the way up Pen-y-Ghent. Head towards Horton Primary School and follow the path up to the top of our first peak. You start to get a feel of your pace, as some groups sprint past you, and you catch up with others. It was 40 minutes climbing up the sheep fields with a few escarpments we found the first retirees from the days climbing. They were clearly under prepared, an absolute no if you're planning this challenge.
The ascent up Pen-y-Ghent is short and testing. Before you know it, its single file traffic as we all climb the steep steps cut into the rock face. It's worth stepping out the way and taking a breather just to appreciate the view behind you at this point.
Alas we reach the top, and its 50 metres or so to the Trig point of Pen-y-Ghent. It was busy and buzzing with 3 Peakers! It's the first chance to sort any niggles with socks and laces, take on a little more breakfast and get on our way.
Heading over the stile we then begin the hike across to Whernside via Ribblehead Viaduct. It's about 5 miles in all, across farmland and moors. The beginning of the descent is boggy, even with the period of drought we're having. It was suggested that trainers would suffice, but you would have wet feet already. To the left the National Park authorities are doing the ground works for steps and a path. That'll help with the erosion on this popular walk, so maybe trainers will be fine in the near future.
Following the path, now signposted with 3 Peaks Finger Posts you walk through a farmyard and reach the road. Hang a right and follow the road until Ribblehead Viaduct comes into view and a first opportunity to replenish supplies.
The van sells cheese burgers and bacon butties but we opted with the sensible option of water and flapjack this time. Delish!
The next goal is simple, take the long winding path to the top of Yorkshires Highest Peak - Whernside. The race goers of Whernside take a more direct route, however majority take the longer route on the well maintained pathways. The path from the tea van follows the shadow of the viaduct and then follows the railway line before the railways disappears into the tunnel and we begin to climb. It's a long climb. I'd say 3 miles of continuous incline, but the knife edge topography of Whernside allows for marvellous views to the left and also towards Lancashire and the even the Irish sea to right.
We found this to be the busiest part of the day. With many 'One-Peakers' just doing Whernside and setting a picnic up at the summit. At the top there is a shelter and the ever present Trig point. We had our lunch, changed socks and got on our way once more.
The descent of Whernside is tough going. It's steep! I'm certainly glad we didn't climb up this way! The path fades into a rockface, as everyone finds a preferred route down. Our walking poles came in super handy at this point. It's incredible how beneficial these poles are! A worthwhile purchase (£10 a pair @ Go Outdoors!) before doing a walk of this magnitude. Walkers without poles are envious as we steam past in our Nordic fashion.
Finally, you reach tarmac again. We pass many people enjoying orange squash and ice cream at the farm shop at the bottom of Whernside. It looked tempting but we had time to make up. Not far on, we reached the road again and the hamlet of Chapel-le-Dale. Just by the Old Hill Inn was a charity van selling Water and more flapjack! It was our final pit stop filling our Camelbaks and our final ascent of the day - Ingleborough!
Ingleborough is recognisable peak with its table top shape that can be seen for virtually the full duration of the walk. The way to the top is a slight incline through limestone pavement and then board walks across bogs and then the wall. It's known as the wall as it looks almost impossible to climb and its the kind of mileage that runners hit the wall too. We regrouped and composed ourselves for what stood in front of us.
Brett felt the need to change his socks. Again....
I don't know the stats on the climb here, but it felt like an Everest base camp expedition without the cold. With 18 or more miles in our legs the lactic acid was building climbing up the steep rocks here. At the top of the wall is a plateau with a kissing gate. Walkers strewn everywhere, catching their breath and wondering why on earth they signed up for this.
There only looks to be one climb left.. WRONG!
Beware of false horizons here. But the reward of reaching the summit is rewarding. Once you reach the table of top of Ingleborough it's a short walk to the Trigpoint. Here there is 360° views all around, with extensive views over the Irish sea!
With the peaks now behind us, we are set for the long walk back to base - Horton-in-Ribblesdale. It's around 4 miles, of steps descending off Ingleborough, to limestone pavements and finally more agricultural land and then the village. With feet starting to swell, and aching knees and limbs this is when the Walking Poles really come into their own. Give yourself 1hr 45 from Ingleborough to Horton, you may want to run it if you're against the clock. It hurts!
The sight of the pond at the quarry is a clue that you're nearly home. But the sight of railway station is a better one. You've made it. Locals sit outside their houses watching all the stranglers come in from the peaks, probably thinking why so many do it each day.
We were envious of all the walkers at their cars nearer the station, we had half a mile to go! TIP: Park nearer the station as you can!!
Back at the car we had our time check. 10 hrs 30 mins. 90 minutes within challenges allowance of 12 hours. We felt we could have done it quicker if it wasn't for breaks. One of our team picked up pains early on, and soldiered on through it. Fair play to him.
A quick shower at the accommodation and we're sat with a pint of ale in our hands and perusing the pub bar menu. It all tasted good. So good. We'd earned it.
So that's it for this challenge! Here's a recap on the top tips if you are thinking of doing this popular challenge.