Wednesday, 12 June 2013

The Yorkshire Three Peak Challenge. . .

Last Saturday was the big day - our Yorkshire Three Peak Challenge ( 24 miles and 3 peaks in 12 hours).  Fortunately the weather was gorgeous - cool in the morning and hovering around 18 -20 degrees in the afternoon.  Fortified by a hearty breakfast at our B & B we made our way to Horton-in-Ribblesdale and clocked in at the Pen-y-ghent Cafe.  From all the cars we saw along the road and in the car parks, this is a popular challenge; there were easily more than a thousand people on the route.  We set off at 8:35am.  Like most people we were doing the hike anti-clockwise.  First peak was Pen-y-ghent which we ascended from the right side, up the "nose" and then to the top.

Part-way up, you can look to your left and see the third peak of Ingleborough in the distance. But we have a long way to go first. 

Still going up. . . 

And the view from the top.  It was quite steep, but our legs felt fresh and we reached the summit just over an hour into our challenge.

At the top was a stag-do of about ten guys, all decked out in cycling gear sporting fake Bradley Wiggins sideburns. The groom-to-be had balloons attached to his rucksack and when we came across them at the top of Pen-y-ghent they were doing a rendition of "I'm A Little Teapot" before running down the other side with a rugby ball.  Well, it makes a change from getting drunk in Dublin.  

Descending the first peak, you get a great glimpse of the many miles of countryside before the next one. 

Two hours into the walk and looking back, we can see how far we've come with Pen-y-ghent now in the distance behind us.

And here's more of the landscape before us.  With sheep cheering us on of course.

Several miles later and we reached the Ribblehead railway viaduct with the second peak, Whernside off to the right.  This is part of the famous Settle to Carlisle route.

Through the arches, you also get a glimpse of Ingleborough, the third peak in the challenge. 

But first we have to get up Whernside. This is the highest of the three peaks but with the most gentle and gradual ascent. By this point it was early afternoon and very hot. 

The view from the top of Whernside. 

And down again and towards Ingleborough. The viaduct can now been seen from the other side through a lovely field of buttercups.

Did I mention it was hot???   There was a cafe between Whernside and Ingleborough doing a brisk business selling pints of orange squash for a pound.  The sheep had the right idea for staying cool. 

At this point, my camera lens got a smear of sunscreen on it and blurred the photos I took of the very steep section of Ingleborough that consisted of near vertical zigzags - not fun for weary legs.  Fortunately it's a relatively short section and soon we were on the top, looking back at Whernside. 

From here, after a bit of a stony descent, it's a gradual downhill of dirt and limestone paths back to Horton.  We passed the future groom, balloons now burst, one sideburn lost and most of his mates nowhere to be seen.  But no time to chat - with the legs still feeling good, we decided to powerwalk the last two miles and clocked in at a very respectable 9 hours and 58 minutes! It was a long but rewarding day and we were quite chuffed to have finished in good time.  We celebrated with ice cream followed by a delicious dinner at an Indian restaurant in Gargrave.

Here are a couple of tips if you are contemplating doing this yourself.

1. Take lots of water!!!!  We carried nearly six litres between the two of us and drank almost all of it as it was so hot out.  The ambulance passed us at one point - it had been called out to rescue two men on Whernside who had suffered heat exhaustion.

2. Be prepared for the open.  There is very little cover on the entire walk so if it's sunny out, make sure you have plenty of sunscreen and a hat.  Alternatively, if it's raining, make sure you have all the waterproof gear.

3.  It's always good to have a proper ordinance map and compass with you, but if you are doing it in the summer and especially on the weekend, you won't have to worry about getting lost - just follow the crowd. The paths are quite visible and they've added some new ones over the worst of the boggy bits.  Erosion is an ongoing concern, so try to keep to the proper paths.

4.  Lots of people and open countryside equals very few places for private bodily functions.  Take them when you see them, particularly if you are female.  There are the odd bits of broken down walls that you can crouch behind but they are few and far between.   The cafe between Whernside and Ingleborough does have a public toilet which is free if you buy a drink from them, or you can pay them 50 pence.

5. There are pros and cons for doing it in each direction.  If you did it clockwise, you'd get two peaks out of the way fairly early and you'd be going against the crowd.  However, it would be fairly daunting to see the huge distance between Whernside and Pen-y-ghent at the end of your walk. Also, the ascent to Whernside going clockwise is very, very steep.

6.  Be extra careful if it's wet out.  Quite a bit of the ascents and descents are over limestone which can get quite slippery in the rain.  To be honest, I don't think I'd have wanted to do this walk in bad weather.

And that's another tick off the list. . .

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