After saying for years that, coming from Yorkshire, I really ought to have done the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge (or THE Three Peaks Challenge), I eventually decided, early in 2007, that I should get on with it. I asked Richard if he wanted to do it and he agreed to come with me. Also, it being a challenge walk, I decided to get it sponsored in aid of my favourite humane research charity.
(Richard was the official photographer for this challenge…)
Now, it so happened in summer 2007, the Open University Mountaineering Club, of which I was a member, were having a meet in the Yorkshire Dales in the vicinity of the Three Peaks – I decided to offer to lead a group on the walk if any of them wanted to do it – I did warn them I was planning a different route to normal though… Quite a few people said they would meet up with us on the Saturday in the carpark at Horton-in-Ribblesdale near the cafe where you ‘clock in and out’ before and after the walk. The agreed time was 0800…
I dragged myself out of bed uncharacteristically early to get to Horton by 0800 and Richard and I waited for the others to turn up. At 0820 we decided we really couldn’t wait any longer so we set off. Now, as mentioned earlier, we were taking a totally unconventional route which I’d decided was superior (to our tastes) to the normal route.
A month or so before, Richard and I had done a recce of the confusing, messy and boggy route between Penyghent and Ribblehead and decided it was a total faff – we really didn’t want to go that way. My planned route didn’t start with Penyghent – instead we were going to dash the 6 miles up the road straight to Ribblehead. To our minds, that had several distinct advantages over the normal route… Firstly, we got the long drag part of the walk out of the way and then only had to deal with the three hills themselves.
Secondly, there is a nice ‘butty wagon’ at the road junction at Ribblehead where we could get a hot breakfast – a fried egg sandwich and black coffee for myself and a sausage butty and tea for Richard. I hate trying to eat breakfast when I first get up as it makes me feel positively ill and slows me down so this was ideal for us. The quick flip along the road had taken about an hour and a half so it was my ideal breakfast time, we’d worked up a bit of an appetite and it was also nice to have a quick rest before tackling Whernside.
After sitting in the sun for ten minutes or so devouring our breakfast rolls, we then set off towards Ribblehead Viaduct and the normal route up Whernside which passes Ribblehead Tunnel en route. We were soon to find we’d picked the very hottest day of the year for our mountain challenge!
As we plodded up Whernside, we reached the stone-flagged area which crosses the bogs of the ascent. This area is in a large hollow and so any breeze was completely cut off and the sun was beating down on us. To add to our discomfort the heat was also bouncing upwards off the stone flags – I felt I was slowly being baked in an oven!
Neither of us usually take much of a break on a summit so we just had a couple of minutes to get a quick swig of water and Richard had brought some dried pineapple chunks to snack on. The water was a good idea but the pineapple chunks were a huge mistake… they were horribly sweet and just made us feel thirsty again – neither of us like very sweet things to eat anyway. We abandoned them into the bottom of his pack until we got home where we tried various ways of making them more palatable, including soaking them in water repeatedly and finally baking them in a sponge pudding – they were still far too sweet!
On leaving the summit, we continued along the ridge briefly until we reached the point where the very steep stone-pitched path sets off down the mountain to the track which joins several farms together and heads towards the main road just above Chapel-le-Dale. Just before we reached the main road, we came across an enterprising farm which was selling cold drinks and ice lollies for ‘Three-Peakers’. We had a pint of weak orange squash and an ice lolly each – another mistake. The lollies were fine – very refreshing – but the pint of orange squash each just swished around in our stomachs and made us very sick and lethargic for our steep climb up the side of Ingleborough.
The summit of Ingleborough, after a hot climb up, had a lovely cool breeze around the summit area so we stayed for about five minutes to cool off.
The walk from the summit to Horton-in-Ribblesdale is very long and, due to the excessive heat, seemed eternal that day. I love hot weather and can normally stand any amount of it but even I was getting fed up of being continually baked and the total lack of a breeze.
Not far out of Horton village, we bumped into a familiar face – it was one of the Open University group who was strolling about on the hillside. We asked her what had happened to the group that morning and she said they’d all had too much to drink the night before and didn’t bother getting up till around 10. A couple of them had actually set out to do the walk on their own but most had just mooched around the area – she personally had been sat on the hillside reading in the sun all afternoon.
When we reached Horton, the other advantage of my route made itself apparent. I’d decided that one of the reasons for feeling weary on a long challenge-type walk, is that your feet get very hot and therefore tired. So, my hidden weapon was fresh boots and socks in the car which I changed into. It was great to have cool, fresh feet again and I felt quite rejuvenated. My rejuvenation was helped further by a quick call into the shop (now sadly closed down) for more ice lollies.
Despite the rejuvenation tactics however, I found I soon started to tire on the ascent of Penyghent and, by the time I reached the summit area, I had to have a quick lie-down on the cooling grass before visiting the cairn to bag my final peak.
We couldn’t be bothered to do the full ‘round’ of Penyghent so just nipped back down the same way as it is a bit shorter. When we clocked back in at the cafe we found we’d been 10 hours 20 minutes – not too bad a time – I’m sure I could do it again quicker on a cooler day though!
I’ve just found these extra photos which I actually took with Richard’s camera on the day. I’d say it’s around dead centre of the whole walk – equidistant from each of the three peaks. I took these photos, turning on the spot, to illustrate how far apart the three peaks are…