Walking the Yorkshire 3 Peaks was continuing my preparation for Peru but turned out to be an entirely proposition to the Chilterns 3 Peaks.
The weekend had initially been organised by one of the guys from work, Jim Macleerie, but as he had already walked it earlier this year he had always said he would not be walking it himself, and one by one others dropped out and it seemed like it was turning into a solo venture for me. In the end Jim changed his mind and together with Dan Myers and Selwyn “Selbo” Jones there were 4 of us. I stayed at the Black Horse Hotel in Otley and met up with Jim on the Friday evening in Ilkley at the Crescent Inn. We both arrived later than anticipated, my reason being a horrible journey up the M1 after getting the first of my vaccination jabs for the Peru trip in the afternoon. We enjoyed an excellent meal with lots of fish for me, but because I remain useless at just going to bed I still did not get sufficient sleep through the night. I left the hotel just before 6am, collected Jim en route and we got to Horton-in-Ribblesdale just after 7am.
The Yorkshire 3 Peaks takes in Pen-y-ghent (694m, 2276ft), Whernside (736m, 2415ft) and Ingleborough (723m, 2372ft), is just under 25 miles long and includes over 1600 metres (5000 ft) of climbing. The terrain inbetween the peaks is mostly harsh and overall it is very demanding. We started from the Pen-y-ghent Cafe in Horton-in-Ribblesdale, and if we were able to complete the walk in under 12 hours we would be invited to join the Three Peaks Of Yorkshire Club. So we checked in at the Cafe and set off towards Pen-y-ghent at 0720. The walk starts off on paths and tracks, moves over stiles, then heads up steeper sections including some scrambling over rocks, before finally reaching the top of the first peak. We got there after 1 hour and 25 minutes and it had been a challenging start. Selbo had struggled with cramp and nausea over this section and arrived a little later, determined to carry on. The ground we then covered was boggy and energy-sapping, and it was difficult to know if you really were going in the right direction. We had put on extra layers at the peak because the wind and the rain had picked up, and it was turning out to be a cold day. My Mountain Equipment Fitzroy jacket was just the job and I kept it on for the rest of my walk. After 2 hours and 14 minutes we were passed by a group going in the opposite direction who we had previously been following. We carried on regardless, and met up with them again later on. After 4 hours and 45 minutes we reached the burger van at the Ribblehead viaduct, and were about to begin the approach to Whernside.
The approach was flat on a good track, and so no warning at all of what was about to come. It was a long, hard trek to the top, and I still cannot decide whether it was better or worse that I could never actually see the peak until I finally got there. Jim and Dan had moved on ahead and Selbo had dropped back some more, so I was pushing on alone, and it was tough work. I felt like I had no energy, no stamina, and it was very much a matter of head down, keeping one foot going infront of the other. My left knee began to hurt as the steep climb continued, and I suppose the one redeeming feature was that it was all on tracks rather than scrambling over rocks. I could not tell you about any other features because I simply was not looking. I reached the peak after 6 hours and 59 minutes, which means I had been walking uphill for the best part of 2 hours, and it had been a killer. The descent was very steep but not too bad, although I could still feel it jarring on my left knee and I did slip over once, and at the bottom I stopped at a little cafe to stock up on some much needed food and drink. It was not far from there to the Old Hill Inn, which I believe I reached after 7 hours and 26 minutes, but at some point my stopwatch had paused, so that reading may be wrong. In any event, that point marked the beginning of my ascent of Ingleborough.
This time the approach was a steady uphill slog, not too steep, but certainly not flat. And I could see what was ahead of me – a zigzag path up the face of one slope, before a climb along the summit to the peak. It looked daunting, but I remembered that earlier in the walk people had said Whernside was the worst, so I tried to hold on to that as a comfort. I was walking over limestone pavements, taking a number of rest breaks on the way, and eventually reached the steep zigzag path. I amazed myself by being able to walk and scramble up it without having to stop, except when those infront of me were stopped. I actually thought the part immediately after the zigzag was harder, a steep walk along the beginning of the summit. Then more scrambling over rocks before coming to a plateau and a straight walk to the peak. I made it at 4:57pm, and so it had taken me 9 hours and 37 minutes to get there. My left knee was really hurting by now, but the only way to get back to my car was by walking off this hill, and it was all going to be downhill from here… The route back in was the very opposite of a walk in the park. There were no easy tracks, no flat paths, and it was a long slog of at least 5 miles. I joined up with some people who were walking for the Alzheimer’s Society and they made very pleasant company, and certainly helped me to carry on. We passed a few signposts, one at 2 and three quarter miles, one at 2 miles and then one at 1 mile out, and each time we were left thinking the previous mile had been the longest we had ever walked. Eventually we could see the lights of the town, and the light was fading now, so when we reached the train station it was with a sense of relief. It was not too far from there to the Cafe, and we got there at 7:05pm, which for me was after a walk of 11 hours and 45 minutes. I had managed it in under 12 hours and am now a member of the Three Peaks Of Yorkshire Club.
I met up with Jim at the Cafe and we went to the station to wait for Selbo. Dan had had to leave as soon as he got back. Selbo came in in the dark and we got him back to the Cafe and then to his car. Jim and I headed off to get some haddock and chips. My left knee was aching on the Sunday morning, but the rest of my body felt fine, and I took it easy on the Sunday, apart from driving for an hour and a half to get to Chorley. And now on Monday morning I can walk normally on it and it feels fully recovered.