Back at the start of April I found myself with Paul and another work colleague setting up camp in Horton in Ribblesdale. A long time ago now, Emma had mentioned that she fancied walking the three peaks and so there we were at 7.50am at the Pen Y Gent Cafe, the accepted start and finish point of the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge.
I should have known it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park when I woke at 6.30am to the sound of water hitting nylon. It pretty much rained all the way up Pen Y Gent and down the west face over to Horton Moor. Still, we were out and despite my knees hurting as soon as we left the village, Pauls broken toe and Emma’s sore feet from fresh new boots (we warned her) - we were were in good spirits. I’ve never walked in Yorkshire before and found it a beautifully bleak yet amazing landscape and one which I will return to again soon.
We took the less trodden path off Pen Y Gent to try and avoid the crowds that had gathered at the first peak (for those going anti-clockwise of course) only to rejoin the path smack bang in the middle of the early risers. Luckily though, this worked in our favour over Horton Moor as one member of the crowd took one for the team by helpfully being swallowed waist deep in bog. At this stage we were happily just bumbling along with no care for the time or the map and stopped to make a brew by the stream whilst the drones carried on.
The weather was treating us just fine with bursts of high speed horizontal rain to massage our wind burnt faces and Paul celebrated by repeatedly changing in and out of his waterproofs! Once over the river (Hull Pot Beck) the walk is a little boring with a bit of single track and a bit too much road walking. Luckily somebody has plonked a pub (The Station Inn) just before the Ribblehead Viaduct so it seemed rude not to stop for a Lamb Hotpot and a drink before using the “loo with a view” and getting back on the route.
It became apparent that we’d shook the crowds, and we sauntered off towards Whernside with no idea that our timing was way out. That was until Paul helpfully commented that “we had no chance of doing all three peaks and getting back to the cafe for 7.50pm”.
Nevertheless we got our heads down and shot up Whernside where we were rewarded for finally making some effort with moodily scenic views.
Being blasted by wind and rain along Whernside’s ridge was a particular treat and I added to the entertainment by falling on my ass a few times as we descended. Paul’s toe was giving him some real jip at this point so naturally he was enjoying every minute. Luckily though, the sun came out and really brightened up the valley and somehow made Ingleborough seem a little less far away.
I knew the challenge was on when we walked straight past the Hill Inn and nobody even jovially mentioned stopping for a pint! We had 2 and 3/4 hours to get up Ingleborough, back down the other side and into Horton in Ribblesdale. At this point we still thought we could do it in the 12 hours and to be honest in hindsight I’m glad of this ignorance as it was the only thing that got me to the top at that point.
The wind was still whipping across the top but the mood was good among the crowds who were limping back into the village happy just to finish. We must have looked like real chumps as we practically ran past still blissfully unaware of how fine we were cutting it.
My knees had well and truly given up at this point and so it was out with the painkillers, whilst Paul silently limped back down trying to hide his agony. It was at this point I wished we’d stopped at the pub. At least we’d have had another rest and a pint before failing!
The best part was the sun was out and it turned out to be a beautiful evening. The strange rock formations at the foot of Ingleborough looked even more enchanting but that wasn’t enough to curb our disappointment. We eventually gave up our feeble attempts at keeping up a challenge pace when we got over the final ridge before the drop into the village to realise that the sign indicating a 1 1/2 miles to the village was a lie. I bet the locals never tire of hearing people moaning on about it.
We made it back to the Cafe for 8.06pm limping, leaning heavily on walking poles and/or groaning. It had been a long day!