The Three Peaks, Yorkshire
19th - 20th June 1999
Our greatest training challenge lay before us. We had survived day hikes,
weekends away and even rocks in the rucksacks but never before had we looked
at walking so far in one day. A straight day from start to finish of some
26 miles climbing mountains. This weekend was designed to test our limits and
our ability to stay together as a team even at the point of exhaustion. This
is the Yorkshire 3 Peaks.
As we left the camping barn at Ribble Head viaduct, we were
singularly unimpressed by what the English weather had thrown us.
Unable to see more than a hundred yards, dampness hung
heavy in the air. Even the viaduct, famous for its imposing
presence in the local landscape, was mostly hidden from view, its
dark shape looming out of the mist. As for Whernside, the first
of the three peaks, no sight could be seen.
Climbing into the mist
We picked up our already soggy spirits and with determination
headed out across the Yorkshire landscape towards are our goal. Slowly
the path began to climb and as we moved away from the fading viaduct
the work of the day really began. Map reading was of vital importance
under in these grey featureless conditions but with our navigation
skills now honed we had no difficulty finding our way and were soon
climbing the ridge to the top of Whernside.
A simple bend in the wall along the ridge and a style marked the
summit. Here we all stopped for our first break and a snack. It was
to wet and cold to stop for long so we made the decision not to have
a single lunch break, but to eat as much as possible in short breaks
or on the move.
After finding the path off the ridge we were soon moving on again
and our knees were taking their first of many bashings of the day on
the steep rocky decent back to the valley.
The Yorkshire three peaks are some of the highest mountains in
Yorkshire, and have long been used by people as a test of endurance
and stamina. They do not have the luxury of being in a tight cluster
and some walking has to be done between each one and each time a drop
to the valley floor is required.
We pushed onwards with good pace and were soon back on the valley
floor facing the prospect of doing the climbing all over again. Next
stop Ingleborough The walk to Ingleborough is odd as it crosses a long
deeply boggy ground. To stop footpath erosion and the loss of walkers
into the mire a board walk path has been built over much of the lower
slopes. With the mist still tight around us and visibility down to 15
yards, the senses soon closed in. All you could see was the person in
front and the sound of boots trudging on boarding, the endless trudging
of boots on boarding. This mesmerising effect just didn't seem to end.
Even as the path began to slope and climb the boards continued.
With sudden relief the boards ended and we found ourselves back on
solid ground once more. The climb from here was steep but thankfully
seemed short after the board walk. As we sat on the side of the path
nearing the top we looked back over our progress so far - and saw only
our own damp faces in the mist.
We broke onto the flat plateau of near the summit only to find ourselves
confused at a lack of path to guide us the last distance to the top.
With compass in hand we moved across the featureless stoney plane
trying to keep in a straight line. Hearing voices up ahead we approached
with more confidence to be greeted by the welcome sight of a stone shelter
The walk off Ingleborough was somewhat more pleasant than the walk up and as
we left Ingleborough the mist gradually began to rise lifting our spirits with it.
Astonishingly half an hour later the mist had all gone and we caught our
first glimpse of our third mountain having failed to see any of numbers
one and two. Peny Ghent looked an impressive shape in the distance. But it
still looked such a long way away and midday had now been and gone. If
only Peny Ghent was the end of the day, but we knew at the back of our
minds that we would still have a further 8 miles even having reached our
By the time we reached the village of .... we were feeling the strain
the knees of several members were sore and we wondered if we were going
to make it. Feeling very dispirited at this stage we stopped for a cup of
tea to warm up and decide what to do next.
The power of a good hot cup of tea should never be underestimated and
once defeatist attitudes were turned into do or die. Of course we could
do it, and we certainly hadn't come this far to fail now.
Pen y Ghent - The last summit
The walk to Peny Ghent is very pleasant indeed and thoughts of aching
bones were soon but distant memories lost amongst the buoyant chat. Even
the daunting steep accent of the mountain top itself did nothing but leave
us all rather breathless. Standing proud against the increasing wind, we
braved a triumphalist group photo certain now we could beat this thing.
The walk back to Ribble Head turned into the longest battle of all. It
all started to go wrong when Adele picked up some dust behind a contact lens
blown in by the high winds sweeping the top of the ridge. Stopping to sort it
out left people feeling cold and windswept and the triumphalism of the last
summit dissipated quickly. It was a relief to get off the ridge out of the
wind. But our troubles were not over yet.
The path from here follows a precarious route across the boggy peat
moorland this time with no board walk to help we had to find our own way
though the bog. We were nearly out of this wet landscape with just a few
muddy traverses left when Helen put a foot wrong, failing to follow the
leaders steps and sunk, quite magnificently. The foot went down right
above the thigh. Putting another foot down to pull the fist out only
made things worse and we turned around at Helen's cry to find her in
to the waist. Losing his presence of mind Ian, immediately reached over
to pull her out. This was obviously forgetting his prime duty as team
photographer which should have been to capture the event in film for posterity
before being the gentleman and lending a hand.
Ribble Head Viaduct
We soldiered on eating the last of our energy foods on the move now
desperate just to make it home. Tired all of us it became more and more
difficult to keep the team together and moral began to ebb away. The straw
that broke the camels back however was that 2 miles from our final destination
it began to rain. And rain it did, and rain in great torrential bucketfuls
soaking our already cold and tired bodies right through to the skin
The pub back at Ribble Head viaduct was the most welcome sight I had ever
seen that day. To exhausted to even speak we stripped off into dry clothes
and sat in the pub with hot plates of food, cheeks glowing, happy at last in the
knowledge that we did not have to walk another step.