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Phortse Team
Team Training

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.

Misty Climb
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 section of 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.

Misty Climb

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 cairn.

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 final summit.

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.

Team Photo
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
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.