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The Yorkshire 3 Peaks

April 2005

To go from walking 7 miles a day or at the most 10 to walk 24.5 miles over the three highest hills in Yorkshire in less than 12 hours is quite an achievement and something not to be entered into lightly.

So the day Liz said she wanted to do 'The 3 Peaks' my first reaction was she must be joking then after realising she was serious 'how are we going to do that then?'

We had already started doing some training for our Dales Way trek later in the year, building up to about 12 miles a day but that was over the relatively gentle South Downs. The long Spring Bank holiday gave an opportunity to go up to Malham in the Yorkshire Dales for a few days and if not do all 3 hills at least have a few walks and do a couple of them.

It was really drizzly when we got up and drove to Horton In Ribblesdale and sat waiting for the Pen Y Ghent cafe to open at 8.00am. For a while we sat with our mugs of tea contemplating whether we were going to go for it or not. A number of other walkers were already 'clocking in' using the old time keeping machine that stamps your card at the start and finish. Outside still drizzle inside more pint mugs of tea! In the end we bit the bullet filled out our time card had it stamped and set off.

By the time we were half way up the first hill, Pen Y Ghent, the ascent was more tiring than anything on the South Downs, I was already thinking we wouldn't have the time or energy to do another two hills and considering a shorter day for us. We reached the top, in drizzle and mist unable to see anything then headed downward through numerous bogs watching those in front of us disappear into the distance.

Having no one to follow slowed us down a little as we had to check the route and we felt that we were going much slower than other walkers, escaping from the bogs we walked to Ribblehead and stopped for an awful cup of tea at a mobile cafe. At the bottom of the second hill, Whernside my calculations were that we could still just about do all 3 hills within 12 hours. Surprisingly both of us were feeling OK not too troubled by a few knee deep steps into the bog, so on we went.

The summit of Whernside was invisible in the mist, even at the top we struggled to locate the 'trig point' and shelter, as we were heading down the cloud lifted a bit revealing the steps in the distance leading upward to the top of the final hill, Ingleborough. At this point we could have stopped and made our way back to Horton along the road but we were now ahead of schedule and a new sense of determination boosted by a change of socks pushed us on.

Going up Ingleborough we met a group of elderly walkers who do the 3 Peaks every year, we just about managed to keep up with them! If they could do it so could we!

The top and the last summit, again in the mist. Once we found it, Lizzie hugged on to the trig point. We were approached by two young girls on top of the hill, they been out walking with a group, managed to get lost and left stranded with no idea where their friends were or where they wanted to go. We tried to direct them back onto the path they had walked up whilst we headed off to find our route down. The mist made the path back difficult to find but we joined up with a group of ladies and with the help of a compass and the GPS found the right path and started to head on down for what we thought were the last few easy miles into Horton. The two lost girls suddenly appeared out of the mist walking towards us, they had got lost again this time we suggested that they kept to the track we were taking and follow us down to safety.

Passing a signpost proclaiming that there was a mile and half to Horton we sensed that the worst was over and it wouldn’t be too long before we were back in the cafe, 2 miles later and still no sign of the village. Legs beginning to tire and the final mile seemed to be taking all afternoon but eventually the village came into view and slowly we wobbled down the street back to the cafe.

11 hours and 5 minutes after we set off. We had made it!

As we couldn't see anything from the top of any of the 3 summits we decided to go back again later in the year and luckily this time we managed to get to the top of both Pen Y Ghent and Ingleborough before the view was obscured by clouds.