Well, we did it! We got round the Yorkshire 3 Peaks’ course despite Martyn falling into a bog, losing the path, and myself and Daniel detouring to “save” a sheep. But the main thing is that we have raised almost £300 for St. Rocco’s Hospice, and we had a great day in the process and no blisters!
4am – The Middle of the Night
Getting up at 4am is my idea of hell, so it was a surprise to me when my alarm went off that I actually shot out of bed as if it was on fire. Despite this I still managed to pick Daniel up 15 mins late. I needn’t have worried as he had expected me to be late so was just ready as I arrived.
At 5:15 we found ourselves driving from Manchester to Horton in Ribblesdale to meet Martyn, who had decided to camp over, and together we would face the Yorkshire 3 Peaks.
The weather reports were favourable as the heat of the proceeding week had abated slightly and the forecast promised a warm cloudy day.
Horton in Ribblesdale
Pulling in to the car park gave me the opportunity to examine our last climb of the day, Pen-y-Ghent, which tantalized by hiding its peak behind a cloak of cloud. Martyn duly arrived and we started off, heading towards our first climb, Ingleborough. You may have realised by now that we had decided to do the course in a clockwise direction as opposed to the more traditional anti-clockwise way.
It was a lovely morning in the valley and as we gradually climbed up to Ingleborough the light broke through the clouds to shine towards Pen y ghent, causing Martyn to remark, “it’s views like that when you can understand why people believe in god.” However as we approached the Clapham Bents we started walking into the mist which hadn’t started to lift and visibility dropped. So much so that as we summited Ingleborough we had to spread out in order to find the Trig point.
This duly done and after chatting with some other walkers, taking a quick drink and having posed for a photo we headed towards Whernside. We desended Ingleborough using the steep steps in the side of the mountain which most use to ascend. Heading towards Whernside we went past the Braithwaite Wife Hole and the prehistoric limestone pavements interspersed with ferns. In front loomed Whernside.
WhernsideAscending Whernside wasn’t fun at all, well for me it wasn’t! With my knee playing up every step on my left side hurt. With Whernside’s summit hidden by a number of false rises it was dispiriting, even the magnificent views of the Ribblehead Viaduct, the coast in the distance and the rest of the hills around Horton did not completely lift the mood as in the haze sat Pen-y-Ghent and it looked miles away. On top of this it was blowing a gale on the top of Whernside.
Coming down Whernside we began to meet up with walkers who we had seen in the car park at the start of the walk. After passing the usual pleasantries they all said why are you going round this way? To be honest we just wanted to do the walk a little differently. Our plan of walking in a clockwise direction, which is against the convention was based on the logic that we could get the 2 biggest climbs out of the day and rebuild our energy on the slog to Pen-y-Ghent. As the walk progressed it became clear why most people go in an anti-clockwise direction, but more about this later.
The Calm before the Storm
After a bite to eat and a rest with the wonderful Ribblehead Viaduct as a backdrop, Daniel, Martyn and I set off towards Pen-y-Ghent, which was a mere silhouette in the distance.
Martyn joked as we strolled along that he was missing his Sunday afternoon relax in the “bog with his ipad”, little did he realise that he was soon to be in a bog, knee deep in s**t!
Yomping to Pen-y-Ghent
Perhaps one of the main reasons why the preferred way of doing the Yorkshire 3 Peaks sees walkers going in a anti-clockwise direction is that the march between Pen-y-Ghent and Whernside is the most insipid part of the walk. In a anti-clockwise direction from the top of Pen-y-Ghent to the foot of Whernside it is approximately 6 miles going generally down hill. Doing it in a clockwise direction (as we did) it turned into a 6 mile mostly uphill slog and with 12 miles under belts, 2 peaks and a gammy knee it wasn’t the most enjoyable experience.
With tiredness comes mistakes and at one point on this trek we continued along the path instead of coming off it and we found ourselves having to navigate onto the Pennine Way in order to get back going towards our goal.
Back on course we traversed some boggy ground and at this point Martyn found himself in the bog. Placing his feet in a patch he believed to be firmer due to some existing footprints, he found himself sunk up to both knees. When I joked to Daniel that we should leave him there, Martyn exploded (verbally, not literally). Thankfully, he was trapped in the bog as I wouldn’t otherwise be here to tell the tale! Neither myself or Daniel could offer much help. Martyn was stuck fast. He is a large chap and he had to use his poles to dig himself out. His mood wasn’t helped when he spotted a dead sheep close to him or when some idiot tried to help dig him out and speared his calf with a walking pole, yes it was me (I wonder if he’s had a recent tetanus shot?) Both Martyn and Daniel are experienced walkers and Martyn is a Scout leader, which just shows that anyone can get into trouble.
Once out of the bog and after a short break to calm our nerves we continued, and finally reached the foot of Pen-y-Ghent after another short detour: I had spotted a sheep in the distance that seemed to be trapped on a barbed wire fence. Having already seen the carcass of sheep which had died whilst trapped on a similar fence, we went to investigate and if necessary free the sheep. Needless to say that as Daniel got close the sheep walked off, personally I wouldn’t have been able to settle if we hadn’t have checked so I’m probably not cut out for the Everest Death Zone!
Even though we climbed Pen-y-Ghent using the more longer gradual climb it was still difficult, but with the sun popping through the clouds it was a lovely climb, with fantastic views. As we had walked in the opposite direction to everyone else we had the climb to ourselves and with that the peace, serenity and wonderful isolation that comes when your outdoors in good company away from the hustle and bustle of the rat race.
Once on top of Pen-y-Ghent we started the descent back towards Horton and faced the last big challenge of the walk which was actually getting off the mountain. The initial descent off Pen-y-Ghent was very steep and involved some scrambling. With 20 miles in the legs it was the final reason why people generally do the course in the opposite direction to us. Going up this side of Pen-y-Ghent is more physically demanding but less dangerous.
We arrived back into the car park a little under 14 hours after we started. Having gone round the course at our own pace and considering Martyn hadn’t been hill walking since dislocating his knee, my own levels of fitness, the route we took, the detours, the bog and stopping for photos we were quite happy with the time.
We joked we should come back and try to get under the 12 hour target time. “Not for a long time” was our universal answer.
We Must Be Mad
Yes, as no sooner did we get back into work we decided “not for a long time” would mean that we will do the course again in the next 6 weeks, this time in the anti-clockwise direction, without the photo-stops and bog swimming. We can see if there is a big difference in the route and we can also try to get under 12 hours.
Finally Daniel, Martyn and myself would like to thank everyone who has helped us on this walk, your sponsorship will help St. Rocco’s help to provide comfort and care to people in our local community with life threatening illnesses.
More photos can be found on our Flickr page: blog.cheaptents.com.