Browsing Tag

Yorkshire Three Peaks

My Experience of the Yorkshire Three Peaks

By 2 August 2014 Lifestyle, Outdoors

Last weekend was one of the most tiring of my life. I’ve never been so utterly knackered.

I decided to sign up for the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge with work as we’re trying to raise money for Combat Stress. All the other events were running or kayaking and I can’t do either. This seemed like it would be a challenge but one that I could do. Little did I know.

For starters, the Yorkshire Dales is a lot further from Kent than we expected. According to Google Maps, which I’ve learnt to be pretty inaccurate in terms of journey times, it was going to take about 6 hours and 15 minutes. This was supposed to take the traffic into consideration but it look us much longer!

Once we’d stopped for dinner, we ended up pulling into the campsite just after midnight. We left Folkestone around 2pm and had been at work since 9am. It was a long day.

The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge

The Yorkshire Three Peaks are comprised of Pen-y-Ghent (694m), Whernside (736m) and Ingleborough (723m). The “circular” route that snakes through the dales is 24.5 miles long, and the challenge is to complete the hike within 12 hours. Thousands of walkers attempt the challenge every year.

The morning started at 6.30am when my friend’s alarm went off. It wasn’t welcome since we’d only had about 5.5 hours sleep. Once we’d got sorted, it was time to drive to the start point. Having arrived in the dark, we hadn’t seen the scenery at all. The peaks towered above us and it was a bit scary!

We checked in at the Pen-Y-Ghent cafe in Horton-in-Ribbledale at 8.07am. They have an antique clock with a stamping mechanism. The cafe used to stay open until the last walkers returned, but there was a sign on the door to state they no longer provide this service. I imagine too many people forgot to clock back in and it became impractical to continue the service.


The first peak on our route, Pen-y-Ghent is very close to the start. Having walked past the village’s historical church, we were nearly on the footpath to the summit.

Horton church - Yorkshire Three Peaks

Sign to Pen y Ghent summit - Yorkshire Three Peaks

The summit was 1 and three quarter miles up hill. There was no let up at all. We’d barely been going an hour and I was completely knackered! It was also boiling hot, which didn’t help with the sweaty mess situation.

Yorkshire Dales vista from Pen-y-Ghent

Nearly at the top of Pen-y-Ghent

The worse part was having to get to the top. I wouldn’t say I have a fear of heights, but I certainly have a fear of falling! The clamber to the top required climbing up some near vertical “steps” cut into the rock using your hands as support. The closer I got to this section of the path the more the panic grew. I hate walking along paths where there’s a drop on one side. I get this feeling that I’m going to lose my balance and fall.

As I stood, panting from exhaustion, looking up at the ascent I started to cry. I had no idea how I was possibly going to get to the top. The rest of the group had gone on without me. I’d told them I didn’t mind because I felt like I was holding them up but now I didn’t know what to do. I honestly thought I was going to fall off the edge of the mountain.

Then an angel appeared. Well, OK, not quite an angel but a lovely local lady called Tina. Without Tina, I’d never have made it to the summit. She made me take my time and helped me to focus on getting up the mountain and not the possible fall.

I didn’t feel any sense of achievement in reaching the top. All I felt was relief! But I knew how much further we had to walk. This was the first of three peaks. I had no idea how I was going to manage the rest of the challenge.

Walking forever a.k.a. the journey to Ribblehead

On the way down from the summit of Pen-y-Ghent we got to experience the new path. It was opened just last year and meant we could avoid the notorious boggy section. Looking at the map and the timings we knew this was going to be the longest section of the walk but it seemed like forever.

We seemed to zig zag across the countryside seeing fleeting glances of the Ribblehead viaduct that didn’t seem to get any closer. After a few hours I had to stop for a wee, cue me hunting for somewhere out of sight to squat in a field! Classy, huh! Part of me wishes I’d bought that Shewee! A change of socks and some plasters later we carried on. By this time, it was extremely hot and I was extremely tired. I began to stumble over my feet and I kept tripping myself up with my walking poles. I literally had zero energy.

We finally got to Ribblehead, where we stopped to refuel. I chowed down on a couple of peanut butter filled bagels and filled up my hydration bladder and water bottle, both of which were empty. I’d drunk a litre of Powerade and nearly 2 litres of water. Luckily we’d positioned a supply car here with plenty of water in.

Ribblehead Viaduct


Leaving the car was one of the hardest parts of the day. I just wanted to get in and drive back to our accommodation. As we were walking along, again I was miles behind everyone else, I just kept thinking how much I didn’t want to be there and how I didn’t think I could walk much further.

I was so slow, my normal view was the others in my group at least 100 yards in front of me.

The ascent to Whernside summit is long and monotonous. Yes there’s some beautiful scenery but it’s miles and miles of uphill paths. A lady passed me while I was stopping to catch my breath. “At least this is the last one!” she said. “It’s only our second!” I replied. Her retort was “Oh God!”. Yup. That’s pretty much how I felt too.

Every step took all my effort. Reaching the stile I had a welcome sit down, but my group had already been resting several minutes. This is the problem with being slow. They just want to carry on but I needed to take breaks. I had to stop every so often to get my breath. They waited for me at certain points but no sooner had I caught them up and taken a sip of water, they were ready to get moving again! One of my friends gave me a couple of energy gels to take but these didn’t seem to do much.

Decision time

Finally the top was in sight but it was still about an hour away. It was time to make a decision. I was asked if I wanted to go back to the car. However tired I was, turning around and backtracking was not on my agenda. We all knew I wasn’t going to be able to do all three peaks, certainly not before dark. It was decided that my friend, who was suffering with an old injury, and I would complete this second peak and then head back to the car.

This was when the tears started. However much I was struggling, I had wanted to complete the challenge. I think the gels gave me the energy to cry!

Getting to the top of Whernside was a mission. I was having to take breaks every five minutes or so because I just couldn’t summon any energy. I was so glad to get to the top because it meant we could go home!

To the pub!

The descent from Whernside is steep and unforgiving. I had to do most of it on my bum because I thought I might fall! Once we were finally back on the flat(-ish) ground we were able to quicken the pace slightly. Every step was painful because of blisters on my heels, toes and under the balls of my feet. My friend seemed to have got her energy back and was now geeing me on.

The pub was a welcome sight. We decided to go in, get a drink and call a taxi. We didn’t know if the supply car would have been moved and didn’t fancy the long walk in the wrong direction to find out. But just as we were waiting at the bar, the rest of our group passed! They’d been miles in front of us but it turns out they’d had a refreshment stop and then taken a wrong turn so we’d overtaken them. My friend decided that she wanted to continue the challenge so I was left alone to get back to the accommodation.

A pint of orange juice and lemonade and £20 later(yes, taxis in Yorkshire are bloody expensive!), I was finally back in Ingleton. Getting a shower and chilling out on the sofa was very welcome.

The group that carried on finally finished about 11pm. It was dark and raining by the time they got back to the car. Having heard stories of the near-vertical nature of the climb to the summit of Ingleborough, the final peak, I’m glad I didn’t do it!

I completed the Yorkshire Two Peaks!

Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it? Even though I walked 20 miles over about 10 hours I can’t help but feel like I failed. People keep telling me I should be proud of what I achieved, and the words ‘good effort’ have been bandied around. Unfortunately, you can’t tell my head what to think. We set out to do the Yorkshire Three Peaks and everyone else in my group did it.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. I have raised £70 for Combat Stress, with another £20 promised by my grandparents. This money won’t go far, but it will help this mental health charity to continue their good work.

Have you tried the Yorkshire Three Peaks? To succeed you need to be pretty fit and have plenty of stamina. The next time I see mountains will be in the Lake District, but I’ll tell you now, I’ve no intention of climbing any of them!

Rachel x

You Might Also Like

Preparing for the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge

By 15 June 2014 Life, Lifestyle, Outdoors
Walking in the woods

This time in 6 weeks, I’m going to be about halfway through the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge with 9 of my work mates! We’re travelling up to the Yorkshire Dales on Friday after work, ready to start walking about 6am Saturday. The walk itself is about 24 miles and takes in the three peaks of the Yorkshire Dales: Pen y Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough. The aim is to get the walk done is less than 12 hours.

Now I’m not being modest when I tell you that I am not the fittest of people. This is going to be a massive challenge. So I’m having to do some preparation to make sure I’m not going to be left to die on the top of a mountain. But it’s for charity so what are you gonna do? We’re raising money for Combat Stress.

Practice walks

Now I walk all the time but when it comes to hills I’ve never been much good. To try and get some practice in, and wear in my new boots and other equipment, I’ve organised some practice walks.

The first walk was the Tolsford Trek, which was supposed to be about 8 miles but we ended up walking nearly 10 because we took a wrong turn. Oops! There was only one hill climb in this walk, and it was puny compared to any of the Yorkshire Three Peaks. The best bit was the lovely cup of tea back at the country park where we’d parked our cars. 80p for a mug of tea. Bargain.

A couple of weeks ago we did another walk, but this time there was no accompanying leaflet. I simply made it up. An OS map and a highlighter were my tools! We started at my colleague’s house in Walmer and walked across the fields, along country lanes and battled many overgrown footpaths through the Kentish countryside. The last couple of miles were along the seafront from Kingsdown back towards Deal, which was completely flat, very warm and very pretty. We walked 11 miles in 4 hours. By the time we got back to my friend’s house we were all knackered and our feet were killing us! God knows how we’re going to walk 24 miles!

Kingsdown - Saxon Shore Way

Beautiful wild flowers at Kingsdown

The next walk I’m planning is the length of the Elham Valley Way. This 22 mile long-distance path winds its way from Hythe, by the sea, to the historic city of Canterbury. Some of the route runs along the disused railway line, which closed after the Second World Way. It needs to take us less than 12 hours, otherwise we’ll never complete the Yorkshire Three Peak Challenge!

I went to school in Canterbury and the old railway line was at the bottom of one the fields. My friends told me that the line was haunted and that you could sometimes still hear the steam trains. Strangely enough, I never heard any!

Overgrown footpath - Whitecliffs Country Trail

There’s a footpath through here somewhere!

Trekking clothing and equipment

To ensure my comfort while on this arduous trek, I’m investing in some decent trekking clothing. Well, I say investing, but really I mean buying stuff that’s on special offer! I don’t want to spend a fortune but at the same time I want the equipment to last as we’re off on our holidays to the Lake District and Scotland in September, so they’re going to get a lot of use.

I bought my walking boots from Sports Direct and they seem relatively comfortable. I think I need to spend out on the socks though. From what I’ve read, your choice of socks can make or break a trek.

For trousers, I picked up some convertible trousers from Sports Direct. They can be rolled up to make 3/4 lengths and zipped off just below my knee to make shorts. Pretty handy I think since we’re doing this walk in July, it could still be cold in the morning but it might get pretty warm in the middle of the day.

I’ve just done a shop at Mountain Warehouse for a few other bits and pieces. They’ve got half price off everything this week, plus I’ve got a discount code for 15% off that came with my last order. I bought:

    • a 35l rucksack that is designed to hold a hydration bladder and has plenty of pockets to make it ideal for a long hike
    • a pair of walking poles because I’ve heard that they’ll help my feet out by spreading the pressure
    • a short sleeve technical t-shirt that’s wicking, quick dry and has built in SPF 30
    • a compass so we don’t get lost!
    • waterproof gaiters to stop my ankles getting wet/water getting in my boots
    • and lastly a retainer headstrap for my sunglasses to stop them falling off my face! I’m going to look like a bit of a prat but they’re prescription sunglasses so quite expensive to replace.

All that cost £60. Not bad, eh?

All that’s left to buy now is some anti-blister socks, a hydration bladder and smaller things like first aid kit, anti-bac hand gel, a map and some food.

Even though it’s going to be really hard work, I’m looking forward to this trip so much. It’s going to be a weekend away with my mates, just with a 12 hour trek in the middle! We’re staying in a bunkhouse, which I’ve booked just for our group, so we’re going to have the run of the place. I think it’s going to be awesome!

Fundraising for Combat Stress

But what we mustn’t forget is why we’re going this walk. Yes it’s going to be fun, but it’s also majorly challenging, especially for the less fit of the group. The reason why we’re doing this trek is to raise money for Combat Stress. This charity relies on fundraising and donations to continue its good work treating ex-Service men and women who are suffering with the psychological injuries of combat such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

If you wish, you can sponsor me by visiting my Just Giving page.

Have you done any long-distance walking? Do you have any tips you can share?

Rachel x

You Might Also Like