When lockdown restrictions eased in June last year we traveled to Horton in Ribblesdale to take on the Yorkshire 3 Peaks Challenge. Set in the Yorkshire Dales, the challenge is to hike the following 3 peaks in a 25 mile circular route in under 12 hours:
- Pen-y-ghent – 694 metres
- Whernside – 736 metres
- Ingleborough – 723 metres
Starting and ending at Horton in Ribblesdale, most people walk the route in the traditional counter clockwise direction. We followed suit and were relieved once we saw what would have been our descents from Pen-y-gent and Ingleborough if we had gone clockwise…
We arrived at the car park at 7am and were surprised that we were the 10th car already there. It was a Saturday and summer solstice so lots of people with the same idea – making the most of the longest day of the year with our new found freedom! After getting our bags and boots on and a morning snack (we left home at 5am so a 2nd breakfast was essential 🙂 ) we began hiking at 7.10am. It was a chilly start and I was grateful for my extra layers.
Getting up Pen-y-gent was a tough climb but super fun. We were amazed by a couple of trail runners who overtook us. Me and Rufino are partial to a 10k and do like a good trail run living in sheffield, but the hill up Pen-y-gent? Well that was something else – my extra layers didn’t stay on for long!
The last section up to the summit was steep, rocky and afew moments were on hands and feet. It wasn’t technical as such, but we were impressed this kind of ascent exists in the Yorkshire Dales as this was our first time hiking in the Dales. This particular section reminded us of hiking some of the ascents on the GR221 drystone route in Mallorca in 2019.
Once at the top, we didn’t stop for long. Even though it hadn’t taken a long time from setting off we could see that the next stretch between Pen-y-gent and Whernside was quite a way. Also reaching the top had caused a small traffic jam and we wanted to spread out from the other hikers. We’re not unsociable but there is a pandemic on, so ya know…
Long stretches of path, a ton of fields and numerous little stone houses later we reached the Ribblehead Viaduct. Shortly before the viaduct you walk along Gauber road before reaching a junction and the entrance to the path for peak number 2, Whernside. The day had warmed up by this point and it was tempting to get an ice cream from the nearby van, cool the feet off in the river and sun ourselves for the rest of the day. But we didn’t drive all that way to sunbathe and with many miles to go we ploughed on (plus the viaduct was one of Rufino’s highlights of the day!)
We were due to have a break however and I couldn’t get a rest stop by a river out my head. So we continued for a while before finding a nice stop shortly before beginning the ascent up to whernside:
This was feet heaven. I was feeling the miles already, my body softer and unprepared from weeks of indoor confinement and comfort eating during lockdown. I remember my back and shoulders aching from my rucksack. It wasn’t heavy but it’s not the most comfortable rucksack and one that I avoid using if I can.
Onwards and upwards to Whernside, the highest of the three peaks. This peak is the most accessible of the 3, with the gentlest ascent and main road not too far away. There were noticeably more people on this summit than the other two. Whernside’s descent takes you down a path of slate steps. We were being careful in the on and off drizzle and wouldn’t like to walk down these slippery stones in icy conditions!
On reaching the bottom I began to feel my jelly baby legs. The miles were catching up and we hadn’t yet tucked into our sandwiches. Peak 2 is an obvious place to break as the mid point but mentally we like to get over half way before stopping for our halfway break. We had plenty of snacks to see us through including those all important jelly babies!
As peak 3 Ingleborough comes into clearer view, the same “oh my goodness that’s miles away” thoughts come to mind that we had on peak 1 looking at peak 2. But actually the distance from peak 2 to 3 is shorter than peak 1 to 2. But obviously you’re more knackered at this stage. The ascent up to Ingleborough was by far the most terrifying. Zig zag your way up an almost vertical cliff. How people were coming down I will never know.
Despite not being the highest, the views from the top were the most rewarding. It was the most spacious summit of them all so was lovely to stop for lunch here, which was well over due after the climb up!
We descended down knowing it was the home stretch. After the chilly start, the sun was in full blaze and the day was beautiful. With burning soles of our feet we pushed on reaching Horton on Ribblesdale and headed straight to the ice cream van for a calypo 🙂
We completed the 3 peak challenge in 10.20 hours. Not bad for our first attempt! Whilst completing in under 12 hours is a fun goal to have in mind we also enjoyed it and took our time. We will definately be back to hike this route again. Or maybe to run parts of it!