Yorkshire Dales Walks
Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge
Date: 18th September 2004
Distance: 24.4 miles
Ascent: 5268 feet
Time: 10 hours 46 mins
Start Grid Ref: SD807725
At last the walk we had been planning for six months - the 24 mile Yorkshire Three Peak Challenge.
Route Summary: The traditional Three Peaks route, with a couple of minor variations, starting and finishing at Horton-in-Ribblesdale visiting in turn Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough.
1. In the car park at Horton before setting off
2. Matt standing in front of a cloud obscured Pen-y-Ghent
3. The weather began to clear over Whernside as we reached Ribblehead
4. On the summit of Whernside
5. Looking back at Whernside from Ingleborough
6. Matt on the summit of Ingleborough
7. The flanks of Simon Fell as seen from Ingleborough
8. Looking towards Pen-y-Ghent on the march back from Ingleborough
Walk Detail: At last the big one! At 7.42am we posted our entry slips through the letterbox of the Pen-Y-Ghent café and set off.
This was the third time I had climbed Pen-Y-Ghent in 2004 and for the third time I was robbed of any views. Once again the summit was shrouded in cloud and arguably the weather was worse than the previous time because, while it was not as windy, the rain was a lot heavier.
Despite the weather it took us just 1.05 hours to reach the summit - how very different than the first time we climbed it earlier in the year when I had to stop numerous times before reaching the top.
After Pen-y-Ghent we took a planned diversion to avoid Black Dub Moss which due to its reputation we decided to avoid altogether - probably a good idea given the conditions.
The walk from Pen-Y-Ghent to Ribblehead is the longest stretch on the whole walk and we did not arrive at the latter until 11.20am. At Ribblehead we were given refreshments by Jo, our one woman support team.
So far things had gone well in spite of the weather but as that took a turn for the better we ran into difficulties. Nearly all the streams we had passed were in spate and the ones in Little Dale were no different. Crossing one set of stepping stones I slipped and ended up with one leg knee deep in cold fast running water.
Eventually I managed to extricate myself but upon reaching the ford over Little Dale Beck we found it to be completely flooded with no way across. At this point we made the decision to copy some other walkers and cross the beck via the train line. While this worked to a certain extent it meant that we were now on the wrong side of the aqueduct and therefore the path.
We decided to continue on hoping for a way across further along – unfortunately there wasn’t one and instead we had to keep on pushing up the steep slopes with no track to follow. Eventually we realised we were not going to be able to get over Force Gill so we decided to make for its head and reach the proper path from there. Unfortunately the ground became increasingly boggy and what followed was definitely for me the worst hour of the walk as we began to worry we were taking too long.
By the time we reached the main path I was exhausted and it took me a while to get my wind back. By the time we got to the summit it was 13.55pm. After a quick descent we arrived at the Old Hill Inn car park at 14.55pm just over three hours after leaving Ribblehead – we were still on schedule.
Despite this I remember being quite subdued at this stop. Whernside, supposedly the easiest of the three had proved to be much more difficult than anticipated and there was still Ingleborough to come. We set off from the pub at 15.15pm for the final ascent and as the sun continued to show itself my mood begin to improve.
When we reached the bottom of the steep stone steps that represented our final climb we stopped for a short period of reflection before continuing. This was it; everything we had worked for all year had culminated in this moment. By this point I had been outpacing Matt, who had begun to get hip pains, along the flat. On this kind of ascent though he easily outstripped me and so I began my own very personal ascent of the northern flank of Ingleborough.
What should have been the most physically demanding part of the walk became for me the most spiritually uplifting. It is difficult to describe how I felt but with each step I had greater certainty that I was going to achieve my goal. I hope I don’t ever forget those steps up and the great views I had over the valley below. Matt was waiting for me at the top and together we made the short climb to the plateau proper and on to the summit which we reached at 16.45pm.
From the summit of Ingleborough it is a long walk back to Horton and many people find it a tiresome anti-climax. For me it was a chance to finally relax and really enjoy walking in great surroundings without worrying about the time while at the same time feeling a real sense of achievement. We made it back to the Pen-Y-Ghent café at 18.28pm. Our target had been to do the walk in 12 hours; instead we had overcome the elements to post a time of 10 hours 46 minutes – not bad for Three Peaks newbies.