A Tale of 3 Yorkshire Peaks
We began the day in Clapham at our hotel the New Inn. After a painfully early start and a cup of instant porridge, we piled onto the bus which was headed for the Pen-y-Ghent Café; the official start point. After meeting up with our guides Heather and David, who briefed us on the dangers and suitable precautions for the hike, and reminded us all that there weren’t any toilets for the next 24 miles, we logged our start-time (07:00am) and contact details with the rescue service, so they would be aware if we hadn’t returned by nightfall.
Soon after we set off along a well-trodden farm track towards the first of the three mountains – the mighty Pen-y-Ghent. 30-minutes into the trek up a steep, grassy incline approaching what we assumed to be the top, a jagged silhouette emerged, disappearing into the low-set cloud line. This was the point we realised the extent of the challenge.
The ascent continued up at a fairy steep slope, but the green landscape was soon replaced with gloomy rock, as we walked into the clouds, with a few scrambling sections of the path livening up queue-like procession. It seemed to be a very popular day for the event. When we reached the summit of 694m around 08:30, the weather provided a disappointing view of about 20 feet ahead, but it wasn’t enough to lower the mood as we had conquered the First Peak! The first leg off the journey.
The decent from Pen-y-Ghent merged into a fairy fast-paced eight mile walk through foothills, leading to the second peak, Whernside. It was a pleasant hike, with gentle gradients and a really nice view around the Dales. With a few interesting landmarks such as cave entrances for potholing and an old, but still functional viaduct. We stopped near here by a stream, for a brief lunch of tasty squashed club sandwiches, before beginning the Whernside ascent.
This part of the journey was a challenge. It’s the highest of the three peaks at 736m, and the ascent was by far the longest. To reach the summit we followed a paved path which lead from the bottom of the mountain, following a hill up to the side, before a change in direction up the ridge of Whernside to the summit. It was a real test of physical endurance as we were trying to keep a steady pace, it soon became very hard on the knees, hips and feet. But we made it to the top! At around 13:45, and had a mini feast of chocolate and apples to celebrate the half way point, and to prepare for rest.
The trek down the second peak was a very steep set of clumsily laid rocks, and was when people started to feel the impact of the last 7 hours walking. It was especially difficult as there had been light rain over the mountain, causing the rock and grass to become quite slippery. Luckily we managed to stay on our feet and make it to the bottom, where we were surrounded by beautiful fields of what looked like wild buttercups reflecting bright yellow off the newly emerged sunlight. Unfortunately, 2 team members sustained minor injuries along the journey, and felt it safest to miss out the last peak. We said our farewells and parted ways, heading for the third and final of the mountains – Ingleborough.
Ingleborough, the second highest peak at 723m, is almost level with Whernside, but with a very different landscape and gradient. The approach was a very gradual ascent for the most part, walking through a stunning eroded limestone pavement with hundreds of white boulders sticking out of the grassland, making for a very interesting landscape.
After gaining altitude, the path became a raised walkway as it tracked over a vast area of boggy peat hills, with a network of streams and pools twisting between the vegetation. This continued for a while until we arrived at the final ascent, what seemed from afar a sheer scree slope. Upon closer inspection revealed a very thin, sharp scramble route straight up the side to the summit. After tackling that exhausting climb, we arrived at a plateau covered by thick cloud. It was a short walk along there to find the trig point marking the summit of the final mountain!
After reaching the final peak we were all on our last legs, it took a lot of determination to walk the final 5½ mile decent down a very sludgy track before reaching another magnificent expanse of limestone, before descending into the rolling foothills of Horton-in-Ribblesdale and back to the starting point. Clocking in with 20 minutes to spare at 18:40.
We have raised over £600 for Oxford Children’s Hospital on our Just Giving page. Well done to the team on an amazing achievement!