As challenge walks go, the circuit of the Yorkshire Three Peaks is challenging! As the name suggests there are three peaks on the route – Pen y Ghent (691 metres), Whernside (728 metres) and Ingleborough 723 metres). Not big hills at a first glance, but they add up to a route of about 40 kms (24½ miles) with about 1500 metres (5000ft) of height gain, the equivalent of a serious day out in the Scottish Highlands. On top of all that, most people set themselves the additional challenge of completing the walk in 12 hours.
Picture by Gerald Davison
For me, the Y3P Challenge is like an old friend (see post #15) – I’ve walked it, run it and even written a guidebook about it. However since moving to North Wales last year, my sights have been on Welsh hills and mountains; I even joined North East Wales Search And Rescue (NEWSAR), and the hills of Yorkshire were forgotten. Until, that is, the secretary of the rescue team asked for volunteers to help with a group he was leading on the Y3P Challenge walk.
So, a pleasant summer morning saw about 30 walkers ready to set off on the Y3P Challenge, with Gerald leading and NEWSAR members Dave, Peter and myself along to assist, and Border Collie ‘Mist’ along to make up the numbers. Starting at 8.00 in the morning from Horton in Ribblesdale, we set our sights on the first peak, Pen y Ghent. This is my favourite on the Challenge Walk, with the route winding through a couple of rock escarpments before reaching the summit. During the week this is usually fairly quiet, but on a ‘Challenge Walk’ weekend you won’t find solitude!
From the summit, the next peak on the list (Whernside) lies far in the distance. For people who don’t walk the hills on a regular basis, the elation of a quick and easy first summit is slowly eroded by a long hike to Ribblehead. The famous Ribblehead Viaduct makes a welcome sight, as most groups take a break here – looming above the viaduct is Whernside.
There are two popular ways up Whernside on the Challenge Route – one is short but brutal, following the runners route straight to the summit. Gerald had opted for the kinder (and more ecologically friendly) way, taking a loop to the north. Although the gradient is easier that way, most of the group were thankful to reach the summit for another short break.
Not long after setting off on the descent, we had a small drama – a member of another group was in trouble, suffering from exhaustion and heat stroke. Our group carried on with the more experienced members leading, as the NEWSAR members gave assistance to the casualty. A helicopter was requested to assist with evacuation and the local rescue team also turned out, so with Gerald, Dave and Peter all busy at the scene, I set off to catch up with our group.
I caught up with the back markers of the group at the last checkpoint near the Hill Inn. The fitter ones including some experienced Y3P members had already set off, so having checked that everyone was still OK for the last peak, we started out for Ingleborough. There’s no doubt that for some this was quite a challenge, and the chance to bail out at the checkpoint must have been very tempting. It was a tired, but elated group that finally made the summit.
Having reached the top of Ingleborough, it was downhill all the way to Horton – it’s a surprisingly long distance, especially for people who have been on the go for a 12-hour hill day, but the ‘finish line’ eventually came into view. The entire group completed the challenge, and in so doing will raise several thousand pounds for charity – a good conclusion to a fantastic day out walking the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge.
Text and images © Paul Shorrock – Images tagged (GD) © Gerald Davison
p.s. Members of NEWSAR are all volunteers, as are all members of UK mountain rescue teams – to can find out more about the team, click here