This year the UK and many other countries around the world, were placed into Lockdown due to Coronavirus restrictions. As the restrictions lightened and our freedoms slowly returned, I faced the dilemma of having a large amount of un-used annual leave.
I racked my brain to think of something that I could do that would also be in keeping with the present social distancing restrictions. The closest playground in the South of Wales was still under lockdown restrictions. Then it came to me, the Yorkshire 3 peaks.
The Official Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge involves summiting the peaks of Pen-Y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough over a distance of 40-kilometre/25-mile all within 12 hours.
I figured, I could finish work early on the Tuesday and be in Yorkshire by 5 pm. Instead of completing the walk in the traditional 12 hours, I would split the walk across 2 days and wild camp overnight. My mind set, I packed everything needed for the challenge and an overnight camp:
- Lightweight tent
- Sleeping bag
- Roll matt
- Food, snacks & brew kit
- Cooker & Gas
- First aid kit
- Spare clothes
- Map & compass
- Mammut Brecon GTX
- Lowe Alpine Airzone Pro 35:45
- Spare Socks (ESSENTIAL)
I arrived at the start, in Chapel-le-Dale, at around 17.00 and set off towards Whernside. I set into a comfortable tempo, getting used to the weight of my heavy pack and enjoying the wonderful views. I quickly arrived at the based of Whernside and followed the clear path to the summit.
Following the ridge of Whernside with spectacular views into the valley, I continued towards the Ribblehead Viaduct.
The Ribblehead Viaduct is a Grade-II listed structure which was finished in 1875. It is an impressive and looming structure with a dark history due to the hundreds of railway builders who died during its construction.
There is a risk of the ground becoming very boggy in the area between Whernside and the viaduct but thankfully, due to the pleasant spring conditions I pass through this with ease. Originally, I planned to find a good camping spot near Nether Lodge, after the viaduct, but as I had made such good progress and I had a couple hours in hand, with the sunset was due at close to 21:30, I continued.
Near High Birkwith at grid ref 803767, I found a rocky ledge in the middle of a field. There was a step down to a platform before couple meter drop to the ground below. This was large enough for me to put up my tent. The ledge meant I was out of the way of the sheep and hidden from view of potential walkers/farmers.
After setting up my camp I “enjoyed” a freeze-dried meal and got some sleep. The one oversite was that it was lambing season and, tents are not soundproof so I could hear the baaaaa-ing of the lambs all night.
After a slightly restless night I awoke bright and early to drink plenty of “quality” coffee and eat breakfast. Sadly packing light excludes my faithful Moka pot. After a dodgy coffee, I packed up my camp, making sure that I left no trace of my stay.
Early in the morning I was back on route towards the second summit, Pen-y-Ghent.
The ascent of Pen-y-Ghent is surprisingly steep, it felt like a real slog pushing up that hill with a heavy pack having had a poor night sleep due to the lambs. Never mind, the weather was perfect, and I was outdoors doing what I love.
Making good time up and over Pen-y-Ghent, I was very aware of the fact that after my breakfast and coffee in the morning, my water supply was drastically low. I had packed a several water purification tablets but since descending Whernside the evening before I hadn’t found a good water supply. What I had come across that morning were murky little streams of very brown, unfriendly looking water. I had enough to stop me from getting too dehydrated, but it was becoming an area for concern.
From the descent of Pen-y-Ghent, I followed the path towards the village, Horton in Ribblesdale. In the village there is an information centre but unfortunately due to Covid, this was shut. Attached to the building I saw a sign for a public toilet. Halleluiah!! There was a tap outside. I drank plenty of water, then filled up my bottles and departed. Ironically, I came across another suitable water source a bit further on. Still, feeling much more content about the situation, I passed through the village, crossed the train line and continued towards the 3rd and final peak, Ingleborough.
Ingleborough of the 3 peaks was the most interesting. The ascent of the side facing Pen-y-Ghent is steep and rocky. After taking the steep path, at times using my hands and feet to propel myself, I reached the top plateau. I thought this was the summit, but I was wrong, the summit was a hundred meters further to a cairn which has been built on the true summit.
From the summit I could see my bright blue van parked in a large layby.
A quick check of my watch, I was at 9 hours 15 minutes of moving time. My competitive side kicked in, knowing I could make it back to my van before 10 hours (excluding my overnight). I descended as quickly as I could, down the steep, rocky path to the base of Ingleborough.
I then jogged (as fast as I could) with a full bag, tent and all my hiking equipment back towards my van. Watching the time ticking away, I knew this would be a close one.
A couple minutes left, I run up along a wall to pass through a gate. Breathlessly running across the road, I slapped the side of my van and stopped my watch at 9 hours 59 minutes and 59 seconds.
The Yorkshire Three Peaks route is a lovely mountainous walk. The views are spectacular, if you get the weather, and the challenge itself is very achievable for most. If the prospect of walking the entire length of the challenge nonstop doesn’t take your fancy, there are plenty of hotels, pubs and rest stops along the way which can be used to break up the distance. The navigation is generally very straight forward as the paths are well walked and there are regular signs to point you in the right direction. However, a map, compass and a knowledge of how to use them is essential!
The Yorkshire Dales are beautiful and full of fascinating wildlife and worth a visit, but I would recommend taking more time than I did and enjoy the area. If you are after a quick adventure fix, the Yorkshire Three Peaks is just the thing to whet your appetite!
This was an excellent use of my annual leave from work. And a valuable lesson learnt, is to never pass an opportunity for a top up of good water. Next time I’ll go light and run it!!