Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge (4th Time)

Route Summary:

The Yorkshire Three Peaks comprise of Pen-y-ghent, Whernside, and Ingleborough. The hills are traditionally also walked in that order, starting at the village of Horton in Ribblesdale where it’s possible to clock out and in at the Pen-y-ghent cafe. The challenge is not merely to walk these three hills, but also to do it in under 12 hours. Technically, it doesn’t matter which order the hills are climbed or where it’s started from. So long as all three are summited and the walk starts and ends in the same place within the 12 hours then it can be counted as a successful attempt. In terms of mileage and effort, the walk can be between 23 and 26 miles long depending on the exact route used, and covers over 1,400m of ascent.

Route Information

  • Start: Gray Bridge, Settle BD24 0HG, UK
  • Date:25-08-2018
  • GPX File: Download

Other POI: Brackenbottom, Brackenbottom Scar, Pennine Way, Hunt Pot, Whitber Hill, Sell Gill Beck, Sell Gill Hill, Nether Lodge, Ribblehead Viaduct, Bleamoor Tunnel, Force Gill, Grain Head, Bruntscar, Philpin Farm, Chapel-le-Dale, Old Hill Inn, Souther Scales Farm, Southerscales Scars, Braithwaite Wife Hole, Humphrey Bottom, Simon Fell, Sulber Nick, Limestone Pavement

Route Description:

For the past couple of years, I’ve been suggesting to my kids that they might fancy giving the Yorkshire 3 Peaks challenge a go. Up until this year, they half-heartedly gave it some consideration… and finally decided that this year was the year. Well, almost anyway… my eldest son Sam, who was 13 at the time, decided that he’d really like to do it. His younger brother was unfortunately too far lost in the fantasy world of Fortnite. A whole day away from that was a possibility far too terrible to even think about.

So me and Sam set about doing it. I’d done it 3 times already and so gave him a rough idea of what to expect. I also warned him that we were only going to do this if he was really serious about it. I don’t like failing a challenge, and if he was going to attempt it with me then he’d be expected to walk until no longer capable of walking. And no whining either about being hungry, thirsty, aching legs, etc.

I gave him my little collection of rules and tips: Take it easy on the ascents and up the pace on descents and flat ground. Conserve your fluids… don’t drink them so quick that you run out halfway through the walk. Don’t stop too regularly for rests… it really doesn’t help that much. If your legs and feet hurt, ignore them and carry on… they’re supposed to hurt. That’s why it’s a challenge. And do not, under any circumstances, let inferior looking people overtake you. Each time it happens, a little bit more of me dies. If someone overtakes me, I want it to be a fell runner or a seasoned hiker with huge calf muscles. I can live with that.

We set off early in the morning and arrived about half 8. It was reasonably busy, but considering it was still the summer holidays, it wasn’t quite as busy as I was expecting and there were still plenty of available parking spaces. We completely ignored my advice and stormed up Pen-y-ghent at speed, overtaking many unseasoned walkers, and maybe a few seasoned ones too on the way. Before we knew it, we’d hit the summit. The last time I did the challenge, visibility was poor on top of Pen-y-ghent. The time before that was in the dark, so it was nice to finally see the great views again from the top. I warned Sam against feeling too optimistic… it’s common to feel that after gaining the first summit so quickly and so I informed him that it would be a long time before we got anywhere near the second one. I persuaded him against having a break so early and so we quickly took the summit photos and continued on our way.

The ascent from Horton up to Pen-y-ghent
The ascent from Horton up to Pen-y-ghent
The final section up to the summit of Pen-y-ghent
The final section up to the summit
Pen-y-ghent summit
Pen-y-ghent summit
Descending Pen-y-ghent via the Pennine Way
Descending via the Pennine Way

And just as I said, this section was a long stretch. By the time we arrived at the Ribblehead Viaduct, Sams legs and feet were truly tired. We hadn’t stopped yet as I wanted to push on until we got to the food stall near the viaduct. Most people take a break at this point and so we did too. I bought a cup of wishy-washy tea and a disappointing hot-dog. Sam bought a cheeseburger which looked utterly amazing; Loads of cheese, very meaty, and dripping with grease. I was envious but tried not to show it.

After feeling refuelled, we continued up the long path to Whernside. It had turned into quite a decent day with the sun coming out every so often. After the stroll across the plateau and a quick visit to the trig pillar, we descended down the steep loose path. At this point, I was actually in worse condition than Sam as his knees were a lot more resilient than mine and contained much more cartilage! Despite this, I certainly wasn’t the one complaining. ‘Shhh’, I said. ‘Can you hear something?… it sounds like… a child whining’. ‘I’m not whining’, he said. ‘I’m just saying’. We headed towards the farm that has a nice little cafe set up in one of the buildings. I promised him we’d have our second stop when we got there. ‘It’s just at the bottom of the hill’, I said. It was a little further away than I thought. After a few repetitions of ‘It’s just round this next bend’, and maybe one instance of ‘You see that building over there? well, that’s not it’, we eventually arrived at the cafe and fuelled up again with junk food and drinks.

Ribblehead Viaduct
Ribblehead Viaduct
On the way to Whernside
On the way to Whernside
Low Force waterfall on Whernside
Low Force waterfall on Whernside
Whernside trig pillar
Whernside trig pillar
Looking towards Ingleborough
Looking towards Ingleborough

After leaving the cafe, we soon arrived at the road. Sam looked totally fed up and so I asked him if he wanted to quit or continue. ‘I want to quit’, he said. ‘OK’, I said. ‘That’s fine but there’s something you should know first. If we walk back to the car from here, we’ll have to completely circle Ingleborough. We would actually cover more mileage than if we just went straight over the top’. Realisation set in followed shortly by a look of resignation. ‘OK’, he said. ‘I’ll do the last one’. So we headed up. It doesn’t actually take long to get up to the summit from the road and it’s quite a pleasant walk most of the way. There’s just one hideously steep bit at the end. The final push. We arrived at the final summit and took photos of the final trig.

On the way to Ingleborough
On the way to Ingleborough
Approaching Ingleborough
Getting closer…
Ascending the steep section of Ingleborough
Ascending the steep section
Ingleborough summit
Ingleborough summit

It wasn’t over yet though. The descent back to Horton is longer and involves at least another good hour of walking. Both our legs were shot at this point and we were walking with stiff bowed legs as if we’d been riding a horse for the last 12 hours. It may have also looked as though we’d both had little accidents too. Sam was wanting frequent rests every ten minutes now but I wasn’t having any of it. I just wanted to get back to Horton as soon as possible as there wasn’t much daylight left. I informed him that there was no point resting as all it was going to do was allow his legs to seize up, and it would still be painful the second he started walking again. The best thing to do was to keep plodding on. Just grit your teeth and shut up. I noticed to my horror that cows were grazing all around me and my anxiety levels shot up. It’s the first time I’ve seen them on the way down from Ingleborough. I soon realised that there was nothing to be scared of as they were spread very thinly over a large area – and not all getting together and ganging up on me like they normally do. After a while, we decided to try jogging a little (not because of the cows). Strangely, our legs didn’t hurt anywhere near as much when we did this. Or maybe not strange as different muscles are utilised for running than walking. We were resting the fatigued muscles and utilising others. That’s how I explained it anyway… it sounds right. It may also be a load of crap.

Starting the descent of Ingleborough
Starting the descent
A brief rest on Ingleborough
A brief rest
Pen-y-ghent in the distance
Pen-y-ghent in the distance
Cattle grazing
Cattle grazing
Signpost to Horton
Signpost to Horton, 1 mile to go!

Eventually, at long last, we arrived at the railway line in Horton. I pointed out other walkers that were also clearly in pain for the benefit of Sam, just so he could see that it’s a perfectly normal experience on a challenge walk. I can’t remember his exact time but it was between 11 hours and 12 hours. It was a good walk and Sam had done extremely well – I was proud of him. I’ve told him that next year we’re going to try something even more adventurous. I’m sure he’s completely looking forward to that.

Route Map
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