A couple of weeks ago I completed the Three Yorkshire Peaks challenge!
After a long weekend in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales last summer, my boyfriend, his mum and I all decided that we would take on the challenge together. The challenge is to complete the 24 mile circular route within 12 hours. Well, we managed it in… 9 hours and 20 minutes!!
Considering Covid had prevented our first attempt last October, cancelled our second attempt in February, AND I had a knee injury, we are all super proud to have smashed it in such a great time.
Joe and I had a bit of work to do to train for the challenge, so we spent a few weeks before going for long walks and getting back to the gym. I also went up to the Lake District at every opportunity (usually while Joe was working and couldn’t join me) to get some fell walking in to practice for the ascents. This really helped as I felt really prepared and fit enough to complete the walk…. despite activating an old injury 3 days before the challenge.
But no fear! I strapped up the knee and powered on, making it 20 miles before I felt any pain, so by that point it was pretty much all downhill and the worst of the walk was over.
We stayed in a lovely little cottage in Horton-in-Ribblesdale called Blindbeck Holiday Cottage – the lady who owned it also ran the tearoom next door, plus it was just a 5 minute walk to the pub, so I highly recommend it!
The route we took started at The Crown Hotel in Horton-in-Ribblesdale and went first up Pen-y-Ghent (694m), then across to Ribbleshead Viaduct, where our ‘support car’ awaited us with more snacks and water. We then made the long trek around and up Whernside (736m), steeply down the other side to Chapel-le-Dale (another snack stop!) and finally up the dizzyingly steep Ingleborough (723m) and back down to Horton and a well-deserved pub dinner.
Having started at 7:30am, our first ascent up Pen-y-Ghent only took one hour, despite the hordes of charity groups trudging up and, as many non-walkers do, blocking the path up. The excitement and adrenaline from having ticked off peak number one so early carried us the next 7-ish miles to the viaduct. When we arrived, there were people and cars absolutely everywhere.
My top tip if you are doing this walk and someone is meeting you at this point to help re-stock supplies, is to have an exact location to meet (i.e. the crossroads, the viaduct itself, or the pub just up the road) as we couldn’t find each other and ended up milling about for 10 minutes waiting for our food and water to arrive. This did come as quite a welcome break though as we literally had not stopped walking since we started and had already covered 10 miles!
The next stage was probably my favourite portion of the walk as walking alongside the majestic viaduct, past waterfalls, and on nice flat trails in the sunshine was really pleasant and easy to cover some more mileage. However, as it reached midday and we hadn’t yet made it to the summit of Whernside, I started to get a bit tired and deflated, so there was nothing for it but to rip open a bag of jelly babies for a much-needed burst of energy.
By the time we reached the summit of our second, and highest, peak at around 12:45pm, we had caught up to more big groups who were all stopping for picnics, so we decided to eat our sandwiches while making our way down the knee-buckling steps of Whernside to get in a sneaky overtake. My tip here if you struggle with your knees is to bring walking poles – I usually find them a bit annoying but I borrowed some and they were brilliant on this descent.
We had a 5 minute rest break in Chapel-le-Dale (there is a little barnyard café and toilets there) and picked up an energy drink and Mars bar – crucial supplies for the steep climb up our final peak, Ingleborough. By this point the crowds had thinned and we were only being overtaken by fell runners (AKA crazy people); the group of walkers we were keeping in step with were all getting to the point where we just wanted to get to the top and finally start the journey back to Horton.
This is when my knee decided to play up which wasn’t so fun whilst heaving myself over rocks up to the top – add to that the blistering heat and someone carrying a mountain bike and almost taking off my head with one of the wheels. But I made it and I would’ve struggled so much more without Joe physically pushing me up some of the steps, so here’s a shoutout for not leaving me behind.
Last but not least, we had a really lovely 4 miles of gentle downhill to get to the finish line. By the time we got to Horton I was hobbling a bit but I was so chuffed and proud of such an achievement! The 9 hours of pretty much non-stop walking was rewarded with a glass of wine upon our return to the cottage, a glorious hot shower, and then a pie in the pub. We were all passed out by 9pm but what a day we had.
Oh and one final tip: keep slathering on sun cream even if it gets cloudy! We’ve all been peeling ever since… not nice.
If anyone is thinking of challenging themselves, I thoroughly recommend looking into the Yorkshire Three Peaks. It’s bloody hard but the sense of achievement is so worth it! The area is simply beautiful and there is so much do in the surrounding villages and hills to make a weekend or even a full week of it. Check out my post from last summer for a 3-day Yorkshire itinerary if you want some more ideas.
Also, many people do it for a charitable cause, which we looked at doing but decided against just in case our third attempt was also cancelled due to Covid. Joe and I are thinking of doing the national Three Peak Challenge next year, so maybe we’ll do that one for charity…