The Yorkshire 3 Peaks – Discuss
The Yorkshire Peaks is a perfect challenge, 24 miles and nearly 5,000 foot of climbing is at the extreme end of most people’s potential for a day’s walking. However it is doable, a reasonably fit person with the right guidance can achieve something that will live long in the memory. Satisfaction and extreme pleasure (with some pain admittedly) are the over riding emotion of those who end up sat in one of the pubs in Horton in Ribblesdale.
However, for those taking part, the Yorkshire 3 Peaks is mainly about the challenge and the enjoyment of those taking part is about the completion. They are not there to enjoy the beauty of the Dales and I often think many are barely aware that they are in the Dales. People are focused more on their own suffering (physical and mental) and a simple desire for it all to finish rather than the beauty that surrounds them. The beauty is tempered anyway by the sheer volume of people who are on the walk on any given Saturday from May through to August. When you have to queue to climb a mountain (and I have a number of times , particularly on the duck boards below Ingleborough) the joy of the experience is naturally reduced,
It can be tempered further if the paths are a nightmare to walk on. Fortunately the National Park, in conjunction with other local agencies and some ECC money, have re routed and vastly improved both the previous bog off Pen Y Ghent and the steep descent of Whernside but it is still very much a route march. Hiring a guide is important, not only if you are unsure of the route because, despite the crowds, many people do lose their way but more so because it is takes all the concerns away, Any group that tackles the 3 Peaks has a variety of walkers from slow to quick and it is keeping them all together by encouraging the slower members of the party whilst tempering the frustration of those who are quicker that is the biggest challenge. It can be done with knowledge and experience and that is where a guide is so useful.
An ongoing debate though is going on about how to develop the successful 3 Peaks Challenge (by success I mean the volume of people taking part) for the benefit of the Yorkshire Dales and its overall profile . If there is an additional benefit in helping to control the vast numbers of Saturday walkers and the frustration of many then all the better. This is not to discourage those planning to do the walk but to improve their experience and hopefully encourage them to return to the area.
I certainly think that there are a few things that can help:
- Vary the start point if you must start on a Saturday. Tradition has it that Horton is the kick off point for the route but a start at Ribblehead and an initial climb up Whernside has many advantages. Avoiding the crowds is the primary benefit, but getting Whernside out the way early is also good (the dullest part of the walk in my opinion). There is parking at Ribblehead, a pub to finish at and Horton after 2 peaks is the perfect place to fuel up for a final push.
- Consider varying your start day. Saturday is the most convenient but Sunday and certainly mid week are much quieter and pleasanter as they avoid the often extremely large corporate groups.
- Introduce a 2nd challenge in the area. There is some debate about a 2nd 3 Peaks challenge in the Dales based out of Kettlewell and taking in Birks Fell, Buckden Pike and Great Whernside. This is a great walk, slightly shorter but showcasing a fantastic part of the Dales.
- Promote and encourage 3 Peaks in 3 Days. The challenge becomes more of a joy for those who are unable to contemplate all 3 Peaks together, they can take them at their leisure and enjoy the scenery that is all around.
The Yorkshire 3 Peaks is in many ways one of the ‘brands’ in the Dales and brings in many visitors as a result but I am not convinced that it is doing the area justice. The people are not going to stop coming (which is good) but myself and the various authorities could do so much more to improve their experience; showcase the Dales and encourage people to return or stay longer. The 3 Peaks is a bit of a one trick pony at present and I would hate to see it going the same way as the National 3 Peaks with its terrible scars up Wasdale and rubbish tip that marks the summit of Scafell Pike.
Try it and see for yourself (not the rubbish tip up Scafell Pike!)
Some extra information on the 3 Peaks . Click Here
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