The Yorkshire 3 Peaks

“In my opinion the Yorkshire 3 Peaks offers the finest one day challenge in England bar none”

Whernside   2,415 ft, (736 ms)

Ingleborough  2,372 ft, (723 ms)

Pen y Ghent  2,277 ft, (694 ms)

Pen y Ghent from Hull Pot

Pen y Ghent from Hull Pot

 

I have written a book on the 3 Peaks challenge and its history. Find out more and buy it direct click here

The Yorkshire 3 Peaks takes in Pen y Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough with the challenge to complete all three within 12 hours. There is over 5,000 foot of climbing and a walk of 24 miles. The normal start for the walk is Horton-in-Ribblesdale but it is also possible to start at Ribblehead. This avoids many of the crowds, particularly when there is a large charity event.

The Yorkshire 3 Peaks walk is not to be confused with the National 3 Peaks walk (Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike, Snowdon).

History

Ingleborough summit plateau

Ingleborough summit plateau

The first recorded crossing of the 3 Peaks was in 1887, it took the two friends 10 hours. Since the 1960s the route became increasingly popular with runners and cyclists joining walkers in completing the challenge. The present record is 2 hours 46 minute for the full route (on foot).

In 2009 the Yorkshire 3 Peaks project was set up by the National Park Authority. Contributions and subsidies help preserve the route and a great job has been done by the local rangers in repairing paths. Some re-routing has also been done.

With nearly 100,000 people tackling the challenge in 2018 the issues have moved from the mountains to the village of Horton which has struggled to cope with the numbers. Here are my thoughts on the ‘Horton situation‘.

 

Map of the Yorkshire 3 Peaks Route

Starting at Horton and climbing Pen-y-Ghent first.

 

Personal Journey (my first of what turned in to many!)

 

Whernside

Whernside

I have lived within a 15 minute drive of the Yorkshire 3 Peaks for over 20 years. In the last 10 years walked the Yorkshire 3 Peaks many times, however for the first 10 years I only ever completed the full walk once. I had enjoyed individual walks up each mountain but never combined them. An incentive to complete my first challenge, in 2008 I found one.

My work colleague Becky was getting a party together of mixed ability to try and crack the walk within the requisite 12 hours. It included an early start at 7 am. However I sensed that being on the hills for 12 hours at the pace that this was going to entail would drive me crackers. I let her know that I would catch her up at some stage.

I ended off setting off with Bracken (my ageing border collie) at about 9.30 having clocked in at the 3 Peaks cafe in the appropriate manner (at present, 2020, this is not operating).

Pen y Ghent

Hull Pot on Pen y Ghent

Hull Pot on Pen y Ghent

Even at this late stage Pen y Ghent was crawling with climbers, many of whom I fancy would not finish before darkness fell. To be fair some may just have been climbing Pen-y-Ghent.  The weather was good for walking, cloudy but clear although there was a ‘stiff breeze’ from the west. The final rocky steps to the summit was very busy so I hurried to the summit and came to the first navigational challenge. I ended up following the summit plateau wall rather than the correct route. An error I soon rectified, telling myself to be a little more careful.

The ground here was wet and mucky with the crossing to the north of Hull Pot a particular ordeal (not the present route). This old route was very muddy but fortunately has been altered and now avoided. I gathered pace afterwards.  On meeting the Ribble Way the under foot terrain improved. Aside from a very short section on the climb of Ingleborough I did not encounter any more mucky stuff. This section is slow however, Whernside never seemed to get any closer. However it is the longest low level stretch as Pen y Ghent stands isolated from the other two.

Whernside

Bleamoor Sidings on Whernside

Bleamoor Sidings on Whernside

I was tired at Ribblehead and Whernside, which had now developed a cap of cloud, looked thoroughly unappealing. There was no sign of Becky and her friends and even Bracken looked to have little enthusiasm for the forthcoming hill. However I was on a mission to catch them.  I ate a sandwich, opened the mars bar and headed off past the viaduct. Miraculously the crowds seemed to fade away. Aside from a group of jabbering students and the odd couple the climb up Whernside was uneventful.

The tarn at Greensett Moss always strikes me as the most unlikely place for a tarn and the most unappealing place to visit. It is bleak. The recently relaid path, although hard on the feet, is a blessing when compared to the squelchy bog on either side. This does give the impression of walking up a stairwell and is one of the reasons I am no particular fan of Whernside.

Whernside summit was passed and the steep descent started. I stopped at the foot of Whernside to sink a pint of orange squash from a barn opened by a local farmer. Bizarrely Becky and Alan appeared from behind. I must have passed them on the descent of Whernside.

Ingleborough

Duck Boards on Ingleborough

Duck Boards on Ingleborough

From then on the walk became more of a social outing. This was not a bad thing as the climb up to Ingleborough (particularly the last section) is a steep pull at the best of times (let alone after 18 miles). The limestone scar on this side of Ingleborough does however create the best scenery since the long departed summit slopes of Pen y Ghent. Sadly the cloud came in as we arrived at the summit to once again deprive us of the view. Ingleborough is my favourite of the 3 Peaks. However as an approach I would recommend the climb from Clapham past Gaping Gill.

The enjoyment is of course enhanced by the knowledge that it is down hill from here. Nearly every step has been climbed (5,350 feet) with the long and gradual descent to Horton a real pleasure. The track is astonishingly good, direct and with no knee clattering steep bits. I have only ever done it this once but I mean to climb Ingleborough from here soon. Horton is eventually reached and the walk is done. I am a little unsure what time I took. My guess is somewhere around the 9 hour mark but it does not really matter. I always ask myself if these long day challenges are worth doing and the answer is always an unequivocal yes. For the Yorkshire 3 Peaks this is undoubtedly true. Aside from anything else the pint always tastes so good!

Update Nov 2018

Celebrating on Ingleborough

Celebrating on Ingleborough

Now I have climbed the 3 Peaks many many times, guiding groups of all sizes, I think I know it as well as most. Most Saturday’s I will be on the fells, encouraging and cajoling increasingly exhausted  walkers to one last effort.

It is a great challenge, probably the best in Britain for the average walker, and there is some fantastic scenery to appreciate. Ribblehead is a wonderful spot (I try and time the walks to take in a steam train if possible, I succeeded twice this summer), Ingleborough is still one of the best mountains in England and the lovely limestone scenery is for all to see.