Jill’s Jaunts – Yorkshire Three Peaks part 1

The Yorkshire Three Peak Challenge, a not-to-be-sniffed-at 24 mile(ish) hike across bleak and boggy Moorland in North Yorkshire and up the three biggest peaks in Yorkshire. Pen Y Ghent (694m), Whernside (736m) and Ingleborough (723m) and all within about 12 hours.

Ok, not quite as difficult as a lot of the Lake district, Welsh and Scottish mountain climbing, or anywhere near as challenging as other places round the world, but daunting enough for me to be ‘volunteered’ into doing this two years ago as a sponsored event for work. Me, a not-too-fit forty-something Granny…Hell I needed to up my game.

So we arranged a couple of practice days. This is the first one which took place in the March to prepare us for climbing Whernside, the biggest peak of the three, and Ingleborough straight after.

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We started off at the awesome Ribblehead Viaduct, which carries the railway from Leeds up to Carlisle, right on the border with Scotland. The Settle to Carlisle stretch of this railway is famously picturesque, and I would recommend a trip.

The viaduct is at the foot of the mighty Whernside, which struck fear into us straight away. Being March, the snow hadn’t melted, and most of  the mountain was lost in cloud.

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The climb round Whernside is a sort of horseshoe. I kept falling behind as I stopped to take photos, and had to run a bit to keep up.

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Coming round the side, we got a first sight of the summit, sort of…somewhere in that snow.

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This is where the walk got a bit tricky. An upward slope of increasing snowiness. Towards the top there were parts where the drifts covered big ditches and we had to keep us wits about us. Stand on one of them and you found yourself sinking some way. I did and had to be hauled up the bank.

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The summit of Whernside soon put a huge grin on my face. Apparently, and weirdly, the trig point is in Yorkshire while some of the mountain is in Cumbria. I think that’s right anyway, I heard someone say so…

Here we are making our way down. The descent, to the pleasant pastures of Chapel Le Dale were dicey as well. Just out of sight in the middle of above picture is where we left the ridge and headed down a stoney, slippy slope…ooh-er!

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Across the road (as it were, though a decent few miles) lay Ingleborough. My colleague and I were starting to flag a bit at this point, and seeing another peak looming up at us seemed a smidge disheartening. Our two other colleagues were tall chaps with long legs who did fell-running and long-distance hiking. Sue and me are half their size and struggling to keep pace, though we managed.

The ascent up Ingleborough at this point seemed a dull, energy-sapping, uphill trail…till we reached the gully known as The Devil’s Staircase…OH MY GOD! What a horrendous scramble up that was. Never again, I thought, till I realised I would have to do this all again in May, with Pen Y Ghent and a long hike tacked on!!! Couldn’t take a picture of said gully as all my concentration, and both hands were needed to climb.

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Finally, the summit of Ingleborough, the desolate, almost Martian plateau leading to the very top. It’s a bleak, windy, trip-and-you-could-break-your-ankle type of terrain. But we were hugely cheerful to get there, despite being frozen and nearly blown to shreds.

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The summit of Whernside from the summit of Ingleborough. Hard to think we had just been there a few hours ago in zero visibility.

Now began the descent down Ingleborough, again fraught with difficulty. We went a slightly different way, and first the wind nearly blew me off the ridge, then, when we headed steeply downwards, I slipped on some loose shaley stuff and tumbled arse over backpack, not quite knowing when I would stop! But stop I did, and somewhat battered, hit the road back to where the cars where parked at our starting point.

Then…hoving into view like the most miraculous vision of all heaven and earth…came the pub. Second wind took over…we ran…

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This beer and coffee were both mine. I needed them!

Next time, we have a crack at Pen Y Ghent.

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