May 2015, and the team from work prepare for the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge. After my eventful recce of Whernside and Ingleborough in March, and easy-as-pie ascent of Pen Y Ghent in April, I’m still not sure whether I was really fully prepared for what lay ahead.
I went up to the Dales on the Saturday and had booked into a B&B in the nearby town of Settle. When I got there, there was nobody about, and no-one answered the phone. The front door was open into a tiny front porch (the in-door was locked) and several items of luggage were wedged in there. At a loss what to do with all my stuff, I decided to leave most of it there as clearly other folk were in a similar situation to me. So I unhooked my backpack, and shoved it in, leaving my walking boots and fleece as well, and taking a smaller bag headed back into town in search of some dinner and a brew.
Settle is a lovely little place, a typical small Yorkshire Dales market town with independent shops. I soon found a suitable cafe, and after having a much-needed sandwich and coffee, went exploring. I did ring the B&B again and explained to the puzzled voice on the end of the phone why some of my stuff was stashed in their porch. They told me the bags and baggage belonged to some people who where just leaving, so I flew back down there to find my bits had been thoughtfully taken inside.
I was shown my room, but headed back out immediately, as quaint little bookshops and antiquey places were calling to me. Later, I hooked up with one of my work colleagues and her husband who were staying just outside town, and we found a quiet corner of one of the town’s old hostelries for a bit.
By the time we left, I didn’t fancy going straight back to my room, and had a wander down the banks of the River Ribble instead, in the early evening sunshine. It was turned six when I went back and settled in, eating my cold pot of pasta salad for tea.
Now my little room was nice enough, although there was a tiny shower, and the sink and toilet were located in a room just across the hall (just for my use, thankfully). What let it down was, pretty as it was, it was freezing and there was no kettle. The reason for all this, explained the B&B info pack, was that in order to save energy (aye, I thought, and money) was the building’s heating was run off a central boiler which was set to an ‘optimum temperature’. As the radiator was stone-cold, and remained so, the optimum temperature must have been not a degree over 10 celsius. Optimum for polar bears perhaps, not for me. It was warmer outside.
Usually, in B&B’s, Guest Houses and hotels in Britain, a kettle, cups and teabags/coffee sachets etc are provided in the rooms. Not in this one. Guests could help themselves to all this in the main lounge as the owners thought it more sociable. Hmm, I just wanted to read my book in peace, have a warm drink and generally thaw out, by myself in my room.
Despite this, I had a decent night’s sleep, and was up at the crack of, packing my gear together and finding the small dining room, where I had been told some cold bits had been left out for my breakfast as I was dashing off so early. Fortunately there was a kettle too. As soon as I’d eaten, another colleague picked me up outside after I’d left the key on a ledge in the hall, having encountered no-one, and we were finally on our way to our meeting place in Horton-In-Ribblesdale.
By 8am we were all assembled for a quick photoshoot, all fifteen of us and two guides who’d had to be hired for insurance purposes. The weather was reasonable and no rain had been forecast. Off we went, onto Pen Y Ghent, our first peak of the day. So far I was undaunted. Pen Y Ghent held no fear for me.
Soon, two distinct groups were formed, and I’m pleased to say I was in the front group. We made it up and down slightly quicker than on our practice in April. Then came the unknown bit, the long, boggy hike over an undefined marshy moorland. I’d never have found my way myself. There was no time for taking photos, I knew I couldn’t afford to get behind. Eventually we hit the road which led to the viaduct, and I struck out on my own, knowing our first main refreshment stop was just up ahead.
I came bouncing in about halfway in our front group, feeling quite cheery because a third of it was over. Our back-up team had a table of refreshments set up for us, and people flopped on the floor. I decided if I did this, I might not be able to get back up again.
We started off again, up Whernside with reports that the second group were nowhere near to catching us up. Then I started to hurt. Whernside is a long climb, winding round the side of the mountain till you get to the ridge, and that’s before the trig point. I was suddenly in pain, and slipping a bit behind. Still, I plodded on, People had sponsored good money which I might not be able to collect if I couldn’t finish.
With everyone slipping further and further out of sight I began to get a bit demoralised. It was obvious by now that an old back injury had kicked in, and was doing it’s damnest to stop me. The guide in our group had slowed to stay with me as I hobbled along, determined not to return to the back-up team. I shuffled up to the trig point just as my colleagues were leaving it, having had a short rest. I gulped a bit of water, I couldn’t stay long as I needed to catch them up, but now I had a decision to make.
Down in Chapel-Le-Dale, our crew had formed up again, as the second group had made it to the viaduct, and shortly left for Whernside, so they’d repositioned. I knew as I limped in, that this would be the end of my Three Peak adventure. It would be stupid to think I could continue after a short rest and drag myself up and down Ingleborough, and the final few miles back to Horton. I would be putting other people at risk too. And the weather had changed, the wind had got up, and Ingleborough was looking very forbidding to someone not fit enough to tackle it. So I stayed, tearfully (Yes yes, I know!!!) hiding in someone’s car till I felt a bit better.
I sadly watched the front group disappear in the direction of the third peak, and kept my eye on them till they transformed from people to ants to almost indiscernible specks to not there at all, off on their way to Three Peak glory. Without me.
The back group did eventually reach us, but the time was knocking on, and they were all a bit dubious of continuing for several more hours walking in the late afternoon with the weather closing in. So that was that. We packed up and headed back to The Crown in Horton to await our jubilant team-mates who staggered in sometime later. Well, I say staggered. Not all of them did. My friend was on such a high when she bounded through the door, ready to apply fresh lippy and brush her hair, that she hadn’t realised she had actually broken her wrist when she’d slipped and fallen, moments earlier, not far from the pub.
So there it is. I didn’t make it all the way round. But I did complete two peaks, and a distance of about 17 not-too-easy miles. I was given a medal, and some respect. But still, gutted I couldn’t finish. Fifteen of us set out, Nine made it round. After drowning my sorrows I limped to the pub at the other end of the village where I was spending the night, in a warm room with a kettle!
In the morning, I descended into a vast dining room where once more, I encountered no-one and had to locate some cereal, a muffin, some yoghurt and little else. Eventually a cleaning lady emerged at the far end of the room. I said a very disembodied hello to her, and limped back upstairs to gather my stuff and drag it all to the train station back home.
In part 4 (what, more? I hear you shriek) I return to Horton in May 2017. Yes folks, next week. Not for more Three Peaks madness though, well not quite. For my birthday last month, my long-suffering other half paid for me to have a couple of days away – just me, cameras, map and Goretex. I intend to go at my own pace and do what I want to do. Surely I don’t need company to climb mountains.