Completing the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge
Cathy and myself have just completed the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge. That’s a 25 mile hike with over 5,000 feet of ascent and descent over three of Yorkshire’s largest peaks, and all done within 12 hours. We did this hike together with an eclectic group of people and raised quite a bit of money for CLIC Sargent, a children’s cancer charity, which is all very well and good…
But that is not the reason we did this hike. For that we have to go back to the start of the year.
Our nephew, Josh Furber, was a 20 year old man with everything in front of him. He was mid-way through his Uni’ degree in Leeds and taking a gap year out in Australia, a country that had captivated his heart and soul. He was living in a shared house on Bondi Beach with a multi-national group of other young, free people enjoying life with his ‘ozzy family’. He had a positive effect on people, knew how to enjoy life and wanted more. As he summed it up himself: “I’ve seen far too much to ever settle for a average life”!
At the start of January this all came to an end when Josh was killed in a tragic accident while on a day out with friends at Wentworth Falls in the Blue Mountains. The devastating effect this has had on people, family, friends cannot be overstated.
This is why we were doing this hike. One of the many things Josh had done before he had left for Australia was the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge. He was working at Weatherspoons in Leeds, while at University, and had agreed to do it with the ‘spoonies’.
I gather he had no idea what he had let himself in for and was 100% unprepared, but he completed it all the same.
Josh had done it and so we were doing it. As a tribute and a means of family and friends getting together to do something that feels like it needs doing.
Cathy and me had decided early on that we would both be doing this. We also both realised that we weren’t going to find it easy. Henry had said he would be doing this with us too but unlike him we don’t have the resilience of youth. On the other side though, we’re both only in our mid-fortys and so had no doubt it had to be done, and it would be done!
So, after a few practice walks to break in some new boots and to give our legs some idea of what we were going to throw at them, the weekend of the walk arrived.
We had looked at a few YouTube videos, a few web sites and blogs, which had given us some sort of an idea of what to expect. We got out the camping gear and packed the car from top to bottom like a tin of sardines and headed for Yorkshire. The site was easy enough to find but due to picking kids up from school we were one of the last to arrive. Once we were sorted out, unpacked and set up it was good to sit down and talk to people. Lots of different people, all here for the same reason, all wishing we didn’t need to be.
After a reasonably well behaved evening and it was off to bed for one of the coldest, most miserable and sleepless nights we could have hoped for before a wet Yorkshire morning greeted us at 6 am.
And we’re off! Walkers away and support crew left behind we head for the first peak, Pen-y-ghent (694 m or 2,277 ft).
The walk started off on nice firm trails that just got gradually steeper and steeper and then led us into nothing but mist and cloud.
Right from the outset the group split into much smaller groups walking at their own comfortable pace. Some of the ‘spoonies’ sped off ahead while everyone else found a pace they were happy with.
As we got closer to the top the walk began to turn into a climb, which Cathy was starting to find a bit hard. This had nothing to do with her legs or fitness though, but was actually due to a fractured rib she had gained the weekend before.
She had been stood on the edge of the bath while cleaning the bathroom and her foot slipped on the wet edge and she came down on the edge of the bath. After a couple of days of pain she went to A & E and they confirmed it was a fractured rib. They also told her she just had to get on with it as there’s nothing they can do with broken ribs. She had been determined to do the walk all the same, but the steep climb wasn’t helping.
At last we could see the summit of Pen-y-ghent above us in the cloud. Everyone else had waited there for Beth and Jake and us but were keen to get moving and so there was just time for the group photo before everyone headed off again.
So here we are, all together, all doing the same thing, all in the same spot Josh had been. With our Josh Furber tee-shirts and the ‘Joshie Style’ banner that Danielle had struggled and stressed to get done in time.
At this point Beth and Jake seemed to have found their stride and were off and away, which is a good job as there was quite a walk between here and our next peak, Whernside.
The path covered varying terrain and we went through some small boggy area’s but generally the paths were all good. Not that we could say the same for the weather. The rain had set in with varying degrees of drizzle to horizontal to torrential, but all consistently wet! Strangely Cathy kept telling us all that the rain was good and quite ‘invigorating’! I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that she had lost the plot at this point though.
This section did allow us to get a decent walking pace going to gain some time and miles. It was at this point that out thoughts started to turn to the support team, a hot drink and something to eat ahead.
Our lovely support team met us in Ribblesdale and they were a welcome sight. They had brought chockie bars, drinks, banana’s, sandwich’s, pasta and smiles. All very welcome.
Stopping for a little while and having a well earned cheese burger from the ‘chuck wagon’ and a chat was really great but all too soon it was time to get going again. Our next peak, Whernside, was in sight past the viaduct and of course, was covered in cloud.
The walk up Whernside was quite long on a seemingly never ending incline. The path was well slabbed though and we settled into a steady trudge for this section. The nearer we got to the top the colder and windier it got and by the time we were near the summit we could see the cloud whipping over the top ridge and billowing over the other side of the mountain.
So here we are at the summit of Whernside (736 m or 2,415 ft). We so very nearly missed this summit post (yes I know it’s called a Trig Point…) on this peak. The groups had split up and the wind on top of Whernside were ferocious so the other groups had carried on, we hadn’t planned to stop and the post is also behind a wall off of the main walkway. Thankfully we spotted it but I have no group photo for this one, just us.
You may also notice that on Josh’s photo his trainers are looking anything but white like they were in the last photo.
From here we walked along the top ridge of the mountain which is quite long and very, very windy. Thankfully at this point the cloud was starting to lift and we could see the landscape below.
We felt we were doing ok for time and our legs seemed ok. My thighs were starting to ache a bit and Cathy had her ongoing rib pain but we both had no doubt that we would finish it, and within the 12 hours too.
We had brought Roofus, out happy little terrier, along with us and he was doing great too. He’d had the odd bark at some sheep and got lost once but for a little dog there seemed no doubt he was up for the full 25 miles.
The decent from Whernside was very steep in several places and really made you think about where you were putting your feet. A combination of coming down a little in height and the cloud lifting as the day went on, gave us a great view from here.
The only worry was our final peak, Ingleborough, was looking depressingly far away as it is the highest peak on the right of the photo above. Oh well, on we plodded.
It has to be said that this whole event has been quite a thing, I don’t mean a physical thing, but rather as a thing to do for Josh. To have a whole group of different people made up of family, Josh’s friends from his home town of Runcorn and his Uni’ friends from Leeds, all getting together to support Jayne, Mark & Beth. All getting together to all do something for Josh.
We briefly met the support team again for a coffee and oatcakes (home baked and lovely, donated by a family friend), a quick chat, and then quickly off again.
Ingleborough itself looks quite imposing the closer you get to it. It also looked very steep. This wasn’t what our legs wanted to hear but what are the choices? It has to be done and it’s going to be done!
The climb up Ingleborough was very varied, there was a long wooden board-walk, a long slabbed incline and then a very steep climb up several zig-zags in the side of the mountain. Unfortunately I have no photo’s of this part as it had stopped being a walk at this point and had now become a climb, and a steep one too. Because of this, the camera was tucked away safely in the ruck-sack. We had also been pressing on hoping to catch up with the others for a group photo at the summit and so no time to stop here to take photo’s.
As luck would have it we met Henry and some of the Runcorn group just coming down from the summit (who after a brief conversation were talked into going back up again) and then met some of the Leeds group just reaching the summit too.
There was another steep climb which seemed to be to the top but then once you think you’re there it’s another 15 minute walk to reach the actual summit point.
The wind was bitter here as it was very exposed but we were here, at the final summit!
The walk down from here was on weary legs but at least they were legs that were heading home. We walked with Fran (who was having problems with his knee by now but was working through it), Asha, Beth & Jake for the last section.
We passed a sign that told us we only had 2 miles…
I warn anyone at this point that there is no way that those last 2 miles is actually 2 miles!
Back to camp and we’re done. An evening of celebration and merriment ahead, but more of that later.
And here are all of the photos from the hike;