The alarm went off at a time of the morning that should be illegal. It shouted out that something significant was happening that day. And indeed it was. The Yorkshire 3 Peaks Challenge in aid of the Cave Rescue Organisation was on.
The Registration Point was full of bleary eyed walkers and even a few over-keen runners – they could’ve stayed in bed for an extra hour. The only one there who seemed to be wide awake was a dog. Somehow it knew that today was going to be a challenge and was simply stood watching what was going on. If a dog mentally prepares, he was the picture poster for it.
Outside the day started out murky and damp with visibility down to 15 metres on the summits but still warm enough to work up a sweat if you were making an effort. Once dawn arrived, apart from the tops, that soon burnt off.
Pen-y-ghent took me an hour to the summit which I was quite pleased with. A good solid start!
As you descend from Pen-y-Ghent, the mist tends to clear and you can see the miles ahead of you. This was a scene of lots of standing water & lots of mud. The organisers were recommending a route diversion because of the rain there had been in the last few days but particularly the previous night. If that diversion was the best route through the bog on the day, the normal route must’ve been 1 big pond. The ground was very soft and water-logged underfoot – very energy zapping.
I’m quite pleased that the only tumble I had was on the softest of grassy inclines. I almost bounced back onto my feet in what might have been the smoothest of moves. As it was, I’m glad I was on my todd as the self-berating for such a schoolboy error went on for a while.
Approaching Ribblehead Viaduct, the summit of Whernside cleared, challenging me to take it on. On the upside, the sun also came out. Ninety minutes after leaving the T-junction, I was having tea and a sandwich on the summit. Another pleasing milestone.
Ingleborough normally looks quite majestic from pretty much any angle but approaching it from Humphrey Bottom on a sunny day in November creates quite a daunting silhouette. And out of the sun at the bottom of “the steps”, where it’s cold and dank, it can be quite enthusiasm sapping. Anyway, onwards and (straight) upwards.
Having gauged my pace all the way round, a time of 8 hours seemed plausible up until that point. Those steps put paid to that now seemingly foolish idea. I had rested minimally all day, always keeping an eye on a good time. Ingleborough was no different; a quick touch of the trig point, checked in with the marshals and set off back down. My descent was slowed by the limestone being rather greasy and my knees were complaining quite viciously by that point. To add insult to injury a rather… let’s call him a “long-lived individual”; he was making light work of it, off down the steep section like a whippet. I made good time as the gradient eased out and when I finally caught him up, he wished me well on my endeavour. A much needed injection of goodwill but more importantly enthusiasm and energy. (I hate the phrase “redouble your efforts” but begrudgingly, it seems to fit.)
There is a finger board at Sulber (near Sulber Gate) that reads “Horton 2” [miles]. Don’t believe it, it lies!!! I had 30 minutes in which to make my new target time and I would have made it if indeed it was truly 2 miles. I was pushing hard, making a solid 4 miles an hour pace – if not more!
And once again, that time passed. So I set a pace I could sustain all the way back into Horton in Ribblesdale. Only that seemed to relax me and I was able to travel easier and at much the same pace. If only I’d allowed myself to do that earlier!!
I have NEVER been so glad to see tarmac at the end of a long walk. Normally, it means walking a mile or more back to the car – not really what you need at the end of a long walk. However in this instance, it meant about 150 metres back to the Registration Point and the finish. And all for the benefit of the Cave Rescue Organisation. Please make a donation. Thank you!
My final time was 8 hours and 37 minutes which I’m very pleased with. Mainly because it’s unlikely to ever be bettered.