The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Tuesday 22 June 2010

Tuesday 22 June: Yorkshire 3 Peaks


A 23.9 mile route* taking in the summits of Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough, completed in 8 hours and 15 minutes.


As I climbed up the side of Pen-y-Ghent last Monday, it struck me that (to my recollection) I’ve never been up Whernside or Ingleborough, and I thought it was about time that I righted that omission. Meeting Mick at the end of my walk last week, I asked how he fancied tackling the two of them this week. He reminded me that he has a poorly back at the moment that is precluding him from such activities.

The subject went from my mind until the following morning. In the process of waking up on Saturday morning, the thought suddenly jumped into my head that having walked 24.5 miles last Wednesday, with 4500 feet of ascent, with a full pack, and in hot weather, I was probably in a fit state to have a crack at the full Yorkshire 3 Peaks route.

Mick woke up to be greeted by a request to be my support for the day. He’s a nice chap is Mick, and he readily agreed.

Today was the day in question (well, no point in hanging around once you’ve decided to do these things!).


With the day forecast to be rather on the warm side for walking up hills at speed, I adjudged that an early start was probably wise, and so it was that at 0610 I left the car park in Horton in Ribblesdale, telling Mick I would see him in three hours time by Ribble Viaduct.

My departure was hot on the heels of a group of five women and a little ahead of them was a singleton chap (all of whom had been seen as we drove up to the car park). I’ve no idea what route the women took to get out of Horton, but it certainly wasn’t the most obvious or the most efficient, as only about ten minutes in I saw them walking towards me, as we all headed to the same turning, and a few moments later I was striding on ahead.

It was 0705 when I arrived on the summit of Pen-y-Ghent on the most glorious of glorious mornings, although the brisk breeze up there did make positioning the camera for a self-photo a little tricky (near to the edge of the trig point the camera wanted to blow off), hence the following ill-framed photo, with a big chunk of trig-point in the foreground:


Soon, on my way down the other side, with excellent views of my next two objectives,


I was braced for the man-eating bogs that are renowned on the route. There was indeed evidence of bog-sites (the following one scattered with pieces of wood to act as stepping stones and bridges), but today all but a couple of areas were bone dry:


My first pause of the day was had when I came across a man in pain with a knee that was conspiring against his 3 Peaks attempt. Despite his encouragement for me to carry on as he insisted that ‘the clock is ticking’, I had some painkillers and he didn’t, so I dug them out of my pack, cut a couple off the strip and wished him luck before I toddled off down the last bit of the hillside and along the B-road.

Mick was waiting at the parking area by Ribblehead Viaduct when I got there at 0910,


and there I paused for a banana and to top up my water, but with half of my mind on wanting to make sure that I completed the round in the traditional 12 hours (actually, I was rather hoping to achieve 10 hours), it was only ten minutes later when I bade Mick farewell again and strode off to walk up Whernside at a pace that has never before been witnessed when I’ve been walking uphill.

The top was in and out of cloud by the time I got there at 1043 (it was the saviour of the day; contrary to the hot weather forecast, it was actually rather cool on both the way up and the way down), shortly before which I had paused for a chat with a chap and his two young children near the top, but still managed to find myself with the trig-point to myself, so it was another self-timed photo:


I soon dropped below the cloud:


but, my goodness, that first bit of the steep descent is a bit of a killer on the knees!

Having been only marginally waylaid by a couple of chaps who wanted to know about my experience of walking with two poles, the descent took me three quarters of an hour (so not actually as slow as it seemed at the time), and reaching the road it was back into the car for another break and some lunch.

At this point, I was struggling to comprehend that I was already two-thirds of the way through the walk, but that it wasn’t even noon. As fresh as I still felt (something else that also surprised me at this point), I felt sure that my pace would slow considerably on the last hill – particularly as the map seemed to indicate that a couple of sections near the top were going to be quite steep.

Those steep bits were powered by Jelly Babies, but even so, it felt like I was barely making any upwards progress. Perhaps all I really needed was a brief pause to catch my breath, as after a chat with a local couple things didn’t seem quite so bad, and I got onto the summit plateau just as all of its occupants (including 30 school children, their chaperones, and four other walkers) were leaving it.

As well as the weather finally clearing a bit, I seemed to be getting better at the self-timed photos:


A look at the map and a quick calculation told me that, having reached the final summit at 1300, it really was in my grasp to get back to Horton within 9 hours of setting out. Any notion of taking in my surroundings was forgotten as I got all competitive with myself and positively flew past the hoards who were descending (they really must have wondered about my sanity).

With the sun now firmly out and the wind having dropped, it was getting uncomfortably warm, but I was a girl on a mission. More Jelly Babies fuelled an even bigger burst of speed when I passed the ‘Horton 2.75 miles’ marker and realised that, at a push, 8.5 hours was achievable.

IMG_1695 Pen-y-Ghent back in view

‘Last Half Mile Syndrome’ was kicking in, and my knees were starting to ache, as I crossed the railway at the uncommonly well-kept Horton Station:


from where it was but a few hops, a few skips and a few jumps back to my start point. I ploughed on, going as fast as my little legs could carry me without running.

It was 1425 as I walked across the car park in Horton, with Mick doing a double take when he saw me coming. He was my one-man cheering squad as I walked past my start point.


I can’t say that I would ordinarily go for walking over hills at such pace. It’s always nice to be able to take the time to look around and take in the views (not to mention to take the time to cool down on hot days). That said, it was good fun to have a bit of a challenge, and I was chuffed to bits with the end result**.

I was even more chuffed to get out of the car when we got home and find that I could still walk!

(*I wore the GPS all day to record my route and stats, and so that I could keep an eye on my pace. It told me that I was stationary for 53 minutes of the 8.25 hours I had been out. The distance covered was 23.9 miles, but that did include a minor navigational blip (I saw a stile and assumed I needed to go over it, without paying any attention to where I was going – Doh!), and the small detours to meet Mick for elevenses and lunch.

**Undoubtedly the dry underfoot conditions and mainly-excellent visibility helped speed me around.)


  1. Congratulations on completing all 3 in one day and in a fantastic time as well.It only took me 6 years to get all 3 in!!!We were on the tops of Ingleborough and Whernside last week and met many people who were doing all 3 in a day.Many looked in pain as they ascended the third one.There was a group of Lads who were on an assessment walk for selection to join the Paras and had to complete all 3 in 6 hours-One at the back was really struggling.I also went up Ingleborough a couple of weeks ago and it was really great to have only a small daypack on.Again very well done with your time.

  2. congratulations, speedy!! You had me exhausted just reading. Well done.

  3. Very impressive, Gayle. Quite a sprint, but very satisfying. I'm glad we were able to assist you with the training last week!
    Who's doing the marathon?
    I'm doing a similar sort of 'Challenge' tomorrow. It's from home, and I'm scheduled to pass Kidsgrove junction at around 11am.
    Can you guess? Have I bought a moped?

  4. Jeff - Unsurprising that it's a popular time to be doing it - particularly with the dry conditions. Wouldn't fancy the full 24-miles route in 6 hours, mind!

    Carol - Oddly, it didn't feel awfully tiring at the time. I even managed to stay awake the whole way home (although perhaps the bottle of Coke I had upon finishing helped with that, given that I don't usually consume caffeine!).

    Martin - Hmmmm, Kidsgrove seems to be quite a long way from home, so I'm hoping that wheels feature in the challenge somewhere, whether human-powered or otherwise!

  5. Congrats Gayle. I did something similar around 1982 when I was In my 40s. Without wishing to brag I think the time was under 8hrsz I drove from home in Preston to TheNew Inn at Chapel le Dale for a very early start - probably around 5.00 am. Having completed the round I fell asleep at the wheel on the way home and crashed the company car into a grass bank.

  6. Conrad - at least it was only a grass bank into which you crashed, and you obviously lived to tell the tale.

    Given my record of falling asleep in cars at the best of times, I thought it wise to take a driver (albeit, I did manage to stay awake the whole way home - much to Mick's surprise)!

    We camped the night before at Little Stainforth, so, with only a short drive to get to the start, it wasn't an obscenely early start.

    Sub-8 hrs is mightily good going. Happily, I was so chuffed with 8 hrs 15 that I'm not feeling any immediate need to go back for a better time. (The downside is that Mick now has greater expectations about my speed uphill, which is usually very slow indeed.)