The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge…

Originally uploaded by steveslaw

On Saturday 26th July (2009) I joined some friends to tackle (for the second time) the Yorkshire 3 peaks. These are Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough and its a 25 miles walk from start to finish going up and over each one.

Its a *really* hard route and the target time to do it in is 12 hours. We first tackled it in 2008 and because we thought it would be easy to took our time and rambled round the route – stopping often for breaks to eat or to take in the scenery. Alas I came in with a time of 12 hours 30 minutes – I was gutted! I vowed to go back again this year and nail it in under 12.

This year there were 13 of us doing it (making up a grander 700 participants doing it with the British Heart Foundation). We all had our own goals – I was walking with Caroline (Caz) and we were happy to simply target the 12 hours, though a few of the group had set themselves the much more challenging target of under 10 hours!

We set off at 6.20 (precise timing is very important) and headed out into what promised to be a lovely sunny day, however within 30 minutes of starting clouds swept in to cover the first summit and threaten rain. The picture here shows the sun coming up over Pen-y-ghent with the summit obscured by the clouds. Young Jamie is seen here in all his Cadet gear – little did he know what awaited him this day!

Luckily the rain held off and by 10 the clouds had mostly blown away leaving us with enough cover to avoid boiling whilst still having a lovely warm day, however they were still there when we summited Pen-y-ghent .

The Yorkshire dales are a boggy place – and the walk off of Pen-y-ghent was (as it had been in 2008) extremely wet. about half way down I realised I was getting very wet feet and this was because the last time I had used my hiking boots the stitching had given out and I had a gaping whole. Mental note to self: check gear before attempting any future ‘major’ treks. Luckily I had planned to swap into my trainers after the first hill anyway as after this it becomes a lot less boggy, it just meant I had a very wet footed trek off.

Jamie however, in his haste, tried to follow a fell runner across a short cut. Now this fell runner must have been related to Jesus because following in one of his foot steps Jamie sunk waste deep into peat (horrid brown) water. Needless to say, none of us were carrying a complete set of spare clothes which left Jamie having to do the remaining two hills (and 18 miles) in very wet and sodden gear. Suddenly my wet foot didn’t seem so bad. 🙂

We made good time, and for the remainder of the miles and hills I varied my pace so I moved between the back makers (Caz, Steve M and myself) and the ‘nearly back markers’ Emma and Laura. Jamie and his group kept a very respectable pace throughout and came in a respectable 11 hours 15 minutes and Jamie to his credit RAN some of the last mile and a half to come in 10 minutes before the rest of his group. I had taunted him after his accident that he would quit and not make it but he ‘didn’t have it in him’. I loved that he proved me wrong with such style.

Coming off the summit of the last hill (Inglebrorough) leaves just 4 miles (so we are told at the top) of the hardest terrain in the entire hike. Its has rubble strewn flats, steep down hill moments and mentally if not actually, feels more like 10 miles. Everyone agrees that this last 4 miles is mentally the toughest and in really takes it out on your feet too! There are few places on the way down where you can find a space to put your foot down on flat ground – its all stones, boulders, steps! My feet were starting to hurt before the last decent and I quickly realised I was coming to the last of my stamina so I decided to leave Steve and Caz and just get down to the finish as quickly as I could. As I steamed ahead I eventually caught up with Laura and Emma about 20 minutes before the finish and we crossed the line 11 hours and 48 minutes. Knowing how badly Caz wanted to finish withing 12 hours we waited at the finish line hoping to see her following us down the track – alas she was no where in site! We were gutted as 18:20 approached and we saw her chance of getting in withing the 12 hours vanish – BUT THEN – we found out that the official start time for our group was 06:22 – suddenly there was hope again and she still had 2 minutes! And just then she came running down the road! After 15 miles of slog and 3 tough hills here she was running to get her twelve hours! We screamed and shouted for her as she ran across the line and had her official time logged as 11 hours 59 minutes! excellent.

I cannot tell you just how hard it is – all I can tell you is that next year – I’ll be back there and aiming for under 11 hours!

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