Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Yorkshire Three Peaks 16.7.11

A circular walk, 23 miles, 10 - 12 hours.

One of the toughest hikes you can do, taking in the three most popular fells in the Yorkshire Dales.

This is essentially what I had been training for over the last seven months. A notoriously tough slog around the Yorkshire big three. I have done each one before individually, but I've never attempted the full circuit.

I was staying overnight in Horton In Ribblesdale at the Golden Lion Hotel which, by the time I got there on the Friday night, the weather had turned grim, heavy rain, and for July - it felt cold! But the hotel was warm and friendly, and most importantly, the bar looked good. My room was very comfy, had a good view, and it was opposite the old church which sits proudly on the main road which cuts through the village.

The weather the next morning didn't look too bad, Pen y ghent was obscured by cloud completely, but it wasn't raining. I put on my new boots and prepared the rucksack. After a quick breakfast I made my way to the village hall, or Checkpoint 1 as it was calling itself. I filled out my details, and sorted out with one of the friendly British Red Cross staff how much I had raised (£220 including gift aid). I then had my participant number tied to my bag, given a starting time of 06:45, and sent on my way!

Section 1. Horton In Ribblesdale Village Hall to Pen y ghent summit

Strolling out onto the lane from the Village Hall and out onto the main road, I made my way up the side of the old church, and towards Brakenbottom, then out onto the farm track which allows you onto the flanks of Pen y ghent.

Pen y ghent is under that cloud somewhere, no seriously - it is...
Approaching the flanks of the fell now, here passing over Gavell Rigg...
The pathway joins up with the Pennine Way eventually. On turning left, this is where you really get to feel your first bit of proper climbing. Pen y ghent is a tough test of a climb from this side, and in places requires a bit of scrambling. This however, due to the sheer volume of people ascending the fell created a bottleneck about half way up. So in affect we were queuing up to reach the summit, and by now the rain was heavy and the wind had picked up too.

Here we all are on the scramble...
And finally reaching the summit at 694 metres...
My hat goes off to the British Red Cross reps who were stationed at the summit, marking off peoples participant cards. Especially in that weather, for July this was horrible. It was nice however to reach the summit of this fantastic fell once again, Pen y ghent will always be a favourite, no matter how inclement the weather.

Section 2: Pen y ghent summit to High Birkwith

From the summit of Pen y ghent it's a matter of scaling the dry stone wall which runs the length of the fell, via the stile. You then descend quite quickly along the Pennine Way, until you reach a cross roads. The Pennine Way comes up from Horton In Ribblesdale here, cross over that path and a fainter track is now the route, this cuts along the flanks of Plover Hill, and on across the bogs towards Horton Moor. It also disappears completely in some parts of the moor, so a bit of compass navigation could come in handy if travelling alone. This is a notoriously boggy part of the route and caught a lot of unsuspecting participants out!

Here cutting across the bogs...
Once your onto Horton Moor, you are about 6 miles in. This part is pretty tough due to the bogs. At one point in particular, you're walking at the side of an old dry stone wall, and next to it is a particularly deep bit of bog. This took its victims, a guy behind me suddenly went waist deep into the peat, and managed to get himself out, but this made everyone a little more cautious for this section. It's also a long bit of the walk where you just seem to be walking over endless peat bogs and moorland. And with the visibility down to about 100 feet at this point, it was a little bit weakening too. There was however the third check point here, which supplied energy bars, fruit, and of course water.

Section 3: High Birkwith to Ribblehead

Continuing on, crossing over the Pennine Way again, you eventually come to a farm track which has recently been resurfaced with hardcore. This track takes you over Gods Bridge, and on towards Nether Lodge, Lodge Hall, over Hunter Hill and eventually onto Selside Shaw Old Lane. Once onto the road, turn right towards Ribblehead.

Simon's Fell looms out of the cloud from the farm track...
This is where the road walking part of the challenge comes into play. The road will take you to Ribblehead, but it's a good 3 miles of walking it before you see any sign of the village. My feet were already starting to hurt at this point, and I always find road walking particularly tiring, so after a couple of miles it was reassuring to see Ribblehead station up above me on the left. I also noticed, amongst other traffic on the road passing me, my friend Will's car from work, who had decided to accompany me on the Whernside section. After another 10 or so minutes of trudging through the rain I noticed Will walking towards me, it was also at this point my waterproof trousers started to let in the rain!

Section 4: Ribblehead to Haws Gill Wheel

 On reaching Ribblehead, passing the pub (I know sacrilege) there was another checkpoint. 'Check point 4' was ran by two ladies who had the same stock of energy bars and fruit. The check point was about 14 miles into the walk, and with the rain still belting down it was nice to reach.
 From here it's a matter of walking the lane towards the famous Ribblehead Viaduct, but just before the lane turns left to go under the arches, take the distinct path which cuts steeply upwards, which takes you along side the railway and on past the Blea Moor signal box on your left hand side. The track becomes quite rocky underfoot from here, and on this day the stream was cutting over the path in quite a few places making the going quite slippy.

Here coming up to the magnificent Ribblehead viaduct, with Whernside enveloped in heavy cloud above...
 Blea Moor Signal Box...
The path now crosses over the railway via a bridge, from here is a chance to see a waterfall which cascades from the flanks of Whernside...
The pathway now cuts up onto Whernside. I was at this point discussing with Will my walk I did earlier in the year from Dent, up over the top of neighbouring Blea Moor, via Whernside, and down into Ribblehead. And how fortunate I felt that the weather that day was not as bleak as it was today, as Blea Moor was totally cloud covered and would need a compass to navigate to the Trig Point.

The pathway to the summit of Whernside is long, and takes its toll on you. No matter what the weather, it always seems to take a long time reaching the summit...
On reaching the summit of Whernside, it was a quick photo at the Trig, then a rapid descent as the weather was at its worse. It was pretty windy, felt cold, and the rain was very heavy, and my nearly waterproof bottoms had by now completely given up!

Here at the summit Trig Point of Whernside at 736 metres, the highest point in North Yorkshire and the Dales...
Here Will in front descending the rock strewn footpath to the lower slopes...
It's a tricky descent from the top of Whernside. The loose stones and jagged rocks that make up the path make for a tough part of the walk, very easy to twist an ankle or take a fall on this unforgiving part of the fell. Here looking back towards the summit...
 On the far side of the Ribblehead Viaduct now...
From this point there is usually a good view of Ingleborough...
From here the path cuts through a farm yard near to Haws Gill Wheel, after which was situated check point number 5. Easily the most significant check point - the farm that is this check point is open for most of the year providing refreshments to anybody attempting the walk. If you purchase something - it also provides male and female toilets too.
 This for me it was a time to rest for a good 20 minutes, or a pit stop as I called it at the time. I was starting to get quite tired at this point, and a few of the other walkers were dropping out.
 But after a few litres of water, and soft drinks, sandwiches and a bag of mixed dried fruit and nuts, it was time to do the next peak.

Section 5: Haws Gill Wheel to Ingleborough summit


The lane which runs from the farm yard where the check point was situated is Tarmac, and so was a relief after the tough rocky path of Whernside. From here there's usually epic views of Ingleborough, Simon's Fell and Park Fell, but on this day it was just thick cloud. But the rain had subsided, and the temperature seemed a little warmer too.
 The Tarmac lane leads onto the B6255 road at Chapel-le-Dale, turn left here and walk up the road for about 400 yards. Eventually you will come to a kissing gate on your right, this leads you onto a track that takes you up to the flanks of Ingleborough.
 Will had only wanted to climb Whernside, so he walked back along the B6255 towards Ribblehead, where he had left his car. The path to Ingleborough cuts over some of the Limestone Pavements that the area is famous for, and some more boggy ground.

Here the pathway from the road curls up towards Ingleborough's lower slopes...
 The pathway becomes steeper through the Limestone Pavements...
The next section of the walk cuts across some more boggy ground, there are duck boards over the worse of the bogs, but the pathway has become quite badly eroded in places.
 When you reach the side of Ingleborough the path becomes very, very steep, it's quite formidable to look at from the bottom of it. The walk over the bogs completely drained the last of the energy I had, so this bit looked quite hard, bearing in mind I had walked about 17 miles at this point. For me this was the hardest part of the walk, about three quarters of the way up the side of the fell, I took a breather for a good half hour.

Here looking at the zig-zag pathway cutting directly up the side of Ingleborough...
There is a slight bit of scrambling required on this section too, but despite the total fatigue, it was an enjoyable part of the walk none the less.
 Just before reaching the summit plateau of Ingleborough was checkpoint 6. Again hats off to the lady that was manning this post, she had a tent to shelter in, but even so this was a bleak place to be standing all day.
 After having my card marked for this check point, I decided to navigate towards the summit Trig Point. The cloud was very thick, and visibility would have been down to about 5 yards so it was quite tricky to find. But as always there was someone standing near it, who kindly took my picture next to it...

Section 6: Ingleborough summit to Horton In Ribblesdale

From here you walk back towards the steep path which you ascended to get onto the summit plateau, descend slightly, but this time cut right at a marker stone. The path now descends sharply, but is one of the most scenic parts of the walk. The weather had started to clear up quite a bit by now, and the last section was looking good...
 Looking back towards the summit of Ingleborough...
The last section, although a beautiful part of the walk, has a truly long feel to it. It seems forever to reach Horton In Riblesdale. Cutting over 'The Allotment' you walk alongside the flanks of Simon's Fell, then about a mile further on you cut through the truly impressive Sulber Nick Limestone Pavement...
Here Pen y ghent emerging from beneath the cloud...
 And then the sun came out too...
From here it's a slog through the mud and bogs, across farmland....and finally Horton In Ribblesdale comes back into view...
After crossing the railway line at Horton In Ribbledale station, it's then just a matter of walking through the village to the final check point, checkpoint 7, back at the village hall...
Overall time 9hr 45mins.

Thank you for reading.
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