Saturday, 29 January 2011

Best of 2010 Part Two - Three Peaks of Yorkshire

And so we carry on with the best of last year's expeditions. I did the Yorkshire Three Peaks after a strenuous week in the Lake District with crag rat Rainer and my better half Claire, so I went into this 25 mile jaunt with blisters all over my feet to start with - not ideal circumstances I'm sure you'll agree. We were a larger party as we were walking with most of Claire's work colleagues, so we met up near Ribblehead railway startion before heading over to Horton-in-Ribblesdale to clock in for the start of the walk.

the team at the start - still smiling

Well, maps, compasses and route planning was completely superfluous, as we had picked the wrong weekend to do the challege - the same weekend as the thousand or so that were walking for charity for the British Heart Foundation. No chance of getting lost - simply follow the crowds.
So off we headed towards Pen-Y-Ghent, and it was like being in a supermarket queue when you got to any gates and stiles, waiting your turn. Fortunately the masses started to string out on the way up the first peak and so we were more or less able to walk at our own pace.

Pen-Y-Ghent was a steep start. The going got tough towards the top of the Peak, but with views opening up it was worthwhile and it was a lovely hill to be going up. We made it to the trig point with a brief stop for a cereal bar, but the stop was short as it was windy and crowded funnily enough.

By this point the crowds had thinned out a lot so our progress was unhindered. We were also very lucky to be doing the walk after a week or so of dry weather - the much anticipated bogs that lie between Pen-Y-Ghent and Ribblehead were very dry and the ground springy underfoot. It was a long trudge though, and easily the longest section of the walk. I found the road hard to walk on after the soft peat, but he had a mile or so of tarmac before we got back to Ribblehead station and our support team with the sarnies and drinks, lovely. It was a great setting to have a quick picnic, but knowing how much we had ahead of us, there was no time to rest.

the Ribblehead viaduct still far away, Whernside rising behind

look no bog!
The next section was another long one (funny that, on a walk like this), following the rail and river along to reach the foot of Whernside. It was very pleasant walking alongside the historic rail viaduct and it made you almost forget the blisters on your feet! Part way up Whernside we were greeted with the tragic sight of a fellow Three Peaker who had suffered a heart attack - mountain rescue were at the scene, but sadly they were unable to resuscitate the victim. It was a sobering moment.

looking across to Ingleborough
Onwards we went trudging along the gradual gradient that is Whernside, not the most thrilling of hills it has to be said. We made it to the flat ridge that makes up the top, and carried right on without really stopping. The stretch back down was definitely no highlight, as the path was quite rough in places and steep going, meaning that you half slipped half stumbled down the rocks to the farm that was at the bottom.

The unprepared had to splash out for snacks and drinks right there, we had our faithful support team waiting with our goodies, perfect! Then we headed up towards Ingleborough, and it's amazingly steep "steps" up to the summit plateau. Rainer and my tactic came in to good use - don't look up, just keep looking at your feet, and sooner or later the ground will level out. The walk to the summit cairns was a breeze and the views from Ingleborough were fantastic - right across Morecambe Bay and with the Coniston Fells visible in the distance.

me and Rainer after the steep "ladder"

enjoying the view
All that remained was to head back over to Horton-in-Ribblesdale, but this was when exhaustion was setting in, not made any easier by walking on the limestone pavements. Eventually we made it, and clocked out at just over 11 hours. I think those pints at the pub afterwards were more than well deserved!

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