The north of England has its very own Three Peak Challenge. While it is less daunting to undertake than its bigger brother (the “classic” route up and down the highest peaks in England, Scotland and Wales), the two Three-Peak challenges do share common traits. Both must be completed in a strict timeframe, both involve covering a lot of ground by foot, and both are mighty tough to complete! A helpful aspect of the Yorkshire one is that it should be achievable in daylight. The three peaks in question are the three highest in the Yorkshire Dales: Whernside (736m), Ingleborough (724m) and Pen-y-Ghent (694m). In order to complete the challenge one must summit all three in less than 12 hours and walk (or run!) the necessary 37.5km and 1600m of ascent in the process…
Ermmm… anyway, this blog is not about that! (LOL). Oh come on… I may have my foolhardy moments, but are you kidding? Anybody who knows Yorkshire knows that it rains… a lot! Besides, with my elder, more worldly-wise cousin and her hubby in tow I didn’t want to come across as brash or inconsiderate by proposing an epic 12-hour outing. So, on hearing that they were planning to spend some time exploring my neck of the woods this April, I suggested we all go on a hike together up just one of Yorkshire’s finest… and NO, you cynics, it wasn’t the highest one either!
This was to be a small training outing… you know, check out the cuz’s stamina before hitting the pair with a big, hilly Howgills extravaganza later in the week. These two walk with a rambling club twice a week, so I expected that they’d probably be fairly fit, and I wasn’t wrong; they were both fit and enthusiastic.
Sue and Steve purchased a very nice camper van a year or so ago, built with their precise requirements in mind so that it would cater for their every need. And sure enough, their mobile mini-castle seems to tick all the boxes of comfortable miniature living, or indeed living on the road during a big road trip. The van accommodates every gizmo one could need while on the move, and no corner of the interior space goes unused. It’s big enough to live in, compact enough to be fairly manoeuvrable, and economical enough for lengthy trips. In fact, for a week after seeing them it was all Jen could do to get me off the Autotrader motorhomes website, which I trawled for hours on end looking for deals… Ermmm sorry, digressing again… this blog isn’t about buying a dream motorhome either. I was very impressed with it though…
So, after a number of phone calls to and fro, my cousin Sue and I decided that we’d all get together and hike up Ingleborough, Yorkshire’s second-highest peak at 724 metres. We agreed to meet at 0900hrs at their “home for the night” caravan site: Lund Holme farm, just outside Ingleton. From where we would have a quick catch-up (where have all those years gone?! etc.) before heading up the hill.
Job’s a good ‘un, as they say somewhere in the North.
Or it was… until I put the phone down and looked around to see Jen propping her jaw on the table.
Well, the thing is I kinda forgot that being somewhere else on the planet at 0900hrs isn’t quite the same as being pushed off the mattress at 0900hrs, which in itself is something bordering on a major success in my daily routine. There are certain things that precede arriving in a town an hour or so away from one’s current position. Challenging things like regaining day vision, putting on clothes, indeed finding clothes to put on without tripping over one’s feet in the process. And that’s before we even get started on washing, breakfasting, packing a suitably-equipped daysack, finding the place on a map or actually driving there… the entire process is simply too stressful to think about.
Yet, without consulting the dis-staff I had gone ahead and agreed to it *GULP* and there was no going back!
The morning quickly came around, and Jen did her usual routine of nudging me toward all the necessary items and ferrying me out the door while my head was still in its morning spin cycle – which she does very well, I must say – and before long we were on our way. We arrived at Lund Holme farm pretty much on the dot of the agreed time, and found that my early-bird cousin and her hubby were almost ready to head out. At this stage, after the customary hugs and a quick cup of coffee, it was made clear in no uncertain terms that since I was booked on an upcoming Mountain Leader course, map responsibility was all mine for the day. So, I quickly did what any responsible hiker should do and buried the map out of sight at the bottom of my bag…
The plan for the day was to walk into Ingleton and out of the town following the “Pennine Journey” route (Fell Lane) and then up the bridleway all the way to the summit of Ingleborough, passing Crina Bottom, Shake Holes and Quaking Pot on our way.
We were fortunate enough to have enjoyed uninterrupted clear views all the way up, getting a little hazier towards the top, but once atop Ingleborough’s wide, flat summit we were met with piercing cold winds. Having completed the long but fairly easy climb we stopped at the criss-cross shelter for some lunch. We tried to find a spot where we would all be out of the wind, but the cold soon penetrated all the same! On leaving our lunch spot, I think we were all wearing every item of clothing we’d brought…
The only challenging part of the day in route-finding terms was to come next, and that was to make sure we chose the right path off the summit. And who had the map again…? Ah. Oh yes. Hmm. Now that we had reached the summit, taken the requisite victory shots, smoked a celebratory pipe (of course – but the privilege was mine alone) and had a sit-down in the criss-cross shelter, I found myself suddenly disorientated. There are four different paths off the summit and I finally had to give in, retrieve the map from the bottom of my daysack and take a bearing. On which basis we all strode off confidently in the chosen direction…. which turned out to be correct – hurrah!
The plan was to take the path heading south to Little Ingleborough, past Thack Pot and the famous Gaping Gill, then continue down Trow Gill and stop briefly at Ingleborough Cave. We didn’t go into the cave this time, but having been there before I can heartily recommend it. Quite aside from the fact that the caves are magnificent, the story of their formation utterly captivating and the tour guides ever-ready with a dash of northern humour, it’s the only official toilet stop on the route, and hikers would need to pay the entry fee (£10ish) to use the loo!
Having passed the cave entrance, we continued down towards the village of Clapham, which would probably turn out to be the end point of our walk, but the jury was still out… On the way Steve made a few unpredictable stops… by which I mean he would stop dead in his tracks, usually mid-sentence. The first time it was alarming, but we soon got used to walking in full knowledge that we might suddenly crash into him without warning! Steve is a twitcher, i.e. a spotter of birds (the feathered variety!). His field-glasses are usually within reach and he has an amazing ability to be on constant alert for the slightest movement of a creature on the wing. He taught us about a number of lowland birds that kept fluttering around the path on our descent, reminding me of how little I actually know about our feathered neighbours. It was an interesting and educational afternoon in that respect.
Finally, we reached Clapham, where tea and cake awaited us in one of only a couple of tea rooms in the village. After some discussion, we decided against walking another three miles or so back to Ingleton, since the ten miles we had already covered seemed enough for one day, thank you! Could the cake in my belly have been influencing my decision, I wonder…? A taxi was duly called to convey us back to the campsite, and there ended the first of two hikes with my Southern relatives whom I had not seen in over a decade!
We were fortunate on the day to have enjoyed unbroken sunshine, mostly outstanding views of the distinctive limestone-scattered landscape, and great company. Perhaps that’s what lulled us into a false sense of security about Ingleborough’s weather, which in turn led Jen and me to agree to marshal an upcoming official Three Peaks challenge on the 20th of May. Apparently we’ll be spending most of the day on the summit of Ingleborough. Apparently the weather forecast for our 12-hour shift on the peak is for heavy rain, possible thunder and pretty awful visibility.
So if you happen to be taking part in the challenge, or otherwise out for a “leisure walk” up Ingleborough in crazy conditions this weekend (May 20th, 2017), you may suddenly see, looming out of the clag, a fluorescent green tent, which will tell you you’re at the summit! If you do see this fluorescent vision, be sure to knock and say hello… Jen and I are bound to be in residence, sheltering from the storm (and we’ll have jelly babies!).
Thanks for reading.
Simon Duringer is an award-winning blogger, interviewer and author. His own books can be found on Amazon too by clicking any of the following icons…