Monday, 17 November 2014

Tips for walking the Three Yorkshire Peaks Challenge

It's been one week since completing the Three Yorkshire Peaks Challenge, and boy was it a challenge. 

It was easily the hardest but most rewarding challenge I've ever done; made harder by the fact that we decided to do it in November, one of the months for the shortest daylight hours... GREAT IDEA GUYS!

The average duration for the walk is 12 hours, and we really hoped to complete it in this time but we made it back within 12.5 hours, just 30 minutes over the average time. We decided to go the standard route of anti-clockwise and started in the dark at 5.30am and finished in the dark after a horrific climb down Ingleborough. Battered by gales and hailstorms at the top of Whernside (peak #2 and my personal nemesis) we were exhausted by the time we finished... but we did it! We did it!

We stayed in a lovely B&B in Ingleton (Seed Hill in case you're interested) and drove to Horton-In-Ribblesdale in the morning, you feel like it's a long drive in the car and you know you'll be walking that way in the next ten hours, which is psychologically not a great start to the walk...

Buuuuuut with the benefit of hindsight there are a few things I would have done differently that I'd love to pass along to you. Some are just plain old common sense that just didn't occur to me (thanks brain) but some are just having done it once, listen to Auntie Baxter on this:

* Get a good night's sleep the night before. Your body is full of adrenaline to get started and I only ended up getting three hours sleep despite going to bed at 9.30pm. I just kept thinking 'Don't forget your walking pole' and other annoying thoughts. Don't underestimate how much adrenaline you'll have.

* Take change for the car park (or find somewhere free to park). Funnily enough it didn't occur to us to bring change and so we wasted time moving the cars (in the dark) to somewhere free. We parked by the school which worked out fine, or you can pay £5 for all day parking.

* Take a thermos but only fill it with water at The Station pub. You'll be ready for a tea at the top of Whernside (#2) so just ask the nice folk to fill it up rather than carrying it around for the first 13 miles.

* Have a pint at The Station at your peril. It's pretty hard to drag yourself out of the pub (especially if it's raining like it was for us). It's a good morale booster to stop there but don't stay long!

* Take the gear seriously. Spend the money on your walking boots/waterproofs/clothes and your body will thank you. Waterproof socks are worth their weight in gold when you walk through the boggy fields and your boots get submerged.

* You WILL struggle with Ingleborough - the last peak. By that time you'll have been walking for around 8/9 hours and you come face to face with a mountain of stairs. I hate stairs. Then there's a scramble to the top which turns

* Bearing in mind we took the challenge in November, the path down from Ingleborough to Horton back to the car was in bad condition and tough to navigate in the dark. Pretty sure it'll be better in the summer, but don't underestimate how long it'll take you to complete the final stretch. It's still a good five mile walk from the top of Ingleborough - a long time after your final high five and photo at the top!

The time factor is annoying and I don't like that there's this pressure to get round in 12 hours (you got a certificate dontcha know?) because it's such a stunning walk and you don't get the time to appreciate it when you're head down just digging deep to climb all three peaks. We didn't get the time to stop and take in the view (mainly because it was foggy!) and you don't want to stop for too long in case your legs decide they just don't want to go any further.

Overall it goes without saying that this is a huge challenge. Expect it to be hard, expect the worst and you should even be pleasantly surprised by yourself and the walk. The views are stunning and you'll be very proud of yourself for completing it.