Mid week we’ve been guiding some of the Discovery Quest group on their Yorkshire 3 Peaks Challenge. In case you didn’t know this involves ascending the 3 highest peaks in the Yorkshire dales, in under 12hrs with a total round trip of around 41km. Now while most people do this over the summer months the Discovery Quest lot are made of sterner stuff and besides the program runs over the winter months. So with only 8hrs of daylight available we decided to aim for a completion time of 10hrs, giving us an hour at both ends of walking in the dark. The route starts at the cafe in Horton in Ribblesdale. Within 1/2km your on the climb up to the first summit Pen-Y-Ghent 694m, After starting in the dark dawn soon broke and we could see where we were going, luckily cloud obscured most of the mountain tops, good views of the route ahead can be disheartening on a challenge like this. The ground was frozen solid and very slippy and as we approached the summit we arrived at the snow line. When the summit cairn appeared out of the mist we check our watches and find we were a little ahead of schedule at 1:20hrs.
After a 10min break to put on some extra layers it was time to head off on the long descent to the rendezvous with our support vehicle at the Ribblehead viaduct. It may be an 1,1/2 up but my goodness its a long way down, 14km of descent in 3hrs certainly takes a tole on the old legs, so by the time we arrived at the minibus we were ready for the hot tea and food. Still no time to rest as we were getting behind schedule and needed to get moving, with Whernside hill 736m in our site we set off again just 15min later. The route up Whernside take a long curving path up the North East flank before curving back on itself to reach the summit. By the time we were on the last 150m of ascent the temperature had dropped markedly and it started to snow heavily. The winter conditions made the going difficult and we elected to get off the summit as quick as possible to make up time rather than stop for a bite, hence no summit photo. Again the decent path was covered in ice and very slippery, slowing us further. As we once again approached our support vehicle after another 10km, with only 1hr of daylight remaining we decided for safety reason to knock it on the head for that day, Inglebourgh will still be there tomorrow and although it would not be official we could still do the route in under 12hrs, albeit over 2 days. As we reached the vehicle at Chapel-le Dale and a running total of 27km we stopped the clock at 7:45hrs leaving us 4:15 to complete the Challenge tomorrow.
The next day dawned bright and frosty and all though everybody’s legs knew they had been out the day before we were all very confident after our nights sleep. Back at Chapel-le- Dale we could see what stood before us shining in the morning sun, little unfortunate that the route up the North side was mostly in the shade, it was going to be a cold ascent. Sure enough as we neared the summit we had to put on extra layers even though we had been working hard. The summit proved very cold and windy but despite the temp been -3 with a wind chill of -25 we couldn’t help stay a while and look at the great panoramic views over to the snow covered peaks of the lakes. Still can’t take to long we were on a schedule so off we headed down the SE side and the 10km long slog back to Horton in Ribblesdale. There were many laughs and p**s takes as people skated on the ice ridden path, thankfully there were no mishaps and with the sun in our face and time on our side everyone was in good spirits. I’m pleased to say that after 41km we all arrived back at the cafe in Horton in a combined time of 11:15 mins, not quite got the official Tee shirt but a great effort by all the lads given the conditions, I think now all the group know its possible and most of them have vowed to come back during the kinder months.
PS: May the lord of aces, pains and sore muscles be kind to us over the coming days.