One of the country’s most famous challenges, the Y3P covers some 38 kilometres of Yorkshires finest countryside.
I have been meaning to blog about the Yorkshire 3 peaks for a long time, and finally i have got around to it. I have done the Y3P many times over the years and mostly i have always raised money for charity in doing so. I have completed it in just over 8 hrs and i have also completed it with just minutes to spare whilst helping others struggling whilst making sure they are safe and able to complete within the official time of 12 hrs. The Y3P hold many good memories and satisfaction for me.
It is a challenge i would encourage any avid walker to have a good go at, given the sense of achievement and satisfaction it brings to the faces of those who i have witnessed complete it, including myself. Walking nearly 39K up and down three summits in under 12 hrs is no mean feat and i applaud anybody that has done it or planning to.
You can start the three peaks from any location but officially, Horton in Ribblesdale is where most people start this challenge. I have always started it from here and there is an official “clock in” and certificate service run by the Pen-y-Ghent cafe. During the summer months it gets extremely busy but there is ample parking space on Station Road which cost’s around £5.00.
The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge route is 24 miles (38.6km) and includes 5,200ft of ascent. Taking in the peaks of Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough, Usually in this order and in under 12 hours.
You will summit Pen-y-ghent from the more difficult southern nose as the first peak and in all honesty i have seen people struggle just walking up the fell from Horton, given it is a gradual incline with no respite. Once you have done that you are faced with the winding steps up to Pen-y-ghent, and in places there is an awkward scramble. Do not let this put you off because once you reach the summit nearly everybody always gets a second wind.
There is always a crowd on the summits at weekends given the amount of people taking part in this challenge and there is always good banter floating around even if not many places to sit down. The winter months are much quieter but obviously the weather can make it unpleasant at times.
The good news is you now have a downhill walk through some beautiful countryside all the way to Ribblehead Viaduct. You will meander through farmers’ fields, bridges until you reach the B6479. Take a right and walk the side of the road facing oncoming traffic. This road can get busy and there are no footpaths to please take extra care. Once the sight of Ribblehead Viaduct is in front of you, there is a resting place that most walkers normally rest and have something to eat to feed those energy levels. There is also a little caravan type cafe serving drinks and burgers etc.
After your walk break its now time to take on the second summit of the day, Whernside. Cross the road and follow the path to the right-hand side of the viaduct and this will lead you gradually up hill and alongside the railway track. Whernside is the biggest of the peaks and it rather than being a direct ascent seem to curve round to the left gradually. This peak can be deceiving and in reality, it is seeming to go on forever and as you look above you towards the summit you can see other walkers looking like marching ants before you. Just take your time doing the ascent and rest every few minutes if you find it challenging. Those few second rests will get you to the summit.
The summit of Whernside on a clear day gives you amazing views across to the west coast and a perfect view of you next and final peak, Ingleborough in the distance. You can also see Pen-y-ghent and looking back will give you a sense of achievement of how far you have walked already. With only around 18K left the end is in sight, but if you think the ascent of Whernside was demanding, the descent can be more difficult given the terrain of worn-down paths and the steepness. I personally dislike like this descent and it always causes me problems with my toes being curled around the front of my walking boots/shoes. I learned after the first time to cut my toe nails very short before doing anymore steep descents.
The Descent finally levels out to lower ground and your feet will get a welcome rest when you reach Philpin Farm cafe. This is the favourite part of the challenge for me because the cafe serves ice cold pints of orange juice amongst other things. I never thought orange could taste so good. I always have 10 minutes here to take my boots off and change socks and use the toilet facilities.
Once you leave the farm you will come to the main road, take a left and then take a right over the stile just after the Old Hill Inn Pub. I am possibly sure there have been many people over the years who have stopped at the pub for a pint and fair play to them. Once over the stile you have a nice peaceful walk in some limestone laden fields, but this can be deceptive so enjoy it, because what comes after is what most people fear. The dreaded ascent of Ingleborough. The final ascent causes most people to panic but, in all honesty, if you take your time you will get to the top in a safe state. I have been with people who have cried at this point and believe they cannot continue such its affect can have on some people.
If you are a good walker this will be challenging but nothing you have possibly not encountered before, and i find this part exciting and i tend to always make good progress and find myself at the top in 15 mins. Once you do reach the top, do not be fooled that you are at the summit, there is another ascent to get you on to the plateau of Ingleborough. Most people shriek in horror that there is another climb, but it is gradual and finally leads you to the trig of Ingleborough.
The views here are awesome in good weather and you will see Morecambe Bay and even the south eastern fells of the lake district. There are lots of happy people on the top of Ingleborough and you see high fives going around as people congratulate themselves and friends for reaching the final peak, and rightly so. Unfortunately, many people now have a false sense of security and think it is just a short walk back to Horton.
The walk is not short and this is where lots of people start to become tired and blisters start to appear and walking becomes arduous for many. Last year i came across a poor lad whose sole had come off his boot. I had some pre elasticated sticky bandage on me and wrapped the sole back temporarily, on another occasion i came across a poor lady who had fallen and broken her nose.
The path back is riddled with uneven surfaces and this is where when tired you have more chance of injury. The walk is pleasant but it does seem a forever walk and you are left guessing where the hell Horton is and when you will get there. After what seems an eternity you go over the last brow and Horton is right in front of you, but still possibly a good mile away. The challenge ends once you cross the railway track of the iconic Horton in Ribbledale station.
If you are using the “clock in method” then you need to carry on down Station Road and back to the cafe to get your card stamped.
In summer, although this is a 38.6K endurance walk, its in the most beautiful part of the Yorkshire Dales and the walk between peaks is nothing but soothing and calm and aesthetically it is picturesque. Personally, i love this challenge and the more you do it, the less intimidating it becomes.
The Golden Lion is a great place to have a celebratory drink and also if anybody is interested there are bunkhouses for rent behind it for larger groups planning to stay over. I have stayed in them with a large group of friends on a previous visit and the banter is just as god as the togetherness of doing such a challenge en masse.
The pictures used for this walk are from numerous times i have done this challenge, and if your face appears then i thank you for your company along the way.