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The Yorkshire 3 Peaks in the clag featuring Mick and Simon

The Yorkshire 3 Peaks in the clag featuring Mick and Simon

Postby Graeme D » Mon Aug 09, 2010 4:00 pm

Hewitts included on this walk: Ingleborough, Pen-y-ghent, Simon Fell, Whernside

Date walked: 28/07/2010

Time taken: 11

Distance: 41 km

Ascent: 1700m

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It was the middle of our week in the holiday cottage in Burtersett near Hawes. We had spent the Sunday doing a 20km circuit around the back of Wether Fell and Dodd Fell, and the Monday doing a far shorter and more leisurely stroll along Wharfedale. The Tuesday had been spent in and around Hawes and Wensleydale, with a few hours at the market followed by a visit to the Wensleydale Cheese Visitor Centre and then a pub lunch in the Crown. In the afternoon we had ventured along to Aysgarth Falls for a stroll and popped in for a leisurely pint at the Rose and Crown in Bainbridge, which I had sipped while contemplating my attempt at the famous Three Peaks route the following day. The forecast was good, but even still, Debbie decided she was going to sit this one out and just spend the day reading in the cottage.

I was rudely awoken by the alarm going off at 6 o'clock the next morning. As I stumbled around the foot of the bed in a stunned daze, I peeked out through the curtains and caught sight of a leaden grey sky and a fine drizzle :shock: :shock: :shock: . Hmm, that's not what the forecast said, but the alarm has woken us both up now and I'm sure my wife will kill me if I dare get back into bed and try to go back to sleep. Might as well get moving then.

I head downstairs to be warmly greeted by Lucy and grab a quick coffee and a slice of toast. Having packed the previous evening, we are out the door by 6.35 and off down the road into Hawes, the usually bustling main street being eerily quiet at this hour on a Wednesday morning. I turn left onto the B6255 to Ingleton and climb steadily up through Widdale and onto the bleak Gayle Moor before dropping down to the large roadside parking area at Ribblehead in the shadow of the mighty viaduct. As I pull in, there is a camper van with curtains all still drawn across and an older bloke on his own making final departure arrangements beside his car. He bids me a cheery Good Morning as I get out of the car and then he is off across the road and onto the path heading across the moor towards the viaduct.

Early morning train heading south across the viaduct

I quickly got booted up and made my own final checks for departure before heading off at 7.15am. I can see the other bloke on the wide path in the distance ahead of me and he seems to be setting the same sort of pace as myself at this stage.

Looking back towards Ribblehead

I am soon passing the Blea Moor signal box and about 1km later, we cross the bridge which carries Force Gill down off the lower slopes of Whernside.

Force Gill waterfall

As I turn left off the well built path and onto the stepping stone staircase which gradually climbs through the boggy terrain and curves around above Greensett Tarn, I finally catch up with the bloke who had set off as I was pulling in at Ribblehead. We strike up a conversation and eventually we end up walking together as far as the summit of Ingleborough. His name was Mick and he was a 65 year old former chip shop owner and newsagent from Leeds who was doing the route (or at least part of it) for the 13th time!

On the ridge - in the clag

As we climbed together up the ridge alongside the wall towards the first summit of the day, conversation ranged across a variety of subjects but Mick was most keen to hear about the Scottish hills, his only experience of them being the Ben by the Tourist Track. He had initially seemed a little concerned for the safety and welfare of this young, green Scottish whipper-snapper down from the North for an assault on the fearsome Three Peaks in fairly grim weather, but he seemed reassured by my stories from the Scottish hills.

We reached the summit trig point of Whernside just after 9 o'clock in thick mist. Mick had said that he was only planning on doing Whernside and Ingleborough today and on several occasions already he had stressed to me how important it was that I keep moving if I wanted to do the entire route and get back home in reasonable time without causing undue alarm to my wife. But it was just after 9am and the first of the three peaks was in the bag already. I felt I could take 10 minutes or so at the summit, even if the views were non-existent. Mick didn't hang about and moved on swiftly after reminding me to keep a keen eye open for the descent path off to the left after about a quarter of a mile or so. I bade him farewell, reckoning that I would probably catch him up again en route to Ingleborough, and settled down to munch on a breakfast bar and drink some orange juice.

Self-timer shot from trig point

Handy wind shelter

After the usual summit posing shots, Lucy and I headed south along the ridge, looking out for the descent path as Mick had advised. We hadn't gone far when the rain started to come on heavily and I had to regretably don waterproof jacket and trousers. It might have been misty and raining, but it was also very muggy - I was glad it was just shorts I had on under my waterproofs.

Rocky descent off Whernside

A short distance later, I saw Mick approaching towards us back up the ridge. He seemed a bit flustered and said that he had been worried that he had given me duff information. His familiarity with the route had bred a little contempt, and he had casually said that the turn off was after a quarter of a mile or so, when in actual fact it was a good deal further than that. I had already figured this much out but I think Mick was still unsure of my level of navigational competence and didn't want to feel responsible for me going wrong on his watch.

We hooked up again for the steep loose descent down off Whernside towards Bruntscar Farm, the conversation now turning to jokes, many of which were of the "Did you hear the one about the Scotsman, the Yorkshireman and the Irishman?" variety. Mick still seemed keen that I forge ahead and did not want to think he was holding me back, but to be honest, his pace was pretty similar to mine and I was enjoying his company. It still felt early and I was on my way towards Ingleborough, so I was quite happy to walk with him, even if it did slow me down a bit.

A misty Ribblehead viaduct from near Bruntscar Farm

After a section on tarmac farm roads, we emerge onto the B6255 road at Chapel-le-Dale and head the short distance back north-east past the pub to the stile in the wall leading into grassy fields.

Approaching Chapel-le-Dale with Ingleborough straight ahead

The route then climbs past various pot-holes and skirting an area of limestone pavement off to our right. The rain has now stopped and a slightly watery sunshine is making things feel slightly more like summer should be. We ditch the waterproofs and continue climbing towards the steep northern face of Ingleborough, which looms ahead out of the wispy cloud and mist.

Back to Whernside and the viaduct from the Ingleborough staircase

As we get on to the lower section of the big flagstone staircase, I pull away from Mick but shout back that I will see him at the summit. As I approach the steeper section as it swings round to the west, a heavy drizzle starts up again and it's back on with the heavy gear again.

Ingleborough from the north-east

The going gets steeper

Final approach towards the summit

When the ascent finally relents and I reach the flatter plateau, the clag is back in with a vengeance and it is an eerie scene as I approach the trig point and the huge sheltered seating area. There is quite a gathering going on up here, and Mick is not far behind me to join the party. We join an older couple from London and a guy who is the Assessor on Day 2 of a Gold DofE assessment (accompanied by his son), waiting for his group to rendez-vous with him. Three of the four sections of the shelter are occupied and Lucy wastes no time in mooching around them all to see what is on offer. The banter back in our section is hilarious (not least the guy from London saying that he only carries all the high tech-gear so that when the day comes (not IF, but WHEN) that he and his wife need to be helicoptered off, they won't be ripped to shreds by the emergency services for being unprepared).

Ingleborough trig and huge wind shelter

I spend a good 40 minutes or so there having lunch and enjoying the crack before parting company with Mick for the final time and taking a bearing almost due east for the path down towards Horton. I haven't gone too far before I see the guy's Gold DofE group coming up the path towards me (I don't strike up a conversation with them, but I know it's them). I can identify a Gold DofE group blindfold from a hundred paces! They look like a thoroughly dispirited and bedraggled bunch of human beings. Never mind - only another two full days to go after today!

I had seen from my research prior to heading down south that the route off Ingleborough would take me across the slopes of the 636 metre Simon Fell and the Munro Bagger part of my psyche obviously kicked in at this stage and led to me leaving the perfectly good path and whacking through wet grass and rocky heather to the summit cairn. I'm not sure it really added anything to the day (except maybe half an hour or so on the clock), but hey-ho.

Pen-y-ghent from summit of Simon Fell

Back on the more conventional route with the sun out once again and the waterproofs stowed, we headed through the extensive area of limestone pavement ......

Here it is!

Back to Ingleborough and Simon Fell

Clearing above Pen-y-ghent

...... before descending down into Horton, past the little turquoise loch (sorry, lake - you're in England now Graeme, remember?) and out at the railway station, before heading along the road for a pit-stop at the Crown. I had become aware in the last hour or so that the time just seemed to be slipping away somehow, that despite initially feeling like I was melting the thing, I could now really see that it was shaping up to be a long grind. I had initially thought I might take about 9 hours but looking at what I had done and what still needed to be covered, I could tell this was not going to happen. I quickly considered giving the Crown a miss, but told myself to get a grip - I was on holiday, and you don't walk over 40km on holiday and pass up the opportunity for a pub stop!

It would have been impolite to walk on by!

As I sat alone in front of the pub savouring my pint and watching the odd car (mostly Dutch) crossing the bridge, it began to dull over again, and by the time I had resumed putting one leg in front of the other and reached the other side of Horton, it was lashing it down again. It soon slackened off but a drizzle persisted all the way past Brackenbottom Farm and up onto the summit of Pen-y-ghent. I was really starting to feel the aches and pains now, and was aware of time really beginning to slide away.

Pen-y-ghent puts her hat back on

Back into thick clag as the going gets steep

Lucy reaches the trig point in a real pea-souper

Trig point and wind shelter with Pennine Way signpost in background

Bloody knackered!

I didn't linger long at the summit at all before heading north then north-west above the gaping hole of Hull Pot and across Hull Pot Beck for the mother of all bogtrots across the moors towards the safety of the track near Old Ing. For the last hour and a half or so, until I emerged onto the road at Lodge Hall, the viaduct was like a mirage in the distance that never seemed to get any nearer, ocassionally disappearing from view before reappearing, seemingly further away than before.......

It was a tired walker (and a very tired dog) who eventually reached the car at Ribblehead, almost 11 hours to the minute since setting off. I half expected to see Mick waiting to make sure I had made it back, but his car was gone. He had obviously figured that I could manage it OK. Either that or he had a pint waiting and thought "Stuff it!".

Anyway, I had completed the famous Yorkshire Three Peaks. It was without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most physically demanding walks I have undertaken but I thoroughly enjoyed it, even if all three summits were well and truly clag-bound. And Mick, if you ever read this, I thoroughly enjoyed your company (and most of your jokes!). Cheers lad!

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Graeme D
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Re: The Yorkshire 3 Peaks in the clag featuring Mick and Simon

Postby magicdin » Mon Aug 09, 2010 4:22 pm

That looks a bit of a walk - and well done for persevering especially for the third hill.
I've no doubt I would probably have settled for the pub at that stage.
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Re: The Yorkshire 3 Peaks in the clag featuring Mick and Simon

Postby Slogger » Tue Aug 10, 2010 7:31 pm

Ive done the route numerous times as I use it as training route, doing it twice a year. I have always started and finished at Horton. Going clockwise from there is always slower with the long climb up Pen Y Ghent done on tired legs and then the steep rocky descent.
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Re: The Yorkshire 3 Peaks in the clag featuring Mick and Simon

Postby HighlandSC » Tue Aug 10, 2010 9:29 pm

Well done. I thought you were maybe gonna pack it in at the pub stop (I would!) but no...

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Re: The Yorkshire 3 Peaks in the clag featuring Mick and Simon

Postby pickles » Sat Aug 14, 2010 10:56 am

Well done Graeme, typical yorkshire weather! I walked the 3 peaks last weekend in thick mist & torrential rain, but i have done it on a fine day & its a glorious walk over some of the best countryside yorkshire has to offer.
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