To a Yorkshireman, these are the real three peaks, of course. Whereas, to one particular Lancastrian...
A.Wainwright wrote:...Whernside, Ingleborough and Penyghent, which, being flat-topped, are not strictly peaks at all.
Last year, I'd had five years plus of long mountain walks and decided to have a bit of a rest from all that hammering I was giving myself on the hills. So I had about a year of more moderate hiking. Now, it was time to start building back some endurance, and this classic circuit seemed ideal. After several years of going up and down Scottish, Cumbrian and Welsh mountains, these little hills 'in my own back yard' certainly taught me not to get complacent! I'd done the Yorkshire Three Peaks twice before, but this time made me realise my stamina could do with a re-boost.
The weather was forecast to deteriorate in the afternoon, so I made an early start from Horton in Ribblesdale.
I reached Brackenbottom, the weather so far looking good, and began ascending towards Pen-y-ghent.
Reaching the summit felt reasonably easy, and the view was excellent. This was about the tenth time I'd been on this hill, but the first time I'd seen the Lake District from here, framed between Ingleborough and Whernside.
No time to hang around here too long though, and soon I was moving again.
Where the Pennine Way swung left and WSW, I followed it, rather than take the old path NW that crosses the horrendous bog, Black Dub Moss. That obstacle can now be avoided by a path constructed in recent years, for which I was heading. I was now encountering other three-peakers, who were heading the same way. The newish path was found near Tarn Bar, and the Pennine Way re-joined near Jackdaw Hill.
I was chatting with other walkers, who were moving along at quite a pace. So I moved along with them, covering some ground, until I stopped for a short refreshment break by God's Bridge.
Then it was onwards and across the River Ribble...
...and onto Gauber Road, leading to Ribblehead.
After walking past the viaduct I was on the path alongside the railway. Although on a flattish section, this was where I realised I was undergoing quite an endurance test, my legs beginning to cramp a little. So I had a short rest and did a few stretching exercises, while other pacy walkers continued to move on by. Soon, I was on the go again, too.
Refreshed after an energy drink, getting up Whernside didn't feel too bad. The weather was still clear and dry, but more clouds were appearing - still above the summits.
Whernside was well populated on top, and there was a good view from here too, although conditions were not as bright as they had been on Pen-y-ghent.
After a quick bite to eat, I was moving along Whernside's ridge, ready to drop off left down towards Bruntscar and Chapel-le-Dale.
On the descent, my calf cramped, but that soon eased off. Down in the valley, a little light rain started, but not enough for waterproofs. Walking towards the Old Hill Inn, the rain had stopped, but my legs were really starting to feel the strain. After crossing the road and getting back onto the footpaths, I stopped by a drystone wall, did a few more stretching exercises, and had a final energy drink. Now it was time to take on peak number three.
The ascent of Ingleborough slowed my pace down, although my legs were no longer cramping; they were just tired. At last the steepest section was conquered, and I moved onto the stony summit plateau. I shared the highest point with quite a number of other people. The summit was just in the clear, but clouds were lowering all around and obscuring a lot of the distant views. After a bit more to eat, I still just about had the energy left to go for a bonus Hewitt, and a new one for me, Simon Fell.
After a slight backtrack along the path I'd come up, I followed a grassy and rather marshy path alongside a wall. At this point the rain returned and became heavier, and now the waterproofs went on. Then the cloud came down, and I was in it. I reached the top of Simon Fell and found the summit cairn, but with no view. A substantial wall topped with barbed wire barred a short cut from here to the Horton path, so I doubled back to the gate between Simon Fell and Ingleborough. From here I cut across south, and soon found the descent path, and turned left, heading back to Horton. Quite a number of people now seemed to be overtaking me on the way down. Conditions were now wet, and the limestone was slippery, with muddy puddles between rocks along the path.
Eventually I passed through Sulber Nick, and before too long was crossing the railway.
Back at Horton, I realised the walk had taken nearer eleven than ten hours, so definitely not my quickest ever round of the Three Peaks. And my muscles ached more than they usually have done after a long walk. But it felt like a healthy, post-exercise ache, the type you recover from and then get fitter. There were no signs of niggles with potential weak spots like achilles tendons, knees and the lower back. So the year's relative rest from high endurance stuff may have slowed me down for a while in terms of stamina, but has probably done a lot of good in letting joints and soft tissues recover from those several years of hammering. Now it's time to regain that stamina, and get back to some more mountain epics. Oh, and the Yorkshire Three Peaks is a superb walk, by the way.