Weather:Cloudy Start, increasingly brighter, little precipitation
Total Time:6hrs 35min
Estimated ‘Dead’ Time:44min
I had known for some time exactly what I had intended to do today, and was a little disheartened to see a non-promising weather forecast. I spent the few days beforehand preparing, sleeping and hydrating ready to do duel with the Yorkshire 3 Peaks.
Leaving West Bromwich at 07:00am, I estimated that we would be arriving at the Ribblehead viaduct at about 10:30. I was on the coach with the club, so the driving was out of my control and we had a finite amount of time to play with to complete the challenge. My pre-trip research suggested that Trail magazine had taken 10 hours to complete the challenge, although they did an extra 4 mile of road walking. I was quite concerned by this as it meant that they had taken 9 hours to complete the section of route that, traffic depending, I would have at most 7 hours to complete. Understandably I was becoming quite frustrated as the coach became momentarily lost in Ingleton following diversion signs that we did not need to follow!
We disembarked at the Ribblehead Viaduct at 10:40, so we had already lost 10 minutes, and at this point I did not honestly believe that the Three Peaks would get completed today. Steve had been telling me that if I wanted to complete the walk then I would have to keep pace with Mike all day – and that is a daunting challenge indeed!
As it was I spent most of the day setting the pace, which I was quite pleased about. Immediately turning from the junction where the road heads for Horton, we made a beeline for the viaduct itself, which we crossed under. Cutting an aggressive line up the flanks of Whernside, we were on its summit by 11:40. I was more than happy to have taken a half hour out of Mike’s previous ascent, and it meant that we were on course for completion after the first obstacle. The path that we took up Whernside is very steep and very slippy, even with just the slightest moisture, and its only advantage is the speed of ascent. Those not interested in time should follow a more subtle ascent via Knoutberry Hill.
After we had all regrouped on the summit we headed off back down the ridge the way we had ascended. We continued past the turning for the steep ascent that we had followed, and eventually the path breaks to the left away from the ridge fence, and descends to Chapel-le-Dale. Again at this point we were stretching the pace out as much as possible, although I was pleased by how tightly the group remained together – even those with no intention of going on to Pen-y-ghent at the end of the day.
The period out of the cloud was relief from that in it, though at no point did we really get hammered by the weather today, and I think that the forecasts of 40mph winds on the summits were a little excessive. I revelled in the long walk across the flag stones to Ingleborough, but again we came to an area where the ascent becomes very steep, but a good path winds through the scree. Again, there are far steadier approaches than this onto Ingleborough, and this one would only be chosen for the speed of ascent.
I was quite please in ascent of Inglborough as the GPS was predicting an ETA of 16:30, which although I didn’t quite believe, did confirm that we were right on track to complete the walk. The summit of Ingleborough too was in the cloud,but we paused in the shelter for maybe 20 minutes before heading back down the track we had ascended.
Heading along the spine of the ridge we soon dropped out of the cloud, and the path into Horton appeared at pretty much the same time as Andy Brown, who had taken the steadier ascent of Whernside. I immediately zoomed off along this path overtaking various family groups on the way, though I did have to wait a few times for the group to catch up as I did not particularly want to ascent Pen-y-ghent alone.
This section of the walk is quite steady, and I would imagine that it is a very nice route of ascent from Horton. Indeed this was probably the section of the day that I enjoyed most, strolling along chatting with Mike and Chris.
There was some debate as to if we should continue on to Pen-y-ghent. I had decided long beforehand that if I was in Horton before 15:30, then I would ascend. Ultimately myself, Oliver, the two Mikes, Guy and Chris would continue on. Jonathon also completed the walk alone. Spending perhaps 10 minutes in Horton taking outer layers off we then continued on to Pen-y-ghent. We had intended to leave some gear at the coach, but the driver was not around, we departed at 15:24 still carrying full gear in beautiful sunshine.
For the large part the ascent of Pen-y-ghent is quite steady, ascending from the South of the ridge. With retrospect I think it would be easier at the end of a very long way to go up the Pennine Way, which is the way that we descended. I found the very last sections of ascent quite difficult, but the outcome was never really in doubt. We paused on top for a moment, arriving at 16:20, before heading down the Pennine Way to Horton. I was on the coach getting changed by 16:10, the others went in the pub with those who had earlier deserted us. The GPS timed the section of the day spent moving at 5 hours and 51 minutes, which I thought was quite impressive.
Unfortunately we had a wait of several hours back in Ingleton waiting for everybody to return to the coach, arriving home exhausted at about 22:00