Carmel and I had been looking forward for many months to our trip up north to the Skipton area for another wander around the Yorkshire 3 Peaks. Andrew and Tim had organised this excuse for the Kilimanjaro group to meet up again, and this time we chose to stay in the Maypole Inn in Long Preston. Neil kindly picked Carmel and I up from Cambridge and the journey from there was a bit under 4 hours. We had time for a couple of service station burgers on the way (this is the only time I ever go to Burger King and I kinda look forward to them).
We stressed the whole way up about making last orders (11pm). We didn’t make it, arriving at 11:10pm. However the pub we were staying in was fairly busy and seemed in no rush to stop serving. So Neil, Carmel and I caught up with Nik, Tim and Jon over a few beers and made it to bed around 1am. We found out that Andrew had not been able to make the trip due to work commitments.
In an effort to show that we are just a bit daring, we decided to do the 3 peaks walk in reverse. Most people start with the steep ascent of Pen-y-ghent and finish with the slow walk out from Ingleborough but, since this was not the first time any of us had done the walk, we thought going in the opposite direction might be slightly more entertaining for a change.
We arose at 6am for breakfast and after the usual faff with walking gear we were parked up at the start of the walk in Horton in Ribblesdale and ready to go at about 8:30am. Carmel had forgotten her coat (second only to forgetting your boots in daft things to do if going on a walk) so the owner of the pub was kind enough to lend her his cycling jacket – which was fairly fantastic of him as we checked out the weather.
It was raining. So we pulled our hoods up tight and started walking. Horton is in a valley and the first time we climbed up to the top of a rise we got absolutely battered by the wind and rain. When we walked to the top of the next rise we got hit even harder. After an hour or so of walking we were shouting at each other in order to have a conversation in ridiculously strong winds with rain lashing into us. We were soaked and would have been fairly cold if we weren’t exerting energy by walking uphill. This was particularly miserable. It took another hour or more to get to the top of the first peak, Ingleborough. On top there was no protection for us, and we battled into the wind trying to find the trig point, with the rain stinging any exposed surfaces (imagine kids pelting your cold face with gravel).
We sat down for 2 mins in the wind shelter and Jon informed us that he was turning back. He reckons he had done this walk 7 times before and saw no need to do it in these conditions. Neil thought turning back was also a great idea and agreed to accompany him. The rest of us thought that we had not had enough yet so vowed to carry on for a bit. We said goodbye to Jon and Neil (who were the two people who had driven us from the pub to the walk) and set off in the desperate conditions once more.
The remaining party of 4 (Nik, Tim, Carmel and I) headed down from Ingleborough into the valley between that and Whernside. In the summer there is a barn in the valley where the farm sells hot and cold drinks – but this was most definitely shut today. Tim decided that his boots were murdering his feet and needed to change into trainers. As Tim was changing his footwear the rain got even harder with golf ball sized (probably) rain drops hitting us in a particularly bad blustery 15 mins. And then it stopped raining.
From that moment, the walk got better. The rain stopped, and the sun made a prolonged effort to warm us up. The wind didn’t stop, but that helped dry us out fairly quickly. We climbed up the steep side of Whernside and started to pass the walkers who were coming the other way as this was roughly the half way point (not quite the half way point as we know that most people whould have started walking a long time before we set off at 8:30am). The views from the top of Whernside were amazing as the sun shone on Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent.
With the rain stopped I took some photos for the first time. There is no photographic proof of the miserable weather unfortunately, but perhaps this was wise as Neil’s phone did not survive the rain and, after just 3 weeks of existence, his phone was rendered dead.
As we descended Whernside we saw a long steam train making its way across the huge Ribbleshead viaduct. We weren’t close enough to see it in detail but the distant sight of it chugging out huge amounts of steam as it crossed the viaduct was quite impressive. It turned out that what we saw was the £3m, hand-built, Tornado A1 Pacific steam train which was making a trip from Settle to Carlisle.
We had a short break in Ribbleshead valley at the cafe van there. The woman serving us didn’t look overly chuffed at being stuck in a freezing cold cafe van which was being buffetted by the high winds. I had a sausage and egg bap which was fab and cheered me up, if not the woman who made it.
The final part of the walk was the long drag across roads, undulating moorland and then bogs to Pen-y-ghent. The worst part was the bogs. The huge amount of rain had played havoc with the land meaning that everywhere was flooded. In attempts to stay dry we did slightly foolish things. Nik jumped a small stream and was a foot short. Tim (wearing trainers) changed his socks in order to dry out his feet and promptly got the new pair of socks soaking wet within 5 mins. And I tried to take a dry-route over a wall, had a wobble on the top of it and fell backwards into a pile of mud backside-first. Just before we started the steep ascent of Pen-y-ghent we found a 5 metre wide stream with no obvious way across. We saw two blokes on the other side who looked a bit down so we asked them if there was a way across anywhere. They said no, and that they had just waded across the calf-deep water – they looked soaked. So we did the same, and made an effort to ford the fast flowing stream with as few strides as possible (let’s say 10 strides). And then, after running accross the river with legs and arms flailing, we too were soaked.
The wind on the ascent of Pen-y-ghent was incredibly strong, perhaps the strongest it had been all day. We kept getting blown off our path and were grateful that the wind was blowing us into the mountain side, rather than off it. At the top we stopped for all of 5 secs and then carried on trying to get out of the wind. The descent was the only dangerous part of the day as we were now heading over the otherside of the hill with the wind trying to push us away from the rocks and down the steep rocky hill side. This coincided with the only part of the walk where you had to use your hands to clamber down the rocks, which made it all quite difficult and hairy with the slippery wet rocks and the incredibly strong winds. A few times I almost got blown off and had to quickly drop to my knees. Fun but a bit scary.
Eventually we made it down and walked back to the car park. Neither of Jon’s or Neil’s cars were there so we walked down the road a little further and went to one of the pubs. We found a text message from Jon saying that he had left and gone home and that Neil was sleeping off their pub lunch. So while we waited for Neil to come and pick us up we had a few pints of Black Sheep.
After showers back at the pub we had a few more pints (Cumberland and Landlord) and some pub grub before bed.
The next morning we enjoyed a lazy breakfast and then set off back to Cambridge about 11am.
Was a good weekend and the weather just made it more of a challenge, although I swear I recall being thoroughly despairing for 3 hours at the start of the walk on the Sat.
Duration 10:26 hours
Distance 24.5 miles
Total ascent 2,377 m
Path (Google Earth)