The Yorkshire 3 Peaks trek soon seemed to have come around. It had definitely come around far too quickly especially given how I had felt over the past couple of weeks. It all seemed to coincide with the sports massage I had at the end of the Wiggle Yorkshire Tour Sportive but since then my back and hip had been causing me some concern and quite a lot of pain. Training had come to a halt because of it and it had even led to a trip to see a physio. Despite the fact the physio gave me some exercises to do it was still quite painful especially the weekend before the trek when it was causing me lots of pain when trying to walk around Glasgow. On the Sunday before the trek I didn’t feel that confident of making it to the start never mind completing the 25 miles trek over the 3 peaks. I didn’t want to let Julia, who was doing the trek with me, or the sponsors down so hoped that I would feel much better by the time Saturday came.
As the week went on I started to feel better but didn’t really want to push it by trying to get any training in so spent the week recuperating. By the time the weekend arrived I was feeling fine so on the Friday night made my way up to Horton-in-Ribblesdale. I met Julia at the B&B that we were staying at so that we could get an early start and be fresh for the days efforts. An early night was well needed after I arrived as we were hoping to set off at 6:30 to give us as much time as we needed to get over the peaks.
When my alarm went off at 5:50 I wasn’t that eager to get out of bed but forced myself out so that I could get ready for what the day had to throw at us. After putting my walking clothes on I headed downstairs to get some breakfast. Beans on toast were the order of the day along with a cup of coffee and then it was time to drive down to Horton to get started. By the time we got there we were a bit later than we had originally planned but we loaded up and walked around to where we would be starting. Even though it was before 7am there were still lots of people around getting ready or starting their own walks so we weren’t going to be the only ones heading off on the 3 Peaks journey that day. At 6:50 we started off on the route and headed towards Pen-y-Ghent.
For those who don’t know, the 3 Peaks walk covers the mountains of Pen-y-Ghent (694m), Whernside (736m) and Ingleborough (723m) which are located in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. They form part of the Pennine range and encircle the valleys of the River Ribble and of Chapel-le-Dale. It is probably the original 3 Peak walk within the UK and it covers around 25 miles and around 1,600m of ascent and descent. The challenge that many walkers aim for is to complete the circuit in under 12 hours which was our secondary aim when we set off, the primary aim being completing the course. Alfred Wainwright, the famous walking author once said that ‘Some participants have chosen to regard the walk as a race and this is to be greatly regretted, walking is a pleasure to be enjoyed in comfort’. I didn’t think I’d be experiencing much comfort along the way but was hoping to enjoy the stunning scenery as well as complete the walk. The route we were planning took us from the Pen-y-Ghent café in Horton-in-Ribblesdale over the ‘nose’ of Pen-y-Ghent and then past the Ribblehead viaduct as we traversed along the right of way following the railway line to get to Whernside and from there over Ingleborough and then back to Horton-in-Ribblesdale.
As we set off from the start it was straight up hill with the impressive sight of Pen-y-Ghent standing in front of us. It looked a long way to the top but we settled into a comfortable pace as we started to make our way up towards the ascent. There were lots of people going past us as we made our way up but we were happy going at our own pace as the focus was on making around rather than making it up the first peak too quickly. At one point we were passed by a small terrier wearing a pink hat and jacket and necklace, her legs were speeding along but she wasn’t getting away from us. We discussed whether or not she was going make it all the way but we wouldn’t find out. It was hard getting up to the summit of Pen-y-Ghent, as we got further up it seemed to get steeper and I was finding it harder to keep going. We took our time and kept on putting one foot in front of the other as we kept going up. Near the top there was a section that you had to climb up in order to get to the summit and eventually we were there! We had done the first of the 3 Peaks and after a quick break for a drink and some photos it was time to descend and make our way towards the next one. It was a steady descent and with the exception of a muddy stretch where I nearly fell over and lost the end of my walking pole it was a nice stretch to walk down. The views were spectacular as you could see for miles around and we had a good chat as we walked.
The section between Pen-y-Ghent and Whernside was the longest section between peaks on the route and it took quite a long time until we could see the Ribblehead viaduct. We had already decided that we would stop for a longer refuelling stop near the viaduct so that was the next target for us as we ploughed on. Even though getting up Pen-y-Ghent was hard and felt like it had taken a bit out of me, I was feeling much better than I had expected as we came down to the viaduct. After having a drink and some food I seemed to have much more energy than I expected and even though we had now been walking for 4 hours I didn’t feel too bad. My back and hip seemed to be holding up and my feet were fine which was a good sign. We were making good time when we stopped at the viaduct for some food and drink and I stocked up on some water as I hadn’t been able to get any prior to setting off so was running low on supplies. Unfortunately I didn’t really think ahead and only bought one bottle that I drank before we left.
After taking some pictures of the viaduct we followed the other walkers (in an entirely different direction to what we were expecting!) to make our way to Whernside. We seemed like we were walking around it but eventually we would have to start making our way up again. The ascent of Whernside from my perspective was pretty terrible. It wasn’t as steep as Pen-y-Ghent but it was never ending. The combination of being overweight, asthmatic and not having trained at walking up hills was making it hard to keep going. The never ending gradient was punctuated with steeper step sections which took what little breath I could muster away pretty quickly and as the summit never seemed to be coming it was getting harder and harder to keep moving. The stops were becoming more frequent as I tried to keep my breathing under control and to not push myself too far given that we still had a long way to go. Julia kept waiting for me and was very patient as I was getting annoyed with myself for finding it so difficult. I kept pushing and eventually the worst was over as it was flatter near the summit. I think the lack of water was also coming back to haunt me as I was trying to keep some for the rest of the walk but was getting dehydrated. When we reached the summit we were both pleased and had a break for a drink and some photos. We found out that down the other side there was a pub so I would be able to get more drink there which was a relief as I would have struggled to make it with the amount of fluid I had left, especially as it was quite warm and I had been sweating for most of the walk.
As we set off on the descent I started to recover as it was fairly flat to start with but then it started to get steep which was when the struggling started again. As I was constantly trying to hold myself back to make it down the steep slope I was expending much more energy than I would have liked. Some people were flying down the descent but with the rocky conditions under foot and my lack of experience making it down steep slopes I wasn’t that confident of making it down. With a long drop to the bottom we both took it cautiously so that we didn’t fall. I was starting to find it just as hard as getting up the mountain and the longer we went on the more I struggled. I kept having to stop to get my breath back which wasn’t a good sign for what we had to come. The descent seemed to go on for nearly as long as the ascent and it was the hardest thing that I’ve done so far with the challenges as by the time we got to the bottom I was spent. We had a brief stop to take on some more food before we set off again to try and find the pub. There was a sign for a snack bar just after we set off again so we continued on our way but I was done. Even on the flat I was staring to struggle and the 500m to the snack bar felt like it too forever.
When we eventually covered the 500m we stopped again so that I could try and recover. My inhaler came out again and I took on as much liquid and food as I could to try and get myself going again as well as getting plenty of water for what we had ahead. After a good rest and a couple of bananas we set off again but as we walked up the hill past the pub I was already struggling and after a short blast up a hill I was struggling again on the flat. With the steep looking Ingleborough scowling down on us I decided that there was no way that I would make it up and over without running the risk of making myself ill so we decided to turn back and find another way back to Horton-in-Ribblesdale from the pub. We had covered 2 Peaks and nearly 20 miles but I was broken and wouldn’t have made it over Ingleborough. Julia took it well and as I trudged back to the pub she was focusing on how well we had done. I was feeling devastated as it was the first time I hadn’t completed a challenge that I had started. I knew that I had made the right decision but that didn’t help.
We got a taxi back to Horton-in-Ribblesdale with a couple of other walkers who had come from Birmingham. By the time we had been dropped off and were walking back to the car I was feeling a bit better but still disappointed. After dropping Julia off at the B&B and getting changed it was time to head home with the hope of seeing the triplets for a cuddle before they went to bed. As I reflected on what we had done as I drove home I could appreciate what we had achieved despite the feeling of disappointment. The week before I would have laughed if you would have said I would have managed nearly 20 miles and 2 of the 3 Peaks. I wasn’t in a fit state to walk around Glasgow on the flat so would never have managed to get up Pen-y-Ghent. Plus I’ve not really had chance to get any walking training in which hadn’t helped but I’m happy with what I have achieved, it was just a shame Julia didn’t get to finish it all in one day when she looked like she would have been able.
Thanks to all of the supportive people who have donated or sent us messages of support. It has been much appreciated by both of us and kept us going. So that she didn’t disappoint her sponsors, Julia went back to where we had finished the following day and went over Ingleborough and did another 11 miles to make up for the day before. All of this meant she had done over 30 miles in the two days which is a phenomenal effort. I am so pleased that she got to do it and that I had her accompanying me. Without her I don’t think I would have made it so far and her support has meant a lot. I’m glad that I can count her among my friends and the triplets will always have her looking out for them as she is such a wonderful person.
If you want to help why not like/share the Facebook page, register for updates on the website or have a look at the sponsor page. All of the support so far has kept me going when things have been tough and the money raised so far will make a difference to the Blurt Foundation and Mind. The focus shifts back now to obstacle courses as two Mens Health Survival of the Fittest events lie in wait. Time to crack on with some training and get running again.
Onwards and upwards