Yorkshire Three Peaks
Yesterday (Saturday 24th June 2017), I did the first of my sponsored events for MSF and Albert Kennedy Trust: The Yorkshire Three Peaks.
The Yorkshire Three Peaks is a challenge hike, to complete the three highest peaks in the Yorkshire Dales - Pen y Ghent (694m), Whernside (736m) and Ingleborough (726m) - in 12 hours. The route itself is 24.5 miles and involves a total ascent of 1,585 metres. It can be (and inevitably is) ran as a race with the record time being a staggering 2 hours 46 minutes.
I did this as part of a team of 11 from MMU and TheUnionMMU (including the two colleagues I'm doing the big part (The Bullock Smithy) of my sponsored stuff with). We did not complete it in 2 hours 36 minutes. We did all, however, meet the challenge of completing it within the twelve hours. My personal time was 11 hours 37 minutes.
The first hill we tackled was Pen y Ghent: the smallest of the hills but there is almost no warm up before the ascent starts. I had to battle a nose which hates the outdoors, boots laced badly, the largest number of walkers the guides had seen in a long time and insufficent breakfast but I got to a "shoulder" or "step" in the hill which was every bit as bad face-to-face as it looked from the ground. A real scramble up that shoulder and I was thinking "this is the one I'm going to hate most". *Spoiler* I was wrong!
From the top of Pen Y Ghent was a long, smooth descent and slog to Ribblehead where our support team was waiting. I practically ran some of it as gravity took over from my every natural instinct. There was some undulation which lead to me joking about how much easier the last two peaks were compared to the first. Sorry, everyone else got to suffer my "humour", so do you.
And then there was Whernside: the largest of the peaks, a loooong steady climb. My enemies this time were the ever hateful nose and it's portal to another dimension of ickyness and cloud covering the peak reducing visibility significantly. Overall we were really lucky with the weather. Our guide was telling us about the previous two weekends - the earlier (for family reading this, the Saturday of the Family Doo, which was only 11 miles north(ish) of Ribblehead) had to be called off due to people developing mild hypothermia in the non-stop rain, and last week being ridiculously hot. It didn't really rain for us (other than clouds being rain...) and the temperature was fine.
Anyway, Whernside also showed off the wonders of being part of a team as two of us were able to support each other up the last little bit with mutual support and, in my case, being able to share a map showing we'd finished the steep bit.
Oh... the steep bit. Our guide had warned us of a "steep bit" on the descent. Initially I thought he meant the whole ascent as it was pretty steep all the way. What he actually meant was, what felt like, a 60-70 degree, 100 metre muddy bank to descend. I have no shame in admitting that I went down Whernside on my Backside! (and if anyone wants to get me a t-shirt with a snappier version on, do it!)
Getting, finally, to the road where the support team is, I see one of them who points to a minibus. At the top of a hill. He's gotta be kidding right..?
Maybe, just maybe, Whernside could be the one I hate most...
Then there is the final hill, Ingleborough. "Just a quick one this" says our guide. He lies. He's lied throughout the day "just twenty minutes", "just a little steep section". Lies. All of it.
Ingleborough is the part of the walk I remember from last time I did it (a much younger and fitter Alex did it, then, in they think, 10 hours, 22 minutes - I'm going to try and see if I can find proof of that). The slabs and wooden causeway across the bog I particularly remembered. I had forgotten the steep section which would, I think, make goats think twice before attempting. Walking along the path it looked immense, up close it looked reasonable. On the thing, it was hell. While my nose was still plumbing unforeseen depths in it's enmity towards being outdoors, my over-developed sense of not-wanting-to-fall-off-a-mountain reared it's ugly head to claim its spot in my Rouges' Gallery. This was more like a climb than a hike, maybe this is why my arms and shoulders ache today as much as my legs.
On top, visibility is worse than Whernside, but less rain-like. I get some support back from a team member as I pass and make the Cairn. Then the descent to Horton-in-Ribblesdale can begin. It's not until the very last minute that you can see your destination, but when you do the joy of seeing roofs and civilisation is immense.
So, after all that, maybe, just maybe, Ingleborough is the peak I hate the most.
So, after a 4am wake up call, 11 hours 37 minutes of walking, 38.16km and 1,585 metres of ascent I am done. My colleagues did it in about an hour less than me, so I really need to up my fitness, lose some of that caution and negotiate a treaty with my nose...
Could I do it again? Not that. The Whernside descent and Ingleborough ascent shook me. But, energy-wise, I could have kept going. I was even jogging the safe and downhill sections of the Ingleborough descent. My body though knew it was the end and was gleefully shutting down.
Next up, we have a night hike practice for the Bullock Smithy in mid-July. We've walked the section in the day so know the pit falls to look out for, but then it's the Bullock Smithy itself...
I am currently targeting £560 for sponsorship which is shared between Medecins Sans Frontieres (aka Doctors Without Borders) and Albert Kennedy Trust (helping homeless and at-risk LGBT youth). I tweeted earlier:
Generous donations have currently put me at nearly £200. I really hope that if you haven't already you will consider sponsoring me.