Mud, sweat and beers. The 3 Peaks’ story
In the early hours of a July weekend, three intrepid team members (Kerry Clarke, Andy Hennell and Vicki Gilmore) stumbled out of a B&B in Ingleton intent on conquering the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge. After weeks of preparation and fund-raising and some serious carb-loading the night before (the local Italian does a fine “Three Peaks Pizza”) we set out at 06.30 into the morning sunshine (not really, this is the UK remember).
Our support crew, consisting of Kerry’s husband, Mike, and Andy’s wife, Sue, were primed and ready for action (which involved rolling over, going back to sleep and dreaming of the fantastic Full English that awaited them at a more civilised hour).
Having clocked in at the famous “Pen-y-Ghent Café” at 06.50 we began our ascent up Pen-y-Ghent, described as “a crouching lion” with a steep climb followed by a long downhill into the Ribble Valley with its iconic viaduct. Due to recent adverse weather conditions the long slog across the valley bottom took over two hours and we were knee deep in mud in some places. However, being well prepared for all weather conditions we were glad of our gaiters and it allowed us to make faster progress than those less seasoned.
We were met at the road by our now well-fed support crew who refuelled us and gave us motivating pats on the back. Mike and Sue’s gregarious natures had gleaned much information about the progress of fellow walkers and they had also been offering helpful route advice and first-aid to those in need. Camaraderie both on the hill and amongst the supporters was hugely inspirational.
Mike met us at the road and again boosted our spirits with coffee and sandwiches and sent us on our way up the third mountain. Weather conditions were pretty ideal for walking – cool, breezy and slightly overcast but with sufficient visibility to enjoy the spectacular scenery en-route. The walk in was fine until the path makes a seemingly vertical ascent, hard punishment for already-tired legs. Fortunately our hill fitness carried us up and it was with great relief that we touched the trig point on top and met some marshals from the annual Ingleborough fell race who were imminently expecting the first competitors who can make the ascent in just 25 minutes. Feeling somewhat deflated by this, we checked our watches and realised that we would have to make unprecedented speed to achieve our target of 10 hours.. To become a member of the 3 Peaks of Yorkshire Club one must complete the 24.5 mile challenge with 1600m of ascent in less than 12 hours, but we had our sights set on a 10 hour finish.
With a knowing look and a nod from fell-runner Kerry and boosted by a small handful of aptly named Flying Saucers from Andy we took off down the hill at high speed, walking poles flying and Kerry’s feet literally not touching the ground in places. Where we found the extra energy I will never know (maybe the magic 3 Peaks Pizza?) but we hurtled past our patiently waiting support crew screaming “We’re going for 10 hours….” and steamed round the corner into the car park of the café, clocking in a time of 9 hours and 59 minutes.
There followed the best pint mugs of tea ever served and rapid refuelling with local fudge as we realised we’d made the final 5 miles in just 90 minutes. With huge thanks to Sue and Mike for keeping our blood sugar and spirits high for the duration we proudly claimed our Three Peaks of Yorkshire membership and wobbled back to Ingleton for some celebratory beers and pub grub.
In total our efforts raised £467 for Buxton Mountain Rescue Team, and Age Concern, and we would like to sincerely thank those who sponsored us. We are now planning our next challenge for 2010 so watch this space….
Photos top to bottom: Peny Gent Cafe start; Ingleborough; Whernside; The Finish; The famous Three Peaks Pizza.