I don’t think I’ve ever walked more than 15 miles in one go before, so I was a tad worried about how I’d cope with 26, even without the three peaks thrown in.
The day didn’t start well. It’s hard enough sleeping in a tent with only a self-inflating mat to lie on. It’s even harder when it starts getting light just after 4am, swiftly followed by sheep bleating and dogs barking continuously for the rest of the night. I eventually admitted defeat at 6, and blearily rolled out of my tent to cook beans on my underpowered camping stove for breakfast.
With only one shower on the campsite (as the only campsite in the village which is the official start of the course they have a captive audience and clearly have decided there is no need to spend more on upgrading the site!) it took us a while to get ready, so we didn’t set off til quarter to eight.
The ascent of the first peak, Pen-y-ghent, started almost immediately, and I very quickly began to worry that I was going to struggle, as I found the pace a lot tougher than I’d expected. Things got worse for the final hundred metres, which were significantly steeper and quite a scramble until, just over an hour after we started, we reached the top.
Luckily after that things improved significantly – the next step was a gentle downhill stroll with a stunning view over the Ribble Valley and the famous Ribblehead Viaduct in the distance.
By the time we reached the bottom of the valley I’d finally woken up, in no small part thanks to the coffee from a van by the side of the road (note to self: never try physical activity without caffeine in future). While we paused to refuel, we were able to take in the view of the viaduct. I’d wanted to see it since I was a kid, when I’d seen it on the news a lot as the line faced closure (which, thanks to a concerted campaign, never happened) and it certainly didn’t disappoint.
After crossing the railway line to begin the ascent of Whernside, the second and highest peak, the clouds began to roll in, and by the time we reached the top the heavens opened. Thankfully we were able to shelter behind a dry-stone wall at the top, taking the opportunity to fill up with jelly babies and lucozade to keep me going over the final stretch. Going down Whernside was the most fun part of the walk – it’s one long, steady drop the whole way to the valley, just steep enough to make running down most of the way an option.
The third and final peak was the toughest. After we crossed the valley we were faced with Ingleborough, and a near vertical climb up the side of the ridge. The track is more like a ladder here, and was a real scramble to get up, and narrow enough that you can’t really stop because of all the people behind you. It’s all worth it when you get to the top though – it’s not quite as high as Whernside, but as the clouds lifted when we reached the top, it soon became clear that it has the best of the views, across the Morecambe Bay & the Irish Sea in one direction, the peaks of the Lake District in another, and the view across to the other two peaks and the valley behind you.
As you can see, I was quite chuffed to have made it:
After that it was literally downhill all the way back to the village, in glorious sunshine. My target was ten hours (you need to do it 12 to become an official member of the 3 peaks club) and I made it in nine and a half in the end. Clearly after that there was only one thing to do: head to the pub to celebrate in proper English style, over a few pints. The pub itself was hilarious – pretty much every customer had done the walk, so the entire place was full of people hobbling around in bare feet, all very glad the day was over.