I’ve wanted to challenge myself to complete the Yorkshire 3 Peaks of Pen-Y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough for a while, and finally I got around to doing it at the end of September.
Originally I was going to join my running club, North Bolton Runners, as they attempted it in mid-August, but at last minute the date was changed and it clashed with my holiday in Florida – a bit of a way to travel! Disappointed, I saw on Instagram that Hannah was planning it the following month and she kindly invited me along for the ride – and what a day it turned out to be!
We had arranged to meet in a layby in Horton-in-Ribblesdale at 9:45am on the last Friday of September. Now, I’ve never met Hannah before, so trying to explain to my husband that I was heading two hours north to meet a stranger in a layby and run 25-odd miles with them sounds a bit weird I guess, but Hannah and I had spoken on the phone before, I had coached her through a couple of events, and I was confident she wasn’t an axe murderer, so my husband was appeased.
Driving north out of a sunny Bolton, I was eyeing the hills I passed with interest, as they were all topped with grey clouds, so I wasn’t holding out much hope for a clear day. As I approached the Yorkshire Dales, the rain started and the cloud got lower. I pulled up behind a white van in our designated layby, and out of it jumped Hannah, her friends Michelle and Jennie (also known as Badger), and Bodger the dog, who would be my companions for the day. We pulled on our running jackets quickly, and set off in the rain. I had opted for shorts, and a single base layer, which I was worrying a little about, but we set off in high spirits and began our ascent up the first peak.
I had done this peak a few months earlier for the first time when I met up with Lara and Tilly for a run, so I remembered the climb well. The track ascends straight out of Horton, quite shallowly at first, then steeply as you near the summit.
There is a little scrambling to be done near the top, but it’s an enjoyable climb and although I could only see cloud today, I remembered the views being stunning.
We had a quick photo at the trig point, then headed down out of the cloud again.
The track down from Pen-Y-Ghent is nice and runnable and the downhill slope is a welcome relief from the long climb up. It’s quite a long way from Pen-Y-Ghent over to Whernside, but it would give us the opportunity to get an hour’s easy running in. We paused briefly to note that the weather over in Horton to the East had cleared, to blue skies, while it was raining down on us.
We were all a bit soggy by this point, and I was annoyed to notice my phone battery had completely died in the 45 minutes we had been running so far, which means that most of the photos in this blog are courtesy of Bodger and Badger. We took on some fuel at this point – I had a Clif Bar – and on we ran. This is a really enjoyable run across beautiful grassland, with Ingleborough looming over us which we would be tackling later. It looked very foreboding, wreathed in dark grey cloud. After a bit of slipping and sliding (amazingly I managed to stay on my feet) we reached a short section of road, and the wonderful Ribblehead viaduct finally came into view, then we met our support crew (Hannah and Michelle’s husbands) who had brought flapjack and Lucozade and a hot cup of tea (bliss!). I had one of my cheese and pickle sandwiches here too, for some energy as we started the next big climb.
I have never climbed Whernside before, but had been told that it’s a long hard slog up, and a steep descent.
The weather cleared briefly as we set off again, and we even spied some blue sky (behind us!), but we soon headed into that dark cloud again as we began to ascend. The track was flooded in places but we were all wet through anyway.
Spirits were high though, as we were almost half way there.
As we neared the top of Whernside, the wind hit us head on, which, combined with the rain, made me feel really cold. I was in shorts remember, and my thin running jacket wasn’t doing a great job of keeping the rain out. We could see perhaps 10 metres in front of us because of the cloud, so it was head down, and get to the trig so we could get down again out of the wind.
A quick pic at the trig, and we swiftly carried on, to the slippery stones of hell. The descent off Whernside wouldn’t be too bad in dry conditions I don’t think, but the wet slabs which descended very steeply were treacherous. The hail had also arrived by this point, and was hitting us in the face as we tried to see where we were putting our feet. I was swearing by this point, wondering why I had volunteered to do this for fun. I mean, I could have been at home, having a nice cup of tea. I was seriously considering just running back along the road to Horton and not bothering with Ingleborough because I was cold and massively pissed off at the relentless rain. Anyway, I kept these thoughts to myself and concentrated on getting down without breaking a leg, and soon we reached our second rendezvous point with our support crew for another cup of tea.
What is it about tea that reinvigorates you so much? Honestly, a quick stop for tea, flapjack, and my other cheese and pickle sandwich made me forget my misgivings on Whernside, and we were soon on our way again for the final peak.
I’ve only ever climbed Ingleborough once before, many years ago, on a glorious sunny day, and somehow, that memory of it kept me going through this last couple of hours, where the rain didn’t stop. There’s quite a long run out before you start the ascent itself, and we couldn’t see the hill at all. Not a bit of it.
We crossed a long wooden bridge across the large expanse of bog, and then suddenly, the cloud cleared briefly, and I looked up into the heavens and laughed out loud because I had just seen the steep climb we had to make.
This was ridiculous. It was raining hard now, and the climb is really steep. It’s almost a staircase, but some of the steps are so big that I had to use my hands and my knees at points. Now, I’m not great with heights. Well, to be honest, it’s the thought of the drop that I don’t like, and as I climbed higher and higher into the cloud, with the wind throwing the rain at me, I was way out of my comfort zone. One slip would probably result in injury. I was concentrating really hard on each step. It seemed to take forever. At one point near the top, as the water was rushing down the gully to the right of me, and I had lost sight of my companions in the cloud, I remember feeling really scared I would fall as I suddenly couldn’t figure out the best way to go. But I was close, and a few minutes later I had reached the top of the steep section, and headed up to try to find the trig. The top was just grey. It was impossible to see anything apart from the faint shadows of the cairns. Visibility was around 5 metres at this point, I knew the trig point was off the main path, and I had found Michelle by this point so together we trotted blindly into the fog trying to find Hannah and Badger. Eventually we saw two shapes as they ran towards us. They had come from the trig, and explained that it was a few metres further on, but at that point Michelle and I were happy we had reached the top, and just wanted to get out of the howling wind, so we headed down. By this point I was feeling relieved that the worst climb of the three was over, so I was a lot more relaxed now. We still had quite a way to go back to Horton, but I was happy that I had completed the challenge.
For the next hour we slipped around on the limestone and skipped around huge muddy puddles, and chatted about all kinds of things. As Horton came into the view, the sun came out and the skies were blue again, and all was well.
Part of me is sad that the weather was so bad, and I have promised myself I will head back to Whernside to admire the views on a better day. The other part of me however is glad that I challenged myself in such bad conditions. I stepped out of my comfort zone and thought about quitting, but battled through and conquered it. I really enjoyed it, perhaps not some bits of it at the time, but looking back, I’m proud of myself.
The best bit of the day? When we reached the car, Hannah presented us each with a homemade medal!
I would share my Strava stats, but my watch conked out after 21 miles. Here they are anyway – but the run is missing the last section from Ingleborough summit back into Horton, which is in reality a lovely gentle 4ish mile run.
Distance: 24 miles / 38.6km
Elevation: 5200ft / 1585m
What I wore:
Runderwear Women’s Running Briefs and Original Support Running Bra (gifted)
I have been wearing Runderwear products for a few years and I do really love them. I forget I’m wearing the briefs because they feel so comfortable and don’t move about. In the really wet weather, I was soaked through to the skin but they didn’t feel uncomfortable at any point even though they were wet, so they did a great job. The bra is also really comfortable. It’s well fitted and gives me support without feeling like I’m too tightly bundled in. I experienced no chafing around my back despite wearing a pack full of kit. It was tricky to get off when I got back to the car, without flashing my boobs to the world, so I’m excited to try their new easy on version, which is hopefully also easy off!
Aussie Grit Apparel Flint Women’s Running Short and Flint Women’s Running Long Sleeve Top (gifted)
I love this shorts and top combo. The shorts have an inner layer that prevents chafing and even though they were really soggy in the rain, they still didn’t ride up. The merino wool top was a brilliant choice because – as a very sweaty runner – it kept me dry even though I was sweating lots when working hard up the hills, which stopped me getting too cold. It also has useful thumb holes so I could keep my hands warm when the rain got really cold.
Shoe choice for the 3 Peaks was causing me a bit of stress if I’m honest but the X-talons were the perfect choice. They are my usual fell shoe, but I was worried how they would perform on wet rock and slippery limestone. They did great! They’re really grippy on grass and are excellent on gravel and small stones. Thy also performed well on the big wet stone slabs. The only thing they’re not great on is slippery mud but I managed to stay upright over the 25 mile course so that’s a plus. I did lose a couple of the lugs on them when I ran The Hebden back in January as I think all the rock trashed then, but they performed well yesterday and even though they have very little cushioning, they were really comfortable, stayed put, and I have no blisters or aching feet. I always wear the merino wool socks, which were a great choice yesterday as the course was very wet with lots of standing water and overflowing rivers but they dry out quickly and keep your feet warm.