The last time I was in England was 7 years ago, March 2005. Now that trip was pretty significant in my running career (career? WTF??). It was my first ever organized run/race. The 2005 Reading Half Marathon. My time was around 2:27 or something. I thought I was going to become a statistic somewhere around the 9 mile mark, by 11 miles, I was even closer to death. But I did make it. And of course I cried my eyes out as I crossed the finish line.
It was to be my first and last race. One and done. The end. That was the plan anyway. LOL.
Fast forward to July 2012. A vacation, an opportunity to catch up with family and friends. And find some mountains.
After a brief discussion, “The 3 Peaks Challenge” in the Yorkshire Dales seemed to be a good plan. A 25 mile loop, somewhere between 5,000 and 6,000 feet of elevation gain.
How hard could it be? My sister, Abby would navigate, well, because she can, and also because she had done the route before, all I had to do was follow.
Seriously, how hard could it be? Well, first there is the unpredictable nature of the English weather. Then there is the bogs. Peat bogs. Shoe sucking cold peat bogs. Then there is the fact that some of the climbing almost certainly crosses that line between hiking and mountaineering. You see, when you need hands to assist in the hike, that becomes mountaineering. Then there is the fact that I am pathetic at descents. Sure, the nicely groomed trails we mainly encounter in the US – any fool can fly down them. But the steep rock strewn, slippery descents of the Penines – well my fear of heights kicked in. Or was it the fear of slipping on a lime stone rock and cracking my skull and dying a gruesome death and having my body mauled by the man-eating-sheep that occupy the hillsides. Probably.
The three peaks – Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough. Not sure which was the toughest – they all had their moments. The climb up Pen-Y-Ghent wasn’t too bad. The approach to the summit a steep rocky climb. The descent was mainly manageable until we hit the bogs. That was tough terrain to keep moving on. Also, there were few landmarks, and no clearly marked trail (it was a bog, durr), so navigation became something that we needed to be aware of. Abby did great though and got us back to some kind of civilization. Before the climb up Whernside………..
After the bog crossing, there is a fairly long, comparatively easy hike, past the spectacular viaduct at Ribblesdale before beginning the ascent of Peak #2, Whenside. This was probably my favorite part of the journey, a good climb, with nice footing. The kind of climb that you can get a rhythm going, with wonderful views of the other two peaks.
The descent from Whernside was steep, rocky and for me, it was terrifying. But we lived to start the third peak, Ingleborough. Which was when it started raining. Sigh.
Most of the climb up Ingleborough was fine, but there is this one part fairly close to the summit that was brutal. I hated it when I was climbing it, but once done, it was one of those that gave immense satisfaction at having completed it. It was pretty much near vertical – maybe 200 or 300 vertical feet with probably less than a tenth of a mile forward motion. Fun
At the top, there are the foundations of iron age buildings – apparently the climate used to be warmer in those days, but on this particular day, with the mist and the cold, we looked briefly, but couldn’t find them in the clouds.
After the summit – an uneventful drop down to where we started 10:42 earlier.
Now, here are some more pictures – pictures of buildings:
The drystone walls and some of the old barns pepper the countryside which probably
hasn’t changed that much in 100’s of years
The sign above the door said this house was built in 1687.
Probably time to get a new one then. With bigger windows.