Monday, July 9, 2012

The 3 Peaks Challenge

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.

IMG_0123One of the ferocious creatures just waiting for me to slip and fall.

And here is another one.

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………..

IMG_0080Peat bogs – one of the reasons they call it a challenge!

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 Viaduct

Waterfall on the way up Whernside

The hill on the right is Ingleborough in the background on the left
is Pen-Y-Ghent

Pen-Y-Ghent in the middle

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 Smile

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.


The summit of Ingleborough

After the summit – an uneventful drop down to where we started 10:42 earlier.


Done.  And with Pen-Y-Ghent in the background. We climbed up the Right hand side

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.



More pictures. Not pictures of buildings:

The climb up Pen-Y-Ghent



Abby’s way of keeping her socks dry.

Bog. And Pen-Y-Ghent
There was not just killer sheep to contend with



I  think this is Whernside in the distance

A limestone pavement towards the end of the walk


  1. Never having been to England, I just didn't realize the terrain. Tough but fun it seems!

    Congratulations! Well done!

  2. beautiful pictures! amazing job on your run. glad you were able to stay away from the vicious wildlife! LOL (WTF?)

  3. Looks amazing, Jimbo! If mountaineering is when you need to use the trees to climb, then I have mountaineered at my last two 50Ks. Congrats again on your journey! So cool you could do that with your sister.

    1. Well Jimbo,

      You best get practising those downhills for Mallorca next April!
      It was much fun, although I'm not sure my poor legs agreed..... they kept giving way for 4 days after!!
      Little sis xx

  4. More epic awesomeness Jimbo! Great job. Nice pics too!

  5. Congrats! Beautiful pics, and I enjoyed the read...