Many people will remember the 29th April 2011 as the day of the Royal Wedding. My colleagues, friends and I will remember it for a completely different reason for it was the day we achieved the Yorkshire 3 Peaks. For me it formed part of my training for the National 3 Peaks Challenge in early June and, I thought, a good test of my fitness. For others in our party it was an opportunity to raise money for Improving Chances.
We all met at 7am on the appointed day at the Golden Lion pub in Horton in Ribblesdale for an 8am start. As we gathered there was an air of confidence about the day ahead. We numbered about 20 in total ranging in age from teenagers to those in their 50’s, all with different expectations of the day ahead. The weather was fine and we set off on time, spreading out within the first half hour and led by the younger members of the team from Yorkshire who set a blistering pace up Pen-Y-Ghent. I reached the top to find that the Yorkshire lads had finished their rest and were soon setting off on the long walk to Whernside. I had an all too brief stop at the top and then off to join them.
The walk to Whernside was enjoyable but again a little quick and by the time I got to the Ribble Viaduct at the base of Whernside, I was feeling worse for wear. I stopped at the viaduct for a drink and something to eat. At this point I had lost touch with the Yorkshire lads and the team from Wirral had caught me up so we rested briefly together.
The slow and relentless climb up Whernside was a challenge, following the railway line for the first couple of miles and then cutting back following the drawn out contour of the Whernside peak. There were some very steep parts but the thing I remember most was miler after mile of climbing. When I reached the top the wind was howling which added to the challenge.
I walked for most of that time by myself, not able to match the pace of the Wirral team. I met them again at the top and we had a brief rest together and then set off to Ingleborough. Two down and one more to go and to be honest with about 15 miles done, I was a bit concerned as to whether I had another 10 miles in me.
The walk to Ingleborough was pleasant enough, supplemented by a short but welcome interlude at The Hill Inn where I had a cool pint of lemon and lime. A couple of the lads from Wirral had a pint of Black Sheep and while I looked on with envy, I knew if I had a beer that would be the end for me.
We set off for Ingleborough and consistent with the walk so far, I was soon lagging behind my teammates. It was clear their natural pace outstripped mine - or was it that I was slowing down. I was really feeling fatigued at this point with frequent stops to take a much needed breather. I made it up to the half way point on Ingleborough where it plateaued out. To my amazement there were a number of runners who were practicing for the Yorkshire 3 Peaks fell race which was due to take place the next day. I suppose you should take heart from that display of fitness but to be honest I was incredulous as to how anyone can run up and down a near vertical cliff face with steps barely three feet in width winding their way up for over 100 metres.
My fellow Trustees passed me at a low point in the walk, just as I was contemplating how I could avoid the steep Ingleborough climb, which seemed beyond me. But after a little encouragement from John and Pat who seemed to take the climb in their stride, I made it to the top. To this day I do not know how I made it up but once I had, I knew I was going to finish the walk.
Once on the top I did not rest. I was determined to make my way back to Horton to complete the walk within the 12 hour timeframe of the challenge. By this time I was not good company, focusing solely on putting one foot in front of the other. I did look up at one point and remember seeing John Scampion running down the side of Ingleborough in his attempt to improve his time. It is a long walk down and I felt every step. About one and a half hours later I arrived back in Horton and joined John in The Golden Lion.
I completed the walk in 11 hours and 40 minutes and got back just as it was getting dark. I enjoyed a well deserved pint of Black Sheep, feeling relieved and wondering how I was going to drive home because of the cramps in my legs.
It was as I was driving home that a horrible thought crossed my mind. If this was so hard how was I going to fare in the National 3 Peaks only six weeks later? It was very clear that I had a lot of training to do!