I should say from the off that this is one of my favourite walking places…
Well I tried doing the Yorkshire Three Peaks again…and bailed at Ribblehead, again, just like in 2010. When, oh when will I learn not to sit down to have my lunch?
Okay that’s enough of the negativity. The day’s events were:
- I woke up at the unearthly time of 02:15. Did I need to wake up then? Nope, did I stress about waking up then? Well to be honest that would not have helped so I just watached a couple of episodes of Criminal Minds to take my mind off it! 3:55 – the time I was scheduled to arise, soon came around!
- I eventually left the flat at 04:27, no way was I going to get stuck in traffic!
- I arrived at Horton in Ribblesdale for around 06:10 without speeding, at least I don’t remember speeding. I guess I’ll be checking the post fearing a speeding ticket for the next month!
- By 06:21 I had adorned all my walking gear and parked in the £4.50 official car park (ooh la-la none of this overflow nonsense for me!) and set off on route
And that’s when mother nature turned the heat on! Not even a mile into the walk, I was sweating beyond my ability to express without getting kind of crude! The coat was off by the time I had reached Brackenbottom Farm. Funnily enough, the car park had been quite cool and there was even talk between other walkers of being glad to have brought their gloves! So for the next couple of hours it was a case of walk a hundred metres, stop, hyperventilate, continue. And not just me…
The fells of this area were teaming this day. I’ll hold my hand up and say that I do like social walking, I like organised events and even team events so I am not going to say anything bad about the number of walkers snaking their way over the dales this day, apart from there was a lot! I knew that there was going to be a lot because I had found a website where one can register your team’s Three Peaks (it covers the national as well as the Yorkshire ones) and this informed that there would be at least seven teams in Horton today, I had it worked out to be at least thirty-six people. Oh how wrong was that calculation, there were hundreds! I know this because they all passed me, and then I passed them, and this kept on all the way to the top of Pen-y-Ghent, over and down Whitber hill and most of the way towards Ribblehead! And I enjoyed it, most of it. The part I didn’t enjoy?
Well this borders or irony, or at least ‘be careful what you wish for’, because since I have been collecting houseplants I have been craving humidity, for them, at home and at work. Today I was delivered said humidity, in spates…buckets of spates. Honestly, I’d have been drier if it had rained! The weather forecast had promised, “moderate breeze” – that just did not turn up! At best we got a gust of air which could have been delivered by an asthmatic rabbit via a straw…two miles away! Stillness I could have handled, a light shower, again, I could have handled, even blazing sun drives you to moderate oneself better to preserve energy, fluids etc. Humidy is a silent assasin, lurking behind the lightest of all grey clouds and magically soaking you beyond your cognitive processes’ ability to perceive.
If this makes it sound like I was not enjoying the day then this is not an accurate portrayal of the walk. I was really grateful to be in the company of so many others all striving towards that end goal – to complete the Yorkshire three peaks. It isn’t the frenetic and frantic steeplechase across the moors which everyone envisions! This is much more dignified and human. People talk, people definitely encourage one another and this is really spiritually uplifting to witness. I don’t know how many people asked me if I was ‘okay’ whenever I would take a breath of muggy air. The sunscreen caustically scurging my eyes must have made it look like I was in tears, I suppose technically I was, they were just not natural ones as made by yours trully!
I found myself frequently in the company of one of the teams, I think from a school, and this is where I let myself down by not actually asking people questions about what they are doing and why. Most of them were women, from age 20 and upwards, with one man in a tutu…I don’t know why, who seemed to be performing some kind of leadershiop role. Each member offered to let me pass as I strode along and toward Whitber Hill but I gleefully responded back ‘oh it’s okay I am happy to slipstream you all!’ which brought smiles and smirks in equal measure. I had struggled alongside this team all of the way up Pen-y-Ghent and was by now feeling a kinship with them. This continued all the way across to High Birkwith where one of the team even went so far as to give me one of her Jelly babies – normally I find these things revolting but today it was sugary bliss.
I think it was around about the iron bridge very close to Nether Lodge where the doubt set in. This is that nagging doubt who quickly erodes at one’s confidence in the ability to complete a task, in my case to continue the walk. I spent some seconds, possibily a minute leaning on the bridge and watching wave after wave of walkers enter my immediate environment. In addition, there seemed to be some sort of organised fell race on which was causing innumerate runners to approach from behind and then to pass me. I would hear the runner first and decided which way I would redirect in order to not hold them up. This worked well apart from the fact that it left me having to be constantly on my guard or else have a runner up my rear end! In short it was destroying the solace that the walk up until now had been bestowing on me. In essence, this new minor annoyance coupled with the quickly accumulating fatigue was weakening whatever resolve that the humidity hadn’t saturated away!
The thought kept surging forward to the front of my brain ‘the train station at Ribblehead’. I was aware that the trains were only every hour-or-so but that just gave me longer to relax and do nothing. The determination-wrecking escape plan would not leave me alone. I kept trying to rise out of the depths thinking to myself ‘just imagine how proud you will feel if you do the whole thing’. I was at war with myself. Two younger women, whom I had passed a number of times and who had also passed me the same amount of times came into view and we spent some time talking and walking. They were part of a four-person team and I had passed the other two members a number of times as well. All four were from Halifax and had stayed at a local bed and breakfast overnight. There’s something to that, preparation, being aware that you don’t have to drive to and from here on the same day as you are walking 24 miles and over three mountains must give one a little bit of a boost. I am always too aware of the sixty-something-miles back to home and how fatigue could play a devastating role in the day’s itinerary.
At Ribblehead we said our goodbyes as I confessed I was ‘going to find a nice spot to collapse’. At the time I was resolved to carry on the walk…but then I sat down!
Sitting down is bad news for me. It’s the ultimate in resolve eroders! I had my energy gel (the second of the day), the second half of a Bounty I had started some hours ago, a pint of water…cos it had been weighing a tonne no matter how much I had already drank and a steak pie (and I genuinely can’t remember the brand). I felt full, not bloated but as if I had taken on enough calories to see me to the top of Whernside. Alas, when I stood up my legs felt like they were composed of some sort of wrought iron – gelatine combination and I have to admit to staggering quite violently (I thought I was going to crash into people).
I crossed the busy B-Road in order to set off on the long slog up Whernside…and could almost feel the last traces of my inner resolve run down my legs! I quit.
The Ribblehead train station was just too close for me to ignore any longer and I headed off in that direction, even this seemed like an arduous, uphill struggle. As it transpired I had an hour to have a couple of lattes and to chat with the staff and some patrons. I had a good time and for a change was not figuratively beating myself up about not completing the challenge successfully. And why not?
Because now I am fully aware of what I have to do:
- Lose weight…and not to become distracted by any weight loss.
- Practice, more hills, walking nine miles home is no mean feet but if it’s on the flat then I have to find some hills somewhere – the west pennines are a beckoning!
- Look into booking a place to stay before and after, to take the pressure off that 120-miles round trip in one day.
- Partner up with someone, I loved meeting and talking with all of the people whom I had the privellege of meeting today, but a team-mate is a different prospect who will spur me on to success (and vice-versa).
- Not take so much bloody water it weighs 1kg per litre and doesn’t half slow down ascensions!
What to take from this walk:
- Pendle Hill looks majestic from anywhere!
- The new steps to descend Pen-y-Ghent make the route narrower and I would hate to try to ascend this way.
- It’s no fun having a stone kicked at you whilst attempting the third scramble of Pen-y-Ghent.
- The walk across Horton Moor and the lesser summits around Whitber hill are really quite nice and worth doing as part of a walk that encapsulates all of them without worrying about having to do the full challenge.
- Whernside looks fearful from Ribblehead, if you are tired.