I am a huge advocate of having every day adventures. Like the vast majority of adults in this country, I have a full time job and other commitments to juggle. This means that my desire to get outdoors and have fun times in the countryside has to fit in with everything else, both in terms of time and money. So when my travel and adventure hungry friend Tara (Rise and Shine, Paps) said she was planning to hike the Yorkshire Three Peaks on a Saturday that was clear in my diary, LincsGeek encouraged me to respond and say yes, I’m in.
Camping at Holme Farm Campsite, Horton in Ribblesdale
I’ll start with the excuses. Having spent nearly three months sitting on my motorbike and three weeks recovering from that road trip (my body clock took a real battering when we returned home), when it actually came to do the 25 mile hike I felt woefully unprepared. Not in a “didn’t have the right kit or know which way I was going” kind of way, I knew what I was doing in that regard (read my tips for your day hike pack). But rather in a lack of fitness kind of way. Yes, I’ve done it before, yes I’ve done a fair amount of hiking since then including the Lyke Wake Walk and a hike in Yosemite National Park. But after a significant length of time doing not very much, and certainly not being bothered about my nutrition, I was feeling very unfit and carrying much more wobble around my middle than I’d have liked. But hey, there’s nothing like a challenge to force us to move is there?!
View of the Ribblehead Viaduct, Ingleborough and Pen y Ghent (just!) from Whernside.
The Yorkshire Three Peaks, if you’re not aware, is a challenge hike that takes walkers over Pen y Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough, usually in that order, starting and finishing in Horton in Ribblesdale. It’s 25 miles long (some routes say 24 but we did 25), and there is 5,200ft (1,585m) of ascent to take you to the trig points of each peak. Not a way marked route itself, but it’s a very popular walking challenge that thousands of people complete every year within the common target time of 12 hours. If you choose you can sign in and out to make your challenge official, but most people just tend to get up and do the walk for their own personal enjoyment and satisfaction. And that was us – we just wanted to be back in time to grab some food from the pub close to our campsite so we didn’t have to have soup for our evening meal.
The Holme Farm Campsite “Office”, Hortin in Ribblesdale.
Fitting adventure into a normal weekend isn’t that difficult really. We all know that but how often do we actually make it happen? I know I’m guilty of saying I don’t have time, anyway. I headed over to Horton in Ribblesdale straight from work on the Friday afternoon, having loaded up my car the night before (with an incredible amount of stuff) and set up camp at the basic but rather lovely Holme Farm Campsite in the village. My friend Tara, who’s fault this was, and new friend Sarah joined me and we headed to The Golden Lion close by for lasagne and chips to carb up (my body is a temple…!). The whole point of the weekend was to give us all some time outdoors and have a girly weekend doing something we enjoyed, and a couple of nights camping is the perfect way to do that.
Hiking up Pen y Ghent, Yorkshire – scrambling up rocks like this is hard when you’ve got very short legs like me!
I would say the majority of people camping at Holme Farm were doing the Yorkshire Three Peaks that Saturday. We overheard a conversation about an avocado and a knife at about 5am, and watched a large group of green t-shirted charity fundraisers head passed the campsite at just after 7am (which turned out to be Macmillan Cancer Support, and their pink flags all along the route meant we didn’t need to look at our map all day – bonus!). After having a suitable breakfast (instant porridge and a banana) and deciding we would actually pack our waterproof trousers even though the forecast was good, we headed off to meet two other ladies who had come to join us just after 8.15am.
A quick stop to catch our breath and admire the view; almost at the top of Pen y Ghent.
Within two miles of starting the walk I was already in seriously deep pit in my mind. This idea of squeezing in a mini adventure between Friday and Sunday seemed pretty stupid. I was panting, my heart was racing, my legs hurt, my bag felt super heavy, and my head was working out ways to tell Tara, Sarah and the other two ladies who’d joined us that I was just going back to the tent as I wasn’t up to the challenge. I turned to Sarah and one point and said, wheezing, “this really isn’t showing me in my best light”. It wasn’t. I was embarrassed. She looked at me and replied: “Don’t worry, me neither.” We plodded our way to the top of Pen y Ghent, taking lots of stops to look at the view and take photographs, eventually joining the others at the trig point. And at that moment, thankfully and without realising it, my whole mind changed. Once I’d stopped panting I looked around, smiled, and knew I was in a good place. A challenge? Yes. An adventure? Yes. Hard work? Yes. But all thoughts of giving up and going home vanished and I knew in that moment that I would finish this – we would finish this – and we would enjoy it. Phew.
The face of someone who used everything to get to the top of the first of three peaks.
It wasn’t completely plain sailing for the rest of the day but I had at least gotten over my moment of doubt. This is a challenge for a reason! Each time we climbed my heart pounded and my lungs panted for air; my loss of fitness was very obvious and made me quite frustrated. But I was able to find strength in my legs and keep going. We chatted about life and work and travel and adventure. We encouraged each other, laughed, and put the world to rights. We ate peanut butter sandwiches, sushi and jelly beans. We walked and walked, with plenty of breaks to stop and admire the view and take photographs of course.
Lunch time view – the Ribblehead Viaduct. We could see this amazing feat of engineering for most of the day.
My least favourite part of the hike was the descent of Whernside as it is particularly hard on the knees; large and uneven rocky steps that pound the muscles and tease the balance with visions of rolling down the hill. I’ve talked before about how my anxiety causes me to play through the worst case scenario in my mind over and over again, and here it was strong. The thing that kept me going here was the promise of a cup of tea at the farm café at the bottom – a welcome addition to the route since the last time I did this, you just can’t beat a cuppa to help you stop, regroup and get going again.
Making our way down Whernside. Wobbly knees!
I’m planning to write a kind of guide to walking the Yorkshire Three Peaks here on Splodz Blogz in the next week or so (I must remember to link to it from here when it’s ready), so I won’t bore you with loads of details about the hike itself here. Except to say if you’ve never climbed up to the summit of Ingleborough it’s an experience you really must have – it’s quite a scramble up to the top, but knowing it was the last one of the three trig points meant that I could expend all my energy as it would be downhill the rest of the way down! From the summit it’s a long four/five-mile descent back down the village, and naturally we headed straight to the pub for a carvery before collapsing in our little tents for the night.
On the summit of Ingleborough, our final peak of the day. *Only* a few miles back down to the village!
Adventure doesn’t have to involve a personal challenge or working your legs so hard you can barely walk on Monday morning (hot bath, compression socks and a foam roller to the rescue…), but this particular one did. It’s good to remind yourself that even when you are SO busy you rarely have a whole weekend to yourself, it is still possible to fit in some outdoors fun and complete a challenge. I was so glad I was able to make this girls weekend, and even more pleased that I didn’t listen to that voice in my mind that told me to go back to the tent after the first two miles. It’s all good for me!
Making our way back to Horton in Ribblesdale and the base of Pen y Ghent.
Life is all about the journey – spend your weekends outdoors and don’t be afraid to set yourself a challenge on your next free Saturday. Where will you go? What will you do?