Our team at Strata are thrilled to have completed the Three Peaks Challenge in order to raise money for the When You Wish Upon A Star charity. The challenge involved walking 20 miles in less than 12 hours; an experience which was very gruelling!
Sam Naylor, from The Creative Farm, shares her experience of the day; hopefully it will motivate others to get involved with charity challenges in the future!
It was an early start and the adventure to climb Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough which make up the Yorkshire Three Peaks, was still an hour and a half’s drive away. Armed with a pint of tea, a tub of flapjacks and some matchsticks to keep our eyes open, my husband Ian and I set off praying the weather would stay fine for the day.
After meeting up with the rest of our team and getting a team photo, we were off! Starting from Horton in Ribblesdale, we set our sights on the first peak, Pen-y-ghent. It was a beautiful morning, if a little chilly, and we found ourselves walking directly into the sun as we climbed. The route winded through a couple of rock escarpments before reaching the summit, meaning the ‘easy’ stroll I’d joked about was already not looking that easy! I wasn’t expecting to see so many people at that time in the morning but 400 walkers were also out raising money for The Alzheimer’s Society. We even had to queue to climb the summit; as Gail Rosindale said, "It was as busy as shopping down Briggate on a Saturday!"
Within the hour we were making our descent from Pen-y-ghent. The next peak on the list, Whernside, was a 12-mile walk away. For people who don’t walk the hills on a regular basis, the elation of a relatively quick and easy first summit is slowly eroded by the long hike to Ribblehead. The famous Ribblehead Viaduct made a welcome sight as it signalled our first break, where Greg from our team produced an enormous flask of tea that was enough to refresh all of us. It must have weighed a tonne! A quick banana, flapjack and swoosh of energy drink later, we were on our way again.
The group had naturally split after the pit stop and Ian, Emma, David, Greg, Simon and I headed past the viaduct and walked alongside the Settle-Carlisle railway line taking a steady ascent to Whernside. There are two ways up Whernside on the Challenge Route – one is short but brutal, so we opted for the longer but kinder way, taking a loop to the north. Finally we reached the summit; the sun was shining but Simon’s feet were starting to blister, never mind the pain in his arthritic knees! Desptie this, Whernside was definitely my favourite summit of the three due to the beautiful views.
Apart from taking in the stunning views of the Yorkshire Dales and realising how far we still had left to the final peak, Ingleborough, we didn't take a break at the Whenside summit. The descent was tough down Whernside; rocky, steep and uneven under foot. My knees were beginning to ache and my feet were tired and sore at this point. After about an hour, we met the lovely Leonie who had a car boot full of treatments and tasty treats. Sausage rolls, cake, jelly babies and a selection of refreshments - more than enough to put a vending machine to shame. Loading up on some goodies gave us the energy to carry on,although David had lost the sole to one of his walking boots by this point which proved a problem when tackling the final peak!
Ingleborough was tough for me as I suffer vertigo, and the temptation to bail when I saw the steep climb was high as it looked so much steeper and generally scarier than what we’d tackled so far. The grey clouds arrived and the temperature dropped dramatically, echoing my mood! The uphill sections seemed to go on forever, and then the incline changed to a dramatic rock face. I have no other way of describing it than to say we scrambled and climbed our way to the top on our hands and feet. I was petrified, with shaking legs and tears rolling down my cheeks. Some kind stranger offered to take my hand and help me clamber to the top ridge, blocking my view down below, a gesture I'll remember for a long time to come.
Having finally reached the top, it was downhill all the way to Horton – it’s a surprisingly long distance, so more Lucozade was in order. However, we still had another 5 miles to go until we returned to our starting point. Then the heavens opened, the rain came and there were even hailstones. Luckily we only had about an hour and a half left if we were going to do it in 9 hours, which was actually looking achievable.
The home straight!
By now our feet really were screaming and we had yet more rocky terrain ahead. We struggled our way across the first few miles, with David and his sole-less shoe taking a dramatic tumble in the thick mud, cows were blocking the pathway, our legs were drenched but then the sun came out and we came across a signpost telling us we were only two miles away – light at the end of the tunnel!
With only five minutes to go, we mustered up a final spurt, overtook other walkers and arrived back in exactly 9 hours! A big high five and group hug was in order. Wow! We arrived back to the car and Leonie was waiting with towels, Compeeds and deep heat. We felt thoroughly satisfied and exhausted.
The entire group completed the challenge and we were happy to raise money for a great cause. Would I do it again? Ask me in a year’s time!