Those 3 peaks again!

Last year Lisa from Hollybobbs and I set out to complete the Yorkshire 3 peaks, unfortunately it just was not to be and you can read about what happened here.  This year I was on my own, but more determined than ever to complete the Yorkshire 3 Peaks.

My chosen charity was Macmillan Cancer Support.  I lost a good friend to cancer last year and it was her wish to raise money for the charity who had provided so much support to her and her family.  The charity set a minimum sponsorship of £175 but I wanted to raise more.

For those unaware of the Yorkshire 3 Peaks, it is 26 miles climbing the 3 peaks of 

Pen-y-Ghent (691 metres)
Whernside (728 metres)
Ingleborough (723 metres)

The challenge is to do this within 12 hours.  Each peak is completed one after the other and you walk in between the peaks.  The fastest ever recorded time is 2 hours, 29 minutes, 53 seconds in 1974. The women's record is 3 hours, 16 minutes and 17 seconds.  In comparison the fastest marathon is 2 hours, 3 minutes and 2 seconds.  It is incredibly hard as I found out last year and this meant I knew exactly what to expect.

We set off in the blazing hot sun at 7.40am.  The walk up Pen-y-Ghent was hard work in the blazing sun, I could feel my skin burning and sweat was pouring, there was no breeze in sight.  By the time I reached the top of Pen-y-Ghent I was feeling light headed and dizzy, I needed to stop to cool down.  The midges were out in force so I didn't stop for long.  The walk then became more relaxed, the clouds came out creating a much more pleasant yet still warm walk and became more relaxed as it was a decline to Whernside.

Last year Whernside was where it all went wrong, and so this year I had a score to settle.  I felt positive and with the support of Joanne, Paul and Paula who I met en route managed to climb to the top feeling enthusiastic that I could make the cut off time at the base of Whernside.

Whilst Whernside is the one I was dreading most, it is for me the one with the most fantastic views.  I was ready to begin the descent.  I remember this part all too well from last year and had to make it before the cut off time.  

Whernside is a steep decent, the best way to do it is to walk sideways.  It is hard uneven rock and makes it impossible to put your foot flat on the floor.  You are constantly balancing and trying not to fall over, which happens a lot.  The worst part of the decent is that you keep thinking you are almost there, then another bit creeps in front, followed by another and it feels never ending.  Every step I took was starting to become more painful, my toes were in agony.  I stubbed both feet several times on the way down, and tripped over several rocks, every step was becoming more and more painful.  The insect bites suffered on Pen-y-Ghent were also starting to itch.

I made it to the base of Whernside at 2.10pm.  In plenty of time, the cut off time was 3.30pm.  We were told that we were in the lead group of walkers around the top 40 and this raised spirits.  The walk from Whernside to Ingleborough is only a short one and whilst on the flat even ground I was fine.  As soon as the path to Ingleborough became boggy I was in a lot of pain, my toes could not handle much more.  Then in front of me I saw lots of walkers sitting down and behind them a cliff face.  Climbing up the cliff face I could see other walkers with the green Macmillan shirt, I knew what we were about to do.  I cannot begin to describe the pain I was in at that point, every step I wanted to be sick from the pain.  Looking down caused vertigo and looking up reminded you how far you had to go.  

Imaged used with permission from Paula
 After the almost sheer vertical climb, which yes you do have to use your hands to climb up, you have a 15 minute walk to reach the top.  This was incredibly scary.  Vertigo kept setting in, you tried not to look down but you could see the clouds below you.  The path was uneven and rocky making walking painful.  Not only this but other walkers where coming back from the summit down the same path, for the return part of the journey back to base.  

Imaged used with permission from Paula
The good news is I made it to the top, despite the pain, the sun burn, the midge bites and messy hair.  I was at the top at 4.10pm.

We headed back towards base and was told we only had 4 miles to go, which means it should have taken 1 more hour given the current walking pace.  The path became more and more uneven and more rocky as it progressed.  The midges seemed to be hungry and began attacking me from every angle.  For the first time on the walk I was alone.  No one to talk to and no company.  Whilst I knew in my head there was only 4 more miles to go, the pain and exhaustion was setting in.  The pain was so bad that I wanted to stop.  The end was no where to be seen, all that was around me was high steeped banks and what appeared to be a never ending path.  A sign post was in the distance and I hoped it had good news, I was hoping for the last mile, but no still 2 more to go.  I was frustrated at this point, I thought I had walked further.

I was feeling low and in a lot of pain.  Walkers were passing me all in groups all laughing and joking.  Then I heard 'ow', 'ow', 'ow' and I turned.  Three walkers whose names I didn't get where coming up behind me.  One, I think number 331, said I didn't look too good and kindly gave me some paracetamol.  The lady saying 'ow' said her feet were hurting her and we hobbled together for that last mile.

That last mile with paracetamol inside me and company and support of three walkers gave me the push I needed.  I was still in a lot of pain but at least I was no longer alone.  Then on the other side of the hill I saw the car park with my car in it.  At last civilisation.  I was excited and so relieved, we were almost there!  Then a train station appeared from no where and I realised I was on the street where the finish line was.  I crossed the finish line at 6.40pm, 11 hours exactly.

It is almost a month since I completed the Yorkshire 3 Peaks challenge.  I broke 2 toes and suffered a huge blister [check out my Instagram if you want to see a picture].  I still have two toe nails which are black and painful if touched.  If I walk or am stood up for too long then these two toes cause me immense pain.  Whilst I would not do the challenge again, the memory of the pain is still too real and I feel there would be little point as I completed within 12hours, it was worth it.  I raised to date £150 for Macmillan Cancer support.  Unfortunately this is below the minimum they requested.  It was an amazing experience and I met some wonderful people.

I have a few thank you to do, first to Lisa at Hollybobbs for not only sponsoring me but also for setting me the challenge initially.  To my friends and family who have sponsored me and put up with my random training.  The girls for letting Mummy go on some walks without you and for being ever so well behaved when you came on walks with me.  To Britax for providing BOB and Kiddy for their carrier meaning I could take the girls with me.  My dog for being amazing company on my training walks.  To Kinspeed for all the activities you did to raise awareness and the donation made through my Just giving page.

Finally a big thank you to Blueprint for Yorkshire.  In case you don't know about them, they have a strategy for ensuring safe drinking water and minimising the impact on the environment.  In doing so they have preserved some amazing land in Yorkshire, which meant I have had some fantastic and free walks right on my doorstep.  Without them I would have had to travel further for training meaning more time away from the girls.  

It was tough but I did it and am so incredibly proud, I hope my friend whose memory I walked in is too.

This article has been referenced by the Park Leisure Guide to Yorkshire, discussing the most challenging walks in Yorkshire

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  1. What an achievement. A huge well done!! It sounds really really tough and I don't think I'd ever be able to do even one of those. Hats off to you. I bet your friend would be ultra ultra proud too xx

  2. Well done! Fantastic achievement! I don't think I'd manage it! :)


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