Waking up bleary eyed at 05:15 on a Saturday morning could mean only one thing – challenge day had arrived, and this time round it was the Yorkshire 3 Peaks; summiting the 3 highest peaks in Yorkshire (Pen-y-Ghent 694m, Whernside 736m & Ingleborough 723m) within 12 hours.
For my second accompanied challenge, I was joined again by Major Challenger Rupert Rowling, along with my best bud Nat Dannenberg & my cousin Sian Hills. Considering we’d knocked off over 3 hours from the National 3 Peaks’ 24 hour limit, we decided to give ourselves the target of 10 hours for the Yorkshire equivalent. However, it wasn’t until the day before did the tweets start flying in, “what the hell are you doing – it’s practically a marathon, up & down hills”. Well, it didn’t become one of my 21 challenges for no reason!
We set off from the car park in Horton at 08:15, bidding farewell to my Dad who had kindly driven us there. Crossing the bridge, I was reminded of the bridge at the start of Ben Nevis (luckily no flash backs occurred). We got a good pace on for the first half an hour – but only 15 minutes in & I needed a change of clothes – I’d learnt after last time, so quickly switched to my running vest from the cotton tee, which worked wonders at keeping me sweat free for most of the trip. Maybe not official walking equipment, but sure as hell was better than last time.
I’d like to tell you more about the first leg of the journey but before we knew it, we were at the top of Pen-y-Ghent. Literally after 30/40 mins we’d summitted the first peak. I remember looking at Rupert, both of us not actually saying anything, but knowing exactly what the other was thinking: “Who the hell picked this as a challenge?” I didn’t want to say anything to the others, but was seriously thinking I’d picked the wrong event for challenge 8 (HA! Little did I know, what was to follow). After a quick drink stop, we were off to find our second hill.
The bottle neck of walkers we met on the way up peak one slowly dispersed as we crossed the boggy peat covered marsh land at the bottom of Pen-y-Ghent. While we developed our long jumps, needless to say we weren’t yet at Olympic standards, our boots got a little muddy. While Sian’s feet probably looked the worst, it wasn’t anywhere close to the guy who tried to cross a boggy patch, and suddenly disappeared up to his waist in mud. As we all tried not to laugh, it was just too tempting. Just a shame I couldn’t’ get my phone out quick enough to take a snap.
The route actually crossed the road in two places, which afforded us the luxury of having my Dad meet us with a refill for water and a quick energy refuel. Much to Nat’s distaste we only allowed ourselves a 5 minute reprieve before we were onto the next leg of our journey, and what a leg it was. Whernside was the tallest of the 3 peaks, and the ascent was one that seemed to go on for hours!
On the way up we all got into our own rhythms for certain sections. A big problem I have, is that if I have someone in front of me, I just follow them at their pace. So after keeping up with this guy for a while, I could really feel my heart going, and was seriously getting a sweat on. It was only after about 20 minutes that I realised I was behind a fell runner, who was walking up Whernside at the speed of light. While some might see it as a bit of a school boy error, we definitely got ourselves up that hill pretty damn quick. And by half one in the afternoon, we’d made the top of the second peak.
Clearly the challenge wasn’t enough for some members of group, as Nat decided to host a military fitness class at the top of Whernside.
After our descent, we had one last stop where we met Dad again for a final refuel & water break. Compared to the National 3 peaks where we had 4/5 hours drive in between each peak, this challenge was seriously turning into a beast, as we only really stopped for 15 mins max at any one time. Actually we usually stopped for just 5 mins for water breaks – our longest stop was the 15 mins we allowed for lunch. No rest for the wicked.
Our final peak was Ingleborough, which we knew was going to test us both physically & mentally (especially as the rain clouds were coming in thick & fast). While the legs were getting sore, the heart beating fast and the weather turning sour, we had a nice boost when chatting with another group of walkers, which we met resting at the bottom of the Ingleborough. They were less than impressed to hear we’d left at 08:15 – we on the other hand, were pretty impressed, as they’d left at 07:00.
The final slog was here. We re-grouped, re-watered, & had a quick pep-talk. No stopping until the top of those steps. We say steps, but it was proper scrambling up the side of the hill. One, two, three GO! Legs started to burn, hearts started to pump faster than they had all day, the height increased with each step, taking us higher up the side of Inglebourgh and with each step, one bit closer to the top of our third & final peak. For anyone who knows about our previous mountain climbs, it will be no surprise to find out that when we reached the summit…..it was raining, and with low visibility. Shocking I know.
To hell with it – I didn’t care. We’d made it. Peak three well & truly completed. But the problem was, we had just over 2 hours to get back to the car park in Horton. We didn’t know the route well enough to know how long it would take, so we picked up the pace. Big time.
For the last hour I talked a lot with Sian, who had a slightly different motive for joining me than the others. Not only is her other cousin (my brother) out in Afghanistan, but her boyfriend Dave has just recently been deployed there with the RAF. So for Sian, to challenge herself in a physically and mentally demanding day long feat, was especially touching, given her connection to the cause. Talking about our loved ones out there, really gave us the extra motivation to finish this beast. In fact it motivated us so much, that we crazily decided to run the last half mile, bringing us back to the start, with a time much quicker than we’d ever hoped.
9 hours, 12 minutes & 46 seconds after leaving, we’d made it back, covering 24.5 miles while climbing 1,600m+ of Yorkshire hills!
Shattered, elated, sweaty, aching, cramping, sore, chuffed & over the moon would probably sum up our feelings when we eventually managed to sit down. My expectations of this event changed so much throughout the day, and what I thought was going to be an easier ride, really turned into a challenge worthy of 21:21 grandeur.
I’m so thankful to the guys who joined me on this challenge – a big thank you to Rupert, Nat & Sian. Knowing that you were there to support not just me & my 21:21 challenge, but also my brother and Help for Heroes means more than you’ll know. Top banana to you all. Also a huge thank you to my very supportive Dad, for providing transport & refuelling for the day – a vital part to our team. Finally, a thank you to all those who facebooked, tweeted & texted messages of support both before, throughout & after the trip (very excitingly we even got a mention from Leeds Rhinos – GO TEAM!)
Until next time (oh yes, in 3 weeks time as it happens), thanks for supporting my venture & hey, if you fancy doing your bit, give me a shout, as I’m always looking for people to join me on the challenges. Alternatively, if you’d rather stay in the dry, please help me reach my target of £10,000 and sponsor me here – every penny goes directly to Help for Heroes, helping them in their amazing work to support our injured guys & girls.
Help for Heroes [21:21] Challenge