The Monthly Newsletter of Chelmsford YHA Local Group
Five do Three Peaks
How hard could it be? Three peaks, 24 miles, 12 hours?
I remember being quite blasé about it in the beginning. It couldn’t be that difficult, loads of people had done it!
My preparations for the Yorkshire Three Peaks only really started the night before with a first detailed look at the map. Strange that there was such a small group for such a fun outing, why weren’t there more people and why was no one who’d done it before prepared to do it again?
Saturday, 7am, we set off and it took less than 1 mile for me to realise that perhaps I should have thought a little more deeply about this, I was struggling to keep up! I started to assess my team mates: I knew Ali’s walking CV (I considered myself broadly equal in terms of ability/stamina in normal times); Mick and Gerry I had only just met - Mick was a very keen cyclist and he was striding out ahead at a bloody fast pace, and Gerry was a serious walker who was using this as a warm up for a much tougher expedition the following week. As for Jamey, well the lucky sod is only 24 years old, so enough said about him.
The first peak was Ingleborough and included a seriously steep climb towards the top. As I had been struggling to keep up so far, doubts were now swimming in my head. I decided that if I wasn’t able to cut it during this next stage of the climb then, at the top, I would make my excuses and let the rest plough on without the weakling. When we eventually paused for that breath I was relieved to see that it wasn’t 4 people bunched behind the slow old git. There was a respectable spread, but I still had doubts. I think I started to lay the foundations of my copping out with Ali at that point in time, she of course was brilliant and pointed out that different people move more quickly over different terrains – up, down and flat – and whilst that proved to be exactly the case over the course of the day, but I wasn’t going to be convinced for a good few hours yet!
Distracted by the high of reaching the top inside the nominal target time, I made one of those stupid foot placement mistakes on the way down and ended up with a muddy arse. So now my mind turned to my own safety! I got away with it this time, but there were another two descents left to negotiate safely. How was I going to manage that and still keep up the pace!
The first descent turned into a short slog towards Pen-y-Ghent and I was still having my doubts. I would bail out if I couldn’t hack the pace, this was becoming a very real possibility, nudging on probability. But again things perked up – tea is a wonderful thing, and one small cup of it at the Pen-y-Ghent café in Horton did me the power of good. Ascent number two to the top of Pen-y-Ghent was largely uneventful. As we approached the peak our group was spread out again, but not too much. It was the most populous part of the day and probably slowed us slightly. We later found out that at least 800 people were on the ‘course’ that day, but we saw precious few of them apart from on this stretch. I was about mid point in our group with Ali at the front when Jamey came past and with a childish grin said he was going to race to Ali to the summit and set off running the 100 yards or so between us – oh to be 24 again!
The second descent was largely uneventful and I was in good spirits having realised that I wasn’t going to be a hindrance after all. These high spirits stayed with me for a long time, a good few miles. I didn’t even mind that ‘funny’ feeling in one of my toes, I managed to push it out of my mind since it obviously wasn’t going to go away – only later that night did I realise that the funny feeling was the sensation of the first of three toenails to leave their normal place of residence that day (not sure when the other two followed suit, I didn’t notice them until the boots came off).
There was just one more ascent at the end of a long flat bit, but that flat bit seemed to go on, and on and on … Time for another reviving cup of tea, but everything was in slow motion – it took an age to get served with tea and then an age to drink it (it just would not cool down in those polystyrene cups). When we did set off for the final ascent of Whernside, I was convinced it would be very tight for time. We needed a really big push up this final ascent. Nothing was said. I found myself at the front at the start of the steep bit, I pushed, going as fast as I could, but it seemed to last forever. I could hear footsteps right behind me but didn’t know for sure who they belonged to. Turned out to be Ali and Jamey, with Mick and Gerry just a little way back. Half way up this section Ali took the lead and we continued at the same pace. I was getting exhausted now, everything hurt – thankfully Jamey didn’t jog past this time.
And then we were on the ridge, it was levelling off, I could see the pub (our end point) and began to believe we were actually going to beat that 12 hour guillotine.
It was a day that I will remember long after recovering from the injured feet. Was it fun? No. Were there good bits? Yes, a few, the second descent and the final ascent, but mainly it was just damned hard work.
Would I do it again – not a chance, I understand very clearly now why there were only the five of us, and exactly how hard it could be! It is up there with my marathon.
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