I have a bad trait (and Minh knows it well.. among many other character flaws) of being woefully unprepared for events that I sign up for. When I first started “racing”, I was fairly good about consistent training and improvement. But, in all honesty, as I added more races to my schedule along with more hobbies and projects, the training took a dive and I continually got slower and slower. Nothing has really changed in that regard, which was especially evident when Minh and I took on the Yorkshire Dales Three Peaks Challenge over the weekend. I signed up for this organized hike through an Amazon Local deal for Large Outdoors. My first thought was, it’s a hike – how bad could it really be? I figured we could just wing it and we would be fine… this was the mentality I had all the way up to Friday evening, when Minh started to instill doubt in my mind about the whole thing. Ends up that hiking 23 to 26 miles (reported distances vary) over 12 hours actually requires some training and a basic level of fitness – who would have thought?
Just some background on the challenge.. The three peaks referenced here are Ingleborough, Whernside and Pen-y-ghent. The route is a loop, so you can theoretically start at any point and attack the peaks in different orders, but the normal route is start in Horton-in-Ribblesdale and to walk the route counterclockwise (Pen-y-ghent to Whernside to Ingleborough). Presumably this is so you get the tallest one out of the way first, but we actually did the route clockwise, starting with Ingleborough and ending with Pen-y-ghent.
The up-side to doing the challenge clockwise that the trail is only crowded around Whernside, where you’ll pass all the hikers going the other way. For Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent, it’s mostly just your group with the occasional small group here and there. The down-side to this was that the tallest, and arguably the hardest, peak was at the end, when we were already very tired and sore and pretty much over the whole day.
Another downside to hiking the route clockwise was that the start to summit Pen-y-ghent is MILES AND MILES away from the bottom of Whernside.. we walked forever and it didn’t seem like the peak was getting any closer. Minh and I were feeling fairly good at the start and only starting to feel slight pain in our knees and ankles coming down Whernside, but the long trek toward Pen-y-ghent just put us over the edge. We were in a lot of by the end of the day.. I’m pretty sure Minh hated me for planning this trip.. and in the end we vowed to never go hiking again (not really). Here are pictures from the hike.. you can see that we’re all happy smiles in them, but deep down underneath it all, we were achy and pretty miserable. I was going to try to put them in order, but that would just take too long.. so they’re completely random in terms of what point of the trail we are at.
All-in-all, we finished the challenge in 11 hours and 50 minutes, which is just 10 minutes shy of the 12-hour limit for completing the challenge. I was so happy that we finished and were done for the day. Now I can cross that off my bucket list (#10). I also have to add that the weather on Saturday was absolutely amazing for hiking. The sun was shining and there was no possibility of rain at all. Much better than the forecast the weekend before, which was cold and miserable. I actually managed a reverse raccoon tan from wearing my sunglasses all day.
If you’re planning on completing this challenge, I would definitely recommend doing it with a tour operator. You can definitely do this on your own, but they just make it SO MUCH EASIER. It was a great experience with Large Outdoors – all the staff and guides are all super friendly and helpful. We added-on the hostel stay (at Ingleton YHA) and had our meals included, which again, made the whole weekend much easier than if we had tried to do it on our own.