Three Peaks Challenge (Part One): Hell Bent on Pen-y-ghent

Three Peaks Challenge (Part One): Hell Bent on Pen-y-ghent


I have a penchant for fresh air. Give me a mountain, a wooded vale or a babbling brook over Starbucks and shopping any weekend. I blame my husband for this fascination. He is the ‘outdoorsy type’ and is determined to teach me how to read a map properly. So, a few weeks ago, when most of the country was watching the rugby, we were clambering up Pen-y-ghent in the Yorkshire Dales.

This was the first real test in our six-month build up to the Three Peaks Challenge. The challenge is to walk a circular route of 24 miles in less than twelve hours, taking in the three peaks of Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough. To tackle Pen-y-ghent, we set off from Horton-in-Ribblesdale. It was a balmy ten degrees – positively tropical when you consider that our most recent walk had taken place in minus figures and sideways hail!

Pen-y-ghent is not for the faint-hearted. Although it is the smallest of the Yorkshire Three Peaks (at a mere 694m), it is certainly a challenge. The path which approaches from the southwest ascends the rocky shoulder of the hill. At its steepest, is formed of uneven flagstone steps which can be slippery in wet weather. However, it is not inaccessible. There were a number of small children and dogs on the hill when we were climbing.

If being out of puff didn’t convince me that I was somewhat less fit than desired, my jelly legs certainly did! Nevertheless, I was rewarded with an impressive view and lungfuls of fresh air when we reached the top. In my mind, far preferable to a crowded coffee shop and a caramel latte.

In total, we walked 10.8 miles in four and a half hours that day, although it is possible to take in Pen-y-ghent on a much shorter walk. Some people might tell you that I’m making a mountain out of a molehill by giving myself six months to prepare myself for this challenge but, given the twelve-hour time limit and the state of my legs after this walk, it seems I have some work to do!