The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge 2021

A Guide to Completing the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge

The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge was a bit of a training run for us, I suppose. Dek, a colleague of mine, set himself 30 challenges to do in his 30’s, of which one was the National Three Peaks Challenge, to tackle Ben Nevis, Scarfell Pike and Snowdon.

I’d already walked Ben Nevis and Snowdon and wanted to walk Scarfell Pike. So how better to do that than to complete the National Three Peaks Challenge with Dek?

After visiting the Three Peaks Challenge website to do some research, it revealed there are other Three Peak Challenges in the UK. The problem with the National seems to be the distance between the peaks and proper planning and logistics are involved. And that’s where the Yorkshire Three Peaks comes in. It’s not far from where we live in Shropshire, just three hours or so up the M6 and it doesn’t require transport between places – it’s simply a loop from the same start and endpoint…an easy training run to prepare for the National, right?

As part of the Three Peak Challenges, I’m raising money for Kirkwood Hospice. You can read more about why HERE and you can also donate, if you’d like to.

Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge – What is it?

Officially, the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge is a continuous 24.5-mile walk over three summits in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales in the north of England that is supposed to be completed within 12 hours. The three peaks are Ingleborough, Whernside and Pen-y-ghent and have a total ascent of 1,524m. Side note – when I was in middle school, the names of the houses were Ingleborough, Whernside and Pen-y-ghent, of which I was in Pen-y-ghent. It turns out we didn’t live that far away from them!

Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge Route

According to threepeakschallenge.uk, the Yorkshire Three Peaks distance is 24.5-miles. According to our Strava record, it was 25.45 miles. This is somewhat disappointing when you’re mentally prepared for a 24.5-mile finish and have to walk a bit further than expected! Ha! A mile isn’t far, but when your feet are sore you’d want to finish sooner rather than later, right?

The Yorkshire Three Peaks maps is below with our start point and route. The traditional starting point is Horton in Ribblesdale – the green marker on the map below. There’s a car park and train station, but it’s not the only start point. Two other popular start points are Ribbleshead and Chapel le Dale. We chose to start at Horton in Ribblesdale because that’s where our campsite was. Scroll down for more information on our camp at Holme Farm Campsite.

The blue marker is a little tuck shop at Chapel-le-Dale if you need to get supplies on your way round. They have a counter but they also have a contactless vending machine. There’s also camping for the Yorkshire Three Peaks, but only for tents.

Yorkshire Three Peaks map

Clockwise or Anti-Clockwise Route?

Clockwise or anti-clockwise, that is the question! We opted for the clockwise direction, based entirely on a recommendation from a colleague. We felt like salmon swimming against the river because almost everyone was going the opposite way. I know this because you can see for miles and there was no one on our tail, nor was there anyone in front of us. We’re not sure why everyone was going the other way though. Had they had some insider intel we hadn’t? If you know something we didn’t – comments at the bottom, please!

Pen-y-ghent is the smallest of the three peaks. Not by much, but that’s what dictated our route because of the recommendation, despite not knowing the incline and decline from each peak. The idea being that you crack the two biggest hills first. Not only that but they are completed in the first half of the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge route. Tackling the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge in an anti-clockwise direction from Horton in Ribblesdale will leave you with a very harsh steep hill up to Ingleborough.

Tackling the Yorkshire Three Peaks cHallenge route clockwise not only means you have cracked two peaks but you also get to enjoy the best part of the walk from Whernside to Pen-y-ghent and past Ribblehead viaduct which is largely downhill and flat. While you have a long, sweeping downhill from Whernside, everyone else has the long, sweeping uphill from Ribblehead. But it’s personal preference, I suppose. Although it’s difficult to say, I think our Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge route was the right one, given our starting point.

According to the internet, Pen-y-ghent is the easiest of the three peaks to tackle. Pen-y-ghent is also the smallest of the three but it’s not really a walk in the park. It has a nice path up if you are approaching from the clockwise direction, with only the last 1 and 3/4-mile from the junction that comes from Horton in Ribblesdale being the hardest. But once you’re up, it’s straight down the other side and only a couple of miles into Horton in Ribblesdale.

If you’re coming the other way, it’s a decent walk up but the last few hundred metres is pretty ninja. You will be scrambling up the side of Pen-y-ghent. It’s hard to say whether it’s easier to walk down or climb up such a steep bank, but we’re glad we were going down it for the last two miles and not climbing up it, followed by a long walk back to Ribblehead, like some of the guys we spoke to along the way.

You might also want to consider an exit plan if you’re struggling. We passed a couple of groups who had reduced numbers when we passed them for the second time. I expect some people didn’t finish and got a pick-up along the route!

Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge – How long does it take?

The average time to complete the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge is between 9 and 12 hours. The challenge is meant to be complete in under 12 hours. But completing it at all is an accomplishment in itself, even if you don’t complete it in under 12 hours.

We finished in a few minutes under 9 hours, despite what my Strava screenshot says…I forgot to knock off the auto-pause mode! We kept moving, stopping only when nature called and to get food from our backpacks, to keep the time down…and the odd map check.

Screenshot 20210731 1601541
The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge 2021 1

Yorkshire Three Peaks Difficulty

It’s just one foot in front of the other, 60,000 times, isn’t it? Ha! The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge is 25 miles…not on flat ground. I dare say 25 miles on flat ground would be a challenge for lots of people, let alone the fitties among us. It’s impossible to assess someone else’s fitness against the requirement of the challenge, but to give you an idea – I am comfortable walking long distances regularly if I consider a long-distance up to about 10 miles. I also run, cycle and kayak regularly and would say my fitness is good for my age (I’m 35. I know, I’m getting old!)…but how can that be measured against this? Who knows.

I have never walked 25 miles before and nor had Dek. And let me tell you – it wasn’t a walk in the park. But that’s the point, right? If it wasn’t a challenge it would be something we all do all the time. By the end of it, your feet will be hurting and your legs and knees will be feeling it too, so be prepared for a little bit of pain. But as they say, no pain, no gain!

We had almost perfect weather for the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge. There were highs of only 16 degrees Celcius, light winds and it was totally overcast, which probably helped us. There was a bit of fog on Ingleborough and Whernside, but Pen-y-ghent cleared so we could enjoy the views on the final peak. It could have been a very different story if the sun was blazing, the wind howling or the rain torrential!

Registering for the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge

You can register for the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge HERE. Registration is £6 per person. Is it worth it? Kind of. You get some resources, such as an equipment list and some information about the route. There is no map in the resources but there are all the grid references you’ll need if you’re navigating by map and compass. You also get a certificate in the post and a page in the Three Peaks Challenge Database.

Accommodation for the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge

Looking for Yorkshire Three Peaks camping? Read on! We opted to stay for two nights. One before and one after. We considered heading home after the walk but decided against it thinking we would be knackered after walking 25 miles and fancied some decent grub and a beer in the pub after. We definitely made the right choice. Unless you live fairly locally, I wouldn’t recommend driving afterwards. We got tired quickly after stopping and suspect you might be the same.

We stayed at Holme Farm Campsite in Horton in Ribblesdale, which is on the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge route. It’s a bit of a rough and ready campsite but it’s absolutely suitable for the job and has a very unique character. It’s mega relaxed and even has a little black and white cat wandering around which I found right next to the random tent thing that is the reception. It’s like a functioning house wrapped up in a massive black bag! Ha! You need to see this place to believe it.

We paid £20 per night which also included electric hook-up. The showers are £1 and give you ten minutes. After we’d completed the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge I used every single second of those 10 minutes!

We were located right by the road which was fine overnight but not in the morning. There is a road outside the campsite that can be parked on for free and loads of people turned up to start their walk there and made loads of noise while they were at it, waking us about 0530. I don’t expect this happens every day, but worth noting if you’re arriving in a camper or motorhome because the spots for these vehicles are all located against the same wall. If you’re camping in a tent, you’d be down on the field away from the road.

There are other accommodation solutions, of course. A few are listed below for you:

3 Peaks Bunk Room

Golden Lion Hotel – we went here for a pint and some grub afterwards. I highly recommend the burger!

The Crown Hotel – we also went for a pint here! It’s an old school traditional pub that does a decent pint.

Hornby Laithe Bunkhouse Barn

Kit for the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge

It’s important you are prepared with the right kit for your Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge. As with our walk up Ben Nevis, I was surprised to see people in such poor choices of clothing, like someone wearing a pair of Nike trainers that are better suited to the trendy bar on a Friday night than they are on a yomp up a few hills. You might regret not having the right kit with you, so below is a list to get you started.

The Basics

Water – 2 litres should be sufficient, but you will know your own body’s needs!

Food – we opted for some sandwiches, bananas, Mars bars and Wine Gums…yum! Again, you will know your own needs.

Boots – Some well worn walking boots with ankle support should do you. The terrain is a mixture of road, steps, stone chipping paths, wooden walkways and fairly well-beaten tracks. You need a pair of suitable boots to manage everything – trainers are probably not the best option.

Clothing

  • Base layer – I have a merino wool base layer which is excellent. Not only is it effective, it also doesn’t stink! It’s worth spending the money on a merino wool top for something like this. There’s a good article HERE that compares merino wool and synthetic materials.
  • Mid layer – some kind of microfleece should be suitable, just to keep the chill off, should you need to.
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Walking trousers – I have some really lightweight walking trousers. If they get wet, they dry quickly and are super comfortable and flexible.
  • Waterproof trousers – We opted not to take waterproof trousers because the weather was looking fine for the day, but you may want a set of waterproof trousers if the weather isn’t looking so good. And remember, the weather can change quickly – you wouldn’t want to be caught out.

Phone & charger – this goes without saying in today’s world. Phone signal is poor for most of the route, so download your maps if you choose to navigate by tech and not a map & compass, but remember – relying on a mobile phone will always carry risks, so you may want to take a map and compass.

Hat & gloves – these two go hand in hand. Even if the weather is good, it’s likely to be windy on the peaks and if you’re stopping for food or rest, you might get cold quickly.

For Comfort

Anti-chafing rub – such as Bodyglide to stop your legs chafing. No doubt this would cause you a problem if suffer a bit of chafing and don’t have any anti-chafing rub to hand.

Compeed – for the hotspots on your feet. If you’re anything like Dek and have feet like a baby, you’ll need these. Look after your feet otherwise you’ll be in a world of pain by the end!

Sun cream – if the sun is shining you’re going to regret a few hours of being baked by the sun!

Sunglasses

Other Kit Considerations

Map & compass – Ordnance Survey Explorer map OL2 is the one you need if you’re into using maps! You will easily be able to navigate the walk because it’s signposted and there are tons of people all going the same way…unless you’re us! Ha! It would never be a bad idea to take a map and compass, even if you’ve got your phone with mapping on. Belt and braces, and all that! The weather may change and you might need a map and compass but it’s no use if you can’t read a map and don’t know how to use a compass, so find out how before you set off.

Spare socks – if you have sweaty feet or no waterproof boots, you might want to take a spare pair to change into to help keep your feet dry. We didn’t bother because we know our feet and boots, but you may want to. You know your feet and boots better than anyone, after all!

Head torch – if you’re doing the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge during winter, you might not have sufficient time to get around while there is daylight.

Emergency shelter & safety blanket – you might consider this a bit of overkill, but emergencies do happen. The air ambulance was out while we were walking. It looked like a training run, but they don’t train for the sake of it. These items might help to keep you warm if you’re stuck and in need of some help.

A Final Word

Completing the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge is an accomplishment, no matter what your fitness level is and I’m sure you will feel like you have achieved something by the end of it. Given it was a training run for our National Three Peaks Challenge, we now know what it feels like to walk 25.5 miles but that isn’t my concern. My concern is the distance between each hill. I tend to smash what needs doing and rest after, not rest between. I’m also a ten o’clock bedtime kind of guy, so I’m not particularly looking forward to tackling Snowdon at 0100 in the morning! Ha!

A Bumper Crew trip wouldn’t be complete without a little look around somewhere, so on our way home, we stopped for some breakfast in Settle. We came across this little place called the Ye Olde Naked Man Café. They do great coffee and delicious bacon, sausage and egg sandwiches…the yolk is runny and yummy!

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