I suppose the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge was a bit of a training run for us. 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?
A Guide to Completing the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge
After visiting the Three Peaks Challenge website to 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?
What Is the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge?
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, with 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 Route
According to threepeakschallenge.uk, the Yorkshire Three Peaks distance is 24.5 miles. According to our Strava recording, it was 25.45 miles. This is somewhat disappointing when you’re mentally prepared for a 24.5-mile finish and have to walk 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 Yorkshire Three Peaks starting point is Horton in Ribblesdale – the green marker on the map below. More specifically, the Pen-y-ghent Cafe on Pennine Way has been the Yorkshire Three Peaks starting point for many walkers over the years, and the cafe even operates a clock-in and out system to time your walk.
There’s a car park and train station in Horton, which makes it easy to access, but it’s not the only starting point. Two other popular starting points are Ribbleshead and Chapel le Dale. We started 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 around. 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 Challenge route map
Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge 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 is that you crack the two most prominent hills first. Not only that, but they are completed in the first half of the Yorkshire Three Peaks route. Tackling the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge in an anti-clockwise direction from Horton in Ribblesdale will leave you with a very short steep hill up to Ingleborough towards the end of the route.
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 primarily 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.
Which is the easiest of the Yorkshire Three Peaks? According to the internet, Pen-y-ghent is the easiest of the Three Peaks. Pen-y-ghent is also the smallest of the three, but it’s not a walk in the park. It has a nice path up if you are approaching from the clockwise direction, with only the last one 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 few miles to the end in Horton in Ribblesdale.
If you’re coming the other way, it’s a decent walk up, but the last few hundred metres are 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!
How Long Does Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge Take?
The average time to complete the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge is between 9 and 12 hours. The challenge is meant to be completed in under 12 hours. But finishing it is an accomplishment in itself, even if you don’t finish 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.
Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge Difficulty
It’s just one foot in front of the other, 60,000 times. 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 many 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 of 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 had 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. If it weren’t a challenge, it would be something we all do all the time. By the end, 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 overcast, which probably helped us. There was a bit of fog on Ingleborough and Whernside, but Pen-y-ghent cleared to enjoy the views on the final peak. It could have been a 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 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 made the right choice. Unless you live reasonably locally, I wouldn’t recommend driving afterwards. We got tired quickly after stopping and suspect you might be the same.
We stayed on the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge route at Holme Farm Campsite in Horton in Ribblesdale. It’s a bit of a rough and ready campsite, but it’s suitable for the job and has a 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 an electric hook-up. The showers are £1 and give you ten minutes. After completing the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge, I used every second of those 10 minutes!
We were 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 at 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 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:
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.
Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge Kit List
You must prepare 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 clothing choices, 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 here is a list to get you started.
Water – 2 litres should be sufficient, but you will know your body’s needs!
Food – we opted for 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 roads, 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.
- Base layer – I have a merino wool base layer which is excellent. Not only is it effective, but 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 to keep the chill off, should you need to.
- Waterproof jacket
- Walking trousers – I have some lightweight walking trousers. They dry quickly and are super comfortable and flexible if they get wet.
- 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 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.
Anti-chafing rub – such as Bodyglide to stop your legs from 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 will regret a few hours of being baked by the sun!
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.
Completing the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge is an accomplishment, no matter your fitness level, 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, with no 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 make great coffee and delicious bacon, sausage and egg sandwiches…the yolk is runny and yummy!
What is the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge?
The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge is a hiking challenge that involves climbing three of Yorkshire’s highest peaks: Pen-y-ghent, Whernside, and Ingleborough, all in one day. The hike’s total distance is approximately 24 miles (38.6 km), and it can take anywhere from 8 to 12 hours to complete.
Do I need any special equipment to complete the challenge?
While you don’t necessarily need any specialised equipment, you should wear appropriate clothing and footwear, such as a decent pair of sturdy hiking boots and layers of clothing that can be easily removed or added as the weather changes. You’ll also need a backpack to carry essentials like food and water, snacks, and first aid supplies.
Can anyone do the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge?
The challenge is physically demanding, so it’s essential to be in good physical shape before attempting it. It’s also recommended to have some experience with hiking and endurance activities before attempting it.
Do I need a guide to complete the challenge?
No. A guide is optional, but if you’re unfamiliar with the area or the terrain, you may want one. They can provide valuable information about the route and help keep you safe, but the route is easy enough to follow without one.
When is the best time of year to do the challenge?
The best time to do the challenge is typically between April and September, when the weather is milder and the days are longer. It’s worth checking the weather forecast and avoiding the challenge during bad weather conditions. It might not be much fun!
Can I bring my dog with me on the challenge?
Dogs are allowed on the challenge, but keep them on a lead and under control and bring plenty of water for them. You should also ensure they’re in good physical condition and can handle challenging terrain and distance.
Is there any accommodation available near the peaks?
Yes, there are several campsites and B&Bs where you can stay overnight before or after the challenge. It’s best to book in advance, especially during peak season.
Do I need to pay to access the peaks?
No, there are no fees to access the peaks, but remember to respect the environment and follow the Leave No Trace principles.
How do I prepare for the challenge?
Doing some endurance training and practising hiking on hilly or mountainous terrain is recommended and will be worthwhile. You should also familiarise yourself with the route and carry a map, compass, or GPS device to help keep you on track and from getting lost!
Can I raise money for charity by doing the challenge?
Loads of people raise money for charity by taking on the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge. Choose a charity that you like or is essential to you and let people know about your fundraising efforts.
Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge
- What Is the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge?
- Yorkshire Three Peaks Route
- How Long Does Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge Take?
- Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge Difficulty
- Registering for the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge
- Accommodation for the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge
- Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge Kit List
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