Note: Before setting off on your Yorkshire Three Peaks journey, be aware that there is a diversion ascending Ingleborough. More about that later.
The Yorkshire Three Peaks
Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside, and Ingleborough are the three mountains collectively known as the Yorkshire Three Peaks. Situated in the section of the Pennine mountain range lying in Yorkshire, north England, the Three Peaks form a triangular route relative to each other which is covered by minor roads and ran alongside by the River Ribble.
A longstanding challenge has been formed around the proximity of these three mountains and their relatively easy scalability. The initial challenge founded in 1887 called for all three peaks to be climbed within 10 hours. However, the current challenge requires that all three mountains be climbed within 12 hours.
The challenge encompasses a total walking distance of 39.2km (24.5mi), and a total elevation of 1585m (5200ft) divided among the mountains as such: Pen-y-Ghent (694m; 2,227 ft,) Whernside (736 m; 2415 ft,) and Ingleborough (723m; 2,372ft.)
For those wishing to undertake the challenge, there are guided tours available; however, many participants complete the challenge as an unguided group or solo. It is recommended that participants with little experience in hiking or mountaineering prepare themselves adequately for the harsh terrains of the mountains and the long, often turbulent walks in between.
There are three starting points from which the trek can be undertaken. These starting points are Horton-in-Ribblesdale, Ribblehead, or Chapel-le-Dale. The challenge requires that you complete a full circuit thus finishing in the same point that you started at.
The traditionally preferred starting point is that of the village Horton-in-Ribblesdale. There are a number of bed & breakfasts in Horton, alongside two pubs that offer accommodation and food.
The picturesque village is also part of three major rambling routes of the Ribble Way, the Dales Way, and the Pennine Way. Caving is also a hugely popular activity in the area.
There are camping sites in Horton for those who wish to spend the night there before or after undertaking the challenge. The popular staring points in Horton are Pen-Y-Ghent café or the Horton-in-Ribblesdale train station.
The Pen-Y-Ghent café offers a clocking-in and clocking-out system that allows you to determine your time accurately.
Taking an average of three hours to climb, Pen-Y-Ghent is the first big trek for those who begin their challenge in Horton-in-Ribblesdale. The route up Pen-Y-Ghent is situated no more than ten minutes from the village. The route is lined with signs that point towards the summit. It is also noted that there are some gates and fences along the way. These must be traversed though having the appearance that they lead to private land.
The lower section of Pen-Y-Ghent is rather boggy and steep, leading to a tough start for most climbers. The hardest terrain to traverse lies around the mid-section of the mountain. The surface becomes increasingly uneven, and some scrambling is required. Near the peak, there is a paved path that accompanies a more even and smooth surface. This makes for a more casual final stretch.
Upon descending Pen-Y-Ghent and beginning your trek towards Whernside, there is a checkpoint known as Hull Pot. This is a natural gaping hole in the earth. Staying south of Hull Pot is recommended to avoid the boggy and marshy land that separates the mountains.
It is expected that this route will be established as the official route in the near future. Further on is a tarmac road, which if followed, will lead near the Ribblesdale viaduct. There will often be food trucks or tea trucks along this road, offering refreshments to participants.
Ribblesdale is one of the Yorkshire dales.
Continuing on this route will lead to the summit of Whernside. Whernside is the highest of the three mountains and thus naturally takes the longest time to climb (about 5 hours.) The terrain of Whernside is considerably less uneven than both Ingleborough and Pen-y-Ghent. Some cite this mountain as being the toughest to climb.
If the expected track is followed, there should be no need for scrambling to reach the peak of the mountain. However, the ascent is steep. Situated 10km route away from Whernside is the final mountain of the Yorkshire three peaks.
This route is composed of limestone pavement and has been heavily improved by the National Trust in recent years. The route between Whernside and Ingleborough is considerably less boggy and ‘water-logged’ than the other routes traversed throughout the challenge. After walking for about ten minutes, the next checkpoint is reached.
Chapel-le-Dale is a small hamlet that’s best known for St Leonard’s Church and for its memorial to those who died in the construction of the Settle to Carlisle railway.
There is a smattering of B&Bs in the area offering accommodation and food alongside the checkpoint pub known as ‘The Old Hill Inn.’ Once passed this pub it is only a short walk until the foot of Ingleborough is reached.
The walk towards Ingleborough is a gradual and even one that becomes steeper upon the ascension of the mountain. There is a small waterfall that continuously runs down the side of the mountain that can make the surface rocks slippy and loose. It is because of this wet and harsh terrain that the majority of injuries occur during this part of the challenge.
Ingleborough is often compared to Pen-Y-Gent in that it is considerably steep and requires a certain amount of scrambling at parts. Upon descending Ingleborough there is a simple route that leads back to Horton-in-Ribblesdale where the challenge is officially completed.
The scramble up onto Ingleborough when ascending from Whernside is known as High Lot. The stone steps, installed in the 1980s has become dangerous as tens of thousands of feet make their way up onto the summit each year.
160 tonnes of locally sourced gritstone blocks can be dug into the steep hillside so this path has been closed until late January 2021.
The slightly longer detour is diverting footfall to the North, up another steep ascent show on the map below.
I reccied this route with a friend at the weekend and warn you that after you leave the normal route, coming from Chapel-le-dale, it starts boggy, gets steep, will be very slippy after rain and the rocky scramble to the top will really test you.
Sturdy footwear is essential.
You Should Use a Map
This waterproof map will help you get round the Yorkshire Three Peaks without getting lost.
Remember the diversion!
The Yorkshire Three Peaks Hall of Fame
Those that can manage the task in 12 hours or less can join the exclusive Three Peaks of Yorkshire Club that is operated by the Pen-y-Ghent Café in Horton. It is recommended that any person undertaking this challenge first become familiar with both map reading and using a compass as there is little signal or data in the area.
This lack of signal can lead to a drop in any online GPS maps. It is also recommended that any participant do adequate research into the clothing and gear that they will need to complete the Yorkshire Three Peaks.