The mountains of Whernside, Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent are collectively known as the Three Peaks and they form part of the Pennine range in the picturesque northern England landscape. Popular with runners and walkers alike, this circular route is about 25 miles long, with over 5200 feet of climb. So, absolutely perfect for an LFR afternoon out then…what could possibly go wrong?
The idea is simple, which is handy, as that’s always a good start: You start at a known point on the circular, and head round, trying to avoid falling over and requiring medical attention or temptation in the form of some of the amazing watering holes dotted around the route. Or, as in our case all of that. Chris Taylor, Steve Ellerton, Martin Crane, John Preston and myself headed up on the Friday night ready to blast round the course in record time, fresh on Saturday morning. Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans….
Starting out from Horton in Ribblesdale, we soon learned that the weather was definitely not going to be on our side and almost immediately we started to regret sampling the local beer the night before, some more than others. Back to the running, and within a couple of miles comes the first peak, Pen-y-Ghent, with its steep, sharp rocky face. It was very ‘hands and knees’ in places but was probably the easier of the three peaks to ascend to be honest, possibly as we were still fresh and after a quick gel stop at the top, we moved on in search of Whernside, peak 2.
By 10 miles in we had managed to get separated out so had a regroup by the roadside café near the viaduct and set off again towards the long, slower climb up Whernside. This section has some beautiful scenery along the way, with waterfalls, river crossings, and a great view of the long path snaking up the mountain. Sadly the weather turned from poor, to unbelievably poor at this point meaning not much at all could be seen by the time we got half way up. When we actually got to the top, it was completely gross, the wind coming from all directions blowing rain at you like you wouldn’t believe. Waterproofs on, time to get off the mountain as quickly as possible without falling.
By the time 18 miles are done and you head for peak 3, Inglebrook, you know you are in a tough event. The important aspect is to keep moving, keep the cold from seeping in. This was our priority as we went up this final climb, and it was the toughest of the three. Once out of the way though, you have a 4 mile downhill finish. What could go wrong? Well it’s the most treacherous 4 miles you’ll ever run. A lethal mixture of sharp rocks and mud on the downhill making for a very nervous time, but in dry weather could be potentially very enjoyable. Martin and myself pushed on hard at this point, but the rocks claimed one victim here with Steve Ellerton tumbling and smashing his knees up. He was probably not the first or last of the day on that section to fall.
Finally a grassy section, then a road section and back to the café in Horton to stamp ourselves in and enjoy a pint of tea! It’s impossible not to enjoy a run like that no matter what the weather did, with 25 miles and 5200 feet of climb, it's always going to be a tough run, but I can’t help but want to go back and do it again. The weather is simply something to be wary of, an extra dimension if you prefer, not something to shy away from. The surroundings, the food, the local ales are all amazing and it makes the 4 hour trip up there worth every second. This is a must do event for anyone that likes off-road running and I will surely be back.