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Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge

By 27th July 2020June 5th, 2021Summer, Walking

Introduction

Do you want to take up the challenge of a guided walk over the Yorkshire Three Peaks route in the Yorkshire Dales? Our article all about it is packed with information and tips. You can do it alone but booking a guide can help keep you safe and comfortable; make your experience more successful and enjoyable, including keeping the right pace; and can make the day a valuable learning experience, including passing on a whole host of useful tips.

Booking and Prices

If you want to book a guide for the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge then see the main page for more details and prices or see what our clients say about us. You can also have a look at the Calendar for forthcoming “Open” events.

When you are ready, then get in touch to make an enquiry or a booking.

We offer many other guided walks in the Yorkshire Dales, including waterfall walks, as well as mountain walks all over the UK.

In winter, we also run winter skills courses in Scotland and the Lake District.

The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge

The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge is one of the popular mountain walking challenges in the UK. The ‘challenge’ is to walk a circular route which includes the summits of Whernside (736m), Ingleborough (723m) and Pen y Ghent (694m). The circuit is a distance of 42km and the challenge is to do it in under 12 hours. Most averagely fit people can do this at a pleasant but consistent walking pace. You don’t need to run to do it under 12 hours, but there isn’t much time for stopping either. Ribblehead Viaduct (pictured) is one of the highlights of the route and is approximately half-way.

Guiding the Yorkshire Three Peaks

A group of walkers pose in front of the Ribblehead Viaduct during a guided walk of the Yorkshire Three Peaks

Half-way round. Reaching the Ribblehead Viaduct is a great moment.

In between everything else that I do, the summer months will always include working as a Yorkshire Three Peaks guide. There are a couple of aspects to this. First, there are the obvious ones, such as keeping people safe, happy, comfortable, motivated and hopefully learning new things. Then there are the ones specific to the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge. These would include keeping going at a pace that matches the group’s target time. It also includes answering all the predictable questions – “How far have we come?” “How much further to go?” “Will we make it within hours?” “How long until we reach x?”

For many people, the Yorkshire Three Peaks can be an enormous challenge and one that brings out some emotion at the end. It can therefore be very humbling as a guide. I will never forget one such occasion. One client, who was evidently not the fittest in the group, struggled on throughout the day and although slightly slow, he never showed signs of flagging.

Towards the end, he asked me one of the predictable questions – “Will we make it within hours?” I happily replied that we were indeed on target for this. He then said “Thank goodness. It’s the second hardest thing I have ever done in my life.” The obvious question that I had to ask was “Oh? Well, what was the hardest thing then?” He looked at me and said, “Learning to walk again after my motor-bike accident.” He then explained that he had been horrifically injured and had been in a coma for some time. I’m not sure how big a lump I had in my throat, but it was big.

Route Choices for the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge

People are often initially taken aback when I mention that there are six different ways of doing the Yorkshire Three Peaks. “I thought it was a set route?” they say. But while it is an established route that started and ends in the same place, there are still six different ways of doing it. You can travel in either direction, clockwise or anti-clockwise – so there’s two different ways. Also, the route involves climbing three summits, then returning to a road in a valley after each. So, instead of starting in the village of Horton in Ribblesdale, the traditional start/finish point, you could choose to tackle any one of the summits first from a valley on the circuit. Three peaks multiplied by two directions gives six options.

Yorkshire Three Peaks – Pen y Ghent

Three walkers enjoy the views from Pen y Ghent during a guided walk of the Yorkshire Three Peaks
The most common way of doing the walk is starting and finishing in Horton-in-Ribblesdale and walking anti-clockwise. This makes Pen y Ghent the first hill of the day. One of the best viewpoints of the walk (pictured) is on the descent from Pen y Ghent before the long walk to Whernside.

Ribblehead Viaduct

Ribblehead very roughly marks the half way point of the Yorkshire Three Peaks walk in terms of time. You can expect to get there after about 5hrs 15 mins on the anti-clockwise route (or 7 hrs clockwise).  It is the site of the enormous Ribblehead Viaduct, a spectacular railway bridge that carries the line from Settle to Carlisle. Make sure you allow time for some photographs here!

Yorkshire Three Peaks – Whernside

Three walkers smiling having reached the summit of Whernside on a guided walk of the Yorkshire Three Peaks

Whernside is the highest peak in Yorkshire and offers superb views of the other two peaks, the viaduct below, and right out to sea at Morecambe Bay. You can expect to get there after about 7hrs 30 mins on the anti-clockwise route.

Yorkshire Three Peaks – Ingleborough

A group of walkers having a short break on the steep ascent path up to Ingleborough on the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge
Ingleborough, like the other two peaks, has very steep flanks. Very often, as in this photo, people feel the need to stop and catch their breath on the steep haul up its sides. The path disappears towards the top leaving a short section of scrambling before reaching the much flatter ridge line. It’s then a steady trudge to the top.

 

Ingleborough has a distinctive flat-topped summit plateau with no easy way off. Hardly surprising, then, that an ancient hill fort was built here. It’s easy to get disorientated in poor visibility, you need to take care up here and navigate effectively.

Other walks

A stunning view from Warrendale Knotts. All three of the Yorkshire Three Peaks (Y3P) are visible - Ingleborough, Whernside and Pen y Ghent

This view from a small hilltop outside Settle gives a glimpse of all three of the Yorkshire Three Peaks. Clearly visible on the left is the flat top of Ingleborough. Also distinct, on the right of the picture, is Pen y Ghent. Whernside is clear if you know where to look but isn’t such an obvious shape as the other two – it’s on the horizon just left of centre, above a big patch of forest.

There are plenty of other options for walking around the Yorkshire Dales, and some of these other paths criss-cross the Yorkshire Three Peaks route. Just get in touch if you’d like to know more.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge?

The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge is a circular walk, starting and finishing at the same point and taking in the summits of Whernside, Ingleborough and Pen-y-Ghent en route.

How far is the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge?

The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge involves a walk of around 24 miles (38.4km) with a total ascent of around 1500m (5000ft).

How long does the Yorkshire Three Peaks take?

The current record is 2 hours, 46 minutes and 3 seconds. For most people, the ‘challenge’ target time is 12 hours. Plenty of people manage it faster than this though.

What is the Yorkshire Three Peaks route?

The traditional route starts in Horton-in-Ribblesdale and climbs Pen-y-Ghent, then Whernside and then Ingleborough before finishing back in Horton. This is an anti-clockwise loop. However, there are 6 ways of doing the walk – clockwise or anti-clockwise and climbing any one of the three hills first.

How difficult is the Yorkshire Three Peaks?

Walking the route in 12 hours is well within the ability of anyone of average fitness and above-average determination.

What training should I do for the Yorkshire Three Peaks?

The best training is simply lots of walking. By the weekend before your Yorkshire Three Peaks attempt you should be able to comfortably walk 15 miles on Saturday and then 10 miles on Sunday. Running for training is not necessary and nor is walking up hills, although both will be of additional benefit.

What equipment do I need for the Yorkshire Three Peaks?

The minimum essential items of equipment are a good pair of walking boots that are well worn in (or trail running shoes if you are used to trail running); a waterproof jacket; and a headtorch.