Yorkshire 3 Peaks

By Paul Bayley

On Saturday 9 Oct a number of Tring runners had a crack at the Yorkshire 3 Peaks race starting and finishing in Horton-in-Ribblesdale. Described as the “marathon with mountains” it is 23.5 miles with 5100 feet of ascent give or take which includes climbing and descending Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough.

The route has morphed and changed over the years with the advent of stone paving and steps on many of the tracks, but the challenge remains a real one. In reality it is 3 tough climbs and descents which are fell race-esque with 2 cross country races between thus making pacing tough.

The normal date for the race is in April but it had been postponed until October with COVID. Unfortunately only 350 of the 830 entrants turned up on race day due to COVID, fuel issues and other race clashes. But at 10am all 350 of us were off and running up the 3 mile climb to the top of Pen-y-ghent. It is runnable and it is easy to start off too quick as I have learnt to my cost previously!

It is eye opening to see the leaders descending so quickly as you struggle to climb to the summit but you do summit and then a nice grassy loop of the summit follows and a steep descent all the way back down to Hull Pot. 

Then there follows an undulating 6/7 miles on hard packed paths up Whitber Hill and along to Nether Lodge. Tarmac tracks then follow down to Lodge Hall before passing walkers sat around with ice creams and drinks! Then comes a boring bit of main road along to the 1st proper aid station at Ribblehead where food and drinks were important to take on and I was happy to see my missus with drink and gels in hand! It was v muggy and humid, particularly off the summits.

My previous 3 Peaks had been a war of attrition from Ribblehead due to going off like a freight train up and down Pen-y-ghent! This time my pacing felt better and the trot along the stone slabs from the aid station felt bearable but I knew the toughest part of the race was to come. The usual walkers paths takes a gradual climb of Whernside; this race doesn’t. It goes off paths across deep bogs, which most runners ended up waist deep in including the leaders.

I managed to run a lot of the boggy bits and even the tussock riddled climb, but then the proper climb begins up the sheer face of Whernside. There is no easy route up although apparently the leaders went a bit off optimal line. There is no easy way up but hands on knees and grabbing the tussocks and rocks. The weather and clag closed in on this climb to the summit but it was quite pleasant to be a little cooler. False summits followed but eventually the checkpoint is reached.

The descent off Whernside is steep and the blue grey stone used on the path was particularly slippy and felt more angular and tough to descend although it might just be the distance in the legs. There were a lot of walkers on this steep descent who may have bitten off more than they could chew and were sliding all other the place including sliding into me, and shortly after I was nearly tripped over by an excitable doggy. I luckily managed to survive this descent intact unlike many other runners who had come astray and without cramp which was a bonus, and then just a hard track and some tarmac followed to the Hill Inn aid station, and the last point you can be timed out of the race.

On departing the checkpoint with fresh food and fluids on board the undulating climb on stone flags to the base of Ingleborough begins, this can be a bit attritional until the true climb begins. Then it becomes steep and rocky with plenty of scrambling to be had and cramp to be avoided plus a few false summits in the heavy clag and cooler temperatures. The summit plateau was eventually reached, but was rocky and awkward underfoot and thankfully navigation wasn’t required due to the tape as many would have gone astray in the clag on the plateau.

In the clag once the Sulber Nick path had been found the descent does seem never ending and technical underfoot particularly near the top and then muddy towards the bottom. It is not simply a case of gravity doing its thing but effort is required on the descent before passing under the railway line. But alas this year the finish had been moved due to the wet parking conditions, so extra road section was put in to test the runners. But the finish was reached and all was good in the world again!

Matt, Ross and Simon were waiting at the finish having glided round in good fashion. In particular Wadey had a blinding run on his 1st 3 Peaks attempt coming in the top 35.

Special mention to my wife Jo for being the best support in the world on the course.

1st16Garry GreenhowAmbleside ACMV4003:05:22
34th502Matthew WadeTring RCM03:37:53
56th=501Ross LangleyTring RCM03:49:53
147th498Simon BarnettTring RCMV4004:23:02
305th499Paul BayleyTring RCMV4004:59:33