Today was a perfect day. We decided fairly last minute to hike one of the Yorkshire Three Peaks and that we would do Pen-Y-Ghent, partly because it’s logistically easiest from here and partly because that’s where we’d start if we did all three so it would be a good way to recce the things like the drive there, parking and the start of the route because those are the things that stress us out the most. Navigating and hiking the route itself is actually not worrying!
We set the alarm for 5am and were planning to head straight out but things took a little longer because there were some small mammal organs and little pools of blood to deal with (thanks Einstein Cat). On the drive we chattet about the familiarity of the landscape, about some work stuff and toxic masculinity, the glorification of busy-ness, power and corporate bollocks. It felt like a good day, we both had our sense of humour and anxiety levels were low. Also, I think we got to Settle before I was really awake.
The drive just took 50 minutes and we got a spot in the National Park car park, sat in the car and had a banana and then headed out via the toilets. We walked along the road in Horton in Ribblesdale back the way we had driven in. We could have used a little footpath that went off to the left but instead followed the route description I’d written down and followed the road round to the left, crossed the Beck and then turned left along the road. We walked along the road for a little while following a bloke and what I presume was his lad. We could hear two women talking, well bitching, behind us and as they got closer we could also hear that they had music playing. We slowed right down to let them go ahead. I really don’t get the music thing – it’s just rude and obnoxious. If you want to listen then use headphones but why you would want to drown out nature’s sounds I have no idea!
A couple of groups overtook us and asked how many peaks we were doing. It seemed like an odd question to ask somehow. Mostly people were attempting the three peaks. We continued up the road until we came to a gate into a field with a well marked and trodden track. As we made our way up the track I did a mental check of how everything felt. My boots seemed good, tied about right and giving support, my new walking pants felt comfortable and weren’t pinching anywhere and seemed to give a good range of movement and the pack was sitting nicely on my back. It’s quite small really but I managed to get everything in it. I had roughly 2 litres of water in the bladder, my waterproof jacket and my Alpkit warm running top as well as our cheese sandwiches, crisps, apple and our camera. So while not heavy really it was still more weight than I generally carry because of the water.
It wasn’t long before I became aware of my lack if hill fitness and I had a brief moment of utter frustration. Being able to run quite a long way on the flat does not mean you can walk up a big hill! I was huffing and puffing more than I wanted to and very very briefly I doubted my ability to get to the top. But obviously turning back was not an option. I concentrated on looking at the cotton grass, some sheep in the distance and trying to work out were the curlews I could hear were. The views were stunning. Behind us we could see the quarry and Ingleborough in the distance and ahead Pen-Y-Ghent was looming. We kept passing a guy walking up on his own but with a group following (they weren’t ready at the agreed time so he left them and set off) and then he’d pass us and we had a little chat each time. The path is easy to follow and easy to walk in terms of terrain really, some of the steeper sections have steps and there was nothing tricky at all.
At the end of this section of the route you exit the field and land on the Pennine Way. From here it’s a fairly sharp climb up to the summit of Pen-Y-Ghent so before we started that we had a little breather to take in the views, have a drink and focus. I wasn’t sure how I’d be, sometimes I’m weird with heights and we were definitely going up! The path up is actually not really tricky. It’s mostly easily navigable steps with secure footing and plenty wide enough. There are also plenty of places where you can step off the path and let others through. It is fairly steep though. Well, there’s a steep section, a brief levelling off and then another steep scramble which is a little (but really not much) trickier with some steps up which pose a challenge if you have short legs!
This bit was the bit I liked least because there were too many people. I found it physically challenging but that’s fine, it was more the pressure of having people coming up behind me as well as some people slower in front and not quite being able to settle into my own pace and just keep going so instead I had little bursts and then stood in for a breather meaning we got caught up in people. Once the steep section is done, it’s a gentle, well paved slope up to the official summit. There were people everywhere so we didn’t linger but instead crossed the style and turned right (actually continuing straight along the top of Pen-Y-Ghent) leaving everyone else to tick off their peak and rush on to the next one down the Pennine Way.
We were heading towards Plover Hill (If you think of Pen-Y-Ghent as being the shape of a crouching lion as some people apparently do then Plover Hill is the Lion’s backside basically) now walking on a far less well defined path on softer, bouncy, boggy ground. There were some ankle breaker holes around and some of the steeper downhill sections unnerved me a little because I still have this irrational fear of going downhill. However, almost as soon as we turned off the Pennine Way the people noise disappeared. A few more steps and it was just us and we could linger in quiet harmony as we watched a couple of skylarks playing. We walked on and came across some egg shells and wondered what they were from (they’re Grouse!). Nearby was a grouse turning his back on us and further on another watching us from the wall. We saw more skylarks and curlews and heard more grouse as we made our way down and then a little way back up the wall line towards Plover Hill. No plovers though but one or two lapwings. We climbed a style and then found somewhere to sit and have our picnic overlooking the next little dip in the landscape. While we were munching our cheese sarnies we looked at the map to check our way down.
The wind seemed a little nippier here so we didn’t sit for that long. We set off down the hill – again some steep bits presenting a bit of a mental challenge for me. Kath held my had down some sections but unless you’re as much of a fruit loop as I am, the terrain is fine, the steepest sections are basically stepped and secure underfoot. I imagine it would get really boggy if wet and some sections would get rather muddy and slippery but today it was perfect. Still no people, just sheep!
Once we got to the bottom and right into the dip we saw the Pennine Journey path, turned left onto it and then basically followed it all the way back into Horton in Ribblesdale. For the first part it was just us and some sheep who were confirming the stereotype of sheep being stupid. One ewe in particular ignored all of the space on either side of the path and insisted on running away from us with her lamb. She obviously came to the edge of the area she is hefted to because eventually she stopped as if she had hit an invisible wall and turned up the steep banking towards a wall and then started running back. Definitely a little highly strung.
As we got close to where the Pennine Journey and the Pennine Way join we could occasionally hear voices drifting over from the summit and from people making their way down from it. Eventually we crossed a wide track where a good few people were congregating before moving on to Whernside, went through a gate onto a wide track and made our way down it for a while until we arrived back in the village. We thought we’d have a coffee at the Pen-Y-Ghent Cafe but it was closed (apparently it is closed until further notice) so we walked back to the other little cafe on the other side of the road. Then we walked back to the car, had a sausage roll and then drove home. I didn’t set my watch to track the walk until we were a way into it so we probably covered around 8ish miles, a little over maybe. It was a great way to spend a morning!
The rest of today has been lazy. We did some more holiday sorting/planning and we walked down the hill to East Riddlesden Hall for coffee and cake and then to water Mum’s plants before walking back up. That walk up was actually really good for me because I realised that our morning adventure hadn’t really made me tired, I didn’t feel the walk home from Mum’s any more the I usually do. I reflected on how the hike went and yes, I absolutely was huffing and puffing going up BUT I recovered really quickly and I wasn’t tired, just out of breath, I felt strong and I didn’t feel tired. Hill fitness is a special and possibly illusive thing but I think it might be a thing worth striving for and I might huff and puff a bit but the three peaks are absolutely doable so watch this space.