The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge – Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside & Ingleborough

The Yorkshire three peaks is a route that I’d been wanting to do for a long while, ever since walking Pen-y-Ghent during my 7 day trek along the Pennine Way. You know how it is though, that ever growing list of “to-do” adventures becomes hard to pick from. Thankfully our friend and walking partner Molly mentioned in early March that she was looking for a challenge, I knew just the route to pick. The Y3P is a fantastic 24.5 mile route that tackles the 3 highest peaks in Yorkshire. Pen-y-Ghent (694 metres), Whernside (736 metres) and Ingleborough (724 metres).

The pace gathered quickly and before long we had picked the dates, booked the accommodation and a crew of Molly’s work mates had decided to join us. A series of training walks was undertaken in the months leading up to the big day and before we knew it we were on our way to the Yorkshire Dales. We had chosen to stay at the Plough Inn at Wigglesworth which is only 15-20 minutes away from Horton-in-Ribblesdale.

We had finalised the timings the night before, deciding that an earlier start would be better so our alarms woke us at 5am. We managed to get to Horton-in-Ribblesdale and at the Pen-y-Ghent café for 6am. Tim dropped our team details with start time in the café letter box, I fired up ViewRanger, set the tracker going and off we went.

The first part of the route going anti clockwise takes you along tracks and then a short road section rises gently before you begin the 2 part climb. When leaving the road you get the lungs and legs working by climbing amongst Limestone outcrops towards the main push up to the Summit of Peak 1, Pen-y-Ghent. There was a temperature inversion down in the valley so we were treated to the great sight of mist/cloud rolling down the Ribble valley.

Once you reach the wall the sharp climb up to Pen-y-Ghent begins… You have a few steep sections that can feel expose in bad weather, a bit of a scramble but is mercifully short. All that is left then is the gentle stroll along paving slabs to the summit cairn.

We were making good time on the day and it felt great to have peak number 1 ticked off. This one is the easy win however as the distance from start to peak is rather short in comparison to what you have to come.

We left Pen-y-Ghent and began the long section across farmland towards our first check point, the Ribblehead viaduct. We were lucky to have a support crew on the day so we were able to break our food and water supplies down a little so they were in 3 easier to manage parcels. The reasoning behind this was mainly due to the hot weather we were having so we knew we’d need lots of water on the day. There are water sources available on route but as they are mainly lower lying streams in the valleys you would definitely require a filter.

We met Nicki and Caitlin in the Mini at the intersection near the viaduct, loaded up on the next stock of food and then carried on towards peak 2… Whernside.

The walk past the iconic Ribblehead viaduct is great, it’s a real industrial marvel but then the long drag begins. The climb up on to Whernside seems to go on for a while as you snake up and weave back around to the summit. The views from the top are absolutely stunning, you have fantastic vistas in all directions with the Lake District off to the north west.

The summit area was rather busy when we arrived so we only stopped for a short while before heading onwards. The descent down from Whernside can be pretty tough on the knees and I was glad I’d got my poles with me to ease the burden a little. You drop down a steep series of steps for a while and I’d been warned about this section by friends who had done it before. Thankfully it’s pretty short so before we knew it we were back down in the valley and making our way to check point number 2.

After a quick stop, drop and swap of bags at the car we made our way across the fields through yet more limestone formations to the next climb up to peak 3, Ingleborough.

The first part of the climb is on paving slabs and steps which helps make light work of the gradient, the next part fires you up on to the top between Ingleborough and Simon fell very quickly. It’s pretty steep and I was expecting it as I’d noticed how close the contour lines were on the map. My preferred method of climbing is to just keep going, I might not be as fast as some but I knock it down a gear and don’t stop until it’s done. I mentioned in the video that it felt strange to be out hiking up hills without full wild camping gear on.

Once you arrive at the top of that sharp climb it’s another less intimidating series of slopes up to the summit, this section was pretty busy on the day so the progress felt slow. Once out on to the rocky summit area its short walk over to the trig point. We stayed to take a few pictures and record some video but didn’t hand around for too long before getting going again.

One of the aims of the Y3P is to complete the challenge in less than 12 hours, you could go mad if you’re a fell runner and do it in 4-5 hours I imagine. Our aim wasn’t to break any records but to get everyone to the finish, without injury in under 12 hours. After leaving Ingleborough we retraced our steps off to the north to where the path splits, all that was left then was to bolt down to Horton-in-Ribblesdale.

I utilised the poles once again at this point to avoid any knee pain but thankfully everyone else in our group was doing well. The route gently drops down in to the valley on a mixture of gravel paths and grassland. The grass was very welcome after 20+ miles and 1,500 metres of climbing. Nicki had parked in the village and walked back to meet us. Before long we were crossing the railway line, walking past houses and crossing the river Ribble.

We managed to make it back to the Pen-y-Ghent Café in a total time of 11 hours 14 minutes and 14 seconds. We signed out and then took a well deserved rest outside. We were all very happy with the time and it had been a truly fantastic experience. The best feeling about doing this walk was the money we raised for charity. I’m writing this post a week after the event, Lisa and I have raised over £400 while the team in total raised over £1500. That’s all thanks to the fantastic much appreciated support of family, friends and kind donations from my online friends. The charity we picked was Derbyshire Mind, they provide much need mental health support to people in and around Derbyshire. It’s a great charity and we hope to raise more for them in the future.

If you would like to help us support our chosen charity ‘Derbyshire Mind’ you can donate at –

Check out the route map –

Download the GPX file –

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All music by Dean Read. Footage shot with a Canon 7D with a 17-40mm lens and it was edited in iMovie.


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