Post 270: 16 June 2018
I sat quietly reading the Rescue 2018 booklet of Incidents Attended during 2017 in the area of the The Three Peaks of Yorkshire. The peaks are Pen-y-ghent (694 m or 2,277 fit), Whernside (736 m or 2,415 ft) and Ingleborough (723 m or 2,372 ft). The challenge is to walk to the summits of each of the peaks in less than 12 hours. The walk covers a distance of 23.3 (37.5km) to 26.1 Miles (42 km), depending on the route taken.
Here are some of the reports:
Male Age 68 – Walker was reported to have passed out and then regained consciousness…Cave Rescue Organisation (CRO) carried him by stretcher to a waiting air ambulance.
Male Age 79 – A walker was reported to be in difficulty near the summit of Whernside. It appeared he had tripped and fallen. He was assisted to an air ambulance.
Male Age 78 – suffered a lower leg injury and was unable to progress to the top of Whernside. He was carried on a stretcher back to team vehicles and driven to a road ambulance.
Male walker aged 82 – requested help due to feeling faint when trying to walk. He was reported to have fallen earlier. He was brought down in a private vehicle.
Male aged 70 – was reported to have collapsed on the path. The helicopter flew him to hospital.
Male aged 68 – felt unwell, approaching the summit of Pen-y-ghent but continued to the top. Very soon after beginning the descent, he collapsed and lost consciousness. Despite CPR he did not recover.
Female aged 66 – slipped, while descending the stone-pitched path from Ingleborough falling and rolling 30m to sustain head, hand and leg injuries. She was flown to hospital.
Male aged 68 collapsed with chest pains… he was carried by stretcher to a road ambulance.
Female aged 73 had fallen and injured her ankle. She was extracted by vehicle.
Dan, the next poor young and innocent ‘victim’, sat opposite me at breakfast quite unaware of the contents of the Rescue book. Actually he wasn’t even that young, being of ‘bus pass age’.
I say ‘victim’ because I felt a little bit responsible for encouraging him to attempt the Three Peaks. For many years I had cajoled him into attempting this great Yorkshire Challenge, without success. He had lived in the ‘flatlands’ or ‘lowlands’ of Suffolk and Norwich, where the best thing to recently come out of the area, as far I can tell, is Ed Sheeran.
I can only think that he was a late developer when it came to walking and now he was making up for lost time. Males tend to have a lot of competitive ‘banter’ when walking, unlike when walking with females where I find there isn’t the competitive element. It is interesting that there are far fewer females who appear in the Rescue Reports.
After two previous successful Three Peak walks, I last completed the Three Peaks on 20 June 1998 in 7 hours 56 minutes, at the young age of 46. I felt I would never better that time and so retired from the activity! That’s my excuse.
However, in Dan’s favour he had a pretty impressive walking CV:
Trek to Everest Base Camp
Near summiting of Mont Blanc, only missing the summit because his walking partner, who he was roped to, was taken ill.
High route from Chamonix to Zermatt trek.
The second half of my ‘On Foot from Coast to Coast: The North of England Way’
Circuit of Mont Blanc.
Critically, three weeks ago, he had completed Alfred Wainwright’s Coast to Coast (192-200 miles depending on the route taken).
I pointed out to him in our ‘competitive banter’ that he couldn’t really be considered to be a ‘proper serious walker’, unless he completed The Three Peaks of Yorkshire. After completing coast to coast he was probably as fit as he would ever be and the Three Peaks were as dry as they had ever been and therefore this was his best and possibly only ever chance. The forecast was reasonable too – low cloud, if a little breezy. At least it wouldn’t be too hot!
At the last minute he booked his bed and breakfast at Middle Studford Farm (about a mile from the start Horton-in-Ribblesdale). This was an inspired choice as when I later joined him I thought it was one of, if not the best, bed and breakfast I had stayed in, especially for walkers (more of that later). .
We parked near the church with the first peak Pen- y- ghent looming in the background. Then Dan clocked in at the Pen-ghent Cafe at 8.30am.As we ascended a couple of youngsters had not got their dog on a lead and it ran off, uncontrolled, to chase sheep. We were very concerned about that. They did recover the dog so hopefully no damage was done to the sheep. Some people do need to take more control of their dogs.Standing below the increasingly steep path with rain starting I think Dan had some thoughts. Such as ‘What the heck am I doing here?” However, with a bit of ‘winding up’ he soon started to smile again. Soon after I donned full waterproofs as the wind and rain increased, Dan confessed to having left his waterproof trousers at home. Several points deducted there and jokes and banter about living in the flat lowlands he wouldn’t be aware of the vagaries of the weather in the northern hills and how tough it is ‘Up North’.
There is then a steepish rock scramble where care is needed when it is wet. With the wind now making us both look like ‘Michelin Men’, we managed a quick photoshoot at the summit. Before descending amongst the mist and rain. Not what we had anticipated given the forecasts. At the bottom I departed for my bacon butties in the Pen-y-ghent Cafe and Dan carried on towards Whernside. This was my second breakfast as I had got up at 4.45am and had a early breakfast to drive 2 hours to the bed and breakfast on time. The sun came out and all was well with the world again!
Except that a youngster was hobbling down the track a couple of inches every 5 minutes with two trekking poles either side. I asked if he was okay and had he taken pain killers, which he had. I asked if he was still in pain and he said, presumably referring to his girlfriend, she was the pain!
He said he had sprained his ankle, a reminder that 3 Peaks walks are a serious challenge even for the young, perhaps more so because of their inexperience. Even though he had good boots on, I thought he had broken his ankle as his foot was at a very extreme ankle. He then said a land-rover was coming to pick him up and I suggested he stop and wait for it to arrive. I passed the land-rover about 10 minutes later on the way down and advised them where I had last seen him.
I met up with Dan in a lay-by after Nether Lodge and Hunter Hill, which looks up towards the second peak, Whernside. It is sometimes described as a beached whale and who would ever want to climb a beached whale? Dan was going well and would go even better after he had some of my home-made Mary Berry fruit cake. It has miraculous properties (brandy) and would guarantee he got to the end. It is even rumoured it got me a free holiday in Bavaria, but that is another story…. I was then able to track him on his ascent of Whernside using my big zoom camera lens. That’s Dan with the bright orange rucksack cover and white trousers (well they were white when he started). I did photograph some walkers on the summit ridge at 14.05. This reminded me of the last sightings of Mallory going to the top of Everest, to perish there. Dan indicated he summited with this photograph at 14.35. Crucial evidence if he was to satisfy the Ethic’s Committee of his completion of the 3 peaks.It was to be several hours before I was to see him again. I waited in the car (catching up on sleep) just after the pub, north-east of Chapel le Dale.
I wandered over to look at the local bull and cows, a lime kiln and the last peak, Ingleborough.
However, Dan took the lower route directly opposite Chapel le Dale. I had no telephone signal and so at 16.40 I decided to head to the next rendezvous point after his descent from Ingleborough.
Dan later confirmed he summited Ingleborough at 17.20pm. I need to give him some photography training for, when under pressure and tired, his photograph is a bit out of focus. His final summit time came in just after I had started a sweepstake amongst walking friends as to what time he would finish. Huge stakes of £1 per bet. Bets of finishing time ranged from mine of 10 hours 30 minutes (too optimistic as the weather closed in) up to 11 hours 45 minutes. No one bet on him not finishing!
However, given the weather conditions as seen from my car (and no doubt much worse at higher altitude) I starting working on a contingency plan – Plan B. After 10 hours 30 mins I had lost my sweepstake and so put my mind to less urgent matters.
What happens if he slips on the wet rock or grass or gets lost in the poor visibility? I decided I would make a decision after 12 hours, that is 20.30. If the conditions were still bad and he hadn’t turned up I would contact Mountain Rescue. He could be appearing in next years Rescue booklet! Fame at last. But Then, like a mole appearing from the ground, a little head appeared! Then a very determined person. Then on spotting my Volvo a tired smile (I keep telling him to swop his VW for a Volvo).All that remained now was to walk another 10 minutes to the Pen-y-ghent Cafe to book in at the end, whilst I drove there!
Every picture tells a story and what a story this was. He finished at 19.28. Total time of a very respectable 10 hours 58 minutes given the poor conditions at the start and finish. At least one much younger group gave up after Whernside because of the weather conditions. The evening was finished off with a fabulous meal at the bed and breakfast cooked to order by the excellent chef owner. Even fruit crumble and ice-cream one of my favourites, not forgetting our first courses of delicious sweet potato soup and mushrooms garlic and tomato, all washed down with a well earned bottle of wine. I had been up since 4.45am!
As I said one of the best bed and breakfasts I have stayed in.
Did I think Dan would complete the walk in 12 hours? I put my prediction in his birthday card which he will open on Saturday. Another year gone past the ‘bus pass age’.
Dan 23 to 26
I was saving myself for Great Whernside on the Inn Way next day with Carol Caz and Sid the Yorkshireman – blog to follow.
PS I have suggested that Dan HAS to now to climb Great Whernside and Little Whernside (the boggy one). No doubt he will accept the challenge before he is 70, by which time we might have him trained as a serious walker.