The Ultimate Guide to Completing The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge
Yorkshire Three Peaks - What Is It?
The Yorkshire Three Peaks is one of the UK’s most popular adventure challenges. Taking place within the glorious landscapes of the Yorkshire Dales National Park in the northeast of England, it sees participants hike 24 miles (38.6 km) up an equivalent ascent of more than 1,524m over the three peaks of Pen-y-ghent (694m high), Whernside (736 m) and Ingleborough (723m).
The three peaks involved form part of the wider Pennines range, and ring the head of the Valley of the River Ribble. Navigation of the challenge is normally considered ‘successful’ when completed within 12 hours, yet the current record stands at a remarkable 2 hrs, 46 mins and 3 seconds. It takes the average adventurer between 8-12 hours depending on fitness, weather conditions and number of times you stop to take in the view!
Completing the challenge in less than 12 hours allows walkers the chance to join the ‘Three Peaks of Yorkshire Club’, based at the Pen-y-ghent café in Horton-in-Ribblesdale where there is an ‘official’ antique timing system. Club members are eligible to proudly wear the tie or pin available from the café as a reward for their achievements.
*Note that the café is closed on Tuesdays and has reduced opening hours (usually 9 am - 5.30 pm) in winter months. If the café is closed you can just drop a note with your name and departure or arrival time through their letterbox and return at a later point.
Yorkshire Three Peaks Routes and Navigation
The challenge’s traditional start point is Horton-in-Ribblesdale (due to its proximity to the Pen-y-ghent Café, train station and parking), finishing in the same place it begins thus making the logistics of completing the challenge all the easier. It’s also possible to start the route at Ribblehead, and Chapel le Dale (which is rather more remote but has some free parking in a nearby layby).
The 24 mile route is usually tackled in an anti-clockwise direction, meaning ascents to the summits of Pen-y-ghent, Whernside, and Ingleborough peaks in that order, although it’s equally possible to complete the challenge the opposite way if hikers so choose.
From the Pen-y-ghent Café the path soon joins the Pennine Way to the summit of the first of the peaks, before continuing down past Hunt Pot and towards High Birkwith. Here the path crosses the naturally formed limestone God’s Bridge before reaching Nether Lodge and the Ribblehead Rail Viaduct. The trail then continues along Little Dale before crossing the rail line as it begins to rise toward Whernside, the second and highest peak of the challenge.
From the summit of Whernside, the route descends towards Bruntscar Farm before twisting across the fell to Bruntscar itself. Reaching the Southerscale Scars the path ascends for a final time, towards Ingleborough, where following the zigzag-ing trail will take you to the summit. Walkers return to the base of Ingleborough by the same route, and then continue by way of Sulber and Sulber Nick to the start / finish point at Horton-in-Ribblesdale.
The route is covered by Ordinance Survey Explorer map OL2, Yorkshire Dales (1:25,000). GPS routes in GPX format can be downloaded for the three start points:
It is handy to note there are checkpoints at each of the three peak summits, and each of the three standard start points.
How to complete the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge?
There are a number of ways to complete the Three Peaks Challenge including as part of an organised event or guided walk, of which there are many opportunities each year (generally between April and October). It is also possible to grab a group of friends and take on the challenge self-guided, provided you feel confident in the group’s ability.
The benefits of taking part in an organised event or joining a guided walk include the external support of a mountain guide leading trekkers around the route, plus support vehicles for refreshments / to take walkers back to your start point if necessary. Organised events usually start early, typically around 6.30 am, to take advantage of the daylight hours. You can join a fully qualified guide searching through UK activity providers.
If you have decided on a self-organised Yorkshire Three Peaks, it is recommended for safety reasons that there are no less than four walkers, and a maximum of around 50. You’ll have to do all the planning work yourself, but it gives you the freedom of completing the challenge whenever you wish, and keeps costs down too.
An optional registration system (costing approx £6) also exists, providing guidance on how to organise a safe and responsible challenge, records the challenge online, and gives you a certificate of completion ( https://www.threepeakschallenge.net/ ). It is also recommended that a support vehicle is available should any injuries occur or participants are unable to continue the ascent.
Though the route is signposted in places, signposts should not be relied upon to complete the challenge as the sudden onset of poor visibility might require hikers to utilise good map and compass-reading skills.
How fit do I need to be to complete the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge?
You certainly don’t need to have an excessive level of fitness to successfully complete the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge. That said, you should be accustomed to walking long distances as you will be walking the equivalent of a marathon! More than 11 miles (17 km) of the route, or 46%, is ascent, with only 7% said to be truly level ground.
Your feet in particular will need to be used to the walking shoes or boots you will be using on the day, so ensure to use the same footwear in training. Some previous outdoor experience and long-distance walking is advisable before setting out.
What kit do I need for the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge?
Its incredibly important for walkers to have the correct kit with them whether they are part of an organised or self-organised challenge attempt (although organised events will provide safety blankets and emergency shelters if necessary).
The weather can change quickly and without warning in the open landscapes of the dales, and though it may seem odd, for instance, to carry gloves in spring or summer months, there are plenty of walkers who are happy they did. Also bear in mind that the lighter your rucksack is, the easier you will find the hike, so don’t bring unnecessary kit (3-5 kg is a sensible weight)
A standard kit should include:
- Ordinance Survey Explorer map OL2, Yorkshire Dales (1:25,000)
- 2 litres of water
- High energy foods
- Head torch
- Fully-charged mobile phone
- Spare pair of socks
- First aid kit
- Sun cream
- Woolly hat
- Waterproof top and bottoms
- Emergency shelter
- Safety blanket
- Well-worn hiking shoes or boots
- Lightweight trousers
- Non-cotton sports-type top
- Fleece or hoody
You may also want to bring walking poles and a GPS tracker.
Where to stay near the Yorkshire Three Peaks:
There are a great range of accommodation options available in the villages close to the Yorkshire Three Peaks route, catering for all budgets. As the challenge takes a whole day, it’s well worth staying both the night before and the night after. There are a few options listed below, from campsites to hotels, much of it focused around the traditional start point for the Yorkshire Three Peaks at Horton-in-Ribblesdale.
Name: Holme FarmLocation: Horton-in-RibblesdaleWebsite: www.horton-in-ribblesdale.com/holme-farm-campsite.shtml
Name: Cragg Hill FarmLocation: Settle, 2 miles from Horton-in-RibblesdaleWebsite: www.ukcampsite.co.uk/sites/reviews.asp?revid=5557
Facilities vary but often include a kitchen. You may need to provide your own bedding.
Name: 3 Peaks BunkroomOccupancy: Individuals or groupsCapacity: 40 bunksLocation: Horton-in-RibblesdaleWebsite: http://www.3peaksbunkroom.co.uk
Name: Hornby Laithe Bunkhouse BarnOccupancy: Groups onlyCapacity: 50 bunksLocation: Main Road, Stainforth, SettleWebsite: http://www.yorkshirenet.co.uk/ydales/bunkbarns/hornbylaithe/
The two closest hostels are operated by the Youth Hostel Association.
Name: YHA MalhamDistance: 11 milesWebsite: http://www.yha.org.uk/hostel/malham
Name: YHA IngletonDistance: 12 milesWebsite: http://www.yha.org.uk/hostel/ingleton
Bed and breakfasts:
Name: The Willows B&B
Location: Horton-in-RibblesdaleWebsite: http://www.thewillowshorton.co.uk/
Name: Pen-y-ghent B&BLocation: Horton-in-RibblesdaleWebsite: Not available at time of writing
Name: The Crown HotelLocation: Horton-in-RibblesdaleWebsite: http://www.crown-hotel.co.uk/
Name: Golden Lion HotelLocation: Horton-in-RibblesdaleWebsite: http://www.goldenlionhotel.co.uk
Bed & Breakfasts:
Name: Horton Villa Bed and Breakfast (could be in luxury)Location: Horton-in-RibblesdaleWebsite: http://www.hortoninribblesdalebedandbreakfast.co.uk/
Name: Craven HeiferLocation: Main Road, Stainforth, SettleWebsite: http://cravenheiferstainforth.co.uk/
Why should I do the Yorkshire Three Peaks?
The Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge is popular with avid walkers, adventure lovers, summit seekers and even those raising funds for charity. It’s accessible for everyone looking to push themselves mentally as well as physically. What’s more, it can be fitted into a single day, doesn’t cost a fortune to complete, offers amazing views and is a great way of getting outdoors with friends, family or even colleagues as part of a team-building exercise.
As one of the most well-known challenges the UK has to offer, the Yorkshire Three Peaks has something for everyone – from quaint villages and wondrous panoramas to the physical challenge of a walk the length of an undulating marathon.
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