Published on: 09/07/2008

The Three Peaks Walk Journal PHOTO LIBRARY CLICK HERE

"This walk was EXTREME and in this weather the team did really well to stick together and get as far as we were allowed"

Mike Freeman "Being made out of cardboard I suffered the most in the EXTREME weather, however I was still the most photogenic!"

Aron Craig "Busted and blistered... cold, wet and miserable... frazzled and numb... but I love my hat!"

The Big Day had arrived. All of our practice walks had been successfully completed, over the past seven weeks. We were ready. Kit ready, car packed, off we go.

The journey up was fairly uneventful ... only a three hour delay (making a nine hour journey in total), due to the M6 being closed, and some "man" navigation.

Our campsite was very pleasant and after a drink or two we bedded down for a fairly comfortable night under the stars. Not a hint of what was to come. Admittedly the BBC weather service had warned of Light showers and moderate winds, but none of us really believes the BBC weather service. So we were all looking forward to a hard but rewarding walk in the Yorkshire Dales.

The morning broke and the cooks were in action at 05:00 with bacon rolls and tea. The sky grey, light winds and generally excellent walking conditions. Breaking camp was smooth and efficient. A nervous expectation was in the air ... what was about to happen to us? 12 hours or so of walking up and down three mountains. Pain? Glory?

With everybody up, we set off to Horton in Ribblesdale to register for the start of the 2008 Marie Curie Three peaks Walk.

Everything going to plan and off we set up the first hill, Pen Y Ghent. This 3,000 foot hill is very close to the Horton starting point, so we were quickly into an uphill drag. Pretty soon it started to dawn on some of us just how hard these "hills" were going to be. Nevertheless, spirits were up and legs were pumping.

An hour or so later, we were at the "scramble" to the top of the mountain. So was the weather! Winds were gusting from 20 mph ... to 70 mph! Very bracing, and just a little dangerous on the steep rock clamber to the top, all adding to the sensation of vertigo.

For us low level land lubbers, the sensation of not being able to hear people talk because of the roar of the persistent wind was a bit new. But we had achieved peak number one, and it didn't seem that difficult.

Admittedly the wind was "difficult", but our situation could easily be worse ... it could be raining, for example. So it did.

Oh well, off we go to the next mountain, Whernside.

This leg of the walk is a long drag, slowly descending the mountain, through bogs, and across streams, getting wetter and wetter, muddy and cold. Blisters start to develop for some of us, and we all start to develop our own strains and pains. What fun.

At the bottom of Pen Y Ghent, we walk alongside the railway viaduct. My story of seeing The Flying Scotsman steaming across the bridge on a previous visit falls on deaf ears ... the only train we see is an EWS ore carrier. Where's the romance? Oh well, at least the rain has dropped off a bit ... no it hasn't!

From the viaduct we start the ascent of Whernside. At this point somebody really upsets the weather gods, and it starts to rain harder ... a lot harder. Plodding up the Mountain, in the driving rain, we were grateful for the protection of our waterproofs. Except that now the wind was roaring at a fairly constant 70 mph. As we crowned the ridge of Wernside, we had the rain and clouds streaming up and over the ridge, bringing the rain up from underneath us! even waterproofs are beaten.

Never mind, we may be wet, but at least it's only water. Then somebody switched on the hail. Now it's cold and it hurts. And was that a rumble of thunder I heard? Difficult to say when you your ears are stuffed with hail and the roar of the wind. At least the view is excellent, all 15 metres of it.

Whernside is one of those Mountains that isn't too steep, it just keeps going on up, with regular pseudo peaks to completely dishearten you.

I think I heard somebody shout "Whose bright idea was this?" but I'm not too sure as most of the words in that sentence were obscenities.

We ask a walker going in the opposite direction"how far to the summit", "You're very close, about a 1/4 mile further."

What seemed like 2 miles later finally we reached the top of Whernside. We were fortunate to find the checkpoint, as the Marshals were hiding behind a wall. to get out of the weather. We later learnt that plenty of people had completely missed this checkpoint.
After a brief stop, and a nibble, we're off again, down a steep path to the next check point. Most of our electronics were now broken ... cameras, phones, MP3 players. Aron, who is taking most of our photos, suffers a complete failure of his camera, so the photo archive drops right off. Shame really, because we now have a lovely view of the next mountain, Ingleborough.

Ingleborough sounds like a cosy village where Hobbits live, in the Shire. Well the Dark Lord was visiting today, waiting for us. As we watched, the sky turned black, the mountain disappeared and a fairly impressive thunder storm fired up. At this point two of our number had hopped off ahead a little. Steve and Joey had streaked down the mountain and through the next check point. The rest of us plodded on. And the storm got a bit more impressive, with several fork lightning strikes right along the ridge of mountain. Heaven help those in front of us.

As we arrived at the next check point, some of our ladies snuck in, to use the toilet (the absence of bushes meant that some of our female number had experimented with a device called a SheWee. if anybody wants to try this device, we have some used ones to give away!)

As they queued for relief, yet more relief was enforced on us. The Event had been shut down. The marshals on the top of Ingleborough had been told to come down, as yet another electrical storm was moving in. "No further for you today".

Disappointed? Relieved? Judge for yourself.

But what about Steve and Joey? Well they had cracked on ... we couldn't contact them by phone as the weather had already overcome technology, and so couldn't warn them. Any of you who know Steve will understand that the presence of an electrical storm would not necessarily raise alarm bells in Steve's head. So he boldly pushed on, into the face of adversity, keeping Joey on track.

In the meantime we were to be shuttled back to Horton in the Marie Curie ambulance. First trip took all but two of us. Nick and I are left shivering (that's a subset of chivalrous!) to wait for the minibus to return. Standing with the marshals, chatting, we heard the message over the radio that the ambulance had had an accident and was embedded in a wall! Perfect end to the day, Nick and I left to fend for ourselves and half the team dead! Fortunately this was an exaggeration! the ambulance had simply scraped a wall and everybody was alright. An hour later we were all back at the campsite. Except of course for Steve and Joey.

Despite the weather, our tents and kit were all okay ... apart from Steve and Joeys, whose tent was flooded! Now a panic to work out how to accommodate them. In the end the only solution appeared to be for half of us to drive home NOW and leave dry kit for them when they finally return. So off we set in the car, back to Portsmouth.

At nine o'clock we receive a call that Steve and Joey had just arrived at Horton. They were both slightly hypothermic. There were no finishing medals left and only a luke warm cup of tea! Consequently they booked into a hotel and spent the rest of the night in a warm bath! Well done to Steve and Joey. At least the team don't feel guilty about taking all your lovely sponsorship money!

Footnote, Ginny also suffered mild hypothermia, into the following week. So, even though we didn't finish the walk, we really did suffer and those who sponsored us can rest assured they got their moneys worth of effort and misery out of us!

THANK YOU ON BEHALF OF MARIE CURIE, FOR WHOM WE RAISED AROUND £2,000 IN TOTAL. By the way, some of us are going to give it another go ... on another day!