Last month I, along with 24 other students from the University of Nottingham, took on the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge in order to raise money for the charity Working in Tandem, an independent student-led voluntary organisation based at the University of Nottingham, which sends a number of volunteers each year to Tanzania, to assist with a variety of educational projects.
We arrived in Holme Farm Campsite in the village of Horton in Ribblesdale on the Friday evening and, having just left Nottingham for the holidays, many of us were rather tired after a long term. Nevertheless we all pitched our tents or, rather sensibly, retreated to our caravans before nipping into the Golden Lion for a drink, to discuss our plan of action for the following day – it was very serious and very exciting. I have to admit I was also looking forward to some sleep, but the sub-zero Yorkshire temperatures proved to be quite a shock to many of us.
Beginning the next day at 6am was perhaps even more of a shock to the system for some of us lie-in-loving students but everyone was keen to set off. Having filled our backpacks with snacks for the day, we left the campsite and set off up Ingleborough, the second highest mountain in the Dales, which reaches a height of 723 metres. The weather at this time of the morning was misty with a light rainfall and still chilly. Yet, when we reached the top of the first peak, the smiles radiated from each of us and there was a real sense that we had achieved something for a good cause. But to raise a solid amount of money for Working in Tandem, we had to move onto the other two peaks.
The walk between Ingleborough and Whernside (the highest of all the peaks) lasted for a number of hours and gave us the chance to enjoy the exquisite North Yorkshire countryside. At one stage of the walk, there were a couple of particularly treacherous water crossings, but together we managed to help each other cross. The hilarity that ensued as one of our number fell over and muddied her trousers was definitely a highlight.
As morning turned to afternoon, the sun shone as if it were the height of summer in Antigua, although we still didn’t dare take our coats off. We stopped for a short break just before midday where we shared out some water, collected our rubbish and drove one of the group reluctantly back to the campsite. As we headed for the 728 metres high Whernside I spotted a burger van in the distance – as if it was a mirage – but we avoided it for the sake of our challenge ahead as we already had enough supplies to last us. At the top of Whernside, things were beginning to get a little tough, but to everyone’s credit spirits remained very high.
Just before reaching the infamous Pen-y-Ghent at 691 metres high, some of the group saw a sheep giving birth to a lamb – definitely one of nature’s most beautiful sights. Lambing season in North Yorkshire, however, can also mean that campers are kept awake for much of the night by the sounds of stressed sheep in labour but nothing can compare to that of the night long bag-piping and drunken singing of the campsite owner and his pals – although admittedly, they sang some good songs. Indeed we even used their rendition of ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ to keep up morale as we climbed the last peak. This proved to be a difficult last climb and seemed more like a rock climbing expedition, as I was in constant fear of placing my foot on the wrong rock and plummeting to my untimely death. Thankfully we’re all still here to tell the tale.
Having reached the top, a jubilant mood swept through the group. The walk back to the campsite seemed long, but the prize was now in our hands and the thought of steak and ale pie washed down with a pint of Black Sheep kept me going on the last leg of the walk. We completed the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge with no formal training, no serious injuries and no real idea of what to expect, yet I have to say it proved to be one of the most fulfilling days of my life.