The Three Peaks Challenge

On the morning of Monday 25th June, one of the hottest days of the year so far, a group of 16 of us Abel & Colers set off on the journey to complete the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge. This is a 24 mile walk around the Yorkshire Dales National Park, climbing the highest mountains in the area - Ingleborough (723 m), Pen-Y-Ghent (694 m) and Whernside (736 m)- in less than 12 hours. No small feat.  


All for one...

We were joined by another 40 colleagues from other William Jackson Food Group businesses, all together as one big team, only split into different groups just to make the challenge easier. We were tackling the peaks for charity and each business chose a charity close to their hearts to raise funds for. For us, it was our friends from Victoria’s Promise, a charity that helps women on their journey through cancer.

Team A&C ready to start

We started the challenge at exactly 7am, leaving a local pub in Chapel-le-Dale, with Ingleborough as our first objective. We crossed a bunch of countryside gates and spotted a sign that said we were only 2 miles away from the top. In my head I thought, “2 miles? Easy”. Couldn’t have been more wrong! It was a really steep climb – imagine trying to climb roughly twice the height of the Shard building all by stairs! The climb was quite literally breathtaking – we were all struggling to catch our breath, and at the same time it was the views of the Dales that were also taking our breath away. With every step, the Yorkshire countryside was becoming even more beautiful. We finally made it to the top around 8.15am, took a few pictures and quickly started making our way down - we still had a long way to go.
The steep climb to Ingleborough

The next part of the journey was considerably easier – a leisurely walk, mostly downhill, around some meadows. This was a great opportunity to have a chat and admire the views without struggling for air. We reached Horton-in-Ribblesdale around 10.30 am, stopped for a quick snack and sunscreen top-up as the temperature was rising considerably, and started the walk up to Pen-y-Ghent. The ascent to peak two was a lot more gradual, yet still challenging. The last bit towards the top was possibly the most fun part of all day – a little bit of scrambling through the rocks uncovered the top of the peak around 11.50 am. We were all really happy till we realised this was only less than half way through the journey – we still had another 15 or so miles to go...



The long and winding road that leads...
where exactly?

After we left Pen-y-Ghent we had a bit of a problem trying to figure out what the right path was to continue our journey. Our team wasn’t doing the challenge on the traditional path so we were given a map, compass and instructions to follow to avoid getting lost. I don’t quite understand how I ended up volunteering to read the map, being someone who routinely gets lost around London using Google Maps and Citymapper, so this somehow ended up being one of the most difficult parts of the challenge (for me anyway!). We were walking through the countryside, on a barely noticeable worn grass foothpath, hill after hill, jumping around bogs and large bushes. At various times it became evident that we were definitely on the right path, but I was still tremendously worried I was leading the team the wrong way. When you’re doing a 24 mile walk, every step counts – you really don’t want to have to go retrace your steps.
Long walks across the hills  

At last, a small rest...
After several hours walking under the sun, crossing a bunch of cows and countless sheep along the way, we finally made it to the lunch stop at The Station Inn, in Ribblehead, around 3.30pm. Yes, that was five hours of almost non-stop walking, covering around nine miles of the journey. We were treated to the best possible lunch - pizzas, salad, burgers; hot and soft drinks; fruit and all of the snacks. We didn’t want to stop for too long, since the longer you rest the longer it takes to get going again, so after around half an hour we were up on our now blister-ridden feet again. The top of Whernside was a 4.2 mile climb away; it was going to be a long one.

Luckily the walk started passing by Ribblehead Viaduct, a lovely-looking structure which first came into use in 1875. Whilst walking though it I couldn’t help but think it looked a lot like the viaduct the Hogwarts Express goes on in the Harry Potter films, but unfortunately it isn’t. I’ll have to go to Scotland for that one! Back to the peaks, the ascent to this last peak was the biggest challenge; it felt like it took forever. This was when the walk became more of a mental challenge than physical. I remember my friend’s Remi’s advice to just keep going, even if it was tiny steps at the time, it all counted. We were all really lucky to be supported by each other in the challenge – everyone was really encouraging and those last few meters we were all cheering on and saying “we’re almost there”. One of the guys was even playing the Rocky soundtrack. Very fitting.
Ribblehead ViaductAlmost there...
We finally got to the top of Whernside at 5.30pm. The view from the top was unreal – we could see the two other peaks, and everything we had climbed and walked throughout the day. It was the biggest reward. Until we realised we only had 1 hour and a half to finish the challenge within 12 hours. And so on we went, but climbing down this peak was almost twice as hard as climbing up. Only a mile and a bit to come down the full height of this peak, even steeper than the first peak! After a very long and steep down climb that wasn’t kind on our knees, we reached the valley. We could see the coach that would drive us back parked in the distance. By 6.50pm we still couldn’t see the finishing point. Had we turned in the wrong direction?

And all of a sudden we saw the pub in the distance. It was now 6.59 and we heard the teams that had finished before us shout that we only had a minute left. So we ran! Yes, after 24 miles of walking and climbing we ran to finish in time, and we luckily did! We were welcomed by the warm cheers of our colleagues, a cold drink and a chair. I never thought I’d be so happy to see a chair!
All of us at the top

We’re really happy to say that we’ve reached our target and raised just over £2000 pounds for Victoria’s Promise, all with the help of our brilliant Abel & Cole colleague’s kind donations, and proceeds from cake and ice cream sales in the office.

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