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Yorkshire Dales Three Peaks

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The challenge

Climb Whernside, Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent (the Three Peaks) in a single walk starting and finishing in the same place. 12 hours is often taken as a time limit. The distance is roughly 40km or 25 miles. (Also known as the Yorkshire Three Peaks, as distinct from the National Three Peaks - Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon in 24 hours.)

The mountains

Whernside (736m, SD 738814)
Ingleborough (723m, SD 741745)
Pen-y-ghent (694m, SD 838734)

Why do it?

Bag the three famous peaks in the Yorkshire Dales, of which Whernside is the highest point in Yorkshire, in one long day's walking in beautiful scenery. Link up three mountains that gradually become nearer, each one seeming like a very long way off when seen from the last mountain!

Starting points

Choose your starting point according to the terrain you want to be faced with as you stagger back late in the day. Starting from Horton you can enjoy the long gentle walk down from Ingleborough; from Ribblehead you must finish with the long cross-country trek from Pen-y-ghent, or the road walk from Horton; and from Chapel-le-Dale the descent from Whernside is a bit steeper.

Horton-in-Ribblesdale is the most common starting point. The cafe in Horton has appointed itself as the unofficial starting point and runs a clocking out and clocking in system. Return to the cafe within 12 hours to feel morally able to buy your Three Peaks souvenirs. Horton itself is an elongated village, very pleasant but curiously lacking a centre. There is a campsite (Holme Farm) and pub (with a bunkhouse) by the church at the Southern end of the village; the train station, car park and another pub are at the Northern end. In the middle is the cafe, doubling as the Tourist Information Centre, and the post office and village shop.

Ribblehead is a settlement with one pub and one station next to the famous Ribblehead Viaduct. The pub is very friendly and has an excellent bunkhouse. Reach Ribblehead from Ingleton on the Hawes road, or from Horton by travelling North.

Chapel-le-Dale is the third option for a valley start point. This is a dispersed village on the Ingleton-Hawes road, between Whernside and Ingleborough on the Three Peaks route, and 3km South West of Ribblehead. The Old Hill Inn is on the main road and you can park opposite for a small charge or in laybys nearby.

Routes

There are variations possible between Pen-y-ghent and Ribblehead.

Horton - Horton Bridge (church) - Brackenbottom - Brackenbottom Scar - Pen-y-ghent S ridge - Pen-y-ghent (694m) - Hunt Pot - Jackdaw Hill - God's Bridge - Nether Lodge - Black Hools Hill - Ribblehead - Bleamoor Sidings - Aqueduct - Force Gill - Knoutberry Hill - Whernside (736m) - Bruntscar - Philpin Lane - Chapel-le-Dale - Southerscales - Humphrey Bottom - Ingleborough (723m) - Simon Fell Breast - Sulber Nick - Horton

If you started from Ribblehead and it's dark, you might want to walk back from Pen-y-ghent along the road via Horton. This raises the total distance from 40 to 45km. From near Hunt Pot follow the walled track down into Horton emerging by the post office, then settle down for a long slog!

Hazards

As for all mountainous walks in the UK, Three Peaks walkers should take a map and compass and know how to use them. The route is not always clear.

There are no real terrain challenges for the average walker, but it's worth noting the rocky section near the top of Pen-y-ghent and the steep path up onto the ridge of Ingleborough from Chapel-le-Dale. Under snow and ice these two sections can be very different in character and would need winter equipment and skills.

Times and records

The record for the Yorkshire Three Peaks is around 2h 30m. In contrast, regular walkers might take 10 hours at a moderate pace.

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