Peak 3 - Ingleborough
Posted on December 7, 2018
Vision Africa – A small charity with a big purpose!
By Peter Leverton
Peak 3: Ingleborough
Elevation: 2,372ft / 723m
Coordinates: 54°09′59″N 2°23′52″W
On Saturday the 18th of August myself and team of 7 other adventurous individuals banded together to beat the Yorkshire Three Peaks in an effort to raise money and awareness for Vision Africa – this is the journey of Vicky, Sarah, Tony, David, Arunima, Matin, Josh and Peter.
Here is the next edition of the blog :
The Descent of Whernside
It was a tough decision leaving the top of Whernside without waiting for the rest of our team to arrive. It was made easier by the fact that had we waited any longer our legs would have dropped off. A few minutes more of resting and I’ve no doubt the petrification process would have kicked in leaving us to spend the rest of our existence as just another bump on the path, an obstacle for a more intrepid adventurers to navigate. Exaggerations aside doing the walk for Vision Africa gave us a purpose to keep pressing on! There was a violent civil war going off between my determined brain and my aching muscles but knowing why I was putting myself through it all tipped the battle in my brains favour and kept me going.
We all creaked and groaned to our feet, Matin jumped around a bit to loosen up his joints while his hood was pulled down tight over his head to block out the still persistent winds. David seemed completely un-phased by the whole affair and Sarah, cap still firmly on her head despite the gushing winds, seemed to have recovered somewhat from her suffering hip. Josh was eating a mushed up sandwich that had suffered greatly at the hand of the rough and tumble six hour walk, it now looked like it had already been eaten once already, this didn’t bother Josh who ate it, his grin growing with each bite. His perpetual positivity was infectious to say the least. With everybody fed and ready to go we began the dangerous decent of Whernside (and It was DANGEROUS).
The beginning of the decent was spent carefully treading along the crooked spine of Whernside. There was little to see and no hope of conversation over the ear-splitting roar of the wind. I decided it was time to bring out the optimist in me, see the light side of things and search harder for the natural beauty of Yorkshire. Strangely I found what I was looking for in the numerous puddles that sat on waterlogged grass. Easily overlooked but if you really pay attention they were beautiful in their own right and wonderfully serene. Sheltered from the wind by the stone wall the water was near motionless and looked so peaceful. I half expected to see frogs, tadpoles or even colourful fish populating them. The water was so clear it could have been used in a shampoo advertisement; it was dotted with floating congregations of clovers that splashed in a bit of rich greenery. I spent my time admiring these tranquil pools right up to the first few declining steps that lead us to the most perilous part of the walk.
So far our group had managed to stick together (apart from Vicky, Runi and Tony of course), David lead the way but stayed close enough to keep an eye on everybody, this felt reassuring because unlike the majority of the walk this particular decline had only a vague path to follow. To make matters worse the ground had turned muddy from the miserably moist conditions. It was patched with stones and rocks here and there to give something hard to land on (in the likely event of a slip on the mud). All along these paths were sections of steep descents dinted with footsteps from thousands of past walkers that created footholds. Most of them could only just fit the heel of your boot in while your toes lingered over the edge; they gave a much needed sense of stability none the less. The real problem was navigating the trail without getting knocked down by the intermittent gusts of wind that caught us all off guard, with every rush of wind there was an involuntary ‘WHOOAAH!’ from everybody around as we all nearly took the fast-track ticket to the bottom… We were so focused on not falling that the opportunity for conversation either never arose or was quickly interrupted by the mini heart attack from a half-slip in the mud.
Getting down Whernside was much steeper that the climbing up but after my motivating internal monologue at the top of Whernside I was feeling ready for anything. I like to think I am a well-balanced individual (physically at least) and I perhaps got a little bit over confident, I started taking larger, riskier steps… I suppose when you think about it I had it coming to me. I can’t exactly explain how It happened, I just know that one second my right foot was hovering in front of me in search of the ground and the next second my butt had found it. My derriere continued to find more and more ground as it travelled down the slope, it also found a few pointed rocks here and there, I suppose the whole affair could be likened to a ride down a rusty slide. I quickly jumped to my feet as everybody turned to see me, looking expectantly for an explanation as to why I was furiously rubbing my roughed up butt cheeks. I put my articulate abilities to immediate, formulating the most efficient way to inform them of the course of events that led to my embarrassment, ultimately culminating in a single utterance… “Ouchee!”
As much as this bum burning experience threw my heart into overdrive and surged adrenalin through my body it wasn’t any were near as scary as what was to follow. We were all edging our way down the ever steepening hill, doing our best to not repeat what I had already done. For the most part we walked in the footsteps of the person who came before us. This worked great until any notion of a ‘path’ simply evaporated, people stood around for two or three minutes after each step to weigh up whether it was likely to be their last or not… that is a slight exaggeration, a slip was not likely to be fatal but it would definitely require an air ambulance, bones would crunch like a baguette with every rock they hit. It was nerve racking, nobody knew the safest way down so we all muddled through. There were people to our right who were sitting on the ground an inching their way down on their backside which seemed to be working rather well but after my prior incident I elected not to follow suit, instead I moved off to the left onto ground less trodden on, it was lush with green, dew coated grass and looked much more pleasant to fall on. I don’t use the term ‘Trend setter’ often but the choice of soft grass over hard, mud covered rocks certainly gained a following to say the least.
As I made my way down Josh was to my right eyeing up an outcrop of mud and grass that sat suspiciously between the mud and rocks. I could see what was going to happen and when It did it all seemed to go in slow motion (now I know how the cliché came about). Josh’s graceful leap to the outcrop, a banana skin in his hand flapping in the breeze, the look of shear hopefulness on his face, it had its own sense of bizarre, short lived elegance. His right foot hit the ground hard and the ground seemed to give ever so slightly. His left foot landed, the ground took his full weight and that was it, the ground crumbled away under him. As soon as it happened I was sure it would end in a helicopter. His upper body fell forwards and his legs started running as fast as possible to try and get underneath it to catch his balance. To this day I’ve no idea how he didn’t tumble over. He was bounding from rock to rock down the hill, picking up more and more speed with every step, luck was certainly on his side to have hit solid ground with every step. His rapid decent climaxed with a long leap downwards on to a rock ledge that was fortunately occupied by a walker who had seen the commotion, the walker was ready to catch my falling friend with open arms. Josh landed hard on the ledge and slammed into the walker and for a brief moment I was sure they were both going to go over. All of a sudden everything stopped, all the gasps at his slip were extinguished, and nobody spoke a word. We all just stared in amazement that despite the near death experience that he had just sprinted through, he was now very stationary, very alive and in no way injured. Not only did he come out of the ordeal unscathed but he also, by some peculiar twist of priorities, still firmly held his banana. All I can say is the man is an enigma, and a lucky one at that. Naturally after everybody saw how dangerous the climb down was we all took even more care with each and every step. Josh, with his adrenalin levels through the roof, took the lead of our group now, I moved further to the left away from the bulk of the walkers for fear of somebody falling on me without my being prepared for it, we continued like this for a further 10 minutes. David stayed with Sarah helping her down the big dips, Josh seemingly forgot what had just happened to him and carried on bouncing from rock to rock like a mountain goat, Matin was behind him taking it steady but keeping pace, I picked up speed on the grass and tobogganed my way down (minus the toboggan) my sore derriere now soaking wet It felt like a soggy massage, quite soothing by comparison to my prior encounter with the ground.
Along the slope downwards there were the occasional sign saying something along the lines of “please donate so that we can put in some steps here” which I thought was a noble cause if I ever saw one, unfortunately, halfway down the hill wasn’t really the most ideal time to pull out my phone to donate, not only that but I was on a fundraising mission already! With this in mind I decided not to donate to this marvellous cause but instead, should I ever attempt the Yorkshire three peaks again I will pack my toboggan.
The Pit Stop
After a few more little slips and lots more awkward sidesteps down the slope the ground very abruptly levelled out. At the bottom there was a long brick wall originating a location way off to my left lost to my peripherals. It raced right the way in front of us stopping ever-so briefly to allow for a heavy, wooden gate, dark and soggy, hanging on hinges infected with rust. The wall then began again and zoomed off to the right, curving around Whernside and out of sight.
A crowd formed at the bottom, roughly twenty people bunched together either struggling to get through the gate or waiting for the rest of their crew to navigate to the bottom. You could see the steam caused by the residue lingering on our skin from the moist fog now heating up in the crowd. Josh was on the other side of the gate already, my constant droning on about banana skins polluting the countryside must have got to him because it still lolled around between his fingers as he waved. I took a moment to look back on the thrilling decent of Whernside only to gaze up at ten metres of hill followed by cloud cover, a few legs penetrating through it cautiously searching for the ground like the eye stalks of a snail, shrinking back into the mist when they couldn’t find solid ground. Unsatisfied that I couldn’t look upon my defeated foe triumphantly I turned my back on Whernside and squeezed my way through the gate to catch up with the rest of the group who had started the journey towards our final foe – Ingleborough.
Now safely out of harm’s way the group inevitable fragmented, Josh and David together, Matin was having a second wind and surged on ahead of us all and I walked next to Sarah like an excited puppy being treated to a jelly bean every now and again. The walk bunny hopped for a while with a gentle rise up followed by a slightly larger fall, with each rise and fall we progressively lowered our altitude more and more. The landscape opened out and once again we found ourselves on the flats of the country. There comes a time on any eleven hour walk that you begin to appreciate the scenery less and less. I find it tends to be around the time when your bladder on the brink of bursting. I can hardly remember anything between reaching the bottom of Whernside and reaching our next meeting spot where-in resided the divine, 1 metre square cubicle of pure delight! The off white tiles, the mould festering in the corners, the suspiciously stained toilet basin. Utter bliss!
I’m getting head of myself, for the moment we are travelling towards Ingleborough. Firm ground underfoot, jellybeans in my mouth and fresh air in my lungs. The bunny hopping path stopped in favour of a steady, rocky decline with a few dips here and there to jump down like a child into puddles. Either side of the path was acres and acres of long grass full of colour; golden yellows and healthy greens waved in the wind occasionally pirouetting in an upward gust, it made for a lovely contrast to the dull cloud cover above. Having seen far too many movies I could help but daydream herds of Antelope-like dinosaurs fleeing from a rampant tyrannosaurus Rex that appeared from behind a hill. The countryside is lovely but throw in some imagination and you’ve endless entertainment. My dino delusions fizzled away when Sarah offered me some more Jelly beans; I forcibly brought my attention back to the task at hand. Looking ahead of me I could see our route, the path continued through the field all the while levelling out, when it breached the edge of the long grass it then curved to the right around a dilapidated barn. After ten minutes or so we reached the barn and found Josh waiting for us. The company was welcomed and we set off again, walking past the barn and onto a road only hospitable to tractors, horses and us. The road began to run alongside another of the many hills found at this end of the country. We hugged the base of it for quite some time as we walked around its circumference.
There was less to see for this stretch of the walk, to the left: a sloping wall of grass, to the right: a flimsy wooden fence. The fence was dotted with trees and the occasional broken barn or shed, usually splintered to the brink of collapse, their only purpose to protect a rusty pile of metal that probably used to be some form of farming apparatus. We passed a few abandoned tractors some with big corkscrews hooked up to the back, others with wide flimsy rakes attached. All of them seemingly inoperable and some of them were so utterly wrecked that they looked like an abstract art exhibit. To keep things interesting Josh decided to play the little man on my left shoulder whispering bad ideas to me, telling me to climb into the tractors, “no!” I’d say, “oh go on Peter, You know you want to.” He’d reply encouragingly. I’d ignore him and he’d stop for a while until we came across a big empty skip with stagnant water pooled at the bottom, ridden with rust and wet from rain it was liable to cause an infection… “Jump inside it Peter, It will be fun”, he’d whisper sounding more and more sinister with every syllable. “No Josh!” I’d cry, suppressing the fact that I did want to climb the tractor and I longed to leap into the skip, to run from side to side banging with my feet as loud as possible splashing in the water inside from here to there, but no, I remained a sensible adult, a skin that doesn’t all together fit me but at least it’s a skin free of infection.
Onto the title of this section of my tale, as I’m sure you are all aware by now I was in desperate need of the facilities. It had been nagging me for several hours and for the most part I ignored it, instead filling my mind with the sights, smells and sounds of the countryside, enjoying pleasant company, daydreaming about dinosaurs, having heated discussions about banana skins, soothing a sore backside or stuffing my face with jelly beans. I’d staved off the cries of my swelling bladder by employing every trick in the book but you can’t hold it in forever and my body was at its limit. The first time I completed the Yorkshire Three Peaks I had to employ the age old method of seeking the nearest bush, hardly dignified but when a man’s got to go, a man’s got to go. This time however I was in the company of a lady and couldn’t bring myself to answer natures call at the closest hedge.
Up ahead there was a row of two or three houses connected to the right hand side of the path, I considered the possibility of knocking on the door and asking to use their loo, I planned my negotiations in my head “please Sir, I really need to go, I’ll give you some jelly beans for your troubles”, perhaps not, I could never give away jelly beans not even for such an urgent cause. As it happens the owner of one of these large country dwellings clearly understood my plight, a true Samaritan, a king among men. Once a barn connected to the side of a house now a café half way to Ingleborough. I was saved!
The building clearly used to be a barn, a huge open door, high arched ceiling and enough room for a good few cows. The entrance had a service counter just to the left slightly recessed to keep out of the weather, behind the counter was the happiest lady I’d seen since Runy at the beginning of the day, this lady was happier still as she was warm, dry and not nine hours into a trek. They served a multitude of refreshments, the usual’s such as tea, coffee, hot chocolate. Then there was the highly alluring cuppa soups, premade sandwiches, crisps and chocolates, which came just the right time. Despite all of the tasty and appealing options the most desirable thing that they had to offer was the toilet. ‘These toilets are free but a suggested donation of 50p would be appreciated’ the sign read, I was all but ready to tip the contents of my wallet in the pot there and then but I had much more pressing things to deal with, I stepped through the door into a tiny corridor, ladies on the right, men to the left, and there was the graffiti decorated toilet door, in all its glory…
A Refreshing wait
Upon return I received the obligatory “do you feel better now” comments from both Sarah who was now sitting down in the corner of the café, stretching her legs and sipping a coffee and then Josh who was sat with Matin on a wall edging the path we had arrived on, they were both munching away on some Pringles that Josh had procured from his backpack, “I feel like I could run the three peaks ten times over” I replied with only a slight exaggeration on the truth. David was in the que for the café and I joined just behind him after a quick nod of acknowledgment. I’ll be the first to admit that customer service can be quite abysmal in the UK but I don’t think I could have asked for nicer service than I received, she smiled and asked me what I would like, “hot chocolate please”, “Of course just a moment” she said somehow not breaking her smile, she turned and filled a plastic cup with instant coffee. The whole time she was going through the motions of making my hot beverage I was having an internal argument about whether or not I actually wanted coffee instead of hot chocolate. “WAIT!” I cried “Umm…would it be too late to make it a coffee?” I asked with my ‘self-proclaimed’ adorable puppy dog eyes. “Sure no problem” she said still smiling; I imagine she was condemning my indecision on the inside. She exchanged my coins for the Coffee and I wandered over to David who had now joined Sarah in the corner, a lack of chairs left me sitting on the floor but I was inside, out of the wind and enjoying the company of a particularly friendly dog that was greeting every new customer with a sloppy tongue. I chatted with Sarah and David and between us we concluded that we should wait for Tony, Runy and Vicky to catch up, in the meantime David would meander further up the road in search of Vic (It was around now that I realised that this was the location of the 2nd meet up with Vic).
I can’t remember how long we waited exactly but it was long enough for my legs to seize up, it took me ten minutes of jumping around and pacing back and forth to loosen them up again, David returned from his search for Vic, a search that proved to be futile, Vic was nowhere to be found which was a shame because I’d finished my Lucozade and had a hankering for another, on top of that I remember seeing some deliciously sticky looking flapjacks in her goodie bag. Ordinarily I am quite picky as to what I consume, I try to be healthy but I am not without the odd cheat day. This day was feeling like a cheat day, by this point I’d eaten two breakfasts (cereal at 2am, overnight oats at 6am), I nibbled on fruit progressively throughout the walk, I’d eaten a chicken and cheese sandwich with a filling to bread ratio that make me wonder how it didn’t fall apart, I had devoured my Kit-Kat, chomped away on perhaps three packs of Jelly Beans (so far) and around this point in my tale I was crunching down on some of Josh’s Pringles while having an overwhelming desire for flapjacks. In addition to this I persistently brought up the possible options for the meal that we had booked at ‘Ye Olde Local Pub’, “I’m going to order a big juicy burger lathered in cheese and wrapped in bacon” I told josh at the outset of the journey, “I’m going to slurp up a big bowl of Spaghetti Bolognese at the end of this” I said to Sarah between the first two peaks, “at the end of this I’m going to devour a giant gammon steak” I’d tell David, to which he replied “it’ll be Fish and Chips for me!” which threw my brain into a flurry of activity to determine whether Gammon beats Fish on a scale of delectability.
All of this food consumption would generally make me feel guilty but on this occasion there wasn’t a guilty bone in my body, this is because while we were loitering around outside this café/ barn like a group of delinquents Sarah took the time to check up on the statistics of the walk so far on her fancy ‘fit bit’ ‘smart watch’ ‘thingy-mah-bobby’ (which, as established en-route to Whernside, probably wasn’t hers at all but was borrowed from a friend). We had burnt approximately 2,500 calories that’s the recommended daily caloric intake for a man that we had expended and it was only 3pm, I had effectively earnt double portions at every meal. It’s a good job too because I didn’t stop eating until around 10pm. Sarah’s device also told us how many steps we had taken, I can’t remember the exact about but It was a ball park figure of 55,000, we had climbed the equivalent of roughly 50 flights of stairs. Pretty impressive stuff if I may say so myself. Equally impressive to our calorie burning brilliance was the sight of Vicky and Runi powering down the path towards us with ear to ear smiles.
For those who are keeping up with this enthralling tale of rocks, mud, hard work and charitable actions you may have noticed that I neglected to mention Tony ‘powering down the path towards us’, there is a good reason for this omission, a reason that leads to a sudden understanding of Vic’s apparent tardiness.
Vicky and Runy renewed some life into our posse after our bone stiffening wait, Runy’s big smile radiated so much warmth I was practically sun-bathing. Vicky wore one of those smiles that gushes self-satisfaction (well earnt) and while she gushed with pride she gave us the rundown of events.
1) After catching up with Vic they set off along the path parallel to the stone bridge.
2) Somewhere along the way Tony winced and stopped to massage his knee. His knee then gave way a little further on…. Tony couldn’t go on and had to turn back.
We were officially a member down; the peaks had taken their first victim. This was troubling news for us all! Vicky continued her summary,
3) Vicky and Runy went back with Tony, making the most of the slim reception by trying to call Vic.
4) Vic didn’t answer.
5) Tony decided to catch a train back to Horton-in-Ribblesdale (there was a station close to our first meeting point)
6) Tony caught the train, arrived at Horton-in-Ribblesdale and purchased a refreshing pint of beer at the local pub.
I suddenly felt much less concerned for Tony’s well-being; in fact my knee was starting to give me some jip…
7) Vicky eventually contacted Vic who then went to check up on Tony; Vic was now set to meet us at the end of the walk.
We were all caught up, more or less. Vicky began to tell us of her and Runy’s struggles down Whernside but I began to lose focus when Vicky pulled out a bag full of various chocolate bars. Don’t get me wrong, I was concerned about Tony’s knee and hearing of the hardships that these two young ladies had endured made for an entertaining story (I assume) but I had just been told that I had burnt off 2500 calories and was worried about self-sustenance! “Would you like one Peter” Vicky asked after finally noticing the untapped desire in my eyes solely focused on the bag of goodies. I nodded and took a lucky dip, It was a mixed bag of various knock offs of Mars bars, Milky ways and Twix, my lucky dips throughout the rest of the journey led me to trying each of them, unsurprisingly they tasted like cheap knockoffs (not always a bad thing in my humble opinion).
Ah yes, let’s get back on track there is still a way’s to go after all. So the Fellowship was down by one member but with great loss comes great companionship, the remaining climb was (for the most part) completed together, side by side with my fellow Vision Africa trekkers. The feeling of a team effort washed over us, a group of strangers not 8 hours ago, now a group of friends determined more than anything to see this challenge through to the end, oh how delicious the first few sips of celebratory cider would be at the end, not to mention the lasagne I was going to order alongside it.
We allowed for a further break for Vicky and Runy. I continued my pacing to keep my muscles loose. Vicky and Runy ate, stretched, pulled themselves up and brushed themselves down, “Shall we?” Vicky said, and like a steam train pulling a circus we all began to chug up to walking speed. It was soon after that the climb began. We stayed within sight of each other but ultimately fractured into groups again, I was sticking close to the jelly beans but felt conflicted emotions about leaving the knockoff chocolates behind us. Matin had a surge of energy a launched off ahead leaving Josh, Runy, David and Vicky at the rear. As soon as we started the ascent Sarah’s hip began to feel the strain, she battled through it and carried on but it was plain to see she was suffering. We were at a point where conversation was swapped out for concentration and effort. The Path followed a straight line with a constantly varying upwards gradient. It was laid out with solid paved slabs roughly one metre squared each. Streams of water ran parallel to the slabs completely clear and making haste to the bottom. I expected to see lots of workers with plastic bottled squatting down over the streaming water saying “what? Did you think we were lying when we said it was bottled fresh from the source”, It looked refreshingly drinkable. We followed the water right up to almost the top of Ingleborough. The path continued upwards before levelling out onto what could easily described as a bog, I however will describe it as a marsh to avoid the lavatory connotations, this was certainly no lavatory. The stone slabs stopped, too heavy to stay level on the soft spongey earth. Instead we were treated to walking along soggy planks of wood too thin to walk across as a group. We lined up and crossed in single file. Looking around the marsh I saw it was full of life, long lush leaves waved at us, the ground was oversaturated with the pure water we had been seeing all the way up Ingleborough. There where sections of the planks that we navigated our way across that were completely submerged in water, those that weren’t would sink into the earth with every footstep, forcing water to swell up along the seams of the wooden walkway. After we escaped the marsh with soggy boots the path then brought us back to the climb.
The regular rests with Sarah resumed, she could sustain maybe five minutes of walking before stepping off to the side of the path onto the waterlogged grass to let faster walkers behind us past. We were ahead of everybody other that Matin who’s second wind was now fully in force, he was nigh out of sight and we weren’t to see him again until the final rock scurry to the top. At every stop Sarah would apologise profusely while dishing out the jellies, I’d tell her to take her time and no more than a minute later we’d step back on the path and carry on. She’d start planting her hiking sticks firmly into the ground and power through, I continued a chant of “I remember this bit, we’re close to the top now” or “just take your time, if you need a break just take one” and my personal favourite “I could really go for some jelly beans right about now”. I have a feeling I know what drove her so hard. Stop after stop we’d stretch out, chug some wind chilled water and look back down the path at the other walkers, Vicky, Runy, Josh and David were all together and whenever they seemed to be gaining on us Sarah seemed to have a boost of energy. Now I can’t say this for sure but I have my suspicions that there was some sibling rivalry going on between Sarah and Vicky, whatever it was it carried Sarah to the top.
Despite our lead on the others they ultimately caught us up, we were taking a break as they approached and they took a break a few yards down the path from us, we were all exhausted (except David, he looked like he’d been out for a brisk stroll) Vicky opened her bag of chocolate and, like a dog returning to it owner I hastily jogged to her side with open palms ready for a treat, I got a hand full this time! Easily enough to keep me going until the top, “You two sisters are definitely feeders aren’t you?” I said, “It’s hard not to be when you come running over at the sound of an open pack of chocolate!” Vicky retorted. I ran back up to Sarah waving thanks to Vicky, when I got back to Sarah she asked me how I even have the energy to run about like that, “Erm… Food I guess?” was the best I could come up with, In truth I was feeling much better having found a toilet an hour earlier; I had reserves of energy no longer devoted to the holding of my bladder.
We continued upwards.
The Steep bit
We crested a steady climb which revealed the bulk of Ingleborough in all her glory. In front the land hit a plateau, flattening out for around three minutes’ walk to a point where the path lead up almost directly upwards, It was a rock covered slope perhaps 30 – 40 metres high, far too steep to simply walk up. Looking to our right we could see the rocky face of Ingleborough that speared diagonally into the clouds, jagged and almost devoid of plant life it was a foreboding sight. The path vaguely suggested the best way to get to the top but as usual it was not entirely clear and not very encouraging. Sarah was understandably apprehensive, “I can’t do it” she murmured (fortunately she was not so quiet as for Vicky to not hear hear) “Don’t be silly Sarah, Of course you can do it, let me show you a little video that will help you up there” Vicky said while procuring an overly large phone from her pocket, the prospect of staring at a screen for a while (a skill at which I am well versed) was too tempting to resist. I peered over Vicky’s shoulder to see what all the fuss was about while Vicky played a video of a young boy suffering with a disability rendering him limited use of his legs, in the video he was pushing himself to walk no matter what, “These are the people we are helping” Vicky said, “If he’s not quitting neither are we”… I was convinced, I doubt Churchill himself could have made a speech quite so compelling in only two sentences, though in his defence he didn’t have the use of smart phones. Never the less I was more motivated than I’d ever been before!
Around ten steps up, Runy reiterated her fear of highs. Sarah seemed to be highly motivated following Vicky’s pep talk. Josh was already a couple of metres above us smiling and waving with his signature carefree persona, “Hey Peeeter!” he’d shout down, a classic sign that he was taking a photo of me. Matin was probably already at the top and David was at the back waiting to catch one of us in the likely event of a fall, like Sylvester Stallone in Cliff Hanger. Vicky, Runy and I adopted our tried and tested ‘Pen-Y-Ghent’ technique of climbing where Vicky took the rear and egged Runy on, I was up front plotting the best route to avoid a deadly fall (I take pride in my ability to avoid fatal falls, it’s a skill I will take to my grave). Bit by bit we zig zagged our way higher and higher until we were in clouds so dense you couldn’t see the ground we started on. You could taste the water in the air as it condensed on your tongue and down your throat with every breath. All you could hear was the wind howling past and water trickling down the hillside, all you could see was the rocks you were standing on and the rocks you were reaching for, there was no sightseeing, just pure focus until clambering over the top we entered a new, safer and much more serine environment. Though the wind still howled muffling heavy panting of our congregation there was a pleasant air of satisfaction and we were accompanied by a little stream happily flowing over the edge. I re-enacted the same thing I did the first time I clambered over the same edge so many years ago, I scooped up a hand full of the water and splashed my face. It was extraordinarily refreshing and I like to think it looked quite cinematic; unfortunately there were no scouting agents for the new Loreal advert near-by to see. To think that we had summited Ingleborough would be an easily made mistake after the tough climb we just tackled, though we were close, there was just one climb left.
We lingered around the stream for a while at a comfortable distance from the edge, Runy declared her fondness of the City and a disinclination to ever see a peak higher that of a chocolate cake ever again. David pulled out a huge mobile phone inside a clear zip lock plastic bag. He pulled up a topographical map of Ingleborough which locked onto our position; he then convincingly told us that there wasn’t much further to go. With that in mind and the knowledge that Matin was somewhere ahead waiting for us we began on the last stretch to the top of peak number three.
Approaching the summit was scarier that the summit itself, getting there required navigating along a thinly defined path along the edge of Ingleborough with a huge fall just to our right hand side that was fortunately obscured by the cloud cover (though being absorbed by cloud cover did allude to how high we were). Edging our way along the rocks to our left eventually peeled away and we were given a bit more room to move and we could keep a more comfortable distance from the edge. Sat on a rock in front of us was Matin, blue coat on, hood up and eating an apple. We greeted him and commented on his extraordinary endurance, he has already reached the top and come back to wait for us. Having been there already Matin decided to wait for us a little longer while we summited our last peak.
Beyond Matin was the last leg up Ingleborough, looking at it from where we were it was, for lack of a better description, a mosaic of rocks. There was no clear way up or down yet there were people doing both. There was a small path to the right bringing us closer to the edge that we followed before being forced to climb straight upwards. I remember the rocks being icy cold to the touch and dripping with moisture, a slip could have been fatal. We all helped each other up bit by bit, we even had discussions on which rocks looked the safest, the only saving grace was that the summit sheltered us from the wind. After a few minutes of climbing upwards the rocks suddenly flattened out, we were at the top! Finally after nearly nine hours of walking we’d made it to the top of the third peak. Freezing cold and very damp high fives were passed around. “Now to find the trig point” David said. I will give you all an idea of what was around us at this point in time. No matter what direction you looked all you could see was thick cloud cover flying past perpetually, carried by the gale of wind we were now subjected to, you couldn’t see more than a few metres no matter where you looked, we could be just a few feet away from a deadly fall and we wouldn’t have had the slightest idea. I turned to Josh and between us we agreed the only sensible thing to do was to have a race to the trig point to see who will be the first to reach the designated ‘top’ of Ingleborough.
We sprinted in a straight line from where we climbed up, charging right into the foggy abyss. Any fatigue that we suffered in the previous five hundred and forty minutes of walking vanished in the ensuing torrent of rivalry and testosterone fuel competitiveness. Side by side we ran, nearly tripping over the rocks that were dotted around the peak that abruptly appeared in front of us out of the mist. We must have been sprinting for at least a full minute before we started to realise we didn’t have a clue where the trig point was, or for that matter where anybody else was. We stopped to look around but there wasn’t a soul in sight and the noise from the wind was so loud there was no way to make out any conversations that might have been going on just a few metres into the mist. The weirdest sensation was realising that we could’ve easily sprinted right off the edge, we wouldn’t have seen it until it was too late. We wandered around for a short while looking for any other walkers; our team was long gone left to consume the dirt we kicked up when we made out mad dash for glory. Out of the mist appeared another lone walker, I asked her where the Trig point was but she didn’t have a clue, at a loss for ideas I turned 90 degrees to my left and proceeded to walk with Josh right behind me. A few moments later a convoy of walkers appeared heading in the opposite direction to us, uncharacteristically for a man I asked them for directions, they kindly and enthusiastically pointed in the direction we were already heading. I looked at Josh briefly and knowingly before we both charged forwards again neck and neck to the finish! Breaching the fog in front of us was a stone wall with a small metal pole protruding from the centre, on either side there were people sat on benches fixed to the stone wall, with a final Jelly Bean fuelled charge I reached the structure just moments before Josh! “I made it! I won, I beat you to the top!” I declared with my ego oozing out before being rudely interrupted by one of the bystanders to “Excuse me, this isn’t the top, the trig point is just over there”. Panic flushed through me, I didn’t come all this was to be second to the top! A third and final sprint ensued, legs burning, lungs thirsty for oxygen we darted through the fog towards a tower of rocks maybe 5 foot tall surrounded by a group of four men. I edged my way into the lead heading straight to the tower, finally slapping my hand on the top of the trig point I secured my victory!
The worst of the walk was over, we decimated Pen-Y-Ghent within the first two hours, we conquered Whernside after a long and arduous ascent and an equally dangerous descent and now, as a result of two bouts of perilous rock climbing we were at the top of Ingleborough. Soon after my victory dance the others turned up and we took our Final Summit Selfie.
All we needed to do now was get back to camp.
Watch this space for - The Journey back to Paradise
Check out Vision Africa’s website to see who we raised money for and why we embarked on this great Yorkshire challenge - https://www.vision-africa.org/