A guide to the Yorkshire three peaks challenge

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The Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge is indeed a challenge. Not only do you need to climb 3 peaks within Yorkshire, but the 3 largest peaks, consecutively, on a circular route, and all within 12 hours.

Given what it involves, it’s probably not the smartest idea in the world to decide you’re doing it, the night before you do it, with no training and little preparation… which is exactly what we did. 

But, we lived to tell the tale, and if you’re feeling spontaneous with a decent level of fitness, and you want to complete the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge without training… we have proven it possible. But, it’s not ideal, so train if you can. Don’t underestimate the endurance required to walk for 12 hours!

I didn’t actually know about the time element of the challenge until after we had finished. To our delight though, we did actually complete it in just over 11 hours, starting at 08.10 and finishing at 19.15, which is wonderful.

A guide to the Yorkshire three peaks challenge…

Which peaks do you climb during the Yorkshire three peaks challenge?

  • Pen-y-ghent

  • Whernside

  • Ingleborough

How far is the Yorkshire three peaks challenge?

The distance covered in the Yorkshire three peaks challenge is 25 miles. It’s pretty much a walking marathon during which you ascend 1,585m and so, quite obviously, it’s not a decision to be taken lightly.

Where should you start the Yorkshire three peaks challenge?

There are 3 places, apparently, that you can start the challenge. Obviously I can only speak from experience of one:

  • Horton-in-Ribblesdale — BD24 0HE

…which I believe is the most popular starting point. You can also get the train to Horton-in-Ribblesdale, which is really close to the Pen-y-ghent cafe starting point. If you’re coming from further afield, get the train to here from Leeds!

The other two starting points are…

  • Chapel le Dale — LA6 3AR (limited free parking, usually quiet)
  • Ribblehead — LA6 3AS (some free parking)

…the only difference between all three being, you will complete the peaks in a different order.

Take your pick!

The Yorkshire three peaks challenge route…

A weekend with friends in The Peak District

For the best places to visit in England, check out this post!

Scafell Pike: A guide to climbing England's highest peak

For the best places to visit in the UK, check out this post!

How difficult is the Yorkshire three peaks challenge?

Well, it’s a challenge for a reason! If you have a reasonable level of fitness, you’ll probably be fine.

The first peak for us was Pen-y-ghent, which took us straight into a pretty hefty incline from the get go. With low visibility and rain pouring upon us, this part and also the incline up to peak number 3 are the two tough parts that stand out in my memory.

But there’s nothing to say you can’t take it slow, and lots of people do. You can stop when you want and for as long as you want, so it’s not a massive deal.

The rest of it was all about endurance, which is why the strength of your outfit and your mentality are so important. It’s a crazy long distance for the average person who doesn’t run and prefers a 45 minute HIIT class at the gym.

Our time of 11 hours was based on a fairly leisurely pace and we stopped for 20-25 minutes on 5 occasions.

My level of fitness is higher than average as I do undertake a lot of active adventures with my career and I work out most days when I’m home, for a bit of routine, so this is based on that too.

Saturday is a great day if you’re looking to do the Yorkshire three peaks adventure solo but you want to guarantee there will be people on the route to support you as you hike.

What should you wear for the Yorkshire three peaks challenge?

Based on our August/summer walk.

  • Walking shoes or boots

I walked in my Timberlands and they were great. But really, any walking boots will do. Make sure they are comfy, that they have been trodden in a bit (otherwise hello blister central) and they are weather proof. Shop my favourite Merrell walking boots here.

  • Lots of thin layers

The weather in England and in the Yorkshire Dales is temperamental so the ability to take layers on and off during the walk will be a luxury. I wore a sports bra (bit of support when you’re hopping, skipping and jumping down the side of the mountains), a vest top, a long-sleeved top and then my thin waterproof top layer.

  • Waterproof layer(s)

To protect you from the winds and rains; we are in England after all.

  • Anti-chafe bottoms

I wore my gym leggings and they were perfect. Anything that’s going to stop rubbing, chafing and getting sore!

  • Well-cushioned socks

The pressure of your feet up against your shoes for 12 hours solid is going to cause some friction so good quality socks are a must. One of the refreshment trucks was actually selling some socks along the way, so it’s clearly a school boy error a fair few people make.

Top tip: take an extra pair of socks in case yours get really muddy!

What should you take with you for the Yorkshire three peaks challenge?

  • Backpack

One that’s not going to dig into your shoulders, because you’ll have it on your back for 12 hours. I took my Kanken backpack with me and it allowed room for all I needed to endure the walk.

Shop my Kanken backpack here or my Osprey hiking backpack here.

  • A packed lunch

We all took a sandwich each, a piece of fruit and a choc bar, all of which we were hungry for and ate after second peak. That was all I bought and thought I’d want, so it was a good job some of our gang over accounted for all of us in food resources! It’s definitely better to take too much food than too little!

  • Sugar resources

e.g. jelly beans, lucozade, mars bars, snickers, protein bars, etc. Energy central.

  • A mini first aid kit, including tissues, paracetamol, lipbalm and plasters.

Tissues for the blood, sweat, tears and muddy bottoms! Paracetamol for when it gets a bit much or for if you get a headache. Lipbalm for the changes in weather and the avoidance of the little things that can irritate you along the way. Plasters for the blisters!

Shop my travel first aid kit here.

  • Water

As much as you can carry. There are places you can top up along the way like pubs, fresh water streams and food trucks. Water is so so essential for this walk as you need to stay hydrated to avoid illness and headaches. Some stages of this challenge are pretty demanding and will leave you gasping for thirst.

Shop my reusable water bottle here.

  • Money

For refreshments along the way and also, some of the pubs ask for a contribution for you to use their toilet (if you aren’t a paying customer).

  • Map and compass

So you don’t get lost!

  • Phone

Particularly if you are taking on the walk unguided, as we did, you should take your phone with you. Whilst during most of the walk, mainly on the higher altitude points, you will find you have no signal anyway, it is good for safety. We lost a couple of the team along the way due to exhaustion / injury and them having a phone meant they could call for help and arrange a pick up from their exit point.

  • Camera

The views are stunning! Shop the cameras I use here.

Yorkshire three peaks challenge FAQs…

  • Are there toilets along the way?

Yes, there are pubs and some toilets too. If not… you’re in the countryside, wild wee! Bring some tissue (and take it away with you), and stay away from water sources.

  • If I want to end the challenge after one or two peaks, can I?

Yes! There is car access between all peaks so you can get picked up, and there is some public transport. Signal is very intermittent though, so keep an eye on your phone and plan the pick up thoroughly when you do have signal.

  • Is there food available along the way?

Yes, there are pubs along the way and on the Saturday we walked there were a handful of food trucks. It is a seriously popular route so there are even some snack bars plotted perfectly on course for walkers.

  • Are trainers okay to walk in?

A combination of the English rain and a very popular footpath, results in some churned up, muddy situations in which wearing trainers will mean they turn brown, get wet and could leave you on your bum during a few of the inclines and declines due to the lack of grip. Walking shoes are definitely better as they are waterproof and have better grip for the unsure terrains, but if you don’t have them, trainers might be ok during a drier period.

  • Can I do a guided walk?

Yes. There are quite a few organisations that will organise and guide the walk for you should you be looking to do it solo or would like the support.

  • Can I do the challenge for charity?

Yes, a lot of people take this challenge on alongside a charity. Nothing better than having fun for a good cause!

A weekend with friends in The Peak District

Watch my Yorkshire three peaks challenge come to life in my videos…

Looking to complete all three National Peaks? Check out my guides for Scafell Pike and Snowdon here!

Have you done the Yorkshire three peaks challenge?

What are your top tips for the Yorkshire three peaks challenge? I’d love to know!

Love as always and happy adventuring,

Mollie.

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A guide to the Yorkshire three peaks challenge
A guide to the Yorkshire three peaks challenge

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