Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge

The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge is a 24 mile walk which involves climbing within 12 hours the tallest mountains of Yorkshire – Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough. You will find here all the information you need to succeed this challenge. Hope you find it useful and don’t hesitate  to leave a comment at the end.

Following my two failed attempts on the Three Peaks Yorkshire Dales Walk I want to share with you what should be done in order to hopefully succeed. I have divided this page in three parts:

  1. My tips: a list of what I think will help you before the walk
  2. The Apps: the official apps from The Yorkshire Dales National Park (Available for iPhone and Android)
  3. The Maps: you can print or download (gpx, kml) details of the route starting at three different locations (Horton, Chapel-le-Dale and Ribblehead)

Enjoy the walk!

Tips on how to succeed the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge

Before reading the list, I’d invite you to have a look at the Countryside Code. The Yorkshire Dales national Park is a beautiful place and should be kept this way. Parts of the walk are on Open Access land which means you can roam around as you wish. Outside it you will need to stick to Public Rights of Way or roads. Think about the wildlife and farm animals too especially in the lambing season.

1- Get trained. That’s imperative. Your feet, your muscles and all your body will suffer. After all you are going to walk the distance of a marathon and ascend and descend almost 3 km! You might hit the wall and it could happen in the middle of nowhere with no shelter in view. If it’s the case, just stop, relax and get some energy back because you will probably have to carry on for a long distance before you can reach “civilisation” again. Before taking on the walk I advise you to go on some serious long walks because your feet need to be accustomed to such a vigorous challenge. You might be fit enough but it’s the walking that counts here so make sure your feet are ready. Why not prepare a programme of walks before the challenge?

2- Get the right gear. First and foremost you will need a good pair of walking boots. Don’t turn up with a brand new pair though as you don’t want to “break” them in on that walk that might cause some real pain to your feet.  The weather is not on your side in the Dales and can change at any time. So have waterproof equipment (jacket and trousers). There is a temperature difference of between 3 to 5 °C every time you ascend one of the peaks compared to the bottom of the valley, regardless of the season. A pair of gaiters can be a good option too as  some parts of the journey are really boggy.

3- Think about your timing. It takes between 8 to 12 hours to do the walk for the average person. Therefore daylight is your ally. You will have to start at the crack of dawn if you want to succeed. Maybe you should consider sleeping at a place near the walk? Don’t think that you can walk at night if you are inexperienced. Sometimes the paths don’t exist and you need navigation skills, plus some areas are full of shake holes without mentioning the bogs! So don’t take unnecessary risks and if you unfortunately have a problem on the way and need rescue, please call 999 or 112. You can also read my post about Search & Rescue teams in Yorkshire for more info about this aspect.

4- Navigation skills. If you have never done it before, you will need a map and a compass. The correct Ordnance Survey (O.S) map is OL2 “Yorkshire Dales Southern & Western areas” .  Although there is now technology at hand with smartphones apps and handheld GPS devices, I would still recommend taking a map and compass for backup. Indeed what would happen if your battery ran out? The Yorkshire Three Peaks is not sign posted at all and some of the paths are not that obvious so a compass will be required on some parts of your journey. So don’t just be a sheep and start following other people because you don’t know where they are going!

5- Only take what’s necessary in your bag. You want to travel light as you don’t want to put some unnecessary strain on your back and shoulders. I’d say your rucksack should be between 3 to 5 kg max. You will need food and drinks essentially. I am not going to tell you what to take or not with you but when I go on a long walk, I always make my own sandwiches, take some nuts and dried fruits with me and put them in plastic containers. They don’t get squashed and I can reuse my containers while foil or ready-made food packaging can be blown away. Same thing with my drinks, I try to reuse my plastic bottles as much as possible. The amount of water you will need to take can vary depending on the person but I’d say you should take with you about two litres of water. I’d take a bottle of energy drink too as you might need it to get your energy back towards the end. And remember only leave footprints and take pictures!

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Apps and advice from the Yorkshire Dales National Park

Get the official certificate!

If you do the challenge in less than twelve hours, you can claim that you have achieved it! You can buy a badge and get a certificate for your achievement from the Tourist Office at Horton or you can get them online too from the “Friends of the Three Peaks“.

The Friends of the Three Peaks are here to help raise funds in order to support the Three Peaks Project. The aim is to promote and protect at the same time this beautiful and distinctive area of the Yorkshire Dales. Track improvements and upkeep have a cost and when thousands of people use the paths every year it is important to make sure the project can sustain itself.

Scan this QR Code to download the app for your Android smartphone

Track improvements and official App from the Yorkshire Dales national Park

2013 marked a couple of changes for the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge. First there’s been some track improvements in the Horton Moor area, famous for being one of the boggiest parts of the challenge. This track improvement invites challengers to walk on a newly laid path including a small footbridge across Sell Gill Beck. The National Park Authority hopes to reduce the erosion caused by the thousands of walkers trampling this beautiful and fragile landscape. All the map details below have been updated accordingly and follow this new route.

Second, the National Park Authority is using new technologies to raise some funds to help preserve the area. They have released an App packed with useful information and frontloaded with 1:50000 O.S maps of the area.

Scan this QR Code to download the app for your iPhone

It costs only £1.99 and all profits will go to the Three Peaks Project and be used to maintain the paths along the route and help fight erosion. So if you don’t have it yet either scan the QR code on this page (available both for Android or iPhone) or go to the Yorkshire Dales National Park website for more information.

Note: as rightly pointed out by the Yorkshire Dales National Park:

Please remember that this app is designed to help you plan your trip and be a companion when you arrive.  It should NEVER be used as a substitute for a map and compass when you are out in the mountains. Please don’t embarrass yourself (or us) by having to call out the Fell Rescue just because your phone battery died!”

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Map and Starting points of the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge

“Yorkshire Dales & Western Areas” OL2 Map (cover and back)

As explained above, the Ordnance Survey (O.S) map for this challenge is OL2 “Yorkshire Dales Southern & Western areas”. As of today, there is still no marking on the official map you can buy in shops. Below you will find all the information you need to make up for it. Also where you start this challenge can have an effect on your achievement. That’s why I have compiled some routes for you starting at three different points. There are other starting points of course but these three have all one thing in common: at least one pub! You might need a well deserved drink after your walk to celebrate.

Note: Regarding the geographical profiles below I’ve used a software called Quo Mapyx to draw them.

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Map of the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge. See detailed routes below starting at three different points.

Starting at Horton-in-Ribblesdale – The traditional one

It’s the traditional starting point for many reasons. There is a lot of accommodation around and a few pubs and cafés in the village, plus it’s even accessible by train. And there is ample car parking (paid for) although I must say in Summer it can get very busy.

Click here to download a digital copy of the route starting from Horton

Anticlockwise –> Pen-y-ghent – Whernside – Ingleborough

That’s the most popular way of them all. If you are a first timer, I’d advise you to do it this way because the last descent from Ingleborough is not too steep. Remember your last peak will be the hardest no matter what so this way might put less strain on your body for the final part.

Three Peaks of Yorkshire: Horton – anticlockwise

Clockwise –> Ingleborough – Whernside – Pen-y-ghent

That’s for really experienced people. Especially with Pen-y-ghent at the end because you will have to get down via a really torturous route and to finish with that while you might be exhausted could be really dangerous.

Three Peaks of Yorkshire: Horton – clockwise

Starting at Chapel-le-Dale – the silly one

I chose this place for my first attempt (see my blog) but I must admit it was really silly. It’s quite remote, far less accessible and there is not much parking space either. The only great thing is the Old Hill Inn which serves excellent food and proper beer!

Click here to download a digital copy of the route starting from Chapel-le-Dale

Anticlockwise –> Ingleborough – Pen-y-ghent – Whernside

That’s the way I did it and it’s probably the silliest of them all. Why? Because the first two peaks are relatively close to each other with very steep ascents and they will kill your stamina and just to finish you off you then have the long walk to Whernside. By the time you arrive at Ribblehead you are completely exhausted not to mention that the final part of your journey will be covered with steps on your way down from Whernside. It’s a killer!

Three Peaks of Yorkshire – Chapel-le-Dale anticlockwise

Clockwise –> Whernside – Pen-y-ghent – Ingleborough

Again I think it’s a silly thing to do. The last two descents Pen-y-ghent and Ingleborough are really tortuous and you will need to be really experienced to do it this way.

Three Peaks of Yorkshire – Chapel-le-Dale clockwise

Starting at Ribblehead – the alternative one

I think Ribblehead is a good alternative starting point to Horton. There is a pub with accommodation, it’s also accessible by train and there is plenty of parking too. It will be very busy during Summer time and Bank Holidays too due to the Ribblehead viaduct attracting many visitors to this area.

Click here to download a digital copy of the route starting from Ribblehead

Anticlockwise –> Whernside – Ingleborough – Pen-y-ghent

It’s a route that doesn’t make sense to me because you are heading in the wrong direction to start with (North-East) and I don’t think I will ever consider it since you finish with the infernal long walk from Pen-y-ghent.

Three Peaks of Yorkshire – Ribblehead anticlockwise

Clockwise –> Pen-y-ghent – Ingleborough – Whernside

I think it’s a decent alternative route to Horton anticlockwise but again for experienced people only because of the tortuous descents from Pen-y-ghent and Ingleborough. Plus you finish with a rather smooth descent from Whernside.

Three Peaks of Yorkshire – Ribblehead clockwise

A few facts

Distance:  37.8 Km / 23.5 Miles
Total ascent:  approx. 1450 m
Average altitude:  410 m (1345 feet)
Min. altitude: 233 m (764 feet)
Pen-y-ghent 694m (2277 feet)
Ingleborough 723m (2372 feet)
Whernside 736m (2415 feet)
Ascent distance: 17.7 km / 11 Miles 46.5%
Descent distance: 17.7 km / 11 Miles 46.5%
Level distance:  2.4 km / 1.5 Miles 7%

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How to access to the Yorkshire Three Peaks?

With the challenge becoming increasingly popular, access to the area is becoming more of an issue. I highly recommend using the train. The Settle Carlisle Railway is definitely a site to visit to find more information about travelling by train. There are special tickets you can buy which might save you some money. Plus you’ll have of the latest time tables handy in one place.

Another way to access the Yorkshire Three Peaks area is by bus. There are routes to and from the big cities of Yorkshire and beyond. Dales Bus website is a great tool if you want to use public transport only.

Finaly if you really have to use your car, think about where you will have to park. The map below should be able to help you. It is centered on Horton in Ribblesdale:

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Do you have an opinion on the above? Please share it and leave a reply