We have a wealth of experience here at CGR of the Yorkshire 3 Peaks Challenge (or the Y3P as we locals call it), Dave has guided the route, Richie has run the race several times back in the days when the Daily Mirror was the headline sponsor and is on an unbroken run of 11 Three Peaks Cyclocross races whilst Kev has also run it in training. We all feel that it’s a great adventure and with good planning and fitness should be within the reach of most experienced hikers.
That said, the Y3P should not be underestimated and I have seen my share of incidents (mostly sun stroke and exhaustion) and planning is vital, especially support. I always suggest a support vehicle for people doing it for the first time, but that doesn’t mean you need one if you are a more experienced hiker. Here, the CGR team offer their best 10 tips to help you complete the Y3P, safely and enjoyably.
Weight. Light is Right. Go through your pack with a fine tooth comb. Do you really need it all? Remember there are food stops at Ribblehead (all year), at the farm shop at Philpin (SD7425 7787) and The Hill Inn (SD7434 7763) so you don’t need to take 10hrs worth of food and water. Drink half a litre there and carry the rest. Make sure all your kit is as light as you can afford. As a guide a 20-30L pack is big enough to get everything in (but Dave now uses a modern Running Vest style pack ).
Footwear. Consider wearing trainers and carry spare socks. The whole walk can be done in trainers and at the latter part of the day (Ingleborough to Horton in Ribblesdale) you’ll be glad of it. At the very least stash a pair of trainers at the pumping station for the last leg. We have never done the walk wearing walking boots. Our footwear choice is a pair trainers or lightweight hiking boots, extra pair of socks (Seal Skinz can be good for the first section over Horton Moor which is often wet). I have never had a blister with this combination.
Navigation. It’s very tempting to take the right hand fork after you have dropped off Pen-y-Ghent, it seems like a short cut) This is often very wet and super boggy and will slow you down. There is a large stream and big boggy area to cross. Better to follow the race route, much drier and faster. Drop down the good path towards Hull Pot, continue over the small hillock and pick up a faint path heading rightwards. Much of the route is signposted these days.
Dave has seen some hilarious incidents at Todber Moss with people thinking they can jump across and ending up thigh deep in the bog. It’s a very long section over Horton Moor, Middle Pasture to Nether Lodge, but get psyched its good ground and you can cover it fast. Be motivated by the fact that there will be food and drink at Ribblehead. The scenery will help, it’s varied and stunning along this section. Most of the time navigation is straight forward, much of the route is signposted and if you are planning to do the challenge on a weekend in June, July or August then you’ll just need to follow the crowds. That said a good navigation skills are essential, Ingleborough is notorious when the cloud drops down and people often find themselves heading towards Ingleton or Clapham! Don’t rely on signal to help you out – have a map downloaded onto your phone for offline use. Or better still invest in your map and compass skills. Plan the route out beforehand and mark on or write down your bearings on a route card – if it’s miserable on top you want to quickly pick up the way off.
Season. The best time of year to attempt the route in September, the ground is often drier and you’ll lose the crowds, if you have mid week time then you’ll often have the whole route to yourselves. The busy Charity Challenge times are May through to August. Earlier in the year we’ve been snowed on ascending Whernside in May and had clients with severe sunburn in June/July. September is usually a beautiful month in The Dales and Dave remembers completing the walk in September 2009 and seeing only one other party. Dave has lead groups around in June and it’s often completely rammed.
Use walking poles. I can’t emphasise the importance of these highly underrated tools. Even if you don’t use them most of the day, you’ll be glad of them at the end. Buy the best you can afford and we recommend carbon fibre that fold up small enough to fit in your pack, they are so light you won’t know you have them!
Water. You can stash water and extra food at Ribblehead viaduct and the pumping station at SD7453 7772, leave 1.5 litres of water at each stop. Collapsible bottles like the Hydrapaks are great for easy drinking and stashing when empty. If you use a modern ‘running vest’ style pack they are always there to encourage you to hydrate and you can keep an eye on your consumption. A bladder will do a similar job but some are not as convenient to refill and it can be harder to know when the tank is approaching empty! Being able to hydrate on the go helps reduce wasted time through stoppages. You can get drinks at the burger van, Philpin and the Hill Inn. There are springs and with the experience to assess the the hazards of drinking direct and perhaps a lightweight filter such as a Katadyn BeFree it is possible to complete the hike without stashed water. However you will need to locate them yourself with a map as we’re not going to tempt the unwary!
Food. Sort your food out. I’ve tried lots of different food options. I’m often trying to get a sub 7 hour time; this leaves me with very few stops so I eat on the move. My favourites are a variety of chewy bar type food; I can stash these in all sorts of pockets, they don’t melt and can be digested easily. They are expensive though and I have to remember, I may go hungry but I won’t starve and I can always look forward to Fish and Chips in Settle at the end of the day. Remember the tea van at Ribblehead (after Pen Y Ghent) and farm shop at Philpin (after Whernside) so you don’t need a tupperware box full of butties (unless you want to!) minimising stopped time is the key to a quick round though. In the CX race Richie usually takes two bananas, three gels and three bottles of an isotonic drink mix for the four hours to get round but work out your needs for the length of time you’ll be out! My drink choice is water mixed with isotonic hydration tablets such as Nunn or SIS Go. I can carry them and add them to water when I want some flavouring; they stay down too! I remember drinking the orange squash at Philpin only to bring it all up again, climbing Ingleborough. Gels? Yuk! There is a great article on nutrition for big mountain days by nutritionist Rebecca Dent here https://www.rebeccadent.co.uk/nutrition-articles/2018/2/6/nutrition-tips-for-long-mountain-days
Time. Keep a good time. The record for running the race is just under 2hrs 30mins!! (but remember the race route is shorter as it uses some sections that are open for access on race day only though) Now I’m not suggesting trying to keep that, but I’ve lead school groups around and just made the 12hrs. We believe that sub 9 hrs is a good time for most fit people. That means, to be under 9 hours you’ll be dressing and carrying appropriately light kit, have a good mindset and be jogging some of it. If you want to join the ‘Three Peaks of Yorkshire Club’ with a sub 12 time you will need to start at the Pen Y Ghent cafe and ‘clock in’ with the antique clocking on clock! The cafe opens at 9am and closes at 5:30pm but is shut all day Tuesday! If you are thinking of pulling out en route then there are taxi companies based in Settle, Stainforth and Ingleton and you may need up to £50 to get you back to Horton on a busy weekend! There are buses from Hawes to Ingleton and Hawes to Settle but they are infrequent and to get from The Hill Inn back to Horton in Ribblesdale would take a long time.
First Aid. Carry first aid, but don’t go mad! We’ve seen some monstrous First Aid kits in the years we’ve been walking the 3 Peaks. The most likely ailment you will deal with will be blisters or a sprain so make sure you know what to do and have the relevant supplies. Remember the area is very populated and you are never too far from a road. You can get a good quality signal from most of the route, so an MRT is never that far away. It never fails to astonish me that hikers and climbers in the UK are too embarrassed to call for rescue and will try to ‘sort it out themselves’. If you’ve had a genuine accident, don’t hesitate. Always carry an emergency shelter. So, my 1st Aid kit consists of some blister plasters, a 6” bandage, sunscreen, gaffer tape and a tube of Volterol Gel. Obviously if you are a group leader you will have greater responsibilities and will need to pack accordingly. Do go on a specialised First Aid course, better to have a good knowledge of first aid and a small kit, than a huge kit and no knowledge of what to do. Remember – knowledge is ultra lightweight!!
Enjoy It! Enjoy your day, sometimes you’ll be asking yourself why you signed up. But it’s a very beautiful part of Yorkshire, so take some time to soak it all in and remember to take your camera. If you are very lucky and in the right place at the right time the orchids can be stunning. Enjoy!
Yorkshire 3 Peaks Challenge Essential Kit List
You don’t need to spend a fortune kitting yourself out, but you should be well prepared. So we bring the wealth of CGR kit experience together to offer you our recommended kit list for completing the challenge.
Columbia Mountain Tech III T-Shirt
I like Columbia t-shirts, the reason…? They are a little thicker than a flimsy running t-shirt and feel more cotton like. I have travelled widely in Columbia T-shirts and used them for hiking, travel and climbing in. The Mountain Tech III is a great baselayer t-shirt that is designed for hiking. The Omni-wick material works a treat in transferring sweat away from the skin to the outer and then evaporating away. That said, if you sweat a lot (like I do) then it will get wet. However, it will dry out on no time at all with a breeze and will last for ages. It also looks good, has a nice relaxed fit and comes in plenty of colour options. It’s also UPF-15 to so it helps to keep the sun at bay. It won’t break the bank either at £25.00 you’d be pressed to find a better performing t-shirt.
SRP: £25 and available direct from Columbia.
Rab Kinetic Plus
Is it a softshell or is it a hardshell? You’d be hard pressed to know the difference with the Rab Kinetic Plus. The uber flexible and stretchy Proflex is just brilliant. It feels great next to the skin with just a t shirt on and provides more warmth than a hardshell on those cooler days. It’s also super light at just 320g and compact enough to take up little room and remember it acts as both a mid layer and shell as the seams are fully taped. The sleeves have velcro fastenings and the hood is great with the forehead piece and stiffened hood. It has all the features to be a great all round mountain shell. With just this and a superlight insulation layer you shouldn’t need anything else!
Mountain Hardwear Chockstone Pants.
If you attempting the route later in the year than you’ll be wanting a pair of technical trousers. They need to be light, easy fitting with all the pockets within reach. The Mountain Hardwear Chockstone pants are MHW’s best selling pants for a reason. Super light, super stretchy with plenty of pockets which all zip up to keep that compass secure. The microfibre lined waistband soaks up the sweat and keeps your waist from chaffing when carrying your pack. The removable belt makes them easy to wash when the ground is muddy and the ankle cinch is handy for both wet ground and rock scrambles. A great all round pant that will serve you well. They come in 5 colours (!) and mens sizes from 28-42″ and 3 leg lengths 30, 32 and 34″.
SRP £75 and available from various retailers.
Columbia Titan Ultra Shorts
Super technical and stuffed full of features, the Columbia Titan Ultra shorts are the perfect hot weather shorts for the Y3P. The soft, wide waistband is super comfortable even when sweaty and the zipped rear pocket is handy for keeping a bit of cash or a card in for the hike, or other items of small kit that you want to access on the move (it’s plenty big enough for a phone when running light). The internal brief keeps everything in place and has an anitbacterial treatment to help keep them whiff free. They are finished off with some reflective detail for when you get benighted! Super wicking and dry out really fast they are a great trail running short easily as good as some of the more expensive trail running brands.
Available in all sizes and Black and Grey colours with an SRP of £55.00. Available direct from Columbia
Outdoor Research Backstop Sensor Gloves
I would never venture out without a pair of gloves, whatever the forecast! Even on the hottest days I often wear fingerless gloves – as my pole handles get sweaty. If the weather turn on the 3 Peaks it often turns quickly and dramatically so you’ll need a versatile pair of gloves to make you escape with. The Outdoor Research Backstop Sensor Gloves are a versatile glove made using Radiant Fleece with a Gore Windstopper layer across the back to keep the wind off as well as a light shower. The grip is enhanced with the addition of silicone palm and finger tip prints and the synthetic suede index and thumb tip are touch screen friendly for posting those awesome Insta posts from every summit. At 63g there nice and light too and will pack down into the tiniest space so in keeping the light and fast ethic we espouse.
SRP: £35 and available from various retailers
Salomon Outpath Pro GTX
The Salomon Outpath Pro is the bootie version of the Outpath previously reviewed by Dave in detail here. The Pro version has a stretchy ballistic nylon zip-up bootie grafted onto the Outpath shoe. Although the shoe is Goretex lined the bootie isn’t so its main function is to keep debris out. These are amazingly light boots – almost as light as many trail running shoes at a little under 400g and yet they still have the more robust upper and toe protection of a hiking shoe. In fact when mine arrived I wasn’t sure if they were too snug as the upper doesn’t stretch like a mesh upper on a trainer. Unlike many of Salomon’s offerings these have a more roomy toe box too which I like and they proved to be amazingly comfortable out of the box. Their first outing was a six plus hour hike around the Dales in 24ºC temperatures and they were comfy throughout – an impressive feat (sorry!) for a Goretex lined boot some of which can boil your feet in the heat – not so with the Outpath Pro. Being waterproof also means that unless you go in deep over your ankles you’ll keep dry feet for the duration of the hike as even on a dry summers day you’re bound to find some boggy sections on the ‘Peaks! The Premium Wet Traction Contagrip® sole unit is sure footed and grips well even on the polished limestone found on many sections of the Three Peaks. So if you want a little more protection or waterproofness than a trainer look no further!
SRP £165 available from Salomon direct and various retail outlets.
Ultimate Direction Fastpack 25
I’ve been a real fan of packs that are inspired by ultra marathon race vests and although I have one for long distance mountain runs I prefer a pack for hiking. My Ultimate Direction Fastpack 15 is brilliant and has plenty of pockets just where I need them. The only thing I don’t have immediate access to on the move are my poles which I stash in the huge back mesh pocket. The Ultimate Direction Fastpack 25 solves that problem as it has the same front facing pole stash tabs as the race vest does. It also has room for a water flask on each side whereas the Fastpack 15 has just 1. It has plenty of room in the main compartment which has a roll top closure together with a secure pocket with a key clip inside the large mesh pocket on the back. It has 2 further mesh side pockets together with a small zipped pocket on one front side for comapass and a few bars together with a more weather resistant pocket big enough for a phone or gps on the other side. There are also side compression straps to keep everything nice and tight for running and 2 ice tool holders for winter adventures. I have both the Fastpack 15 and 25 and I would say that the UD Fastpack 25 is the one to buy as although it’s bigger in volume, with careful packing and cinching in closes down as small as the Fastpack 15 (the Fastpack 15 extends to 20 litres if you want it to as well if you like a smaller pack, as I do. It’s more of a running size too). I use the M/L with my 40″ chest size. A great pack.
SRP: £135 and available from our partner Castleberg Outdoors. It comes in sizes S/M and M/L
BMC Mountain Map -Yorkshire Dales covers the whole route in excellent detail and is ultra-light and waterproof. It’s 1:40000 detail is good enough for general navigation and covers the entire area. If you want more detail then Harveys produce a 1:25000 map of the route.
Suunto Arrow 30 NH
I’ll keep this nice and simple – this is the ONLY compass I ever use for my personal adventures! I also own the classic Suunto M3 but only really use this for teaching and if I’m travelling south of the equator. The Suunto Arrow 30 is baseplate style compass designed and used for backcountry orienteering races. The combination of the rocksteady needle, large magnifying glass and large, luminous bezel is just about perfect and will be appreciated when your phone eventually dies and the cloud drops down on you. The NH stands for Northern Hemisphere so it’s calibrated for use north of the equator.
SRP £59:00 and available from Suunto and various retailers.
Petzl BINDI Headlamp
Every since seeing the pre release version of the Petzl BINDI headlamp at KORS last year I’ve wanted to get hold of one. At 35g, weather resistant to IP X4 and with a max output of 200lumens it is everything you’ll ever need on the trail. Its tiny size means you can stash it in a pack without a second thought and the two lock functions mean you won’t accidentally turn it on and drain the battery (just rotating the lamp unit in its holder locks it which is simple and intuitive). There is a red mode to preserve night vision and in standard 100lumen mode you’ll get around 3hours of useful light – more than adequate to get you back to the car!
SRP: £50:00 and available from our partner Facewest
Rab Ark Emergency Bivvy
There’s no excuse not to take an emergency shelter with the Rab Ark Energency Bivvy. It’s ideal for that situation and at just 105g and a tiny pack size it’s way smaller than the common type of emergency bivvy bag. Yes it’s orange but it definitely isn’t the sweat bag you used to take on your D of E! A great combination of windproof outer layer and reflective inner should keep you warm and dry(ish) until the chopper arrives -let’s just hope it stays permanently in your pack and you never need to deploy it! Most likely the best £17 you will spend if you ever need it.
SRP £17.00 and available from direct from Rab
Black Diamond Distance Carbon FLZ Trekking Poles
These already great poles are now much more versatile with the addition of an adjustable Flicklock fitting. We reviewed the Ultra Distance Trekking Poles a while back and found them perfect for lightweight trekking and running. I now have the FL version am never without them when heading into the mountains or on the trail. They are super compact and take up no room in the pack (or on it if you are using a vest). they are now 30% stiffer than previous models and the new flicklock model means they can be adjusted by up to 100mm for fine tuning to that perfect fit. The foam EVA handle is comfortable, I would suggest wearing lightweight fingerless gloves on hotter days as it makes holding the handles more comfortable. The super hard tungsten carbide tips will make the wettest rocks manageable and the adjustable wrist loops are easy to use on the move. The Black Diamond Distance Carbon FLZ poles really are an indespensible piece of kit that are well worth investing in.
SRP: £120 and available direct from Black Diamond
Other miscellaneous items that are useful include: lip salve, sun screen (I use a block style sunscreen and this doubles up as lip salve), mobile phone (fully charged + spare battery and lead as well waterproof case to keep it dry and warm), First Aid Kit (plus blister plasters). £50 cash (in case you need to call a taxi from the Hill Inn).
Food: 6 x Energy Bars and a 1 litre of water. I’ve either got support or I’ve stashed water. Eat a bag of ready Salted crisps at Philpin. I’ll be hungry but I won’t starve. I’ll have a sandwich and brew back at the car and maybe a visit to the chippy in Settle.
Try and spend a bit of money locally to treat yourself and put back into the local economy when you’ve finished. There are a few good pubs (the Helwith Bridge Inn and the The Hill Inn stand out) as well as cafe and fish and chip shops.
Great Fish and Chips at the Fisherman’s in Settle; go on you’ve earned it! All manner of eateries in Settle, some quite posh!
Great kit shop at Castleberg Outdoors in Settle for those last minute items. The Pen Y Ghent (Horton in Ribbledale) cafe has a surprising selection of last minute easily forgotten items too including whistles, bivibags, maps and cases, socks, gloves etc!
Quality accommodation in Settle at Settle Lodge.
Helwith Bridge Camping Barn and camping, free park up for vans etc a few minutes from the route but adjacent to the Helwith Bridge Inn for beer! http://www.helwithbridgeinn.co.uk/campingbunks.html