Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

December 31, 2010

Yorkshire Dales 3 Peaks, 25 mi, New Year's Eve 2010

Why?  To ring out the old year in ultrarunning style, to finally see a famous trail in my area, and to begin the preparation for next year's big challenge, the Houseman Hundred.  The 3 Peaks Walk is an an end-of-year's tradition for the West Yorkshire LDWA group.  Although severe weather can sometimes hamper a finish (last year's walk was cut short due to waist-high snow drifts), it is the attempt that counts...and the bragging rights, and the well-earned year-end pint in the pub afterwards.   Well, "that American girl from Iowa", as the club seems to know me, got really lucky with this year's weather.  The  frigid temperatures (the coldest December in 120 years!) had lifted several days ago, melting most of the ice-covered paths.   So there were just a couple of slippery spots instead of a continous ice-skating rink. 
Pen-y-Ghent Trig Point
 We started in darkness, and ended that way as well.    But our first peak, Pen-y-Ghent, was fully visible as daylight emerged, and I wondered aloud <sshhhh> if the sun would even come out.   It was calm and the temperature was a few degrees above freezing.   Most of us were overdressed, and by the end of an hour, we were sweating and standing atop the summit of Pen-y-Ghent.  Which was bathed not in sunlight but in fog, alas.  A gentle wind was blowing up at the Trig point, so as we all touched it, a few layers went back on for the descent. 

Ribblehead Viaduct
Next came a very long slog across the valley towards Ribblehead Viaduct and Whernside.   Some of the bogs were still frozen, but most were green and squishy again.   The melting conditions had most of us wearing light trainers, and my feet first felt the freezing seep of water at mile 6 of our journey.  Yes, I keep track of such things :)   Brrr, was that water COLD!   The first soaking is always the worst, and after that I <mostly> stopped dodging bogs.   We had one dog along for the walk, and he continually ran circles around the group...I'm sure he ended up covering 2-3 times the distance we did, seemingly always energetic...what a trooper!

Finally arriving at the viaduct, which was nice to view in person rather than from a car window, we began the ascent to Whernside. The trail up to the tallest peak in the Yorkshire Dales at 2415 ft (although I was informed that title is sometimes still contested), wound us around the edge of a ridgetop.  Too bad the views were obscured by the thick fog.  I felt bad this, until hearing that another women in the group had summitted Whernside 5 times, always in fog.   At the trig point, the wind was blowing coldly, and my fingers started to numb when I took my gloves off to dig in my pack for a hot thermos of tea and some snacks.  The tea wasn't very warm anymore, either, and we didn't linger long. 

Whernside Tri Point
Now past the halfway point, we all started to feel the call of the finish, and marched like horses heading back to the barn.  Too bad that there was another mountain in the way!  It was a quick down and up to get us across to the 3rd peak, although I stopped to take pictures mid-way of the the neat limestone rocks, which are quite extensive, now that I have looked at the satellite picture of our route.  I will have to come back someday to play on them, in summer.  

Once past the rocks, there was a has a flagstoned path leading straight up the fells to the start of the real climb. Ingleborough, which turns out to be only a few feet shorter than Whernside, certainly felt much harder, as the trail wound straight up the side of the cliff, with a frozen waterfall beside us.  Once on the plateau, we were socked in thick fog, and I could barely keep the guy in front of me in sight, to make it to the trig point.  Without the rest of the group, I'm sure I would still be lost up there (or I would have had to dig out my map and compass and attempt to blaze my own descent).   Our jackets were flapping in the stiff wind, and all 28 of us stayed tightly bunched to keep from being separated in the fog.  Our summit stop was even shorter this time.

 It was only 4 miles back to the car park after descending out of the fog, and the trail was easy to follow as the group finally spread out at quite a quick pace.   A true walking group, I was chided several times for running through them (in jest, I hope!?!), but now with a light jog, I was still barely keeping up.   We passed another intriguing group of limestone rocks, but darkness was coming quickly, and the final section stretched longer and longer.   It was full dark by the time we  finished, but out eyes had adjusted to the failing light, and no one resorted to a headlamp.   Most of the group was headed to a Youth Hostel to celebrate New Year's Eve (I hope you had fun, everyone!), but I was content to be on my way home to a hot shower, celebratory pizza, and an American football game.

See the rest of my photos HERE


  1. What a pretty run. Sure beats running in FL.


  2. Kevin, the hills in the UK aren't mountains, but growing up in Iowa, they sure feel like it! I complain about the bogs and mud and rain here sometimes (ok, a lot!) but I feel really lucky to be living in this area!

  3. Dawn, you are truly lucky. I've lived here all my life and I still feel that way :-)