Andrew Carter takes a light-hearted look at his very own Three Peaks Challenge
I walked the Yorkshire Three Peaks with my pals last year. This was the third time I’ve done it, my debut being with my dad around a decade ago.
As my dad has done the walk on average twice a year for the past 43 years, I assumed he knew the score and agreed with his decision that weighing ourselves down with something as trivial as water was “a mug’s game, Andrew”.
All we’d need was one bottle of Harrogate Spa water each, which we would refill at the frequent water stations, he assured me.
On a Tuesday in October, there were no water stations, the bacon sandwich van wasn’t there, and the halfway pub was shut, so my only water replenishment over 24 miles came courtesy of a trickling, muddy stream.
This was long gone by the time we trogged the seemingly endless trail from Ingleborough back to the car, and I feared I may die of dehydration on the limestone.
My dad dealt with the crisis by pretending he wasn’t thirsty, then offering me some cashew nuts.
My second time was with my wife Louise and, although well-stocked with water, we were ill-equipped with footwear, naively opting to wear running shoes.
It had been a spontaneous idea and the extent of our training was a stroll around Roundhay Park the previous weekend, where Louise bizarrely bought a takeaway black pudding from the café and munched it while we did a lap of the lake.
What Louise lacked in preparation she made up for with determination though, and, barring a tumble on Whernside where I feared she’d broken an ankle before she got up and started laughing, we had a great day and completed it in 10 hours (if you round down), ending with sore feet, mind.
My pals were picking me up at 6.15am.
Now that I have a child, I go to bed early (after questionably investing two months of my life in it, I failed to stay awake for the Love Island final) and I’d factored in a solid night’s sleep. I’m not using the figure of speech here; the second my head hit the pillow, Josh started bawling.
The guy had been sleeping brilliantly for weeks. Come on now?
After a shot of Calpol and a lullaby from Louise, he was fine, but I, the real victim here, couldn’t have been more awake.
A Sesame Street jingle about brushing your teeth was whirling around in my head and it was one of those nights where you go to the toilet 19 times, stare at the ceiling, and dread the cooing of the first wood pigeon.
Once you hear the wood pigeon, it’s over. I considered a shot of Calpol but eventually nodded off without the use of infant medication and managed to bag three to four hours’ sleep before my friend arrived. Bleary-eyed, I got in the car and nearly sat on his dog.
We met our other pals at the car park in Horton-in-Ribblesdale and, despite a nightmare parking-ticket machine threatening to derail our mood, we were buoyant.
With the dog leading the way, we flew up Pen-y-Ghent, getting an atrocious photo at the top where the view was non-existent and the wind was swirling.
On the flat stretch to Ribblehead, I enjoyed catching up with pals I hadn’t seen in a while, discussing the big issues such as the anger-management issues of a small long-haired man who played for a rival team in our six-a-side league a few years ago, and our preferred seating area at Baja Beach Club in Leeds, circa 2003.
We stopped for lunch by Ribblehead Viaduct – I’d made an excellent chicken and chorizo sandwich but let myself down with a Go Ahead bar dessert – then started the long ascent up Whernside.
When I did the walk with my dad, he’d dismissed the main path as “boring, Andrew” and we scrambled up the side on our hands and knees.
According to the purists, this is cheating, so, like a Russian athlete, my 2008 title (the esteemed Yorkshire Three Peaks-with-very-little-water medal) should be stripped.
In fairness, I can see my dad’s point; it is comfortably the dullest part of the walk.
Halfway up, we noticed that one of our pals, the dog owner, was nowhere to be seen.
Looking back into the distance, we saw a hobbling figure emerge from the mist.
We waited for him and were sorry to hear he’d picked up a groin strain.
Annoyingly for him, civilisation (a country road with one almost-definitely closed pub) was roughly the same distance either way, so he had little choice but to limp to the top of Whernside.
Far from parallelling her owner’s mood, the dog was having a great time and charging around, wagging her tail.
A bald man’s dog didn’t take kindly to her good mood, however, and tried to start a scrap.
“Oi, Neil! No!” shouted the bald man, grabbing the dog’s collar.
My friend fared a bit better on the downhill and made it to the road but had to rule himself out of Ingleborough.
The pub was, of course, closed and there was no phone signal, but a middle-aged lady called Barbara came to the rescue and offered him a lift back to the pub by the starting point, where he could wait for us.
We took the dog, who was still a bundle of energy, undeterred by the incident with the mad dog Neil (potential nickname for my dad?).
Ingleborough is the toughest of the Three Peaks – lots of steps – and my knees were beginning to hurt by now.
Whereas I used to wear a knee brace to play football for fashion purposes, since turning 30 it’s become a necessity.
The final clamber to the top is extremely steep and quite exciting, though, and I got a welcome second wind.
Given all the TV coverage of the moon landing, I compared the top of Ingleborough to the surface of the moon, admittedly not something I’ve extensively researched. This was met with a muted response from my pals.
The first time I did the Three Peaks, I’d felt euphoric at the top of Ingleborough, assuming the challenge complete apart from an easy canter down to the car park.
This is not the case and the final four miles felt like 12.
I knew what to expect this time and, with the sun now beating down, we kept spirits high by naming footballers whose first and last names begin with the same letter, making our way through most of the alphabet.
I was particularly pleased with my Oguchi Onyewu shout. If anyone has any NNs, please let me know.
Arriving into Horton-in-Ribblesdale we were met by our stricken (a bit overdramatic) pal.
He was happy to see us, happier to see his dog, and we made our way to the pub for a celebratory pint.
I have always been dreadful at getting served quickly in bars, finding myself outfoxed and outmuscled by rival punters, but the pub was empty aside from two men who looked like they lived there, so I thought I might be okay.
I was not. The solitary barman went to the kitchen, changed a barrel, answered a non-urgent-sounding phone call and may well have completed the Three Peaks by the time he took my order. When my drink finally arrived, I considered whether I’d ever felt this thirsty.
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