Hundreds of fell runners will be trying out a new section of the iconic Three Peaks route in the Yorkshire Dales later this month.

An alternative path from Pen-y-ghent to Ribblehead has been created that avoids the badly-eroded Horton Moor and Black Dubb Moss area and it has already received positive reviews from individuals who have walked it.

But the new route, which takes walkers further along the Pennine Way National Trail before turning off and heading over Whitber Hill and Sell Gill Hill, will be put to the test on Saturday (April 27) when the 59th annual Three Peaks Race gets underway.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s Three Peaks Area Ranger Steve Hastie, who is also the Three Peaks Project Manager, said, “This will be the first big event to be staged since we opened the Whitber section and we are hoping it will be a hit with the runners.

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“The advantage of this new route is that it’s far easier to navigate and it’s a lot drier than the old route over Black Dubb Moss – and there are fewer stiles and gates to slow things down.”

The race will see around 750 runners gather at Horton-in-Ribblesdale, near Settle, for the start of the 23-mile route, which has 5,279ft of ascent over the summits of Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough. The runners come from as far away as Australia, Spain and the Czech Republic, with the top competitors hoping to beat the race record for the current route of 2hrs 46mins 3secs.

Race Director Paul Dennison said: “The route over Whitber avoids Black Dubb Moss, a notoriously boggy area between the descent from Pen-y-ghent and the drinks station at High Birkwith. The consensus is that the revised route should make it easier and quicker for runners, but we will have to see.

“Given the weather conditions over the last few months, it is unlikely that we will see a new race record, which has remained unbroken since it was set by Andy Peace of Bingley Harriers in 1996. As always, the race will be a tough challenge.”

Each year the Race Association gives £1 from every entry towards the Three Peaks Project, which was set-up in 2009 to generate sustainable income for long-term management of the area. It followed a report by the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology in 1986 which claimed that the Three Peaks’ rights of way network was the most eroded in the UK. This year the Three Peaks Project will receive more than £960 from the race.

The opening of the route last November created the first sustainable circuit for people wanting to do the famous Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge. It also opens up a shorter route for families wanting to stretch their legs by walking from Horton in Ribblesdale along Bracken Bottom, up Pen-y-ghent and then down the new route and back to the start point.

The Authority’s conservation experts hope that the diversion onto the Whitber section will give sensitive peatland habitats and the damaged vegetation on Black Dubb Moss time to recover.

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