When JCI Barnsley President Ben Hawley made the announcement at this year’s Annual Dinner in January 2014 in front of a large audience of members, guests, JCI Senators and invited guests from our twin chamber in Aberdeen that 2014 would see JCI Barnsley attempt the Three Peaks, it was only in the days that followed that the enormity of what he had committed us to began to sink in.
Ben had been referring to the Yorkshire Three Peaks, and before anyone from outside God’s own country points and says that it can’t be as hard as the National Three Peaks of Snowden, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis being covered in 24 hours, think again. Starting and ending by clocking in and out at the Pen–y–ghent Café in Horton–in–Ribblesdale, the three peaks of Pen-y-Ghent (2,277ft), Whernside (2,415ft) and Ingleborough (2,372ft) are ascended and the circular route of some 26 miles which takes in part of the Pennine Way should be completed in 12 hours. No lengthy stops travelling from 1 peak to the next in a mini bus, this is a continuous challenge with no real time to recover from one peak to the next. Having made the commitment in front of such a distinguished audience, there would be no going back.
A team quickly formed of Ben, Deputy President Tracy Anderson, Past President and JCI UK International Director Debbie Worthington, Treasurer Ian Bragger, Community Director Emma Labedski, Joe Worthington, Heather Anson and me from Barnsley, along with Fiona and James Silvester (with Charlie the super dog in attendance) from JCI Rotherham and JCI Bradford President Philip Cockayne, with JCI Barnsley Past President Richard Grange in the driving seat as the support driver. Emma also arranged for us to raise funds for BIADS – Barnsley Independent Alzheimer’s and Dementia Support who support those with any form of dementia, their families and their friends in the local community.
The date of 12 July, when there would be plenty of mid summer daylight was set, and overnight Accommodation was booked. The first part of the year then saw a series of training walks undertaken by various group members on different weekends, including locations such as White Edge and Stanage Edge in Derbyshire, Pen-y-Ghent and Ingleborough separately and Ladybower reservoir. Having undertaken Ladybower, at more than 15 miles in length, we felt that we were just about ready.
Given the varying levels of ability of those taking part in our diverse group, our departures from the Café were staggered, with the first group leaving at 5.40am and the second at 6.40am to begin the ascent of Pen-Y-Ghent, with rain forecast from 6pm making the early start a little more imperative. At that early time, however, there was no sign of any rain, with the sun already high in the sky and very little cloud cover. What was already apparent was that several thousand other people were also undertaking the walk in aid of various charities, and the path up to the summit of Pen-Y-Ghent was clearly visible thanks to the various high visibility florescent shirts worn by different walkers.
Ben, Tracy, Emma, Ian & Philip.
Both of the groups had met by the time of the first rendezvous with the supply car, when chilled water, Lucozade, Mars Bars and Flapjacks were readily accepted. It was at this point that Heather declined from continuing with Whernside, having been in severe discomfort on Pen-Y-Ghent and, after careful consideration, Ben Hawley also had to pull out. It was a very difficult decision for Ben, given that the whole project had been his idea, but he quickly vowed that he would be back.
Whernside was next, starting with a stunning sweep by the 140 year old Ribblehead Viaduct before starting the inexorable climb to the summit. From there it was a fairly treacherous near vertical descent at times down to the Old Hill Inn where Richard had found a space for the support car and Mars Bars could be supplemented with a quick pint before pushing on for the final ascent. Tracy called time on at this point, but Heather was able to rejoin and set off for the attempt on the final peak. Also unable to carry on was brave Charlie the super dog who was left in Ben’s care after having succumbed to the heat and making 3 times as many steps as everyone else.
Joe, James, Charlie Super Dog, Fiona & Debbie. Peter & Heather.
Philip had warned me beforehand that the ascent of Ingleborough from Whernside seemed similar to ascending the steps to Mordor from Lord of the Rings. As we approached on a line of duck-boards covering the low lying marshes on the approach, I was able to see that he really had not been joking, as a seemingly vertical rock face in front of us was covered with a line of walkers making the slow ascent, gradually zig–zagging up the bare rock of the mountainside . This would have been challenging on any day, but after 2 ascents already since sunrise it pretty much sapped whatever energy was remaining by this point.
After having reached the trig point at the summit, you would be forgiven for thinking that the worst is now over. However over four miles back down to Horton still remains, and a number of misleading crests can make you think that you are almost there before finding that you are still a few miles away from your destination. Only when you finally reach Horton railway station can you finally begin to relax before clocking back “in” at the Café and claiming your membership of the exclusive Three Peaks of Yorkshire Club for those who undertake the challenge within the notional 12 hours.
The remaining JCI walkers made it back, with sunburn, insect bites, mild dehydration and a fantastic sense of accomplishment. Having done the national three peaks myself a few years ago, I can also confirm that this is a bigger challenge and more physically demanding than its national equivalent. However, in the meantime, Ben has already begun to mastermind the Three Peaks 2, already slated for September.
Categorised in: Charity
This post was written by Kathryn Brookes