Sunday, 5 December 2021

TRAVEL // The Yorkshire Dales & The Three Peaks Challenge

This was such a happy experience that I got to share with my sister Ella back in October and I really want to write about it. Earlier on in the year my sister and I felt we needed to do something. It was just after I had shared my open water swimming experience with her by taking her down to the lake and letting her witness for herself the transformative power of the water. It must have been the Almighty's awesome planning as it just so happened that I'd had my second session of swim coaching at the lake and she, that day, had her relationship end with a guy she had been dating. I knew that like me, Ella needed that water so I got her to meet me the next and took her to the lake. If you don't believe in stars aligning, that is a shame, because I can tell you what, they do. I have only really ever had the feeling of every single thing in your life aligning at the exact right moment twice. Once when Rob (an acquaintance at that point) happened to come with his parents to my brother's birthday party as he was otherwise home alone (yes, that was the beginning), and then that day, when Ella and I got in the water and had an almighty "Ah - ha" moment of both knowing that we were doing exactly what we were meant to be doing at that exact point in our lives. That trip changed us. It changed everything really because I knew I had found a partner in exploring the healing of both our mental health needs and doing that through nature and exercise, an interest for both of us. The next day Ella cut her long, long hair very short and stepped out to become a better version of herself. I was also very aware, being 12 years her senior, I didn't need the physical shedding of skin to know that certain elements of the old me had gone. 

Later that week we got together still high from the experience and trying to work out when we could do it again. We decided to also challenge ourselves to do something else because we felt pretty invincible that week and it seemed a good idea. 

What came out of that week was that we found ourselves buying our first ever pairs of walking boots and we signed up to the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge: a three mountain climb done in 12 hours or less right in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales. WE opted for an October climb due to schedules knowing that we could really suffer with bad weather but we could also luck out with a perfect autumn day.

October came and I was genuinely so excited. We booked to stay in a little two sleep hut at the base and starting point of the climb. It was perfect. We arrived at The Old Hill Inn late Friday afternoon to the sun shining down on us. It was the most picturesque start to any challenge I have ever done. The mountains stood high around us and they trickled into fields beside us. The pub/inn we were staying at was run by a lady who really reminded us of our Grandma and we instantly felt a connection to her warm and friendly character. The hut was absolutely perfect, overlooking the fields with a beautiful bistro table set up in front. We felt like we had hit the jackpot. Hearts were full, we were so excited about the challenge and we were just absolutely loving it. We took a walk that evening and just basked in the wonder of the hills.

The mood didn't change. Ella and I were up at 5.30 and the field next to us had filled with the Three Peaks Teams. It was a buzz. and it seemed so luxurious that we could just step out into it all. We were assigned our group, Number 1, and we were first out to climb. The course was Ingleborough, Pen-Y-Ghent and Whernside. It was 24 miles long and we were so ready for it. 

As expected, being really big fans of walking and generally being quite fit (Ella is a PT so she had the upper hand) we quite quickly found ourselves at the front of the group happily taking on the challenge. If we are honest it was too slow for us but as a team of 20 we were happy to hold back and not let that bother us. 

It was a great day, dry until we hit the top of each mountain where all three were covered in cloud and mist. Considering the beautiful arrival we'd had it was disappointing not seeing the views but it didn't take away from the challenge, it just made us laugh! 12 house disappears in no time and the walking between the mountains was filled with conversations with all the strangers who were also there. We finished the course in 11hrs 30 mins after sprinting the last bit independently to make sure we completed it in the 12 hours. It meant a lot to us as we both felt we had given up a lot of time through the day. This was my only complaint; usually the two leaders split the group as it naturally divides in fitness levels but ours didn't and we stopped a lot for catch ups. This wasn't a problem until we realised that it meant we would be cutting it close to the 12 hour mark and I think our guide knew that and said we could dash that last bit independently to make up the time. So we did. We got our certificates and felt as proud as punch. The high lasted until about 7.30pm when our bodies realised and we just fell into bed. We'd had a beautiful stew for supper in the pub, walked to the hut with a basket of goodies for breakfast and just collapsed into bed. 

Our selfies from the 3 summits:

We both woke feeling amazing, absolutely high and the sun was back again and shining. We even joked about going up Ingleborough again as that one was right on our doorstep but instead we just chilled and enjoyed the absolutely spectacular views, really taking pride in achieving another great thing this year.

The drive back home through the Dales was spectacular, it was just as beautiful as we drove down but we were a bit intent on arriving so didn't take it all in as much. Every corner just showed off more of its beauty and it genuinely felt that we had experienced something really, really special. As we made it to the motorway we were struck by how comfortable we had felt at the Inn, how emotionally close we had felt to our grandparents who had lived on the Yorkshire moors side and how good the experience had made us feel about ourselves. It is a rare thing, being just super proud of yourself; we so quickly brush off our achievements, but we were both holding onto this, so proud of ourselves and each other for doing such a great thing!



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