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Way back in time before the onset of adulthood I enjoyed countless days heading into the hills of Yorkshire with nothing more than a squashed sandwich & youthful sense for adventure! Despite long past youthful and work commitments keeping me in the city, the sense of adventure and love for the outdoors never left me. After digging my boots out and returning to the hills I attended a number of courses to improve my hill knowledge and skill base, during one of these courses it was suggested I join the Mountain Leader Training scheme and was delighted go on to gain the MOUNTAIN LEADER Award in April 2012. As well as spending time on the hills and mountains of the UK I have also enjoyed trips to the Nepalese Himalaya, Swiss & French Alps, Mallorca’s Tramuntana, Andorran & French Pyrenees, Morocco’s High Atlas, Tanzania’s Mt Meru & Kilimanjaro, Argentinian & Chilean Patagonia and winter expeditions to Norway’s Hardangervidda. Since gaining the ML I have also gained the SINGLE PITCH AWARD, INTERNATIONAL MOUNTAIN LEADER AWARD and the WINTER MOUNTAIN LEADER AWARD. I am now enjoying working in a freelance role whilst trying to get out climbing as much as possible.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The National 3 Peaks - Part I (Training)

 In the Autumn of 2011 I was asked if I would be available to help a group complete the '3 Peaks' for charity by Ellie & Chrissy. It was only after I had agreed to offer my services, as they were raising monies for 'Help For Heroes' & 'Cancer Research', that they made it clear it was the 'National 3 Peaks' they were intending to do and not the 'Yorkshire 3 Peaks' as I had thought!
 As 2011 drew to a close I put the outline of how I would like the event to run together including - dates, training dates, kit lists, mountain profiles, potential dangers etc and presented to Ellie & Chrissy. I made it clear that at that point it was my intention to try put them off doing the event and they might want to look for something that may be easier and that carried a lesser chance of failure, I did this to ensure their commitment to the event as it was in no way going to be easy!! To their credit they were unperturbed by the physical, financial or time commitments a successful event would demand.

 Neither Ellie, Chrissy, Jodie or Richard had done much, if any hill/mountain walking in the past so it was decided I would take them on a couple of training routes to give them a small idea of what they could expect and also so both they, and I, could assess their fitness and kit and look for any potential problems. To enable the group to gain some 'mountain fitness' they would also meet regularly to get out in the Derbyshire Peak District which was most easily accessible to them and look to increase on their general fitness and stamina levels.
 N.B It is important to note that hill/mountain walking not only makes demands of the body's  cardiovascular fitness. Demands are also made of the body's skeletal and muscular systems including tendons and ligaments which may be put under greatly increased stresses to enable the body to make controlled movements over different terrains and surfaces of all angles whilst both ascending and descending the mountain.

 The first of our training routes was planned to take place on Sunday 29th April in the 'Yorkshire Dales National Park' to walk the 24.5mile route of the 'Yorkshire 3 Peaks' (Pen-y-ghent, Whernside & Ingleborough). During the week leading up to the walk I payed close attention to the weather forecast which was looking decidedly 'spicy' with possible temperatures around 2°C and winds in excess of 50mph. I kept the group updated and also made clear the potential risks of walking in those conditions, to their credit they were insistent they wanted to go ahead as it would be good experience as long I was happy to take them -

Mountain weather - Met Office Mountain Weather Forecast
The approach to Pen-y-ghent and it was getting 'breezy'!
Getting out of the wind and 'Baltic' temperatures on Pen-y-ghent.
One benefit of the freezing temperatures was the 'easier' going over the frozen notorious peat bog.

  We set off into Strong winds and made our way up to the summit of Pen-y-ghent where the wind speed increased and buffeting gusts threatened to knock us off our feet. As we continued the winds grew stronger and we were subjected to a pelting of tiny ice particles which found their way to bite at any exposed skin! After 4hrs we reached the base of Whernside where we took a quick food break.
  As we snacked a couple of experienced looking guys told us they had struggled to even stand up as they walked over Whernside due to the winds, I thought this information may have caused worry in the group but they were still keen to go on.
  Heading towards Whernside we walked past 'Ribblehead Viaduct' and to 'Force Gill' where, as we gained height it became necessary to pause and brace against the ever increasing gusts. It was at this point that I felt conditions were approaching the limits of where I thought it safe and would only further deteriorate as we went on, it was to the disappointment of the team that I decided to call an end to the route and that we should make our way back.
  It was a difficult decision to call a halt to the day as Ellie, Chrissy & Richard had traveled up the previous day and paid for accommodation and fuel etc, but safety of the group has to be the first consideration and it did give them an insight to possible conditions on the hills at any time of year.
  Great effort by all and a display of their commitment to the event.

  The second of our training routes saw Ellie, Chrissy & Jodie return to the 'Yorkshire Dales' on Sunday 26th May for what is one of my favorite training routes.
  The route begins at 'Ribblehead Viaduct' and heads back along Guber Road towards 'Horton-In-Ribblesdale' before taking a right turn towards 'Colt Park' and up the steep ascent of 'Park Fell'. The route then continues on to 'Ingleborough' then across to 'Whernside' before returning to 'Ribblehead Viaduct' - 2 of the 3 Peaks, 21km & 830m of ascent without the boggy bit!
Making their way up to Ingleborough summit
Ingleborough summit

Whernside in the distance
Enjoying the warm weather on Whernside
    It was a fine day with an air temperature approx 25°C + above that of the route we had done only a month before, the joys of living on an Island in a temperate climate! The steep ascent of 'Park Fell' soon got the heart pumping and lungs drawing in deep breaths. On the summit of Ingleborough, where we were rewarded with views of the 'Howgill Fells' to the North, the 'Lakeland Fells' to the North West & 'Morcambe Bay' shimmering to the East, we took a break for some food & water and to enjoys the views.
  We then headed back along the summit plateau and made our way down the notorious 'Devils Stair  Case' as people who were doing the 'Yorkshire 3 Peaks' came in the opposite direction, we were not at all envious of them going up the very steep stairs! Heading over towards 'Whernside' we took the chance of a refreshment/toilet stop at 'Philpin Farm' before heading up the ascent to 'Whernside' summit, here we passed literally hundreds of people making their way down from the summit with some of them looking very drained in the warm weather.
  Crossing the summit of 'Whernside' we then made our way down back to the starting point at 'Ribblehead Viaduct' passing the point at which I had drawn a halt to the previous training route in very different conditions. We completed in the route in a little of over 6hrs and I was very pleased with the ladies effort in preparing for the event proper - the remaining preparation was in their own hands!!!!

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