OVER 80,000 walkers a year take on the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge. It is the most popular one-day challenge in England and a real pull in bringing people to the area. The walk is 24.5 miles long with over 5,000 feet of climbing.

This may not be the best time of the year to complete the walk due to the limited daylight but it is a great time to start planning the walk and getting fit!

The traditional route starts at Horton in Ribblesdale and completes the Three Peaks in an anti-clockwise direction; Penyghent first, then Whernside and finally Ingleborough. There has been some complaints over the years from the locals at Horton about so many people arriving on any given Saturday in the summer months and some of the anti-social behaviour this causes. The National Park have issued a Code of Conduct for visitors and I would urge anyone to act sensibly and with respect when visiting. In fact, when I guide parties I often start the walk at Ribblehead where there is a good amount of parking and no locals to offend!

The walk itself is superb, in wonderful scenery with a great history. The paths are well laid out and for the number of boots in pretty good condition. It is certainly possible to get lost (particularly on Ingleborough summit or the walk between Pen-y-Ghent and Ribblehead) but the signposting is good and plentiful and there are usually plenty of people to ask. It is always worth taking a map if you are unsure and having one of the party able to read it! As a guide however it is not so much the route finding that people need us for but the general encouragement and leadership required to get people round. The target time is 12 hours but fit people can walk the route in little over 9 hours whilst I have been with a group that takes 16 hours and finished in the dark.

The main challenge of the walk is not its difficulty but the sheer length and the time it takes to complete. Most people will never have walked for anything like 12 hours and this makes it mentally challenging as well as physical. Physically people fail from simple lack of fitness and/or blisters. To cope with the mental challenge is different, I can only advise walkers just to keep putting one step in front of another and eventually you will finish. I split the walk into 6 sections (mini walks) which helps. Each section is either a climb or descent of one of the peaks and it helps to clock these off every roughly 2 hours.

Eventually the end will come, the satisfaction is deservedly immense and the pint very good.

I have been guiding groups around the Three Peaks for 10 years and have now written a brand new book on the Challenge, the history of the area and sections written by other local experts on Cycling, Fell Running, Caving and Footpath maintenance on the route. The book is available from the Where2walk website and local bookshops/outdoor shops from November 7th for £12.95.

Fact Box:

Distance: Roughly 24.5 miles (nearly a marathon!)

Height to Climb: 1,585m (5,200 feet)

Start: SD 802730. Horton has a car park in the village and a farmer usually opens a field when it is busy.

Difficulty: Very Hard.

Refreshments: There are pubs between each mountain (Horton, Ribblehead and Chapel-le-Dale) and Philpin Farm at Chapel-le-Dale offers refreshments on summer weekends.

Be Prepared:

The route description and sketch map only provide a guide to the walk. You must take out and be able to read a map (O/S Explorer 2)