A GREAT day out in Upper Wharfedale is coming up with the annual Wharfedale Three Peaks Challenge, the main fundraiser the area's fell rescue association, Lesley Tate reports.

IN just more than a week, people from all over the country will be taking on the annual Wharfedale Three Peaks Challenge.

The fundraiser for the vital Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association (UWFRA) was launched three years ago following the demise of the Broughton Hall Game Show, which had been its major fundraising event for 33 years.

Last year, almost 170 men and women completed the challenge, and the route has quickly become known as an alternative to the busier, Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge.

And, it also raises much needed funds for the rescue organisation, which relies on donations to fund its annual costs of more than £40,000 per year.

This year's event will take place on Saturday, June 24 - and the charity hopes more people than ever will sign up and take part and raise vital funds, while enjoying the spectacular scenery of Upper Wharfedale.

Walkers - or runners - can chose from three different routes, of 22 miles, 13.5 miles, and a gentle, four and a half miles.

All start and finish in delightful Kettlewell, where free parking, refreshments, and a hot meal at the end, will be laid on.

Last year's joint winners of the 22 mile three peaks challenge was David Ashby and Robert Shaw, with times of 3 hours, 35 minutes and 23 seconds, and 3 hours, 35 minutes and 24 seconds; while first woman to finish was Amanda Seims in 4 hours, 32 minutes and 35 seconds.

The three peaks route, starts from Kettlewell, and takes in Birks Fell, Buckden Pike and Great Whernside. Hikers are treated to spectacular views over Upper Wharfedale and the surrounding Dales towards the better known, Yorkshire Three Peaks, Penyghent, Whernside and Ingleborough.

The shorter, 13 and a half mile two peaks challenge, takes in Buckden Pike and Great Whernside, with hikers once again enjoying spectacular views.

Lastly, a four and a half mile valley walk will take in the Dalesway path and Paradise walk. Walkers will follow alongside the River Wharfe to Starbotton before returning to Kettlewell along the slightly higher Paradise Walk, which has lovely views over the Upper Wharfedale Valley.

All the routes are on the OS map OL 30 (Yorkshire Dales Northern and Central areas), and the major parts of all routes will be on paths and tracks, but with some pathless sections on the two longer routes.

Everyone taking part will receive a number, which should be worn prominently, and there will be marshals along all routes.

People are advised to plot their routes on their maps before heading off, and while every effort will be made to provide full and accurate route details, participants will be expected to accept responsibility.

Those taking part are also being warned about the area's 'changeable weather' and come prepared for all eventualities, but even on a rotten day - a trip to Upper Wharfedale is always a treat.

The rescue organisation, which is based at The Hut, Grassington, is made up of more than 60 well trained and well equipped volunteer cavers, climbers and mountaineers.

It was the rescue of a lamb that first inspired Len Huff and Ken Smallpage to start the association in 1948, and the rescue of animals has continued to be a key part of the team's work.

They are on call 365 days a year, and already this year has been called out 18 times, devoting 707 man and woman hours.

The majority of its work involves attending incidents involving both people or animals who by one way or another get into difficulty in caves, potholes and mineshafts. They may also get caught out on fells, crags or anywhere not accessible to the normal emergency services.

Most volunteers live in the area, but others travel from as far away as Leeds or Bradford and will respond at any time of day or night, and in the worst of weather conditions.

And while it has been called out on major national incidents, such as the Lockerbie air crash of 1988, rescuing exhausted or injured cavers and fell walkers is more the norm.

The success of the association relies on its volunteers and their ability to use the most up to date equipment. Many items may be changed or removed from use because of strict control and rotation.

But the cost of equipment is expensive, and without any government funding, the team relies on donations - and on fundraisers, such as the Wharfedale Three Peaks Challenge.

Those wishing to take part in the three peaks challenge will need to register from 6.45am before the start time of 8am. Registration for the two peaks will be from 7.45am, with the start at 8.45am. The valley walk will register from 9am, and start at 10.15am.

Cost of entering the three peaks is £18, for the two peaks, also £18, and for the valley walk, £20 for a families of up to four, and £12 for individuals. All prices include parking, refreshments along the way, and a hot meal at the end.

To find out more, and to book a place, go to the website: uwfra.org.uk/W3p