The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge - backwards?

Q. I have completed the Yorkshire Three Peaks before and I know the convention is to go Pen y Ghent - Whernside - Ingleborough.

I plan to do them "backwards" (not walking backwards!) as I like the concept of coming straight down Pen y Ghent and back to the cafe (the stretch from Ingleborough feels like forever at the end of the day).

Any comments from people who already have, or on why the usual route is in the order it is?

Michael Love


A. The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge (Walk ny101) is an unofficial 23.5 mile circular route in The Yorkshire Dales National Park that starts and finishes at the Tourist Information Centre in Horton in Ribblesdale - which just so happens to be the Pen-y-ghent Cafe as well.

Convention seems to suggest that you tackle this walk in an anti-clockwise direction - i.e. Pen y Ghent - Whernside - Ingleborough. Doing it in the opposite direction is perfectly feasible though I would suggest that, with a tired mind and body, the long but gentle descent from Ingleborough to Horton-in-Ribblesdale is safer than the short but steep and rocky descent off Pen y ghent.

Either way it is 23.5 miles and 1586m (5202ft) of ascent

Hope this helps

Mike (Editor)


A. I've walked the 3 peaks both ways round, but always prefer the anti-clockwise (conventional) route, mainly because the Ribblehead to Pen y Ghent section seems a long boggy slog on the clockwise route.

However, in this dry weather, there probably isn't much in it.

Sue Allonby, Nelson


A. I have done the three peaks each way on many occasions - its just as tiring/exhilarating whichever way you go around.

With the normal way you get the steep but short climb up Ingleborough towards the end of the walk followed by the gentle downhill stroll to Horton-in-Ribblesdale.

Doing it backwards you get a longer climb up Pen-y-ghent towards the end followed by the shorter downhill stretch to Horton-in-Ribblesdale.

Only two differences are: doing it backwards means you miss the views for much of the way (minus point) but avoid the crowds (plus point) but beware .... when it is a charity walk (i.e. hundreds of folk setting off to do it the normal way) you meet them all coming up as you are going down Whernside and if you are friendly like me and feel obliged to say hello to all you pass ......... phew!

Roger Pollard, Shipley


A. I've done the Yorkshire 3 Peaks a few times - a couple of which were clockwise - or 'backwards'.

Psychologically, its just a bit too easy to miss out Pen y ghent when you're tired towards the end of a day. You can head down the Pennine Way from Birkwith, for instance.

Anti-clockwise puts Ingleborough in the way and you have to walk over it to get home. Abandoning the walk at Chapel-le-dale with cars parked at Horton takes a bit more organising and is, therefore, a more difficult decision to make.

Its all in the mind y'see. All in the mind!

Mike Knipe, Crook


A. Well, thanks for the interesting input, people, but now I can answer my own question.

Did the walk a couple of weeks ago on a glorious (if windy on the peaks) day. The walk up Ingleborough was a pleasant start and the view across towards Whernside, seeing your route across the valley and up, was pretty enough.

Roger was right about it being busy passing folk doing the 'standard route' on the way down Whernside (whilst they slogged up).

We got to Ribblehead in just under five hours and we were full of beans, but Sue was right about the long boggy slog through the moorland to Pen y ghent: it felt like forever.

Mike was also right about the possibility of missing out Pen y ghent, but psychologically we are a bloody minded lot and we went up and over, finishing it just over nine hours.

Personally I prefer the 'backward' clockwise route because of the fewer folk and the immediacy of completing the first two peaks, and next time I will be ready for the slog to Pen y ghent!

Thanks, folks.

Michael Love, Morecambe


A. I've done both ways and from various locations, for me the best way is to tackle Pen Y Ghent last and I prefer to start from Ribbelhead then Whernside, Ingleborough & Pen Y Ghent. This has two advantages in that by the time you've got over half way you've only got the steep rise up Pen Y Ghent to master and the last 6-7 miles is across fairly gentle rolling hills. Secondly, you don't have to pack so much food and (especially) drink as these can be replenished at Horton. A third benefit is that if you're struggling or picked a filthy day in the weather department the train can be taken to return to Ribblehead and you've still had a halfway decent hike.

Martin Cossins, Leeds


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