Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge – 39km, 1440m winter run

Running the route of a race ahead of race day (reccying) is one of the best ways to get know an area. On New Year’s Eve we ran the Yorkshire Three Peaks, a route which covers 39km and with 1,440m ascent, takes in the three highest summits in Yorkshire in a day.

Traditionally the circular route starts at the small North Yorkshire village of Horton-in-Ribblesdale, running anti clockwise to the summits of Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside, and Ingleborough.

It’s very popular with walkers and runners, meaning that there are well worn paths most of the way. There are also large sections of bog, and depending on the weather and visibility, navigation can still be required.


The first summit is around 6km from Horton and is reached quickly by following a large track. On the descent, the route diverts to a less well defined trail that crosses a lot of very wet bog. It can be deep in parts, I fell in several times.

Anna Paxton blog run

Falling into (another) bog on the descent from Pen-y-Ghent


The first summit to the second is the longest part of the route (around 20km), and it was mentally the hardest as it felt like slow progress. Eventually we emerged from the peat bogs to follow a track through a large farm. This leads to a road where the famous landmark Ribblehead Viaduct comes into sight.

Anna Paxton blog run

Running past Ribblehead Viaduct

The route leaves the road at Ribblehead to run alongside the bridge, crossing the railway further up to finally begin the ascent to Whernside. There are flagstones through the bog which made it easy to find the way, but despite the easy ground, the ascent felt like hard work.

Battling the wind on the cloudy summit ridge of Whernside

It was very cold and windy on the summit ridge. With significant wind chill and with no view at all we found the trig and dashed down out of the cloud as fast as we could.


Leaving the wind and cloud behind, we made fast progress along a farm track that leads mainly downhill until the route crosses a road at a pub. From here there’s a clear trail across fields then up flagstones again, before the ascent to the summit.

Anna Paxton trail running

Flagstones through the boggy ground make route finding much easier

It’s not a scramble, but it is a steep climb up to the summit plateau. The area is flat and rocky and there isn’t a clear path leading to the trig point. With cloud creating very poor visibility and daylight fading, I navigated us quickly to the trig, then to the descent.

Anna Paxton run blog

Navigation was required in cloud and impending darkness on the summit of Ingleborough

As darkness fell we pulled out our headtorches and I was pleased to have navigated us to the right path. I knew it was a good trail which we just had to follow back to Horton, and with about 7km to go, I was glad to be on the final stretch.

This last section turned out to be quite tough. In winter the path is very churned up, and has become deep clay mud. It made our feet heavy, clogged up the grips on our shoes, and made every step a skid. Finally though, after aroud six hours of running, the lights of Horton grew closer and we emerged from the darkness of the fields to the train platform in the village.

If you fancy racing this route, the Three Peaks Fell Race takes place on the last Saturday in April. You’ll need  OS explorer map OL2, Yorkshire Dales Southern and Western Areas. We also used an A4 map of the race route and training route from Pete Bland Sports.

Happy new year! Please check out my new project Outdoorista

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s