Hanging in the hall of Eastfield Lodge is a list of the 20 highest peaks in the Yorkshire Dales.
For some, it seems, this poises too much of a challenge to be ignored. Having already summitted the best known peaks, Whernside, Ingleborough and Pen-y-gent, our guests requested I produce an itinerary for An Alternative Yorkshire 3 Peaks Walking Break.
During 2020, there were ample opportunities for me to recce the routes but, as it turned out, no opportunity to be joined by any guests. Filled with optimism however, Henry and I scheduled this new break to start on the very first day the UK lockdown was lifted, 21st June 2021.
We really should have learnt by then. Several restrictions remained in force. Should we cancel or postpone the break? Should we adapt and battle on somehow? We contacted the guests. Without exception or hesitation, the cry came back, “Make it happen. Whatever we have to do, just make it happen.” So, with renewed motivation, we did just that – staggered breakfasts, table service, Leyburn’s flamboyant butcher, Kev called in to cook a barbeque allowing us all to eat together outside in the garden. Bob Foster coaches rallied to drop and collect the masked group from “ooop and down dale!” And what a stoic, fun and enthusiastic group it turned out to be.
On the first day, not content with just one of the top 20, this intrepid group took on 2 from the list. Starting on the border between Cumbria and Yorkshire, we climbed gently at first to admire the Water Cut, a stunning stone sculpture which focuses your sights along the dramatic Eden Valley. The steeper steadier climb ensued up Wild Boar Fell, 708m, the fifth highest in the Dales National Park and onto the bleak and exposed ridge which makes up Swarth Fell at 681m. The weather had been kind and this was a spectacular introduction to the week ahead.
Great Shunner Fell, the third highest mountain in Yorkshire, provided the next challenging but magical day. Going off piste across open heather moor after the 4.5 mile ascent to its summit, led us to Little Shunner Fell and a steep drop to marvel at the strange rock formations of Buttertubs, better known for the pain it inflicted on the cyclists of the 2014 Tour de France. From here we were close enough to incorporate Lovely Seat, 675m, also known as Lunasett, right down at number 18 on our list.
Fuelled by Kev’s amazing dinner, we made light work of the final day – Buckden Pike, 702m and Great Whernside, 704m which are in such close proximity to each other, it was impossible not to take on both! As we climbed the second even steeper ascent of the day, the fog descended denying us any views at all over Wharfedale. Despite this, the satisfaction of completing walks to the top of 6 of Yorkshire’s highest in just 3 days was sufficient to bring a smile to all our faces.
The virus hadn’t dampened the spirits of this group, who very quickly gelled, supported and ribbed each other. In adversity it often brings people together and so much so, that almost all are returning this year to take on more challenges in the Yorkshire Dales. Bring on The Other Alternative 3 Peaks Walking Break – 9 – 13 May 2022.