Torrential rain, gale-force winds and a 26-mile hike over rugged terrain meant that our Three Yorkshire Peaks challenge was no mean feat. On the first weekend of the Easter holidays, fourteen Year 13 boys and six members of staff embarked on the Three Yorkshire Peaks. This is a 26-mile, 12 hour long hike winding through the picturesque Yorkshire Dales national park, incorporating Pen-Y-Ghent, Ingleborough and Whernside, the three highest peaks in Yorkshire. This challenge had a very important purpose. We were to raise £5000 for the Daniel Spargo-Mabbs Foundation, set up after the death of Daniel Spargo-Mabbs, a local schoolboy who died of an ecstasy overdose, the foundation educates young people about the dangers of drug abuse. The money we raise will go towards producing a theatre production about Daniel’s story.
We arrived at school early on Friday morning, bags packed, fashioning our 3 peaks hoodies and looking in awe at Tom Willis’ convertible zip-off hiking trousers. We then posed for photographs for the Croydon Guardian and Mr Scully, and set off from Fisher in two minibuses. After endless games of guess-who and charades between the mini buses, we arrived at the campsite exhausted from a lengthy eight-hour drive. We then proceeded in erecting our tents, an easy task for the Reading music festival veterans among us who gazed in wonder at the disastrous attempts at tent building occurring elsewhere. It was only when sunrise arrived that we could survey the antics that had occurred the night before. The food tent looked like it had been steamrolled and I somehow managed to position my tent in an area of the site that closely resembled a bog.
However, we had no time to ponder about the perils of our journey and the tents, as we were embarking on the Three Yorkshire Peaks that day. We refuelled on some of Mr Dean’s excellent bacon rolls and set off behind Dr Spencer, who was leading the group. After a short walk and lots of chanting from certain members of the team, we arrived at the base of Pen-y-Ghent, the first and smallest mountain. We thought this would be a breeze, as the heavy fog made it appear that the peak was just a small hill. We were all mistaken. It just kept going and going, through steep mountainous paths and involving quite a bit of rock climbing. The last half mile to the summit was particularly challenging, having to scramble and climb up a very steep incline. Mr Fell was the first to reach the summit, followed closely by the majority of the boys and the rest of the teachers. We could tell from each other’s exhausted and windswept facial expressions that we had severely underestimated this challenge, and the prospect of another 23 miles, worried everyone.
We continued on from the summit towards the next mountain, Ingleborough. The walk down from the summit of Pen-y-Ghent was a lot easier than the ascent, but the weather had started to take a turn for the worse. The winds were significantly picking up, Mr Fell’s backpack cover was ripped off by the gusts much to the amusement of us all who had the difficult task of retrieving it. The rain also became heavier and a number of us were left with boots full of water, a truly unpleasant experience. Despite this, we battled on and walked at good speed for the 10 miles or so between Pen-y-Ghent and Ingleborough. Although we were walking as a team, distinct groups began to form among the group. Notably, Mr Fell’s so called ‘elite team’, consisting of four or five of us, powered on at the front of the group. At this point most us were soaked through but this didn’t stop us having a great time leaping across rivers and having a lovely lunch in the shadow of the Ribblehead railway viaduct. Mr Fell and Dr Spencer’s husband led the team onwards up Ingleborough, where the paths were rocky and steep. We started to see banks of snow, so we knew that the weather up on this peak was going to be unpredictable and bad. It didn’t disappoint. We faced 80mph + winds that were so strong that walking was near impossible, which made progress up the peak painfully slow. Everyone was finding it hard at this point, even Mr Fell who was the Bear Grylls among us. We were all relived to reach the summit and hid behind a dry stonewall, a characteristic sight of the Yorkshire Dales. The ‘elite team’ quickly descended off the ‘god-forsaken mountain’ and waited for the rest of the group to make it down. Everyone looked battle worn, particularly Henry parker who appeared out of the fog, dressed head to toe in camouflaged clothing with a drenched green cap. Some joked his appearance resembled a child soldier.
We had completed two out of the three peaks but the sight of a pub and the warmth that comes with this sight was too irresistible, so we made a pit stop and warmed up on some tea. The weather was so bad that we had to make the decision if we were going to continue the hike. The majority of the boys led by Dr Spencer and Mr Fell decided to continue, these were mainly the ones who resisted the temptation of the pub fire and tea! Mr Dean, Mrs Dean, Mr Street and a handful of boys headed back to the campsite, too cold and wet to even consider continuing. We warmed up and headed to the pub, eagerly awaiting the return of the rest of the group and excited for our pub dinner. After many games of cards and Mr Street blatant cheating, the welcome site of Matt Miller appeared through the window. He was pleased to tell us that they had completed the three peaks in 11 hours and 58 minutes, just 2 minutes to spare! A momentous achievement when you consider the weather we faced and the fact the boys had to run the last few miles in soaking wet clothes.
We had a wonderful evening in the pub celebrating the amazing success that the hike and the trip had been, despite the truly horrendous weather. Some had completed two peaks and others had completed three, but we were all content with our successes. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed an evening of good food, conversation, gossip and banter. We were even happier when we learnt that the air cadets that were camping next to us had given up after one peak and had to flee home due to the weather destroying their tents. The eccentric owner of the campsite, who was clearly under the influence of some type of drug and who played country music loud into the early hours, was keen to boast about his attempts to save our tents. Despite this, our nine-man tent had collapsed and most of the other tents we had were on their last legs. A few of the boys and staff had to stay in the inn overnight, while the rest of us endured a long night of howling wind and collapsing tents. Luckily we survived our last night of outdoor living and meandered back to Fisher the following day.
This was truly a trip to remember and an experience that all the boys involved will cherish. We succeeded in raising £5000 for the DSM Foundation and I’m even planning a second attempt in the summer. Thanks to Mr Dean for organising the trip and Mr Fell, Mr Street, Dr Spencer, Mrs Dean and Mr Spencer for helping out and making the trip such an incredible experience.