I will rise but I will not shine
This line from a Tennessee Williams play came into my head as my alarm buzzed annoyingly at 5am. I awoke to full-on birdsong outside the bed and breakfast we were staying at. It resembled a rural Yorkshire version of the Overlook Hotel from the horror novel, The Shining. Self-served breakfast in an empty dining area was decidedly surreal.
To complete the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge involves reaching the summits of Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough, usually in this order and in under 12 hours. The peaks encircle the head of the valley of the River Ribble and form part of the Pennines range, situated in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
The start of the route was a test of fitness and although I was gym-ready (training with yoga, weights and rowing machine), it suddenly bit me viciously. This is no three-hour walk followed by a Sunday lunch and stodgy pudding with custard, oh no. If this was a power aid type of drink, it would be called ‘triple intensity’.
The top of the first peak revealed a skyline devoid of human mistouch. The pink red sky brow drew a line across the clouds, emphasising the storm-filled heavens. Marching on through sheets of green in several different shades, the landscape was sparse.
A notable landmark is a lone viaduct, engineering elegance. After the first peak, you tend to see it from different angles, walking alongside it, up close and eventually a 360-degree manoeuvre around it.
The limestone viewed from a certain height is like nature’s dandruff. Crumbling farm buildings are beautiful in their degradation. There was a scent of deep heat, sweat and wine gums – if this was a fragrance like Terre d’Hermes, it would be known as ‘Rambler Number 7’.
The knees felt like they were going to burst open, omitting a spray of pistons and springs. We are so used to a barrage of sounds, ever blasting, demanding space in our ear drums. The stillness is a significant silence. No mobile phone signals, an enforced digital detox. No means to check in, hashtag or update status. You confront the natural world, instead of living in a self-indulgent bubble.
The final push up the cracked crag stairwell, a vertical slate path. Reaching the last peak is a kind of metaphor for life; it is difficult and seems at times unclimbable, but with perseverance and commitment it eventually gets smooth.