Gosh, the months just seem to be flying by don’t they? Can’t believe I was writing about my Easter weekend last time, and here we are almost in the middle of May! Thanks as always for your lovely comments and stories of weddings, cakes and family times. So good to share, and to hear how you’re all getting on.
We’ve had one more family celebration since then, which was for my sister Jenny’s partner, Linda. Her 50th birthday fell on the 5th May, but we had the party on the Sunday so the theme was “May the Fourth be with you!”.
Mercifully no fancy dress, just really impressive invitations, and the chance for Colin and I to have bit of fun with her cake – what do you think? I made and iced it, stuck the stars and her name on, but it was Colin who created Yoda’s face, which she thought was brilliant – I had to agree.
But that was over a week ago, and since then I have taken on and completed possibly one of the most physically testing challenges of my life – the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge. I was completely honest with you when I said that I genuinely didn’t think I’d make it around the 26.2 miles, and that was BEFORE I discovered that the mountains I was to scale were well over 2,000 feet high!
It was my friend Ros’ husband Chris who first told me about this back in January, and I said I’d love to do it with him. Colin thought about it – for roughly 10 seconds – and then said he’d come but not climb, so he could keep Ros company.
Of course this isn’t something you can just arrive and do; you need to train and get as fit as possible. Chris had run the London Marathon several years back, which he said was gruelling, but felt that this was definitely ‘do-able’!
Once I’d booked us in I was sent information and a list of ‘Essentials’ for the day itself. Perhaps I should have been a little more aware of the scale of the challenge as the list included dry clothing, a head torch plus a Survival Bag and Whistle!!
I continued with my 5k runs three times a week and even went walking in my new boots for several hours at a time, but sadly there aren’t many hills in Berkshire, so my training was a little limited to say the least!
We drove up to Yorkshire the night before, and spent a really enjoyable evening with the other walkers in a converted school house. The weather was dry and I took this picture of the view from the road of one of our Peaks! Everyone joined in with making the meal (although I did think curry was a slighty dodgy choice bearing in mind no toilets en route..!)
We made our sandwiches for the next day and slept the night in bunk beds. When the alarm went off at 5am, I can’t truthfully say I felt rested and certainly not hungry, having polished off an enormous dinner, but the Mountain Leader insisted on a big breakfast, and so I ‘fuelled my engine’ with oat clusters and yoghurt, and several cups of tea before we set off. We’d woken up to howling gales and could hear the torrential rain against the windows, and as far as enjoying the view, the mist made that impossible, as you can see above!
It was an eight mile drive to Pen-y-ghent, which was to be the first of our Peaks, and although a little apprehensive, Chris and I gave Ros and Colin a cheery goodbye and set off at quite a pace up the track in the pouring rain. This first peak is 2,277 feet high, and has a really steep start but there were large stones set into the ground that made a path of sorts. However… because of the rain, it was like walking up a waterfall!
The mist rolled in and sadly the beautiful Yorkshire landscape that I remembered from my youth was totally obscured, but in a few hours we reached the top and by crikey was it cold! Blowing a gale, lashing with rain, and freezing! Unfortunately my ‘waterproof’ jacket was clearly only showerproof, as rain had got in and through three layers of clothing. I was soaked to the skin, as was Chris, and getting colder by the minute, so we shared a bar of chocolate to cheer ourselves up.
Our Mountain Leader had made it clear at the beginning that hypothermia can set in really quickly and so I was relieved when we set off again, as I was feeling pretty cold. The descent was quite frankly horrid; very steep, running water and jagged rocks. I was very glad that it was misty so I couldn’t see the almost vertical drop down the side, but the previous night’s curry rumbled dangerously in my stomach all the way down!
The mist had cleared by the time we got to our first check point where Ros and Colin were waiting, and we were so glad to see them They’d been really worried about us having talked to the other Guides who said the conditions were pretty dreadful, and that it was unlikely, given the time, we would be able to complete the challenge.
Determined not to be beaten, we decided to get sorted and crack on. The ‘dry’ clothes I’d taken in my backpack were wringing wet, so Ros gave me her warm dry layers and her true waterproof coat (bless her), Colin stuck more plasters on my feet while Ros massaged Chris’ legs and, having filled our faces with flapjack, we rushed off to join the second group who were pacing it out en route to our second Peak, Ingleborough (2,372 feet in case you’re counting).
At this point the weather changed, the sun came out, and we were able to enjoy all that makes Yorkshire God’s Country. The route was fairly flat for a while, but then there was another very steep ascent, and the higher we climbed, the stronger the wind, and the return of the rain. Luckily my ‘call of nature’ had been taken in the dry – although having to haul wet trousers and waterproofs back on wasn’t much fun!
By now my calves and thighs were feeling tighter, and although going up was hard, coming down I found was worse. The pull on my calf muscles was huge, so I was really glad I had my special walking poles to help. Chris and I thought we were doing pretty well with our pace, but we were towards the back of the troupe, and so had to eat our snacks on the move, as there was no time to stop.
We got to our second check point with half an hour to spare, and actually arrived just before Colin and Ros. They admitted they thought we would be beaten at this point, but as we’d made good time, were plied with hot soup and given dry socks, we decided to join the next group and continue to the third and final peak, Whernside, the highest of the three at 2,415 feet.
The weather had reverted to type and, in pouring rain, we started the long, hard climb up the mountain. The land was boggy and so my boots filled with water, the wind howled round us and the end seemed nowhere in sight.
I remembered that feeling of defeat when I was in labour, and again towards the end of chemo, but then I thought of my Sam, and how even if he’d wanted to, he would never be able to do this … Chris sensed I was struggling and plied me with Dextrose tablets and water. He kept telling me how well I was doing, and even offered to carry my rucksack bless him, but I’m not a quitter and I wasn’t going to give in.
I even had a wry smile when I thought of my tube of Elemis Flash Radiance in my rucksack – there in case my skin had needed extra moisture! We finally got to the top where, through the mist, we saw a Guide waiting to take us over the top of the mountain, as opposed to continuing around the edge which is where we were headed – may well have needed our Suvival sacks and whistles if that had happened!
Chris took this photo of our route down, but it doesn’t really give you any idea of how vertical it was. I had to sit down and drop onto some of the ledges as they were too steep to climb down. I wasn’t helped by the Guide telling us that this was a high-risk accident point! Mercifully the mist disguised the almost sheer drop on the left and I stuck to the rough path made out of rocks and rainwater and just prayed I’d get to the bottom without my legs giving way. They’d started to shake with the effort right at the top, and I knew we still had a way to go.
The descent was painfully slow and I could feel the water in my boots sloshing around my toes, but thanks to Ros and her heroic handing over of the waterproof, the top half of my body was dry. Poor Chris though was soaked through, and had given up on his gloves so his hands were frozen in position grasping his walking poles!
There is something very strange about spending an entire day walking when you have no idea of the time and all we could think of was Colin and Ros … how wonderful it would be see them, to have a hug, to take our boots and wet things off, and to have a hot shower. By now the land had flattened a little and some way off we could see a road with cars and, further on, the field we were headed for where we knew they’d be waiting.
And they were – in fact they had walked a little way up to meet us – and I almost fell into Colin’s strong arms, and stood there on the verge of tears. It wasn’t that everything hurt so much, or that I was incredibly tired, it was because we’d made it back safely, and there had been moments when I had seriously doubted I would. I had to thank Chris for being so patient and kind, and also Ros and Colin who gave us the extra TLC we needed. I could sense their relief when they told us how proud they were that we’d made it, and it meant everything
Later that evening, while talking with the other walkers, someone asked me why I’d decided to take the challenge, and I replied quite simply, because I could. A few years back I would have probably put it off, but life has taught me that you don’t know what’s around the corner, and so the time to do things and make decisions is now
You’ll probably be as tired as I was if you’ve read right through to the end of this, but I hope you enjoyed it, and like the photos, and will now write and tell me about some of the challenges you’ve faced in your life – I love reading them and, as you know, will always reply
Don’t forget to tune in next Monday 19th for Diamonique Day, when Charlie and I will be hosting the Grand Finale from 9pm! It’s going to be great. Have a wonderful weekend, and take care!
With my love,