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The Conquering of Pen-y-ghent!

Date: Saturday 24th July 2010

Participants: Myself, my wonderful Partner and our dog 'Tilly' - Collectively known as 'Tigger's Mountain Expeditionary Force'

Description of our walk:

My Partner is an avid walker and is already a member of the Three Peaks Challenge having completed it on four occasions. We met in October 2009 and have become soul-mates within a very short amount of time. I have always enjoyed the outdoors but had never been able to fulfil this way of life during my marriage. So now I was faced with a wonderful man who could make all my dreams and aspirations come true. Of course the fact that my eldest daughter had past her driving test in June 2010 assisted greatly as now I could go away for the weekends instead of having to be a taxi for my two beautiful daughters all weekend! Bless them!

My Partner had been showing me pictures of the Three Peaks and we had been following the television series about Wainwright. I was marvelling at the Yorkshire scenery. I told my Partner that I had never been to Yorkshire and the stone was set! In a period of a month, we travelled to Yorkshire for two weekend breaks. On both occasions we stayed at Dalesbridge Camp Site which was brilliant apart from on the second occasion my poor car refused to travel anymore and we ended up being brought back the 205 miles via the RAC. Not to be deterred from our weekends of escape, we bought another car and decided that we would travel up on the Friday in order to have the full day of what my Partner described as 'a gentle walk' - walking up Pen-y-ghent!

Following many conversations, I declared that I also wanted to attempt 'The Challenge'. This was met with great enthusiasm by my Partner but also the immediate realisation that I would need to train for this feat as since my sporting school days, two children and a marriage had made me unable to even walk for the bus! (I know my youngest is nearly 15 but thats my excuse and im sticking to it!) We joined our local gym and set about getting me fit. I also decided that it would be nice to do The Challenge for a local dogs home near to us to help raise some money. I have given myself a target of a year (June/July 2011).

We started our trip on Friday 23rd July 2010 straight from work. We stopped en-route at a Service Station in order to get the obligatory cup of coffee and have toilet breaks, (including of course Tilly) only to realise that the Tom Tom stated we wouldn't be getting to Dalesbridge until 10.45! My Partner called ahead and as we hadn't booked our pitch we were told we wouldn't be able to camp there this weekend. Not to be deterred, he set about finding another campsite via the website on the Blackberry (thank goodness for technology!). He telephoned Helwith Bridge Pub to be told we would be very welcome to turn up at anytime and it would only cost us £2.50 per person and Tilly went free!

We arrived at 11.30pm and proceeded to put up the tent. We were two very weary travellers and an equally weary dog.

We woke up at 5am the next morning. After going for the obligatory first wee of the morning, the morning was bright and clear and it was at this point I saw my Nemesis. I would not believe my Partner that this was in fact Pen-y-ghent as it didn't look like the pictures I had seen. He then went on to explain that it looked different from different vantage points. Not convinced, I decided to concede the point. We had a breakfast of porridge and got ready. I had bought new boots (I had 'worn' them in during the week) and was very excited although nervous as I started to resemble a 'Walker'. Then I had to pick up my rucksack. I must have looked like a cartoon character as I could hardly pick it up and I dreaded putting it on my back for fear of falling backwards!

We arrived at Horton-In-Ribblesdale and parked at the large playing field that has the 'Honesty Box'. We got ready, put the rucksacks on our back, put the lead on Tilly and started our walk towards the café. We had the obligatory photo taken outside the signpost at the café and started on our way.

Unfortunately I don't know all the names of the places where you walk but we came to a sharp left turn at a farm and my Partner said we were about to start our ascent. I looked up and could see the track that had been made by thousands of feet before me and with certain nervousness on my part, we started our walk.

My Partner had always said to me that when you are walking you should always take the time to turn around and see what was behind you because you miss so much if you simply have your head down with the sole task of getting to the top. This was to be a fabulous excuse for me to keep stopping!!! 'I just want to see the scenery' I would say. In reality my legs were burning, my chest was stinging, my head was banging and it felt as though someone had trodden on my windpipe! But I was not going to be beaten. Twenty paces and then stop 'to look at the scenery'! and then another twenty paces.

A lot of people were walking on that day. Young, old, fit and unfit. There were children walking past me as young as 7, bounding up the track like they had no cares in the world whilst I was trying hard not to scare them with my heavy breathing!

I was about half-way up when it suddenly dawned on me that today would have been my Mum and Dad's 45th Wedding Anniversary. Unfortunately we lost my Mum 20 years ago, so that gave me even more impetus to get to the top!

Things were going fine, although it was an enormous shock to my system, and we reached the Pennine Way. I was sooooooooo proud of myself to have reached this far. At this point you climb over a stile and take a left turn. What greets you is an imposing climb - back to my twenty paces and then the scenery bit again, although the twenty paces did decline to eight!

This ascent was a bit more difficult because it is very steep but with my Partner's constant encouragement I knew I could do it.

Then we came to the bit where you actually have to hold onto rocks to get up. I'm not a lover of heights, especially when you see a sheer drop to the side of you, and this was no exception. I was determined to get up it and I could hear my Partner behind me and could see Tilly racing off in front of me on her extendable lead but at that moment I lost all confidence and froze. He immediately knew something was wrong. I didn't know where I was going and just could not move. I had lifted my head upwards to see where I should be going and it had knocked the top of my rucksack. I then had the sudden sensation that I was going to fall backwards and that was me done! But through kind words from my Partner I managed to get to the next ledge and promptly burst into tears! He hugged me and said that it was adrenalin causing me to cry but that he was so proud I had done it.

We eventually got over the 'steep nasty' bit and was faced by a grassy wind up to the top. I was expecting fireworks and a fanfare as I had got to the top but I got far more than that. I got a lovely smile, a hug and a kiss from my Partner who told me that he was so very proud of me.

We rested for a while at the top and I have to say Chicken Rolls with tomatoes never tasted so good. We took photos and just drunk in the scenery before us. I have never been so high above the earth without an engine, wings and in-flight drinks!

I was looking forward to the journey down as mistakenly I assumed that as you are going downwards its easier! Do not believe it! I think it actually hurts the legs more! And I have to say the pathway once you are more on the flat is horrendous because of the pebbles and small rocks; they hurt your feet so much!

I knew I had reached my end when we were walking past a field that had cows in it. For a split second I thought I had seen a black cow with a ginger Mohican but was told by my Partner that it was actually a black cow and a brown cow lying next to each other. Obviously I had walking sickness and it was affecting my judgment!

We finally saw the main road and the sense of achievement was enormous! I had climbed Pen-y-ghent and it had taken 4½ hours. We made our way to the Café for a welcome cup of coffee and a sit down without the rucksack on. As my Partner was getting the coffees in I felt as tho I wanted to tell everyone that I had climbed Pen-y-ghent! Me, who never even ran for the bus back home had climbed that enormous, gigantic thing behind me! I was somewhat brought back down to earth when I overheard a conversation between a young man and an older lady discussing the 'run' he had done over the three peaks that same day and that it had taken him 6½ hours in total! Well, he was a lot younger than me and he wasn't carrying a rucksack that resembled a small child on his back! But I couldn't help but admire him anyway.

So my first peak had been conquered. We met lots of really friendly people on our walk. We met a man who was doing the walk in a basque and a tutu as he was getting married on the following Friday and this was his stag weekend. we met a really nice man who was a keen radio enthusiast and wanted to get to the top so he could communicate with the World and dear sweet little Oliver who was carried on his Dad's back in a posse and arrived just after us at the top, sound asleep! Everyone said hello on our walk up and down Pen-y-ghent, and many people got told by us who we were and that this was my first peak.

Our next expedition is going to be conquering Ingleborough. I think this will be around September time and I will let you know how that goes.


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