Volume 37 Number 1 Article 1
The Three Peaks and The Three Pots
11-13 June 1999
Team : Carmel Ramwell, Ben Young, Frog, Mike, Neil Pacey, Dave Ramsey, Paul Windle, Rob Garrett, Yassen, Beardy, Dinny Davies (ULSA), John Cooper (ULSA), Simon (DCC).
I first heard of the Three Peaks & Three Pots challenge back in 1991 (as a fresh faced novice) in the Cardigan Arms, Leeds. It had become part of ULSA folklore and many a drunken night was passed discussing the challenge, but nobody seemed to do anything about it. Quite separately, others, including Chris Kinghorn had also dreamt of this obvious "Dales Challenge". It involves reaching the summits of Penyghent, Whernside and Ingleborough, and the downstream sumps of Penyghent Pot, King Pot and the static sump in Meregill Hole. The team must start and finish in the same place and carry all the tackle around the circuit, having tackled and detackled each pothole along the way.
After the Red Rose's successful round of the Three Pots in June 1997, enthusiasm was eventually raised for a proper attempt on the Three Peaks & Pots, spurning motorised assistance. (The late Christine Bleakley was a most enthusiastic proponent of this challenge.) To celebrate my birthday, I rustled up thirteen (lucky?) enthusiastic cavers to give the challenge a good try. Everybody eventually arrived at Bull Pot Farm late on Friday 11th June 1999, and eventually three teams were chosen, tackle packed and food prepared. Thirteen weary cavers then retired to catch a few hours sleep, but unfortunately Johnny B was having one of his infamous benders and was in fine voice.
Rising at 05:15, a pre-prepared breakfast was eaten and last minute adjustments and packing completed. Soon, cars were speeding off down the farm lane on a beautiful summers morning. Two teams began in Horton at approximately 07:30. The first team wasn't to last long, cheating in Penyghent Pot by using the in-situ tackle, they then ascended Penyghent and did the worst part of the walk through Bog Hell to Ribblehead. Here realising the size of the undertaking, and gallantly suffering headaches, Neil, Dave, Rob, Paul and Yassen called it a day.
Meanwhile, Dinny, Simon, John and myself had slogged over the Allotment to the top of the Arks, dropped our rucksacks and trotted to the summit of Ingleborough then raced in and out of Meregill Hole to the static sump in three hours dead, having been forced to use the aven entrance because of the water levels. On surfacing we met some of the C.P.C who seemed to be astonished about our proposed bit of exercise. A quick change followed and soon we were sat having lunch near Gods Bridge. The pre-placed car was bulging with drinks, pasta and other goodies. (A slight bending of the rules here - two of the team drove to Ingleton to replace a pair of wellington boots and a piezo igniter that had fallen to bits - tut tut Simon - however the car was then replaced in the same spot.)
Once fed and watered, we slogged up the hill in the rain, on to the bench above Twistleton and then on towards King Pot. Here we saw Carmel, Frog, Ben and Mike who, having finished King, were struggling up towards Whernside. King Pot provided a pleasant break from carrying a bestial rucksack and an enjoyable five and a quarter hours were had before surfacing at 20:45 into a midge ridden hell! As dusk approached we shuffled grunting and groaning along the ridge towards the summit of Whernside. We dropped the sacks just short of the summit and strolled to the top where, at 23:00, we were greeted with an amazing view of silhouetted peaks, patches of low cloud in Kingsdale and Chapel-le-Dale, lights at the Station Inn, Hill Inn and Lancaster..... all was pure enjoyment for a few minutes. Reality rapidly returned as we struggled to lift our enormous sacks and then tried to plunge and stumble (fall down was more appropriate) the front face of Whernside. We ended up getting wet feet in the bog at the bottom and it was four very weary cavers who hobbled into Ribblehead at midnight. Completely knackered, the car was opened, food eaten, tents and bivis erected, and sleep arrived mercifully quickly.
Sunday morning arrived all to soon, rising at 07:30 with heavy limbs and aching bodies, camp was quickly struck and chilli eaten for breakfast. By 08:00 the four of us hobbled off towards Penyghent. Fifty meters further on I could not walk another step. My new boots (clever idea or what?) had seriously damaged my left ankle, the solution fortunately was to wear a wellington boot on that foot. Off we set again, with me looking like a prize turnip wearing one boot and one welly. At about 12:30 we arrived at Penyghent Pot, which was good timing because Carmel, Frog and Mike had just surfaced. Unfortunately, Ben had dropped out early that morning - the enormous, nay ridiculously large rucksack was too much for his delicate build and the rest of the team had decided to use the in-situ tackle.
Leaving rucksacks at the entrance to Penyghent Pot, Dinny, John Simon and I slogged up the front face of Penyghent and stood on the top of our third trig point of the weekend, to the amusement of a few ramblers. By 13:15 we'd started on Penyghent Pot, lugging our own tackle in, the sump was quickly reached and a slow exit made surfacing at 17:30, tired but elated. On the home straight now we shuffled down to Brackenbottom in the drizzle, the challenge finally complete. We arrived like old men at 18:15 some thirty four and three quarter hours after leaving Brackenbottom.
Meanwhile, Carmel and company had struggled up Ingleborough with sacks (they took sacks to the summits of all three peaks, (unlike ourselves - virtuous or foolish I'm not sure), then on down to Meregill. The weather was not pleasant by this point - a heavy drizzle with dark low cloud made the afternoon look really miserable. Here they made a very difficult decision, not to descend Meregill because of the weather, but to finish their circular walk ending at Beezley Falls.
Having collected all the cars, both teams met in the Marton Arms for a celebratory drink. I had a coffee - I couldn't face a beer, the drive home would have then been impossible. All in all, an interesting weekends sport, very enjoyable in hindsight. Thanks to all those who took part or helped Carmel or Neil's teams with support.
Footnote: In August 1999, Chris Kinghorn and Tony Seddon completed the round in thirty nine hours, with assistance from Steve Round, tackling and detackling each pothole and taking rucksacks to the summits of all three peaks. Good effort lads.