What’s tougher than climbing a mountain?
Climbing three, of course!
On Saturday 10th June, an intrepid group from Gray Dawes travelled to the north of England to take on the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge to raise money for mental health charity Mind – enduring a gruelling hike up the Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside, and Ingleborough mountains.
We caught up with three of our cliff climbers – Sally Hayes, Jessica Marsh, and Claire Fradley – to find out how they managed on the hottest day of the year.
Hi guys! First of all, what attracted you to the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge?
Jessica Marsh (JM): “It is something I have always wanted to do but I have always put off. Raising money for Mind was a great motivator – it’s a great support network for people. Mental health often goes unnoticed and, having suffered myself, I know how hard it can be to find the correct help.”
Sally Hayes (SH): “I had been looking for a challenge for a while, so when Katie Whitby mentioned the opportunity on the company Intranet, it sounded perfect. I like to think I am quite fit and active, but as I get a bit older it takes more effort to keep it up so a goal in mind it definitely helps me.”
Claire Fradley (CF): “I was initially attracted to the Three Peaks as I love a challenge. I used to run a lot but since covid I have struggled with my motivation to get out and do it. So I thought a different kind of challenge would be good for me. Also doing it for Mind was perfect as I’m a big advocate for supporting people’s mental health having had issues with my own over the years.”
avg. walk speed
hours to finish
How did you prepare for such a gruelling challenge?
JM: “To be honest… I didn’t train! However I do gym most days and also run so I felt I would be fit enough to complete it.”
CF: “My main aim for training was to get plenty of time on my feet and wear in my new hiking boots. I did plenty of long walks in preparation, the longest being an 18 mile walk which was an actual event so I got a medal at the end of it – you’ll soon realise that this is important to me!
“I also tried to do some hill training but living in rather flat Suffolk this wasn’t easy. I’m glad I did train. We started at about 6.15am and finished about 9.30pm – it was a very long day.”
SH: “I’m quite active and go to the gym around 4 times a week and usually do a couple of long dog walks at the weekend. So I just continued with the strength training, as my back is always a weak point and I wanted to make sure that was as strong as possible before upping my walking miles. Unfortunately, living in Suffolk there are not many hills, but my husband and I took a weekend break to the Peaks in April to get some hill walking practise in.”
And how did the day unfold?
SH: “We stayed in a local hostel so we got up around 4.45am to have breakfast and plan to start walking at 6am. There were a LOT of people doing the same challenge, so the first hill was incredibly busy as we all started around the same time.
“Some people were running it, but a lot of people were just walking as a group. At the top of the first hill, Claire spotted a couple of lads wearing Ipswich Town football tops which cheered her up no end. She was very excited to talk to them!
“From the first summit to the bottom of the next was about an 8 mile walk, so this was pretty gruelling. But we arrived at the viaduct, which is a kind of spot for everyone to meet with their support teams. We had arranged Jan Telford from Customer services to meet us, but as we had no phone connection we were hoping she was still there as we were later than we thought we be.
“After walking past lots of support teams with no luck, Katie Whitby just shouted out loud ‘Jan where are you?’ and she popped up from behind a hedge. We were very glad to see her. She filled up our water bottles and handed out some lovely snacks of nuts and protein bars. Most of the team applied blister plasters to their feet and then were off again.
“Jan came with us a little way, but the second hill is Whernside and it’s a very long slow trudge to the top. By this time it was midday and the sun was very hot – we were all walking at our own pace and there was not a lot of talking! There were a few handy streams so I could wet my buff and put it on my head to cool me down. At the top the wind was incredible; so strong it nearly blew Jess off the top.
“Then it was a very steep climb down and you had to really concentrate as it would be really easy to slip and fall. We met the fantastic Jan at a little pub and she brought us all a lovely cold coke as we prepared for the third peak. By now it was 5pm and thankfully not as hot. I was very close to quitting at this point – the next hill seemed so far away and so high, but we decided that we were there and we had to carry on. Even if it took all night.
“At some points it was literally 10 steps and took a break. The last part of the Ingleborough is pretty much a climb not a walk, but we spurred each other on and got to the top where a lovely scout master told us how brilliant we all where.
“After a very quick break to admire the views. we began a 5 mile walk back to the car. We finally finished at 9.30pm, and the planned celebration in the local pub with lots of well deserved beers was not meant to be. We hobbled back into the hostel with some take away pizza and a semi warm bottle of wine and coke.”
The Gray Dawes challenge team. (From L-R): Saffron Muttu, Sally Hayes, Jessica Marsh, Claire Fradley, Iftekar Khalique, Katie Whitby, Jake Baker.
The famous, Victorian engineered Ribblehead Viaduct, situated in the middle of the three peaks.
Pen-y-Ghent in the Yorkshire Dales, the lowest of Yorkshire’s Three Peaks at 2,277 feet.
Any particular highlights from your trek?
JM: “I kept moving ahead just because I wanted to keep going. I became friendly with a family who I would pass every so often; we would have a quick chat then I would carry on. Then, on the last mountain, we had all stopped at the pub so they overtook us. I passed them going down and they said ‘ohh here she is, our little mountain goat!’ I’m taking it as a compliment!”
CF: “One great moment was when we were nearing the infamous viaduct. We couldn’t see Jan so Katie shouted, ‘JAN WHERE ARE YOU?’ and Jan’s head popped up. It was amazing, we were so pleased to see her!
“I also moaned the whole day that I would only normally do these things for medals and the following week in work Sally arrived and gave me my very own 3 peaks medal! It made me very happy – I wore it all day.
“We were such an amazing team, I didn’t know 4 of the group hardly at all before that weekend but now feel like they are friends for life! They all really got me through it and I think we worked so well together.”
SH: “The most amazing thing about this challenge was the people – the group we were with and the people we met along the way. Not all of us knew each other as we work in different locations around the business, but we all got on so well. We pushed each other, we cheered each other up and we kept each other going.
“I definitely feel like I have made friends from this challenge. We also met some fabulous people along the way. Two young girls from Bury St Edmunds and Cambridge were doing it for their 23rd birthdays who were looking forward to getting back to their lodge and cracking open the prosecco. We also met a group of guys walking for a charity called ‘Men, Walking and Talking’. They all have different mental health challenges and they just go on walks and talk everything through. They were so lovely, one of them had a flask of rum, which he offered to us and its was lovely.
“There was also a guy I chatted to in the last 15 minutes of the walk and somehow, within a few minutes, we were discussing one of my favourite subjects: podcast and cults! So random!”
Would you recommend the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge to others?
JM: “I would absolutely recommend doing it. The sense of achievement afterwards is such a good feeling. I don’t think anything can prepare you or your body for the walk, you just have to keep going do it with a great group of people and take lots of water and blister plasters.”
CF: “I would 100% recommend it, but I would suggest putting the training in and taking it seriously. It isn’t just physically tough it’s mentally tough, having to gee yourself up to go up another peak when you’re so tired is so tough. Also make sure you have a great team to do it with as this will keep you going.”
SH: “Yes I would definitely recommend it. It was absolute hell at times and I did not like stairs for about a week afterwards, but it felt so amazing knowing what we had accomplished.
“It may have taken us longer than expected but we got there in the end. I would love to do something else. I’m not not sure what yet but I’ll come up with something. I also wish I had known it was 5 miles back to the car after the last peak, then maybe I could have mentally prepared a bit better. I’m planning on getting a tattoo to remind myself of what we done and so I wont forget.”
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