The Perse School

ARC take on 3 Peaks Challenge

13 May 2014

Over the Bank Holiday Weekend, pupils from the Adventure Racing Club took on the renowned 3 Peaks Challenge in Yorkshire. One of the pupils who took part, Elizabeth Stephenson, wrote an account of her experiences, which involved 5.00am starts, eating lots of cake to refuel and very sore legs. We hope you enjoy reading Elizabeth’s account below.

“The Yorkshire Three Peaks is an internationally recognised challenge taking in the three highest peaks in Yorkshire, Pen-y-Gent, Whernside and Ingleborough. It is viewed as a very prestigious achievement to have completed the challenge and is a veritable test of physical and mental endurance. The total distance is 39.2km (24.5 miles) and 5,249 ft, in order to complete the challenge you have to get round in under 12 hours. Over the May Bank Holiday the Perse Adventure Racing Club (ARC) took four teams of Perse students from Years 7-9 to Yorkshire to complete the challenge.

We set off from the front of school on Saturday morning after a quick kit check to make sure no one had forgotten anything drastic such as waterproofs or a sleeping bag! The long journey up was interspersed with traffic, several services stops and a selection of two CDs – needless to say we knew all the songs on them nearly off by heart when we arrived in Yorkshire! Our destination was Selside Outdoor Centre, just outside Horton-in-Ribblesdale whose café is the start and finish of the challenge. Before we settled down at Selside we went for a brief orientation hike up the first part of Pen-y-Ghent which is where people are most likely to go wrong, as the path you would expect to take up goes the other way around Pen-y-Ghent than the one stated by the route.

Arriving at the centre we unpacked the van and allocated everyone to their dorms, which mercifully had mattresses on the bunks! This was followed by a quick debrief for the evening, sandwich and dinner rotas were selected and pupils were told the schedule for the following morning which included, to much dismay, a gruelling 5:00am start. My group (Bubz Townsend, Jamie Sales and Robert Anderson and I) ended up spending the free time before dinner making 40 sandwiches and the Year 7 girls (with some help from the leaders) produced an excellent meal of curry, followed by various different types of cake. It was then time to get a (hopefully) decent nights’ sleep in preparation for the next day.

As promised, the sharp rap on the dormitory doors came at 5:00am and several bleary eyed and tousled haired heads emerged from sleeping bags in the girls’ dorm. Sleepy faces already filled with trepidation for the day’s challenge, wondering what on earth could have convinced them to get up at such an unearthly hour! Breakfast was hastily eaten after the leaders had kindly cooked it for us and we set off, now wide-awake and buzzing with adrenaline. The reason for our early start soon became apparent as when we arrived at the café in the early morning drizzle, overshadowed by a bleak grey sky, we had beaten all the crowds to the start and had ample time to clock in and take a quick pre-challenge photo in the rain!

The four groups set off with about five minutes between each other; my group set off third and headed up Pen-y-Ghent at a fairly rapid pace. We had intentionally started off cold so that when we began the steep ascent up Pen-y-Ghent we didn’t overheat. It didn’t take us long to overtake the other two groups in front of us and before long we had reached the top of the steep but short ascent to the peak. The first of the three bagged meant a very brief stop in the cloud to eat a quick snack and for Mr Ingram, our group leader, to take a picture. Our descent off the peak was very swift; we ran most of the down hills and soon met Mr Parker at the first checkpoint, from where we set off along the long flat stretch to Whernside. Mr Ingram decided it was then time for his favourite tactic: one minute walk, one minute run…

As far as I am concerned, Whernside is the hardest part of the whole challenge. It’s a long, relentless slog to the top, which just seems to go on and on! Coupled with the foul weather at the top, burning legs and lungs and a strong desire to sit down for a minute and refuel, we sat at the trig point for a couple of minutes. We then began the arduous and technical descent off Whernside and met Mr Parker at the third checkpoint, (we had missed him at the second as he was still at the first one for the other groups.) We rapidly ate a sandwich each (Bubz had a bit of a sandwich dilemma as hers had disintegrated in the bag!) and then proceeded onto Ingleborough where the aptly named ‘Stairs of Death’ awaited us. This is a particularly steep ascent up to the peak that is very strenuous to climb. We only stopped at the peak to take a photo as we were all very eager, me especially, to get off the mountain. As we were surrounded by cloud and rain the only difference between the three photos of my group at the peaks is that we all look, consecutively, more tired and depressed, except Bubz who looks ridiculously cheerful in all three photos!

The last stretch after Ingleborough involved Mr Ingram constantly urging us to keep running as we were trying to get sub seven hours twenty minutes and with me trying very hard to keep it together! When you get to this point you go into a sort of state where it is generally easier not to think about what you are doing and to just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Rounding the final corner to the café we attempted as much of a sprint as we could muster, which was actually not too bad, and then gratefully collapsed onto a bench outside. Well I say that, but I just collapsed against the wall on the ground! Our final time was seven hours eighteen minutes; Mr Ingram’s insistence of running had paid off! We set a new ARC record for the fastest time by over an hour and a half and a new record for the youngest girl and youngest boy from ARC was also set by the amazing two Year 7 teams who all (minus two members) managed to complete the challenge in under 12 hours – a phenomenal effort! Congratulations also go to the team of year eight boys and one year nine boy who also completed the challenge.

The evening was spent eating copious amounts of chocolate cake, watching Frozen in the main room and resting our very sore legs. I’m pretty sure that everyone slept well that night. Waking at a more reasonable time of 6:30am we packed up and left around mid-morning, this time with only one CD on the way down.

Special thanks go to Mr Bradley, Mr Parker and all the other leaders for organising such a great trip.”

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