The tempting sound of sizzling sausages and the aroma of frying bacon wafted towards us as we entered the field where the GD marquee stood. No sooner had we arrived and a huge cholesterol filled sandwich was shoved into my fist and I was busily chomping through it. After all, it would be silly not to replace the calories I was about to use up and it did bring four of my senses nicely into play.
It was still early morning and my two sons and I had left home an hour earlier to arrive at Horton in Ribblesdale in good time to meet up with the rest of our team and other supporters of Guide Dogs, for the 7:30am start. We were about to spend the day negotiating the mighty Yorkshire Three Peaks.
It was an incredible challenge for everyone doing it but even more incredible for Matthew & Adam who would be guiding me each step of the way.
As we all assembled, there were many old acquaintances renewed, some surprising ones too, official Guide Dog T-shirts were donned, photos taken and then it was time to hike.
Within two minutes I came across my first hazard. With everyone else viewing the Peaks and me contemplating what lay ahead, I crashed into and tripped on the up-kerb after crossing the road. Who would expect a kerb on a country lane? Anyway, it wasa reminder to switch on and concentrate.
As we progressed gently along the tracks and pathways leading to the craggy, higher slopes of Pen-y-Ghent the weather was pleasant enough with light cloud overhead and a bit of a breeze, just enough to keep us cool, although, I was told, the dark clouds rolling in and out of the Peaks looked ominous.
We came to our first technical challenge and the climbing began. I discovered that it was easier not using my walking pole here but using that hand for gripping while still hanging on to Matthew with the other. On one particularly hard bit we rested for a couple of minutes, for me to catch my breath, then valiantly carried on to the summit. Touching the point at the top felt exhilarating.
Here the wind was howling and although I still felt sweaty from the climb it was time to remove one of my two T-shirts and replace with my lightweight, stormproof jacket. A good thing too as it wasn’t long before the first rain hit us.
I think we all enjoyed the descent, although very steep we slipped and slithered mostly down grass and at times wading through bogs. Great fun!
The undulating hike across the valley was as pleasant as any countryside walk, with only bleating sheep for company and a few inquisitive field mice.
As we started the long gradual ascent of Whernside the wind became relentless and the rain intermittent. One scary moment was climbing steps onto tops of walls and down the other side. Stood on top of a high wall with nothing to hold onto and unable to see where the step down was did make me feel a little exposed. In another incident we had to cross a stream by using stepping stones with shouted instructions, a bit disconcerting but at least others, not so deep, we just paddled through.
I found the last couple of miles up quite difficult., not so much the steepness but the continuous knee high boulders to clamber over. They were too low to be able to use my hand for purchase but nevertheless we persevered and eventually and gratefully leaned on the point at the top. We found a ledge in a sheltered spot to rest for a little while, then standing back up the wind took my breath away and I was leaning into it to stay upright. I pulled my gloves on and off we went just as torrential rain came driving at us. At least the rain let up even if the wind didn’t.
The descent of Whernside was for me the hardest, most ponderous and in some people’s eyes the scariest part so far. I was fortunate, as on Pen–y-Ghent, I never saw the deep drops.
After such an ordeal it was heart-warming to see Sue who had come along to meet us along with my Guide Dog Spencer.
No rest there though, as we hot-footed it the next two miles to the support team at Chapel-le-Dale, grateful for the flat, level terrain. All there was in front of us now was Ingleborough.
I found somewhere to sit, had a welcome coffee, a banana and a snickers bar before changing into fresh socks and T-shirt, ready for the final push.
But it did not happen, at least not for me. A decision had to be made and it was decided hat the terrain and the shocking weather conditions it was not safe to risk a blind man and those with him on this occasion.
YES, I was extremely disappointed but on reflection I knew it was the right thing to do. I was so pleased to have done approximately 18 miles, taking in the heights of Pen-y-Ghent and Whernside and having such a fantastic day with so many wonderful people. A BIG thank you to everybody involved and also to all you fantastic people who have supported us with your donations. The money raised for GD’s has far exceeded my expectations and is still coming in.
I am especiall proud of my lads who stuck to the task and completed all three Peaks with the rest of our team. Magnificent performance all of you.
I also enjoyed Tony’s bubbly at the end. What a team