We did it! Our English UK hiking team completed the Yorkshire Three Peak Challenge on Saturday. Starting and finishing in the dark we completed the 25-mile walk, including Yorkshire's three highest mountains, in under 12 hours.
So far, we've raised around £10,000 of our £15,000 target for the Eddie Byers Fund, enabling us to support many more projects that transform lives through learning (we are still very happy to accept donations!). Thank you to everyone who's supported us. You helped to keep us going through a very long day.
It was an extraordinary adventure. By just 09:15 (right on schedule) we were all on top of the first mountain, Ingleborough, with the sun up and beautiful views.
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Coming off Ingleborough was rather more challenging, down an incredibly steep and rocky path which needed hands as well as feet. On the upside, there were amazing views across the plateau to Whernside, our next summit. This was our first taste of the wide, flat paths and steps on much of the Three Peaks route, created (according to our guide, Chris) from the remains of Yorkshire's industrial buildings.
After a quick refuelling at our support vehicle, we started moving towards peak two – where the more challenging ascent included a long run of almost vertical steps which led us into swirling, wet mist. Time for waterproofs, and to wave goodbye to any hope of views from the top.
Arriving at the summit for our 12:30 deadline, we took a quick photo and were off again down a long, long ridge, over the railway line and past the iconic Ribblehead Viaduct before once again catching up with the support car for lunch.
Damon, the expedition leader, looked at his watch. "You need to leave again in five minutes to stay on schedule," he said. So, we quickly ate our sandwiches and took a photo, before hurrying off up the road as fast as we could to make up time.
Pen-y-ghent, the final peak, was visible but a long way in the distance. The next couple of hours were frustrating, as it didn't seem to get much closer – and when it did, it was over several more ridges which were starting to take their toll on the legs and lungs of some of the party.
It began to look as though we might not make our 12-hour target, but we were determined to give it our best shot. Sam Byers, Eddie's widow, who had only intended to do one of the peaks said: "I've come this far – I'm finishing this!" And we trudged on.
The final ascent was tough, but one by one our team appeared out of the mist to claim the final peak. The pace quickened, as we picked our way – often on backsides – down wet and slippery rocks before making it to the grassy slope and out of the mist.
Suddenly, the lights from the pub were visible and shortly before seven we had done it! Wet and aching but grinning we took a final picture with our sponsor banner before a shower, food, and the bottles of prosecco Sam had tucked away in the fridge at 6am.
What made it such a special day? Determination and teamwork. Everyone supported everyone, sharing positivity, snacks and ibuprofen.
And how many groups of colleagues could spend two nights listening to each other snore in a basic bunkhouse? With creaky bunks, squeaky floors and plastic mattresses, and not only remain cheerful but start planning the next challenge in the minibus back to London?
The English UK walkers were: Roz McGill, Annie Wright, Tom Weatherley, Helen Kind, Louise Gow, James Broadway, Susan Young, Jodie Gray, Nuria Felip Puignou, Alice Marcolin and Huan Japes, with Mark Rendell, deputy chair of the English UK Board of Trustees, and Sam Byers, Eddie's widow.
Thank you to everyone for all your support.
With special thanks CES schools, Wimbledon School of English, ELC Brighton and Eastbourne, English UK London, EC and LanguageCert!