On Saturday 6th September myself, my Mum and our friend Mary set off to complete the Yorkshire 3 Peaks to raise money for the Pregnancy Sickness Support charity (PSS). It is a 25 mile circular walk climbing Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough. Three peaks to represent the three trimesters of Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) hell I went through to bring my son, Adam, into the world.
We had driven 6 hours the previous day and stayed at the very comfortable Malham YHA and woke early to find it was raining – the weather we didn’t want for Pen-y-ghent. After climbing it in May, with 2 year old Adam, we knew the scramble at the top would be harder when wet. With our PSS logos proudly attached to our backpacks we headed to the Pen-y-ghent cafe in Horton-in-Ribblesdale.
We were surprised how many people were waiting outside the cafe. This is the traditional start of the Yorkshire 3 Peaks and it operates a clock-in-out system to time the walk. The clock card machine records the start and end time of walkers. Those completing within a 12 hour period are invited to join the Café’s ‘Three Peaks of Yorkshire Club’.
It was here that we met up with Kieran, our guide from the Lake District Walkers. With 25 miles to navigate we opted to use a guide to eliminate the burden of worrying about staying on course. We chose Lake District Walkers as Mary had completed another walk with them and they only take groups of up to 10 walkers. Kieran ended up to be worth his weight in gold and we would have not been able to complete the peaks without him.
There were a total of 6 of us as we were joined by Chris and Anne – who were both experienced peak walkers. Despite clocking in earlier we didn’t set off until 8.20am and we headed to Pen-y-ghent which can be seen in the distance.
Every single training walk we have been on I have hated the first 2 miles. It takes a long time for my breathing to settle down and my feet to stop aching. Once I am past that barrier I am fine and can walk for miles. Unfortunately I went through the 2 mile barrier and I still couldn’t control my breathing. After an inhaler stop (I am asthmatic and had already had to postpone the peaks walk before due to two bouts of bronchitis) we started stripping down. Despite the rain we were extremely hot. As we had already climbed this peak we had expected to find it ‘easy’ forgetting that last time we went at the pace of a 2 year old. Climbing it again, knowing we had 25 miles ahead of us, made it harder.
We then reached the part that I have been having nightmares about – the scramble up. In May I had been concerned for the safety of Adam and that of my step-dad as he hates heights. It is described as “steep and care should be taken…there are some steep steps up the large rock outcrop” but that doesn’t prepare you for what it is really like. Completing the scramble in the wet and with walking poles was hard work.
It was half way up the scramble that we discovered Tami, Britney and Laura clinging to the rock face. They had been part of a large group but had been left behind and were subsequently struck with fear. We helped them up to the summit and they joined us for the rest of the walk to Ribblehead.
We reached the summit of Pen-y-ghent at 9.45am. It had taken us 1 hour and 25 minutes to climb the 2,777ft/ 694 meters. By now it had rained so much we were drenched. I had to abandon wearing my glasses as I couldn’t see through them. After a short stop we descended down the other side of the peak.
Walking down the peak gave our bodies time to recover and my breathing soon stabilised. We were given the option of walking a dry but longer route or taking the boggy path. We all opted for the bog. This was my favourite part of the whole day. The route was a great opportunity to get to know the other walkers and talk about our reasons for wanting to complete the challenge. We walked for around 7 miles getting muddy and wet!
It was here that someone (who shall remain nameless!) announced they had a call of nature but had never had a ‘wild wee’. Now, normally on a 9 mile training walk my Mum has up to 6 wild wee’s and I was impressed that she had refrained up until now. So in true female style we had a group wild-wee behind a wall (making sure we were 5m away from a water source).
After stopping for a quick lunch we had a “Power Hour” of walking. With stable terrain we were able to pick up speed. To keep morale going along the long stretch we played the ‘Animal alphabet game.’ Finding 9 animals beginning with each letter of the alphabet proved to be quite tricky. Luckily we didn’t get as far as x, y or z!
The route eventually lead to the road and for a mile we had a break from walking across mud, rocks and water. At 1.15pm after 3 1/2 hours of walking we arrived at the Ribblehead Viaduct where we met up with my step-dad, Philip, who was our support crew! We had a wonderful 30 minutes sitting down, taking off our walking boots, having a cup of tea and inspecting the damage to our feet. I only had two blisters but they were not painful. After reapplying talcumn powder (god send) and putting on new walking socks we were soon off towards peak number two – Whernside.
Similarities between the 1st peak and the 1st trimester of my HG pregnancy
Although I went into this challenge thinking that the 3 peaks would metaphorically represent the 3 trimesters of my pregnancy I hadn’t expected that the similarities to be so profound.
I was extremely apprehensive about getting pregnant with Adam. 5 months beforehand we had experienced a missed miscarriage at 13 weeks and we were still grieving for our baby that we lost. During that pregnancy I had suffered from extreme nausea so knew that it could reoccur. I researched “morning sickness” and thought I had everything covered. Unfortunately no amount of preparation could have prepared me for when Hyperemesis Gravidarum struck by week 5.
With the Yorkshire 3 Peaks I was apprehensive just before the walk and felt sick several times on the drive there. I believed we had done enough training beforehand (336 miles) but realised that no amount of training could have adequately prepared my body after a life time of living in flat Norfolk. Distance isn’t an issue but any incline certainly is.
The long slog from the summit of Pen-y-ghent until arriving at Ribbleshead reminded me of that long slog between that positive pregnancy test and your 12 week scan. It feels an age since your pre-pregnancy normal life but once you reach that 12 week milestone when you have been persuaded that “morning sickness” ends you realise you still have another 28 weeks to go. In Yorkshire I still had another 15 miles to walk.
This was only the start! We naively hadn’t realised the rock climb at Pen-y-ghent wasn’t the only one we were to experience that day.
I completed the Yorkshire 3 Peaks in order to raise much needed funds for the Pregnancy Sickness Support charity. PSS is the only national charity supporting women with nausea and vomiting in pregnancy (NVP) and Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG). It provides a telephone helpline and an online forum as well as a national peer support network which sufferers can access. It also educates and supports healthcare professionals treating the conditions. There is still time to donate. Please click on the link below.