Thursday, October 4, 2012

e.surv – Yorkshire Three Peaks 29th September

A group of e.surv employees decided to walk the Yorks 3 Peaks, as a fund raiser on behalf of “Jamie’s Match Ball” in memory of Jamie Marcus, the son of one of our Regional Managers. I was roped in as guide, and this is the rather florid account I put together for the company Extranet. It was an 11 hour epic, and I had to drag one or 2 of them round, but overall it was a brilliant day. The great thing for me was seeing the reaction of people who hadn’t really been far into the hills before, totally blown away by the environment and their achievement.

So it was, that at 6.30am on Saturday 29th September, Team e.surv stepped out into the windswept darkness of the Yorkshire Dales, with many miles and many thousands of feet of climbing ahead of them. 

The team consisted of Karen Hailes, Rose Poulter, Jennifer Chambers, Bridget Charlton, Gary Dawson, Adam Griffin and Steve Hall, with Steve Rayers as support, coach, shopper, and masseur.

The route links the three prominent peaks of the Yorkshire Dales: Pen Y Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough,  covering 23.5 miles and involving 5200 feet of ascent, which is a mile up - and back down again.

The decision was made to start at Ribblehead, so the long steady climb of Whernside would be a good warm up for the day. It grew light as we followed the path up hill, leaving behind the iconic Ribblehead viaduct, and the creepy isolated house on the edge of Blea Moor, with sinister dolls peering out of the windows.

Strong winds and occasional rain meant that waterproofs stayed on most of the day.  The fast moving clouds, showers and sunny intervals meant the views were dramatic and constantly changing.  We reached the top of Whernside ahead of schedule and were rewarded with amazing views as the clouds rolled back producing shafts of sunlight into the valley.  Downhill to our first roadside checkpoint and refuelling stop after 3 hours, at the Hill Inn. Next, across the moor and a much steeper climb onto Ingleborough.  Here the distance and ascent began to really tell for the first time. 

On top the wind was fierce, and we clung onto the trig point for a team photo before a brisk descent followed by a long trek across the moor towards Horton in Ribblesdale and refuelling stop 2.  On the way Steve Hall explained the ecology of the limestone pavement, unique to the Yorkshire Dales, then finding a ruined barn gave a detailed talk on solid stone construction techniques.  The team were fascinated, and explained that they only fell asleep due to the very early start. 

Fail to prepare – prepare to fail: it is important to mention here some things forgotten by team members which could so easily have lead to disaster.  Bridget, in many ways an experienced mountaineer, turned up having forgotten her waterproof.  Being an HR professional she proposed to obtain one from the back of someone’s chair in the pub, but was saved by Jennifer having brought a spare. At £4.50 from Primark [NB. e.surv wish to point out there are a number of other budget retailers available] it was by far the cheapest waterproof in use that day, but did its job admirably well.  

Karen Hailes had forgotten a towel and there was much debate about how she would cope with a post expedition shower: should she run around the car park until dry, use toilet roll, a square of carpet or old newspapers; but in the end it was decided that the team’s Mr Fixit Steve Rayers should go and buy her a towel.   In a mountainous National Park this proved easier said than done, and Bridget’s advice to “visit a washing line” proved tricky in broad daylight.

The refuelling stop in Horton involved rather more sitting down, rubbing on of liniment, adjusting footwear and the odd application of blister plasters. Then it was time for Pen Y Ghent, literally onwards and upwards: a long steep climb up with some exposed rocky sections before the summit, that needed hands and feet. This proved quite testing in the strong winds and wet conditions, with a lot of miles in the legs.

Finally the last summit had been reached and we gratefully dropped down out of the wind. Waterproofs came off and we descended into a low, bright sun, picking out Ingleborough and Whernside in the far distance -  we’d come a mighty long way since 6.30 that morning.

At last.... the finish. We could sit down, ease off the boots, drink gallons of tea and eat a huge slab of cake. The aches and pains could be enjoyed as they were well earned. Back to the bunkhouse to shower & change:  Karen’s towel ‘got her mostly dry’ - as it was brand new it wasn’t totally effective. She pointed out that Steve could at least have stopped off at a laundrette to wash it.

Then it was time to wake Roy up (easier said than done) and head off to the pub to celebrate and to drink many a grateful toast: to Lex for their generous supply of transport; to Karen for setting up the sponsorship arrangements; to the company for its indispensible support from the very start of the idea and for the generous sponsorship following ‘e.surv in the Park’; to Steve Rayers for giving up his weekend to be our absolutely crucial driver and supporter; and to all our generous sponsors for the funding that kept minds focussed when it hurt.

The last word can go to Gary Dawson: ‘it’s not just the location that makes the trip, it’s the people - and it was a great bunch’. It was indeed. Details of the next team e.surv expedition will follow soon!

Steve Hall

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