Scaling the Saddleworth 3 Peaks | Jack Marshall’s Column

It was raining. Of course it was raining - this is Oldham we’re talking about.
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And not just any day in Oldham, which you can bank on being pretty drizzly at the best of times, but a day in Oldham set to see about 100 people traipse 15 miles across the countryside for charity. This was the Saddleworth Three Peaks, and so it was raining. Because of course it was.

Gathering at the Royal George, a sprawling old-timey gem of a pub in the shallow valley between Mossley and Greenfield, walkers queued for lukewarm sausage and bacon baps, smuggling bottles of Aldi’s own-brand isotonic drink into already-bursting backpacks. Off we set, doing our best to ignore the mizzle and the forecast, raiding stocks of jellybeans instead.

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Immediately, the charity walk let you know it was there: a three-mile climb up Alphin Pike in mist so thick you could drink it. It was dry and mild, thankfully, but I was still drenched in sweat by the time we reached the trig point and things flattened out. The amble over to local landmark Indian’s Head - a craggy iconic cliff-face - was a blessed relief.

Views: Oldham like you've never seen it before during the Saddleworth 3 PeaksViews: Oldham like you've never seen it before during the Saddleworth 3 Peaks
Views: Oldham like you've never seen it before during the Saddleworth 3 Peaks

Then something happened which doesn’t happen in Oldham: the cloud cleared. Suddenly, Dovestones Reservoir spawned below, watery sun glinting off its surface flanked by thick swathes of trees. As if asked to show off, the moody greys of the rock face were now framing the epic greens and blues in the landscape swallowing us. It was stunning.

Spurred on, we descended towards the reservoir where fresh stocks of blue energy drinks and 99 flakes awaited us. It was then that we realised we were just nine kilometres into a 24k hike. Head down, knees moving became the mantra as we scaled the second peak, Pots and Pans. At the summit, we could see Wales, Manchester’s skyscrapers in the foreground.

Scrambling down the sheer hillside into Uppermill, we descended on a local pub for endless cheese sandwiches before trudging through the village and up the final hill: Wharmton. Sore legs starting to grumble, we watched the swifts dive and plodded on, dropping once again into Friezland and on to the pub once more.

We’d done it and we felt great.

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