The Three Peaks Challenge, pretty straight forward, climb Ben Nevis, Scaffel Pike and Snowdon in 24 hours.
Three mountains, that’s more mountains than I’ve climbed but a day to do it seems like plenty of time, right? On paper yes, each mountain will take an average of 4 hours so that’s only 12 hours – this is so easy! But wait, how do we get between them? That’s the real challenge, not navigating or the logistics of transport, no. Just the sudden realisation that you will be in a minibus for the other 12 hours – that’s a challenge, fighting to sleep and avoiding cramp, keeping your legs from seizing up and avoiding self inflicted DVT, eating pre-cooked pasta without utensils in transit – here’s the challenge.
But I’m ahead of myself, how did all of this come about? A couple of months ago Children With Cancer UK asked if a few of the staff at TVC would like to raise money and take part. Modern day heroes Alex Royce, Emma Kaye, James Stern, Matt Hall, Matt Samra, Miranda Pitt and Oli Miller stood up to be counted. All we had to do now was raise some serious cash for a charity which you need no convincing to help, get some training in and most importantly look at potential local establishments for a couple of drinks the night before.
Two out of three isn’t bad, training for a walk? I’ve been training my whole life! We have stairs in the office, job done.
So, on to the walk itself – following a pleasant night in Fort William taking in the local culture and a one woman country music tribute band, we woke early to one of the most ill advised breakfasts of all time, i.e. fully cooked, Matt H would later regret returning for seconds.
Joining us for the challenge would be CWC’s Ben, who had taken the challenge a year previously so therefore was inundated with questions he could never possibly hope to answer, and mountain guide, I want to say… Andy? who would be our Tenzing Norgay.
We began our ascent of peak one, Ben Nevis, and made quick progress, it seemed. After what felt like an eternity we were informed that we were a quarter of the way up, if it wasn’t for the beauty of the surroundings, I might have jumped. Anyway, it was all worth it for the beautiful landscape we were treated to when we finally reached the peak. Just kidding! On what would become a theme for the day, visibility was low to the point of blindness at the top and after some rather rapid team photos we began our descent.
We were back down in not time, or so I seem to remember, and so began minibus journey one, a seven hour pleasure cruise of some of the North of Britain’s top motorways and B-roads. By the end of the journey the team had developed the early stages of rigour mortis but what better than a quick leg stretch in complete darkness, on a mountain, for four hours? Peak two, Scaffel Pike time. This was different, anyone who might have felt a little tired would be jarred into wide eyed full functionality by calls from our guide of “you can’t see it, but we’re next to a cliff face” and “this is where most people break their ankles” – inspiring words.
A little worse for wear but all in one piece we returned to our rolling paradise at around 1am and were back on the road for peak three, Snowdon. It was dark again when we arrived but we were buoyed by the news that Snowdon’s “the easy one”. You liars. Apparently there is an easy one, but it takes longer, so if you’re doing a challenge that requires you to be finished in time you take the aptly named “PYG” track and she was a swine. Loose stone? Palm grating rock climbing? Random but frequent bone snapping gaps in the path? Absolutely.
When we reached the top though, all was forgiven and forgotten, sure there was no view, but this was the top of a mountain! The third we’d conquered today and we’d got there on time so the challenge wasn’t just attainable but within reach – it wasn’t over yet but just knowing that it was so close and the minibus that now had a Stockholm Syndrome style hold on us was waiting, we ploughed on.
So… with 25 minutes to spare we found ourselves in the car park at the bottom of a mountain, 23hrs and 35mins after setting off from a car park at the bottom of another mountain, with a third in between for good measure.
Not that it was a race but yes, the TVC team did finish first out of all the teams who took on the challenge, by a margin, with time to spare – but that’s not the point.
Was it fun, absolutely, did it feel like an accomplishment, you know it, would we do it again?