For some months the National Three Peaks had been discussed and I was on the original list to attempt the challenge in under 24 hours (hopefully). The team consisted of myself, Dee Sehdeva, David Doherty, Andy Brown (driver), Paul Brindley, Liz Perks, Mike Smith, Neil Parsons, Hilary Jones & Nigel Tarr (support) who took surplus luggage and supplies down to the club hutin Nant Gwynant.
The Challenge is an event in which participants attempt to climb the highest mountains of Scotland, England and Wales. The plan is that you are driven from the foot of one mountain to the next. For the record the three peaks are:
• Ben Nevis (1,344m - 4,409 ft) the highest mountain in Scotland
• Scafell Pike (978m - 3,209 ft) the highest mountain in England
• Snowdon (1,085m - 3,560 ft) the highest mountain in Wales.
The total distance walked is estimated at 42 kilometres (26 miles) with a total ascent of 9,800 ft (3,000 m) The WBMC had decided that we would attempt Ben Nevis from the Youth Hostel on the Nevis Range, Scafell Pike would be attempted from Seathwaite & Snowdon attempted from Pen y Pass car park.
The funny thing about this challenge is you have to be mindful on supplies that you have to take on the challenge like having to keep surplus food and drink on the mini bus. My concern was how many bottles of fluid do I need to take in relation to keep filling up my hydration bladder. In the end I got an eight litre empty bottle from work and filled this up and carried this on the mini bus. If anyone was short of fluid this should be sufficient.
On the day of departure, Nigel picked me up from my home and the plan was to drive to Dee’s home so that everyone can load their equipment into the mini bus which had been sourced by Andy from a local scout organisation. I think part of the agreement was that the scouts can use the club hut at a later date.
Everyone started to load equipment into the mini bus and also load equipment into Nigel’s vehicle. I think more equipment was in Nigel’s car due to food, clothing, & beer going to the hut, the boot, rear seats and passenger seat were completely full.
We all set off on the long journey ahead up to Fort William, with excitement and anticipation. Surprisingly we all had sufficient room in the mini bus so we hoped that some rest could be had on route. My plan was to try and sleep as much as possible prior to the Challenge commencing.
We had a couple of stops on route and one was at the famous Green Welly Shop in Tyndrum for refreshments. The weather was dull and it had started to rain, at this stage I had woken up and felt relatively ready for the challenge. We carried on North to arrive in Fort William parking up at Morrison’s to pick up any supplies required and then we drove off down the nevis range for the challenge to start.
Andy parked up and everyone started to get ready and get their gear on. Couple of photos were taken outside the hostel and then the time check was confirmed as 18.30 hours, so we now have 24 hours to go and the clock was ticking down.
A good pace was set by all, climbing up the numerous steps at the start from the Youth Hostel. We started to lose one of our team members after a while, but the rest of the group plodded on to try and support the other members of the team and to still try and achieve the goal.
The weather was very grey and as we got higher a light rain had started, as most of you may already know we started zig zagging around just after the loch an, gaining height. Talking to people coming down we knew that there was still snow on the summit. Numerous people were taking part in the Challenge all for a good cause, some people were struggling the higher they got up. We plodded on came to the snow line and made our way onto the summit. We had now walked through the cloud and the views at the top were totally clear, looking back down we could easily see the bad weather that we had walked through. Quick photos at the top and we started to descend. With this challenge every second counts. Myself and Neil Parsons had made it to the top, followed by other team members. From a team prospective everyone had walked very well on the first summit.
I got back down to the mini bus at 23.00 hours, passing Andy who had walked up to encourage the team. It was just starting to go dark, so I had got down without the need for my head torch. When siting on the mini bus waiting for other team members it was great to see the mountain lit up with head torches with people descending.
Everyone got back and into the mini bus at it was decided that we go to Macdonald’s in Fort William to stock up on carbohydrates (yeah whatever) when we arrived there they had closed, so we stopped in the centre of Fort William for Fish & Chips, etc.
We all got into the mini bus and started to our journey south towards Cumbria & the Lake District. After food and a change of clothes and general chat about the first ascent we started to try and get some sleep and gear ourselves up for Scafell Pike.
I woke up in the early hours and time is of the utmost essence on this Challenge, Andy had got his foot on the gas trying to get us to Seathwaite in good time. I think we arrived around 4.30/5.00am to start our route up Scafell Pike.
We started from the small hamlet of Seathwaite at the end of a minor road in the Borrowdale Valley, this is the most common route on the three peak challenge. Of the three peaks on the Challenge Scafell Pike is actually the most technical and often considered the hardest (on reflection for me this was the case). Our route heads over Stockley Bridge above Seathwaite then takes a fairly straightforward ascent up Grains Gill to reach Esk Hause. The route then takes on a high level traverse of the Great End, ill crag & Broad Crag ridge involving navigation of a tricky boulder field, then onto a steep climb of stone chute, which I swore on numerous times (1 foot forward 3 backwards). Navigating on the higher parts of Scafell Pike can be difficult in bad weather (more to follow).
Unfortunately we lost another member of the team on this ascent due to an injury, but we moved on to support the team and to hopefully achieve our goal.
We arrived at the summit of Scafell Pike and for the last few hours the weather had been pretty atrocious with zero visibility. Again quick photos and then descend.
We encountered some navigational issues and at one stage were on the wrong path. Great perseverance from Hilary Jones & Mike Smith was shown, we climbed back up and finally got back onto the correct path and headed down, as mentioned this is the most technical walk on the three peak challenge and we had not had the best of weather, however I got towards the foot of the path and again was greeted by Andy who stated that due to losing about one hour the Challenge may now be out of reach.
We all got back to the mini bus, and we headed towards North Wales, I was trying to dry socks on the sky light and trying to change clothes, personally I feel that Scafell Pike had given been our greatest challenge and certainly the most demanding.
Again we all tried to have some rest and Andy would always let us know when we were getting near to our destination, when this occurred everyone would start to get ready and get boots on.
On the way to North Wales we encountered a traffic jam and Andy made a quick decision and made a detour, if the weather and terrain didn’t test us the traffic certainly would. With the three peak challenge you are actually travelling more than you are walking.
We arrived at the Pen Y Pass car park to be greeted by Nigel, everyone had said that if we were going to complete we really needed to get moving. Myself & Neil had a discussion and said it was achievable, but we would need to speed walk on our ascent and perhaps do a run on the descent.
We stated that we would summit with as little gear as possible and due to the weather being very sunny at this particular time, the challenge may still be on. The other team members also decided to give it their best and go for it.
Travelling as light as possible for me was to just use my walking poles. No rucksack and Neil stated that he had an extra drinking bottle in his shoulder pack for me so we started out in glorious sunshine with minimal gear.
The first section of the pyg track climbs quite steeply over rough and rocky terrain, we had to speed walk to achieve our time. We got to the fork in the path with one route leading up to Crib Goch, we went left and over the two adjacent stiles.
Great views of Snowdon could be seen just after crossing over the stiles. Myself and Neil really worked hard and pushed on with just the odd occasional drink and arrived at the summit. We touched the trig point and headed straight back down, as we started our descent Mike Smith had just arrived at the standing stone which joins up with the Llanberis path, so Mike was also making good time.
At this stage we were originally going to go back via the Miners path, but due to making good time on our ascent we thought that we would go back the same route. At times we had a little jog, followed by speed walking, followed by normal walking. This actually had to be done to complete the challenge on time. On the way down we passed Dee, Liz & Hilary who continued to show great determination (well done ladies).
Paul & Andy went looking for Mike who had descended via the Miners track and when Mike came into sight they were shouting at Mike to make the time. Mike crossed the line spot on 18.30 hours. By this time we were sitting on the mini bus and had to close the doors and windows due to being eaten by midges.
We waited for the ladies to arrive prior to heading back to the hutfor a celebration drink and a hot meal.
On Saturday evening we went to the Prince Llewelyn in Beddgelert for food and drink & pranks, anyone that knows Neil state that he his a dead ringer lookalike to the Little Britain character Daffyd Thomas the only gay in he village (no offence to anyone) so Neil was dressed up in a feather boa and the odd bit of lipstick from the ladies and looking the part he had to go to the bar dressed like this and had to obtain drinks. (Well done mate sooner you than me) Then back to the hut for a few more beers and hopefully a good nights rest. Hopefully no snoring.
So the outcome was three of us achieved the National Three Peaks in under 24 hours, and the remaining team still achieved the three peaks in our minds. What a great team we had!!! Special thanks to our driver Andy who got us to our Challenges and drove when the rest of us were sleeping. Also thanks to Nigel ensuring that all our food and luggage was at the hut when we arrived. Great team effort all around.
I look forward to further challenges with you all and hopefully another Challenge next year.