The idea to climb the 3 highest peaks in England, Scotland and Wales in 24 hours was like many stupid ideas, formed in the pub after a few too many beers. Bravado and a non-refundable deposit meant backing out was not an option. Before we knew it we were in a mini-van and on our way to Wales.
For those that don’t know the National 3 Peaks Challenge is the idea to climb Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis (Wales, England and Scotland’s highest peaks respectively) together in a 24 hour period.
We began on a Friday night with a filling meal at the gastronomic delight of Slug & Lettuce before getting collected by our driver and were soon on our way to North Wales. Typically the challenge is done starting in Ben Nevis and finishing at Snowdon but this would have meant a longer drive to Scotland after work and cause logistical issues at the finish so we began in Snowdon on the Friday evening.
As we pulled into the car park at Snowdon the rain was steadily falling so we had to get suited up into our waterproofs before stepping out at 2215 on the Friday night. Despite it being close to summer solstice the low cloud cover meant it was very quickly pitch black by 2300. Head torches were attached as we trooped up the mountain. Most of us were walking in solemn silence focusing on the challenge ahead, however two of the group somehow managed to hike up the mountain whilst holding a non-stop conversation about whether Marcelo Bielsa is the right man to guide Leeds United Football Club back to the big time!
Due to the inclement weather, with rain and heavy mist, we lost the trail and ended up having to backtrack down a steep incline which was pretty dangerous given the conditions. However thanks to our phone’s GPS and the Maps.me App we were able to find the path again but by now 3 of the group had turned around, with the rest of us making it to the top about an hour later. Having lost vital minutes on the ascent we decided to take the easier Llanberis Trail down as this was easier to follow in the conditions. Now, however, we could not get back in contact with our driver to alert him to the new pick up point. Once back in the valley we had to wait over an hour to get the only taxi in the village to the original car park, more time lost!
The drive up to Scafell Pike in Cumbria took about 5 hours and gave us a chance to get a few hours of sleep. We were jolted awake when we reached the bumpy country lane that leads to Wasdale. After a few quick stretches and a handful of Charles’ never ending snack rations we headed up Scafell Pike. Despite being the shortest of the 3 peaks at 978m it is renowned as the most difficult, a relentless slog up uneven steps and finally over a scree field. Again the weather was against us and we had to put on damp walking boots and our so called waterproofs (one of the girl’s was bemoaning buying hers from the bargain basement section of Sports Direct!) It was Saturday afternoon now there were plenty of others on the trail encouraging us when they saw our 3 Peaks T-Shirts, this helped us as legs tightened and blood sugar levels dropped. Nonetheless a few of the slower members of the group fell off the pace and meant that it was only 6 of us who made it to the summit on schedule after a horrific final scramble over the jagged scree field. We had made it up in good time and after a fast scramble down we had given ourselves an outside chance of completing the challenge within 24 hours, despite aching knees and sore hips the end was in sight!
A long 6 hour drive to Ben Nevis was next and again we took the chance to get some more rest. I personally was woken by a horrendous leg cramp mid-way through the journey indicating the struggles we had overcome so far. It was now 1800 and we had 4 ¼ hours to get up and down Britain’s highest mountain, a tough task! one of the lad’s, spurred on by his latest pack of Jaffa Cakes flew off with his yellow t-shirt soon a mere speck in the distance, he was our only hope as others, myself included, were slowing down considerably and now the goal was simply to finish the 3 peaks in any time possible! We were finally blessed with some good weather, its’ always sunny in Scotland they tell me, and the views on the top as the sun set was spectacular. Step after step we ascended the mountain and eventually after 3 hours 5 of us had made it to the summit. The 2 hours down was almost as bad and we were each wondering how much a knee replacement might cost as we jolting down the 1000m we had just climbed. Charles was now only 20 minutes ahead so he was not going to make the time either. The majority of us reached the van by midnight meaning a time of 25 hours 45 minutes for the challenge, a successful failure that felt bittersweet through the fatigue.
However despite the pain and disappointment of not completing the challenge in the allotted time we were elated to see that due to generosity of our sponsors we have raised a grand total of £1720 at time of going to press, thank you to one and all, knowing we were doing it for a good cause really spurred us on.