For those who don’t know, the Three Peaks Challenge involves climbing the highest peaks in Scotland, England and Wales, in less than 24 hours.
For a reason that now escapes me, myself and 11 of my work colleagues decided to put our bodies to the test.
No, I lie. The Three Peaks Challenge has been on my ‘bucket list’ for some time now, so when work offered to organise everything in return for fundraising for our company charity partner, Only Connect, it was a bit of a no-brainer.
Only Connect is a very worthy charity, in my opinion, as a creative criminal justice charity rooted in community, which aims to re-integrate young & first-time offenders back into society so as to help them choose a crime free life.
I was only happy to raise money for such a cause and let all the logistics be taken care of for me!
So off we bumbled.
We took the train from London Euston straight to Manchester, where our wonderful guide for the weekend, Hamish, from Maximum Adventure, met us with a shiny bus that would be our home for the duration of the challenge.
After the 2 hour drive to Fort William, it’s fair to say that we were ‘exhausted’ (funny how not moving can be so draining) from our full day of travelling, and in desperate need of some comfort food and mountain fuel.
Fish & chips, pies, pasta’s and steaks were ordered, for that all-important pre-challenge carb-load.
After far fewer hours sleep than my body would have liked, the alarm sprang to life at 5:30.
A full English devoured, we drove the short journey to the base of our first mountain, Ben Nevis, Scotland.
Bodies still intact and raring to go, spirits were high.
And then we were off.
As we climbed higher & higher, the views became more & more spectacular.
Although the path may look fairly flat, and thus you might think this challenge a bit of a “walk in the park”, you would be deeply mistaken.
I cannot begin to explain the sweat. Apologies for the overshare but it’s necessary. Considering it was the start of October, we were in Scotland, and up a mountain, you would be right in thinking that it was bloody cold, yet the sweat stream was real. I genuinely regretted not having brought shorts!
Having lost about 3 kilos of water weight, we finally reached the summit (1344m high) in the victorious time of 2 hours, 40 minutes, which is the fastest time that Hamish has ever done it in, and he’s been guiding groups for over 10 years! At least the gruel had been worth it, then.
Due to the fog, I genuinely felt like we’d just reached the North Pole, rather than the highest point in Scotland.
Heart rates settling, the cold set in fast and it was time to layer up. Like, seriously layer up.
I really enjoyed the descent, mostly because I could actually hold a conversation and didn’t have sweat permanently trickling into my eyes, but also because it provided more of an opportunity to appreciate the epic scenery as you didn’t constantly have to focus on your footing.
It also gave some members of our team the chance to embrace their inner Bare Grillz and scale the mountain with elegant ease so as to fill their water bottles with the very purest ‘Highland Spring Water’.
Although a personal highlight for me was making eye-contact with a roaming stag.
And suddenly we were back where we started, at the bottom.
But this was no time to rejoice; it was straight on the bus and pedal to the metal for the next 7 hours as our bus driver did his best to race us over to Scafell Pike, England.
Darkness had set by the time we arrived, so it was on with head torches from start to finish.
I couldn’t help but keep laughing at David, one of my teammates, who had frequently commented how excited he was to see the Lake District… urm, well not on this trip I’m afraid!
It was of course a shame that we didn’t get to appreciate the beauty of the Lake District, but we had a deadline to meet and so climbing at night was the only option that we had.
After a treacherous 2-hour climb up what I can only describe as a huge pile of fallen bricks, we reached the top (978m high).
The hike down felt never-ending, and so it was with measured (we still had one more to go remember!) elation when we finally reached the base one minute before midnight.
Ankles twisted every which way multiple times over, and blisters popped and as red raw as they come (thank God for Compeed’s!), my feet were in need of some serious TLC. But there was no time for that, as we had our boots back on just a little under 5 hours later.
After 4 hours of hideously uncomfortable sleep, Hamish woke us up in order for us to get some food in our bellies, and mentally prepare for the final peak.
My legs were beyond stiff, to the point that they didn’t even feel like they belonged to me when I first tried to stand on them. Serious Bambi on ice situation.
But the human body never ceases to amaze me, and with a strong dose of mental determination, my legs marched all the way to the top of that damned mountain and all the way back down (OK, there may have been a few whimpers along the way, but, still).
Since we had completed the previous two mountains in such “super duper time” (Hamish’s words, not mine), we arrived at Snowdon, Wales, far earlier than most (5.15am), i.e. before sunrise, and so had to endure the uphill leg of our journey with head torches once more.
^ It was actually pitch black when I took these!
Still, it made for a unique and rather beautiful experience, as the sun rose and lit up different parts of the canyon.
With just a few final steps to the top, the end was in sight.
WE MADE IT!
Almost. Turns out there was still a (very small) bit to climb to reach the very highest point (1085m high).
Up we went, to be rewarded by the most stunning views.
A lovely Welsh fella doing the weekly trip with his dog kindly took a snap of our very happy group.
Before we layered up and started our descent.
It turned out to be the most beautiful morning imaginable, with our local guide commenting that it was the best light that he’d ever seen at Snowdon, which was a wonderful prize indeed.
It turns out the Welsh connotation with “shagging sheep” doesn’t come from nowhere…
^ You wouldn’t believe the noise that these guys are capable of making!
I honestly couldn’t believe that we were in the UK when taking these final snaps.
^ Just look at the colour of that water.
We made it back to base in the total time of 21 hours, 23 minutes, which was much faster than we had set out to do and more than we could have hoped for.
My Fitbit informed me that we had hiked 37 miles, walked72,000 steps, and I had burned 7,500 calories whilst climbing the 3 peaks on less than 5 hours sleep in under 22 hours. I think the bus snooze was well earned!
My legs were unforgiving for a day or two but, overall, it was an absolutely awesome experience and a lot of fun, and I would highly recommend it to anyone & everyone. No pain, no gain, after all.