The Day I Decided to Climb Three Mountains
Yeah, you read that right. Three mountains, 24 hours. Why? Who knows…
I got signed up by my boss (who later ditched me – not sour). He literally turned up at work one day, ‘Oh yeah, you know you mentioned you’d like to do the Three Peaks Challenge, well, I signed you up!’. Great…
I did drag along another colleague who I banned from ditching me! Maybe it’s me.
Peak 1 – Ben Nevis, Scotland (1,345m)
Up early, we started on Ben Nevis with anxiety in full flow. The first ascent was relatively easy, we were all pumped and the path is pretty steady all the way. Remember that Ben Nevis rarely reaches above freezing at the top and even in June, we were met by a layer of snow and a wind that threatened the rip my face off!
It’s the journey back down when you realise that Ben Nevis is just relentless, coming down the mountain just continued on forever, or so it felt.
Half way down, we stopped to admire how cool the clouds looked with the rain pouring through them. Rob took some photos and we carried on. 10 minutes later, those clouds were no longer cool! The heavens opened, it was practically biblical in the amount of rain that fell over the next half an hour, with water gushing past you as though it was trying to run away from something dangerous.
Luckily I had packed my waterproof trousers which I chucked on quickly over my leggings; but even so, I was absolutely soaked through and by the time I reached the bottom, I did quite literally, wring myself out. Those waterproof boots I’d bought were full of water and I could have watered a couple of plants with the amount that poured out!
As if it had never happened, the sun was shining by the time I’d changed my clothes. I ate my first pot of pasta sitting on the grass trying to dry my shoes and waited for the rest of the team to make it to the bottom.
Peak 1 of the Three Peaks Challenge complete.
Peak 2 – Scafell Pike, England (978m)
The hardest part of the challenge for me was the drive in between Ben Nevis and Scafell Pike. You’ve finished the first peak, but you’ve just truly realised what you’ve signed yourself up for. I wrapped myself up in my blanket, put my earplugs in and my eye mask on and tried to get some sleep to stop by brain from questioning what I was doing!
As we neared the base on the mountain in the Lake District, the winding roads got the better of some of us who desperately tried to concentrate on the road to stop ourselves from being sick. We also learnt a valuable lesson. Make sure that the drivers all have the same location for drop off points. We lost a good half an hour trying to find each other so that we all started at the correct point.
Once we had found the other part of our team, we kitted back up again and headed up Peak 2! It was dusk when we started and I don’t think I can actually explain to you how incredible it was to climb Scafell Pike in the dark; but I will give it a good go! Looking up from the bottom we could see a layer of cloud blocking the top of the peak from being visible, which we literally climbed through. At certain points you couldn’t see very far in front of you because you were inside a cloud.
The incredible part was when we climbed higher and out of the cloud. Behind us you could look down into the valley and watch the clouds float in between the mountain peaks. Above the cloud the night was completely clear, you could see the stars and we were guided by the moonlight. I’ve literally got goosebumps thinking about it, it was so cool! All of us had head torches, but none of us used them on the way up because the moonlight was so bright.
As a warning Scafell Pike is a complete scramble. There’s lots of loose rocks and the path isn’t as tourist friendly as those at Ben Nevis and Snowdon and a number of our team turned back without making it as the mixture of darkness and loose stone was too much for them.
The other amazing thing about climbing in the dark was that it allowed you to realise how many crazy other people were doing the same thing as you. Most people don’t climb Scafell Pike in the dark for fun, they do it because they’re doing the Three Peaks Challenge. Little rows of ants with head torches could be seen leading themselves up and down the mountain, which was hilarious to watch!
We reached the top where it was absolutely freezing, took some photos to prove we’d made it and then turned around to follow the carefully positioned piles of rocks that marked out the non existent path. Only, we couldn’t see the first one. Even with our head torches, it was nowhere to be seen. We were pretty sure which way we had come from, but no one wanted to bet on it and fall of the edge of the mountain! Cue Rob, who had invested in a very good head torch that was the equivalent of having a floodlight strapped to his head to save the day! Our new knight in shining head torch stepped up and with this new beacon of hope we scrambled our way down the mountain.
Peak 2 of the Three Peaks Challenge complete.
Peak 3 – Snowdon, Wales (1,085m)
The drive between Scafell Pike and Snowdon was better. We had finished two mountains and Snowdon was the mountain that I had done my test run on a couple of weeks earlier. When I say test run, I mean scare run. It definitely scared me into questioning whether I’d make it to the end of the challenge. But here I was, at the base of Peak 3, with some aches and pains in places I didn’t know existed, knowing I would make it up and down that mountain and complete my Three Peaks Challenge!
We walked the Llanberis Track which tempts you with just jumping on the train all the way up! Once you get past the initial tarmac path, which is bound to scare the crap out of you with it’s steep incline, the path is a steady incline to the Halfway House. For the final mountain we were joined by our dog mascot, Ethel, who with her fresh legs pushed us all onwards. Sadly, she wasn’t a large enough dog to get a piggyback off of, and Rob wasn’t interested in helping either.
Beware! The Halfway House is NOT halfway and is the biggest misconception.
Our leader sadly conceded defeat (with more than a good enough excuse) nearer the true halfway mark utilised the train to get back down again.
We made it past the horribly scrambly steep part that makes lots of people question their abilities and continued to the top! The relief of making it to the top of the third mountain is amazing and our dodgy smiles in the photos at the top show it! A quick food and drink break, packed up and back down we go. I hated the downs, well, my knees hated the downs. Even with walking poles, I was glad for the pressure bandage I had strapped round my leg to try and keep it in one piece. Some of our team jumped in the train, but the majority were not about to be defeated at the final hurdle and off we went!
Nearing the bottom, the tiredness set in. The Peg Leg Pirate and the Monkey singing, ‘ooh ahh ah’ with every step, I’d found myself walking with kept me highly entertained in the final part.
We had smashed our Three Peaks Challenge out the National Park.
I had an amazing time, met some incredible people, lost all sense of dignity and learnt some valuable lessons about what not to say in front of your boss.
Would I do it again, upon reflection, I just might!
If you’re thinking about taking on this crazy challenge, make sure you read my post on What to Pack & Tips for the Three Peaks Challenge.
For more information check out the official Three Peaks Challenge website.
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