On the way down from Snowdon, before it all went wrong to me..
There was an Englishman, an Irishman, a Welshman and a Scotsman… it sounds like the start to a tedious joke, doesn’t it? But it’s actually a description of our team who guided us on our Three Peaks Challenge. Danny, Brian, Garath and Ian were awesome in their roles as guides, entertainment and chauffeurs in what has been a rather gruelling weekend for all concerned! If you fancy a top challenge, check out what More Adventure offer, I can thoroughly recommend them.
It started for us in a carpark in Wales, meeting up with the crew. Our group was myself, Rich, Em, Chris, Ade, Pete and Rog – and we were joined by what proved to be the super-human Nicky. We met Brian and Danny, picked up Garath en route and got in a minibus to head to the start of the Snowdon trail.
Having got ourselves and our kit sorted out we duly set off – now none of the three peaks are the preserve of the fittest people in the world – however, to have achieved the challenge you have to ascend and descend all three in thirteen hours (allowing eleven for transport). That’s four hours up and down Snowdon, the same for Scafell Pike and then five hours to get up and down Ben Nevis at the end. Of course, sometimes people do them in reverse order to that.
That means basically you need to get up at not far off your normal walking pace – which, on an incline and on uneven ground, is fecking hard work! It is a really hard trog for someone like me who is in reasonable shape but hardly a fine example of the human form. Indeed, it was relatively early that Pete was struggling to keep up – the guides have mental waypoints which they time us to reach – and Pete dropped out, the pace a bit too much.
A considerable portion of my psyche envied him immensely, I had a few ‘moments’ on the way up – although each time I hit ‘the wall’ my recovery time was diminished – and once we reached the peak it was a real sense of achievement. Photos taken, packs off for a few moments, a snack and a drink and we were on the way down. And with gravity assistance it’s so much easier – and you notice the beautiful views you are afforded that you hadn’t noticed on the way up.
There was a chance to wish farewell to Pete who – with car in locale – headed on homeward. Disappointing for him – although I can say from personal experience that it was probably for the best for something to go wrong on peak number one, Scafell Pike was up next for us. “This is the toughest psychologically, because nobody really thinks about it” said Ian.
He’s kinda right – it’s the smallest peak, and it doesn’t enjoy the psychological boost of being the first or the last – stuck in the middle. That said, it started well for us, it’s a much much constant uphill trek early doors, we reached a river crossing in 20 minutes – the guides’ “cut off point” was 30 minutes for this stage, so we were doing really good time. As before, ‘the burn’ was hard, but recovery time was pretty good – I was finding it tough but also feeling reasonably confident.
Over-confidence can be risky though, and taking a foothold on what I thought was a sturdy rock saw it drop beneath me, turning my ankle and jarring my knee. I hobbled on a while, paused and let the others pass, I tried Ian’s walking poles to take the pressure off, but – whilst it wasn’t a serious strain or twist – it was bad enough to not want to risk on the increasingly uneven ground to come. Nobody wants to have to end up with a mountain rescue situation.
Brian led me back down the ‘hill’ as he kept soul-destroyingly calling it and back to the minibus, I was gutted. It was fascinating listening to the guides though – Garath had decided to utilise his time off from guiding to climb another nearby mountain whilst Danny was on standby with the bus. Brian was ready to catch up with the rest of the group (he could probably have made it up and down any of the mountains in half the time we could!), but in the end opted to stay.
Eventually the rest of the posse signalled via radio they’d made it to the peak – and once we’d clocked them completing the descent they had probably bought themselves a good half hour in time savings to transfer to the Ben Nevis balance. On to the minibus and a whopping six hour journey to Scotland saw us sleep as best we could – but it certainly wasn’t comfortable!
Not so bad for me, it had been decided for me that I wasn’t to risk Ben Nevis, so I would have a good five hours of catching-up-on-sleep-time whilst the others went with Danny and Brian to tackle the biggest of the three peaks – setting off at around 3:30am. Ian and Garath had arranged beds in the nearby youth hostel leaving me with custody of the minibus – I duly found a comfy position and slept.
Until about 5:30am that was (I think), when a knock on the window scared the shit out of me initially – it was Brian who, bless him, wasn’t to get to the top of any peak this weekend – he’d chaperoned Rich and Emma back down the mountain. Through either a bug, food poisoning or simply over-exertion Rich wasn’t able to stop vomiting, which brought out a similar reaction in Em. Brian was all set to play catch-up but Danny told him no on the radio, so he was stuck in the minibus with us.
Thankfully the remaining four made it to the top of Ben Nevis amidst some horrible weather (the hot weather we endured for Snowdon and Scafell didn’t help with our endurance efforts it has to be said!), and descended inside the overall thirteen hour time to see them deservedly awarded with certificates to confirm their status as three-peakers!
It was then a marathon drive back home from Ian ’til his drop off point in the north of England, before Garath took over and got us back to Wales. A really slick operation from the organisers, it has to be said. We were back in Wales for about 6:30 and thankfully we’d booked a night in a nearby hotel (where Edmund Hillary had stayed during his Everest training in the 50’s), and managed to get ourselves a booking for dinner too.
There was just time for a bath (possibly old enough to have been used by Edmund himself) before a rather splendid three course meal in what was a spectacularly old skool style of hotel – with dinner being a fixed time and announced by a gong (as was breakfast!). In the meantime, a lot of sleeping and enforced foot elevation to try to fit my legs in a minibus has had a positive effect on my ankle, so I’ll be testing it out at football tomorrow.