13 of us signed up for this challenge; fuelled with the excitement of attempting to climb the three of the highest mountains in the UK; Ben Nevis (1,345m), Scafell Pike (987m) and Snowdon (1085m) within the time limit of 24 hours. Some were fully prepared for what this involved, for others it was a bit of a shock to the system.
From the moment the tickets were bought many of us were doing some form of training, motivated by the no nonsense advice from Matt of ‘you need to be fit’ and ‘maybe lose some weight’. The initial date set for this challenge was the 30th of April, however the elements were against us and it was postponed to the 11th of June. In hindsight this was a fantastic opportunity to really get on with some training for it, I personally did not use the time wisely.
Friday arrived. All of us meeting at uni square at 5pm feeling relatively fresh if a little apprehensive about what the next day held for us. The drivers becoming acquainted with their new best friends (the minibuses), we set off red van and white van together as a majestic duo ready to endure the long drive up to Fort William for the first mountain; that is until our minibus had to make a detour to Matt’s house to pick up a few extras- such as pillows, hiking boots…yep, hiking boots.
The first mountain to be tackled was Ben Nevis. The drive up to Fort William was a long, monotonous one (same could be said about the mountain). Several new friendships were formed en route, dare I say a couple of potential ‘bromances’. Spirits were high, many of us celebrated that it was the furthest north we’d been at various points of the journey as we ventured further into Scotland. With reference to a favourite series amongst some LUMC’ers…we were very much north of the wall. (Sorry, not sorry)
We arrived in the pitch black early hours of Saturday morning, layers on (big mistake), and Erin making friends with a toad (typical ecology student), a few ‘pre-challenge’ pictures done, we were ready. The walk began at Achintee on the east side of Glen Nevis, our route being the tourist track or pony track – a deceptive name, suggesting ease and maybe even enjoyment. I’m just being slightly bitter here. The zig-zag path being incredibly repetitive, steep and the darkness not providing much surrounding comfort were certainly challenging. However, as the morning hours approached it became lighter and there was a definite beauty to it, we even came across a bit of snow as we walked the final few metres. The relief on reaching the summit was immense and it was truly amazing to be above the clouds and see other mountain peaks just emerging through. The descent was down the same path, aware of the time we kept a healthy pace. We arrived back at the minibuses at approximately 5am. Ben Nevis – done.
There was no chance to sit and relax after our climb; a change of clothes if you were feeling particularly speedy, grab some food and get back in the minibus. The minibus journey down to the Lake District was basically either eating some food or sleeping. See what I mean about the drivers only really having their minibus for company, we certainly weren’t good entertainment (and we can’t thank you guys enough for driving us!)
At around midday we arrived at Wasdale for the start of Scafell Pike. Known for being the smallest of the three (978 metres) but many say it is the hardest. It was steep straight from the off and a complete contrast to the almost passive Ben Nevis route. Our new walking captain, Alex, was extremely excited to be back in his homeland. His biased opinion of Scafell Pike being the best mountain of the three may well be argued by some of the team. With more people hiking up Scafell and the bizarre abundance of dogs plodding up the path, it was a very different experience to the isolated and quiet hike we had on Ben Nevis. However, the determined pace was maintained and we made the ascent, with a group selfie done at the summit, we made a swift descent back down to the minibuses. Our quickest but still a physically exhausting climb. Scafell Pike – done.
Once again it was a quick sort of stuff needed for the bus journey and back into the now slightly hated minibuses, too many hours spent in such a confined space! Again, for our bus it was mostly sleeping, or certainly attempting to sleep. Arriving at Snowdon and knowing it was the last mountain acted as a great form of second-wave motivation for us. We were nearly finished, the last one to do, and we weren’t going to let a certain 11 year old do the challenge in a better time than us (apparently he did it in 23 hours).
Snowdon, assumed to be the easiest of the mountains, the gentle giant of the three. Excellent, no struggles for anyone on this one. Not so. Without going into elaborate details ‘chunder path’ was created. We trudged on, sleep deprivation setting in and the lack of energy becoming apparent. Daylight now being gradually lost too, we were increasingly aware that our remaining time was also swiftly reducing. A quick breather once we were close to the summit, admiring the view and feeling slightly bitter at the sight of the railway tracks to the summit. Once at the summit another selfie of proof was taken, however very much surrounded by fog. The descent was fast, the last summit had been reached and we all just wanted to finish the challenge now. We were low on energy and admittedly ‘positive mental attitude’ stores were nearly empty. There were cheers when we could see the minibuses and when we could say we had officially finished, there was true relief and a great sense of achievement. Snowdon – done. Three Peak Challenge – done! Queue the celebratory alcohol.
Overall, the three peaks challenge was extremely tough but strangely enjoyable. I think I can say many of us had underestimated, although to varying degrees, of how much it would push us to the limit. There are some aspects we can be incredibly proud of; such as finishing under 24 hours (22 hours and 52 minutes to be precise). Other aspects not so proud; where team spirit suffered towards the end of the challenge and focus on finishing took over. The three peaks is definitely as much a mental attitude challenge as well as a physical endurance challenge. But we all succeeded, so well done LUMC three peaks team. It was an amazing experience that I definitely won’t be forgetting.
Would I do it again? I’ll get back to you on that…
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