Conquering the Three Peaks
Written by Adam Smith - Fitness Footwear
How 6 friends took part in the Three Peaks Challenge to raise money for The British Red Cross and survived!
On the 4th of April we stood at the foot of Ben Nevis, ready to begin the 2009 Three Peaks Challenge. We had a daunting task ahead of us and it had taken months of planning to get us this far. We had 4 walkers, 2 drivers, 2 cars and 3 peaks to conquer.
Luckily for me, I was just turning up and taking part. Matt Wintrip had all the fun of rounding up people as enthusiastic as him to walk over 25 miles of footpaths.
Matt had been reading the auto biography of Sir Ranulph Fiennes and wanted to get into trekking and challenges having been inspired by the British adventurer. I suppose we were lucky that he wasn't organising a trek to the North Pole.
He also found two drivers who would be happy to drive us 450 miles between the bases of the he three highest points in the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, it was up to everyone taking part to sort out their own clothing and equipment for the climb.
For those who don't know, the Three Peaks Challenge is a tour of the three peaks, which are Ben Nevis in Scotland, Scafell Pike in the Lake District and Snowdon in Wales.
What you do is drive to each one, walk up it, have a quick celebration at the top, walk back down and get in the car to drive to the next one. And you have to do this in 24 hours. That's a challenging part. You don't have to do it in 24 hours, but when you're driving 450 miles and walking over 25 miles of steep mountain trails you want to get it over quite quickly so you can go home and sleep.
When we arrived at Fort William at the foot of Ben Nevis in Scotland all our equipment was checked before we set off. Every peak we arrived at, our equipment was checked again. If you don't have the full list of kit, they won't let you walk it.
The first thing they always checked was that we had a good pair of walking boots with good ankle support. Not fell running trainers or walking shoes, but proper hardcore hiking boots. Any old pair of outdoor shoes simply will not do.
They also check that you have waterproof trousers and jacket, the appropriate moisture wicking base layers, gloves, back packs, head torches and a set of walking poles. We also had to have a medical kit including Compeed which is the jelly plaster which morphs into your skin to seal wounds. You name it, we had to take it!
Once we were checked and all our equipment was checked, then we could set off. Matt took charge of navigating us, but it wasn't so hard as we'd been led to believe because there were marshals everywhere showing you where to go and people pointing to the next bay station. Maybe a lot of people got lost last year? Considering how hard it was finding our way through thick mist and pitch darkness when we actually knew where we were supposed to be going, I'm not surprised.
I started the walk in awe of Ben Nevis and the sheer sense of space. Filled with a sense that I could just leap up into the sky, it was quite exhilarating. As the trek got longer and tougher, my focus was just to keep walking, but once we got to the top and looked out of the misty mountains it was a real life experience that I won't forget.
We broke out the hip flasks for a quick nip to keep us warm of course, celebrating that we'd reached the top, took a few photos and began our descent.
By the time we got back down, our drivers had prepared some super noodles and a mug of coffee for us. We sipped our coffees and slurped our cups of noodles after packing up the car with all of our equipment and set off towards Scafell Pike in the Lake District.
By the time we arrived it was 5am in the morning. So we strapped on our head torches and began our walk up England's largest mountain peak, watching the sun rise over the mountains as we climbed. 5 hours up another quick pick me up from the hip flasks at the top and another 5 hours walk back down, we got straight in the car, munching chocolate bars on the way as the drivers took up to Snowdon. By this time we were all very tired and fell asleep in the car.
I'm woken up by cold air as the car door opens, meaning its time to get our kit and start walking up Snowdon in Wales. By this point we've all developed a few blisters inside our hiking shoes and we are all physically and mentally tired.
I don't even remember climbing up and walking back down. I was half asleep and just kept my feet moving. It was wonderful to be at the top, giving me an extra surge of energy to make it back down, knowing that this was the third and final peak.
We came back down, had a beer to celebrate and ate food - lots of food. We packed everything up, got back in the car and went home absolutely shattered.
Looking back, the Three Peaks Challenge was brilliant, but very tiring. You have awesome fun because you're together with a great bunch of people sharing an enormous sense of achievement. I think the achievement is made even better because you're so physically drained due to exhaustion and lack of sleep.
If you ever want to take part in the Three Peaks Challenge, and I recommend that you do, because it's an incredible experience, then you will need lots of general high protein foods to keep you going. We got through packets of super noodles, cold pasta, bananas, bags of crisps, a lot of chocolate and at the top of every mountain we consumed a fair amount of alcohol to keep our spirits up.