Once upon a time ten souls from around the country decided to embark on the National Three Peaks 24 Hour Challenge.
If you cast your mind back through the haze of the past 18 months and beyond, you
might just recall that the summer of 2018 was a corker.
We’d actually been planning the trip for a year, which brings me nicely on to a few
pointers to be considered before such an epic event.
Is it achievable?
Yes, absolutely but ‘failing to prepare is preparing to fail’. This is so true and
fortunately with my military background and Sergeant Major’s head on for this phase,
I was going to give us all the best chance possible of getting it done.
Here are a few points to consider:
1. Training – Is there enough time to build up the required strength, stamina and
endurance? How am I going to check everyone is up to the right standard?
2. Kit and clothing – Has everyone got the required gear for the event? Walking
boots, waterproofs, hat, gloves, first aid kit, food, drink, etc.
3. Minibus and drivers – Who has a minibus license and should we use a
dedicated driver (someone to drive when we’re all too knackered).
The answers to all three points above were confirmed during a rehearsal on three
smaller mountains in the Brecon Beacons a month before. I had to know that we
were not only prepared but also committed.
So what happens next?
As we were travelling from the south it seemed sensible to start with the furthest
away (Ben Nevis) and work back down so there’s less of journey upon completion.
It’s always best to avoid the weekend crowds so my advice is head off on the
Thursday, factoring in any pick ups en route. Spend the entire day travelling to
Scotland and overnight in Fort William or surrounding area for an early start the next
morning. Of course, there’s the obligatory group meal and a few drinks to calm the
nerves the night before!
Ben Nevis - Scotland
If you arrange with the hotel for an early breakfast then everyone can get a good fill
at 5am ready to tackle the highest mountain in the UK at 6am before all the other
Three Peakers turn up. The weather was perfect with a slight breeze keeping the
Scottish midges away.
Two thirds of the mountain track from Glen Nevis is well maintained and makes for
good progress but the final third is hard going. We were blessed with quite
remarkable visibility and it seemed the whole of the world opened up before us as we
hit the summit.
We were up and down back to the minibus in five hours as the hoards were just
starting out from the carpark.
It’s a long drive back into England in a minibus but the views are worth it, especially
the iconic road through Glen Coe with just the best looking mountains either side of
Scafell Pike – England
It’s one thing getting to the Lake District but negotiating the narrow roads and lanes
to the start point at Wasdale Head, deep in the National Park is pretty challenging in
a minibus. Six hours after leaving Ben Nevis behind, we finally arrived at 5pm raring
to summit Scafell Pike with clear skies and a warm evening forecast.
Although it’s the smallest of the three, I think Scafell Pike can be the most
challenging. The one in the middle, you’re legs aren’t fresh like Ben Nevis and it’s not
the last one either. Maybe it’s because it was so warm that July evening, we sweated
buckets and all found it pretty arduous. The training was everything and we were
rewarded with the finest views from the summit cairn.
Snowdon – Wales
We arrived in Llanberis at the foot of Snowdon at 3am on the Saturday morning. It
had taken five hours through the night to get there. Roadworks and diversions didn’t
help our cause but we ploughed on with our awesome dedicated driver, Bill at the
We headed off with the beam of our head torches lighting up the way but they were
soon stowed away as the ambient light from the awakening of another glorious day
grew stronger by the minute.
We were flying, fuelled by the race to reach the summit before the sun came up.
It gives me goose bumps as I write this, bringing back those memories. It was
surreal, dreamlike. I remember looking around at the group, we were speechless and
I noted quite a few emotional tears as we took in the world, a million miles away from
the chaos and confusion of everyday life.
It was just us, the glorious Three Peaks Team from 2018 had made it in 23 hours
and nature had given us the best prize it had. It will stay with us all for a very, very
long time to come.