On Friday 5th July I set out, alongside my husband Matt and our respective Fathers, Geoff (our driver) and John, to take on The 3 Peaks Challange – to climb the highest mountains in Scotland, England, and Wales within a 24-hour window. I wanted to share with you some of the highs and lows of the trip itself, as well as some of what was involved in the planning and preparation and our inspiration behind the challenge.
But why, you ask?
Firstly, my husband and I had been talking for some time about how we could do something to give something back. Generally, we have been very fortunate in our lives and we are very aware that this is not how things are for a great many people in the World. We wanted to give something back to society and would hopefully motivate and inspire others to do the same.
Secondly, because I wanted to do something that pushed me, both physically and emotionally. Matt has done similar sorts of events before, but for me this would be a first.
And thirdly, John had always wanted to do the 3 Peaks, so in many ways, this was his choice. And as this was very close to his 70th birthday, it was both a potential celebration as well as possibly last chance saloon…!
Our chosen charity – Crisis
It is very easy for us to take all that we have in our lives for granted – a loving family, good health, nice food, a job, and even, a roof over our heads that we call home. Not everyone, however, is as fortunate. There are thousands of people in the UK who are struggling to make ends meet and are currently homeless.
Instagram and social media generally have given me a platform to talk about all things interior and lifestyle. And I am so grateful for that. So I wanted to flip things on their head a little and use this platform to raise awareness for the plight of those that don’t even have an ‘interior’, or any real kind of lifestyle to describe.
As many of you may know, back in January I suffered from a sciatic nerve injury which was triggered after going on my first run of the year. Ironically, this was meant to be the start of my 3 peaks training journey but it in fact put me back significantly! It resulted in me struggling to walk on my left ankle and required 6 weeks of physiotherapy. Needless to say, this really got me down. I found the whole thing really upsetting and it made me question whether this challenge was even going to be possible.
To get myself back to a place where I was not in pain (pre January’s run!), I saw a physio weekly and performed daily home “workouts” which included stretching, balancing and strengthing. Once I had reached a position where I was not experiencing pain (this took almost 8 weeks), I then began to hit some gentle slopes and restart my training journey.
My first serious walk in preparation for the 3 Peaks was at Easter in Cornwall. Matt and I did a 2.5hr cliff walk between Trebarwith and Port Isaac which was actually pretty intense as the cliffs down there are seriously steep! But it got me into the right mindset as I realised that I had a lot to do if I was going to be ready for the 3 Peaks…
A couple of weeks later, we had a long weekend away in North Wales with John (to celebrate his 70th birthday!), which gave us an ideal opportunity to do a mountain climb and check where we were in our preparation schedule. We climbed a mountain called Cadair Idris and got up and down in about 3 hrs.
Our last major preparation day was a few weeks before the main event when we headed to the Brecon Beacons and again met John. We did a 12 mile circular hike over 6 & 1/2 hr period which included 5 mountain peaks and a thoroughly good soaking!! It was a tough day, but we needed it and was definitely the preparation we were looking for.
Alongside the mountain training I did daily squats at home (roughly 50 a day), lunging (10 or so a day) and I walked as much as possible around the house on my tips toes – this was part of my physio strengthening work so I thought continuing with this wouldn’t be a bad shout!
On the face of it, the plan looked simple – climb a mountain, get to the next one, climb again and repeat…! But the logistics were going to be tricky. There are a lot of companies that offer organised 3 Peaks Challenge trips – these usually involve a mini-bus or coach to transport you between locations. I can see the value of these options, but we wanted to be able to hike at our pace and travel independently so we used our own car. This was great in giving us our own space and also allowing us to travel on our terms, but it meant we really needed help as it would have been a big ask for us to share the driving as well. Thankfully my Dad stepped in!
That just left timings to be agreed. My husband made the plan and we elected to start at the highest and longest hike, Ben Nevis. From there, we would work South to Scafell Pike and lastly Snowdon. Given that we needed to get it done in a 24 hr window, we tried to minimise the amount of hiking in the dark so we started our Challange at around 5.30pm. The plan was to get up and down Ben Nevis, before the worst of the darkness set in and then drive through the night. At this time of the year, it is light until about 10.30pm in the Scottish Highlands as it is a long way North.
Rough timings were estimated as follows:
Ben Nevis climb: 5-6 hrs
Drive from Ben Nevis to Scafell Pike: 5-5&1/2hrs
Scafell Pike climb: 4-4 & 1/2 hrs
Drive from Scafell Pike to Snowdon: 4 & 1/2 – 5 hrs
Snowdon climb: 4-4 & 1/2 hrs
How did we get on??
Well, the task was to get to the starting point at the right time, which for us, involved a trip from Hertfordshire to Somerset to drop off our daughter and pick up my Dad! We then had to drive over 500 miles north, picking up my father-in-law on the way. Thankfully, our timings were good and the traffic was kind so we arrived at the foot of Ben Nevis all ready to go on Friday late afternoon. The weather, however, was less kind…
So we started bang on time at 5.35pm all kitted up in full wet weather gear. The mood was positive and not dampened by the rain, but it soon felt like the wet conditions were going to make life trickier. It was slippery underfoot and we had to wear more layers and take additional kit, so it was heavy going. By the time we reached the top, it was close to 4 hrs in. Conscious of the fading light, we quickly turned to head back down and thankfully we were treated to some spectacular views as the clouds began to lift!! We eventually made it down in around 6hrs at 11.30pm in the dark. Thankfully we had our headlamps but even so, the climb took its’ toll (particularly on John, who fell several times on the latter part of the descent).
Before we set off en route to Scafell Pike, we had a lot of kit ‘admin’ to deal with as we were soaked! Eventually, we left at 12.15am (now behind schedule) and we settled into our seats to try and sleep as my Dad drove us South as quickly as possible.
Dad made good time on the drive, so we got to the car park at Wasdale Head (bottom of Scafell Pike) before 5am and started our second climb at 5.15am in the early light. We had slept a little in the car and Matt insisted that we forced down some food beforehand and as a result, we climbed quickly. It was again busy on the hike and we were amazed by just how many mini-buses and vehicles were present in the car park. But it kind of spurred us on and we managed to move swiftly past the masses to get up and down in just 3hrs 15mins. This put us back on track to try and complete the challenge inside the 24hrs. We shoved down a much-needed fried egg roll and jumped in the car. Now, all we needed was a bit of luck with the traffic…
We didn’t get it. 30-40 mins of delays on the journey to Snowdon put us under a lot of time pressure! We did at least grab some more sleep and took on more food, but time was against us and as we jumped out of the car at the Llanberis Pass car park (Dad could only pull in as the car park was overflowing!), we knew we only had 3hrs 52 mins to get up and down Snowdon….!
As soon as our boots touched the ground we were off! We took the Pyg Track up Snowdon which was relatively easy until the last section where it got steep and rocky and required us to clamber up the mountain side.
We did find this mountain to be the busiest of all three, it is afterall, the most popular mountain to climb in the UK. There were so many people 3/4 of the way up which is often the case as the level of difficulty increases and therefore a bottle neck effect happens. Not only was this a little frustrating (given our time was running out!) but it was also a little disappointing as it took away from the magic and mystery of being at the top of a mountain.
We made it to the top of Snowdon by 4.20pm which we meant we had 1hr and 15mins to get down from the summit in order for us to complete the 24hr challenge. John however, was exhausted! It had taken every ounce of energy he had to get to the top in the time we did, knowing that we were racing against the clock, so he and Matt agreed that he would get the Snowdon mountain train back down the mountain.
Now, I am not one to be defeated so we had to ‘give it the beans’ to get down this mountain in time. It should normally take 2hrs to get down Snowdon so to do it in around 1hr meant that we had to run it. And run it, we did!
When we got to the bottom I was exhausted, not only physically but emotionally too. BUT…we DID IT…! And with 8 minutes to spare! I honestly couldn’t believe we had done it which is no doubt why I was so emotional when we crossed ‘the finishing’ line!!
Here is a list of all the kit items we packed;
- Breakfast at Scafell Pike – there was a campsite BBQ station at the base which was a lovely surprise when we got down from the mountain!
- Midges at Scafell Pike so make sure you have your insect repellent on
- I didn’t take any gators or backpack waterproof covers but really wished we had as we got very wet on Ben Nevis!
- You are not alone…! During the peak mid-summer weekends these hills are packed with ‘3-Peakers’!!
- Be prepared. At the summit, even in mid-summer, it can be cold, windy and wet so take layers. We saw snow on the ground near the top of Ben Nevis.
- Get a driver – the lack of sleep is hard enough without trying to add night time driving in to the mix!
- Sleep when you can.
- Use Leki sticks – they helped so much!
- I suffered terrible knee pain coming down Scafell Pike and really benefitted from some ibuprofen and a tube bandage – some kit essentials
What this meant…
I am delighted to say that we raised a grand total of £7,913.26 including gift aid and a contribution from Matt’s work which is absolutely fantastic. THANK YOU to each and every one of you who contributed to such a good cause of helping those without a home. “Together we will end homelessness” – Crisis.
On top of the money raised, this proved to be an amazing experience and one that I am so glad I did. Not only did I prove to myself that I could do it – especially after my injury issues – but it gave us a real sense of togetherness as a family unit. To do this together with my husband and with our respective Dads meant that this had a special edge and perhaps one of the reasons why it was so emotional when we finished and could celebrate together. We should never take our family and our homes for granted.