The Story Behind the Peaks
A local family had recently received the devastating news of their son's brain tumour, supported by the charity Headsmart, a group of local fathers decided to raise some cash and awareness by undertaking a charity challenge. On the lookout for a way to raise much-needed funds, the group picked the famous Three Peaks as a suitable challenge within the borders of the UK.
As a group of rather overweight and unfit fathers (in general) there had to be enough time allowed to train and ensure this was not going to be a half-baked attempt at one of the toughest challenges this country has to offer. Yes, it's not exactly a Kilimanjaro or Everest, but it has its difficulties part of which is the goal of completing your attempt within the 24-hour time limit. As climbs go, they are not that hard but combine this with the travel between mountains and you get an idea of the challenge. Two 4-5 hour drives and then straight up the next peak takes its toll, especially as you start at 5 pm and keep going until the same time the next day.
Part of the challenge is to arrange your own transport. There are of course companies that will run this for you but they tend to come with a price tag. We chose to do the trip ourselves, using the combined skills of a group of 20. Most importantly, we had two volunteers for the driving between peaks who would not be walking. We also needed drivers for the journey to Scotland and back from Wales. Once this was sorted suitable minibuses were hired, due to the charity nature of the trek we got a massive discount. The need to sleep between peaks is essential so 8 walkers per bus allowed a row of seats each.
Bear in mind some minibuses have restrictors so your journey time might become very slow if travelling down motorways at 50. Food is another thought, to complete the treks you need to continuously intake calories and carbs. Easy to cook meals that can be eaten during the drive like Carbonara are a godsend. That is if you remember carbonara has bacon, cheese and egg in it. You also need to stock up on jells and jelly babies if that is your thing. Water carriers are also a must-have and refills in the minibus to save time finding taps.
The best day of the year for the challenge is Mid summer. The longest day of the year so as much light as you can manage to be able to complete Ben Nevis before it gets dark and ready for the early start at Scarfell in the Peaks.
We arrived in the car park at Fort William having driven from our previous nights stay in Stirling. At 5pm we headed up the trail to the peak of our first mountain. If memory serves it was actually quite a nice start weather-wise soon to deteriorate. The climb is around 3 hours if you are fit and the summit can actually still have snow on. The steps leading up the mountain are very big so practice at home climbing the stairs two or three at a time. If its a clear day then you have one of the best views in Scotland, if not you could be anywhere, as we were. The mountaintop was packed with others on the same mission so your photo opportunity at the Cairns is a quick one but a must.
Our return down the mountain was swift but as we neared the bottom the rain came in and we got a good soaking before entering the minibus at around 2100. The drive to Scafell Pike is pretty hideous so make sure you drivers are awake. 262 miles which in a minibus can take over 6 hours. The weather was so bad on ours that it took longer because roadworks signs were littering the roads. if you can get some sleep then do so, Scafell Pike should be attempted as early as possible to make up time.
Beware, at busy times the car park may be full so parking on the road and walking down is an option. in our case the roads were so flooded we had to park a mile away and begin the walk by using the barbed wire fence to keep us dry at the side of the road. Not good if you tear your trousers. The climb is not on steps like Ben Nevis and crosses stream after an hour and a half. At this point on our climb most groups turned back due to the stream becoming a raging torrent. Once yu have crossed the stream the terrain becomes a little less path like a more like a moon scape with rocks everywhere. It is here that it is worth having a map and knowledge of the cairns. Following these man-made guides will help you reach the top. Bear in mind this was mid-January. At times we couldn't see a thing because of the snow blizzard.
Ensuring you have enough battery and recharge devices is critical to both photos and survival if relying on electronic navigation aids. Something that wasn't readily available on our trip and hence the lack of photos. Down again and you feel pretty knackered by this point but bouyed by the thought that half way is beyond you. You must ensure you keep packing in the carbs and fluids because by now you have gone beyond your usual training routine. If the weather is good you can head to Snowden and the final climb.
The drive from the Lakes is a bit shorter and easier because it is daylight. 203 miles to be precise. Arriving at the bottom, well fueled and a little bit rested (hopefully) you make your way up tot he summit via a well-trodden path. Beware there are a couple of turnings that might get you lost but in general it is the easier of the walks. There are however a couple of bits where you need to climb in the old-fashioned sense. Only for 10 feet or so using a rope secured to the wall. If its windy it can be a little precarious.
Never forget there is a train to the summit for your way down but for us it was a cancelled service due tot he wind and the fog which is a regular occurance. Once you reach the top there is a huge cairn for you to stand on and have your photo taken. The station is just below the peak.
With our particular effort we faced some serious hurdles and maybe we shouldn't have scaled Scafell Pike due to the conditions. If you have perfect weather then it is reasonable to aim for 24 hours for all three. Whether or not you start from the bottom of Ben Nevis and finish at the bottom of Snowdon or at the summit of Snowdon is up to you. But please don't try and kill yourself chasing a target if it is unsafe to do so. We completed the challenge in about 26 hours from bottom to bottom against some hideous weather conditions. 90% of groups doing it the same day only completed two peaks to give you an idea of what we faced.
There are a lot of ways to do this challenge, either by yourself or with an organised company. The pros and cons are fairly obvious but if you are unsure.
Pros of self organised
- More of a challenge
- Your own food
- Choice of accommodation
- Timing up to you
- Set your own pace
Cons of self organised Trip
- Navigation is harder without guides
- Cost of van hire
- Finding drivers
- Experience if it goes wrong
- No need to find accommodation
- Never get lost