The National Three Peaks Challenge.

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*Taps screen*

Hello?

*Bangs screen*

Anyone still there?

So quite the blogging break I’ve had. I’d love to tell you I’ve been off having marvellous adventures, but sadly I can’t. Sometimes real life gets in the way of fun and adventure.
However all hope was not lost. Having had the National Three Peaks Challenge booked since forever, adventure and challenge had been looming on the horizon. For those of you who are unsure, the challenge involves climbing the three highest peaks in England, Wales and Scotland, within 24 hours. Or if like me you aren’t remotely competitive, go climb three big old mountains roughly within a day and preferably not die. #goals

The trouble of course with busy, hectic lives is they don’t provide a great deal of opportunity for training. To recap. I’m from the fens and have never climbed a mountain. What on Earth am I doing?

A couple of frantic gym sessions later and I find myself packing for my biggest challenge yet. It’s safe to say I’m terrified.

Our trip begins with the drive to Llanberis. A lunch stop at the hotel we will be staying in at the end of the challenge and it’s where we have arranged to be picked up for our next journey to Glasgow. A long and anxious lunch. Giddy with excitement at being away, but as we wait the nerves continue to grow.

Finally at 5pm our lift arrives and so begins the long drive to Glasgow.

By the time we finally arrive it’s late. Very late.

A day of travelling and tiredness takes its toll.

We check into our hotel, I’d been warned by a friend about the Glaswegian accent but I wasn’t quite prepared for deciphering what I can only assume were questions being fired at me.

I can only smile, nod and shake my head at what I hope were appropriate moments. A sneaky look at my friend confirms she’s as equally bewildered as I am. Glasgow you confuse me.

We trudge upstairs in the early hours, dazed, confused and desperate for sleep.

Nerves however get the better of me, and I manage very little sleep, the task ahead of me growing ever more challenging.

A hearty breakfast, thankfully not so confusing and we need to make tracks for the days pick up point. A short walk of merely a few minutes, how hard can it be?

Apparently very.

It would seem Apple maps finds Glasgow as equally confusing as I do. It soon becomes apparent something is awry. We’re slightly lost, running late and swearing profusely. We quickly reassess our map, devise our new route, and run – that counts as training surely? 😉

Thankfully we make it, even beating the driver. Phew!

Then onwards to Fort William, a beautiful day spent driving through the dramatic Scottish countryside. Looks very different to the fens in case you were wondering. 

Then finally, we arrive at the start of the challenge and the moment I’ve been dreading waiting for, for so long.

We head up the path from Glen Nevis, an amusing start as I find myself leading the way. Well, leading so far as I have absolutely no idea where I’m going, but I can only assume we’re heading up.

1345 m up to be precise, the highest of the three peaks. The nerves of course start to fade away as we begin our steady ascent.

The weather until now has been slightly grotty but as we start to climb the cloud clears and stunning mountain views appear. I’m a giddy East Anglian as the excitement helps me forget the enormity of the task ahead and I struggle to resist having to stop to take 1000s of photos. I still manage to take over 200 though. 😉

The pace required for the challenge is obviously fairly unrelenting. Our team soon splits, in fact we never really bonded as a team. A couple of the group fall ill and make their way back down, some plough on ahead,  another team member – a super fit marathon runner no less slows down to tackle the mountain at her own pace. Good for her.

This leaves me alone, somewhere in the middle, not at my fittest and very much the asthmatic East Anglian.

Ben Nevis becomes essentially a solo challenge. The benefit of course, nobody gets to witness my ridiculous wheezing. 😅

The feeling of relief as I begin my final ascent, so close but it seems to go on forever. Typical mountain top conditions, cold, wet and cloudy ensure I’m keen to reach the summit as quickly as my puny lungs will allow.

The views not so great on the way to the summit, but luckily I’m able to easily and safely work out where I’m heading.

It’s definitely not this way…

Finally however, I reach the summit.

Relief at having conquered my first mountain, but all I can really think about is how bloody cold it is, despite my numerous layers.

I’d planned to find a cache whilst I was on the summit but quickly decided that was a ridiculous idea, I would grab a few quick photos and head back down as quickly as possible.

Ironically my photos could have been used for a new virtual cache on the summit, if only I had my face in them. 🤦🏻‍♀️

Oh well, I’ll just have to go back again sometime.

However as I start to head back down, the cloud begins to clear.

A sneak peek at the view.

Then the sun begins to set and the top of Ben Nevis becomes a rather magical place indeed.

As much as I want to stay and enjoy the sunset the race is now back on to get as far as possible down the mountain before darkness descends.

Thankfully I’m much quicker at heading down, and make speedy progress before darkness hits. Our fractured team regroups to make our way united in the dark. We’ve achieved our first mountain and are ready to head onto the next.

However one important stop before we go. The local McDonald’s. Never have fries tasted quite so good.

Back on the road, as we make our way through the night to the Lake District and at 978 m England’s highest mountain, Scafell pike.

I attempt some sleep. It’s pretty hopeless. Still hyped from Ben Nevis and feeling nauseous from my speedy descent.

I manage to doze, but as we finally navigate the narrow, winding roads of the Lake District I’m soon feeling as sick as a dog.

We arrive at Wasdale head at 3am.

Sick. Exhausted. Standing at the bottom of a mountain and it’s so dark you can’t even see it. It’s a pretty grim moment.

But then I looked up. Stars. Truly incredible stars which can only be seen on a clear night in the middle of nowhere. Suddenly things don’t seem quite so bad after all.

At this point in time however, I have honestly no idea how I’m going to summon the energy or determination to climb this bloody mountain. I’ve hit rock bottom.

Much like my Peddars Way challenge it’s back to step by step progress.

I trudge on, weary. Somehow I manage a river crossing in the dark. I can’t really see it but it certainly sounds impressive.

Our group again quickly separates, a bunch of sprightly bastards gazelles leaping on ahead with one mountain leader, and our main mountain leader remaining at the back with the slower paced lady. My friend and I find ourselves somewhere in the middle and alone. Again.

We progress onwards, it’s mostly obvious where we are going and with regular glimpses of head torches up ahead we can’t go too badly wrong.

Then we find ourselves in an area known as hollow stones. With plenty of rocks around the path becomes difficult to pick out in the dark. Suddenly we can no longer see any torchlight up ahead. Turning around, nope. None behind us either.

Bugger.

Alone on a mountainside in the dark, and not entirely sure which way we are going.

With exceptional timing my phone pings with a text. It’s the dead of night. Who on Earth is texting me?

A text from my network provider, welcoming me to the sodding Isle of Man.

I knew we were a little bit lost, but not to that extent. 😉

However I’m a practical girl, I quickly consult the maps on my phone to try and work out where we are and which way we should be heading. Amusingly I quickly discover I’m a mere 50m away from the nearest geocache. I won’t lie, it’s very tempting. We even discuss the possibility of attempting to find it, but then finally we spot approaching torchlight. Hurrah it’s the mountain leader. Clearly we weren’t the only ones who took the stray path to the Isle of Man. 😉

We decide to slow our pace and stick with the mountain leader. Day begins to break as we approach the cloudy mountain top, the most enormous sheep I have ever seen loom silently from the eerie half-light and cloud. In my sleep deprived state it’s some seriously creepy shit.

As we reach summit, once again I’m blessed with the cloud breaking and we watch the sun rise on the Lake District below.

Having missed out on a cache in Scotland we decide to find the summit cache here, risking slippery, ankle breaking rocks to do so, and then take the appropriate, disturbing selfie to claim the virtual cache too.

We then begin the long walk back down. This time it really does feel never ending.

We stop for a quick drink and bag of frazzles at hollow stones and make quick work of finding that cache.

After walking for what feels like 49 years we eventually find ourselves back at the river crossing, it looks fairly impressive in the light of day and we meet plenty of people keen to chat to us about our attempt, including one chap who asks us if we will still do Snowdon. Do we really look that bad? 😳

With a huge sense of relief we return to the car park and a much needed cup of coffee. I have no idea how, but I achieved mountain number two.

As we wait around for the mountain leader and the final member of the group it becomes increasingly likely that we won’t be making the 24 hour limit on the challenge, some of the group are not so pleased about this.

Me? I’m thrilled. I’ve not embraced the challenge in its true sense, in fact I feel I’ve missed out by rushing all the time. This means on Snowdon I can take my time, take photos and enjoy the experience of just being in the mountains.

The final drive to Snowdon. It’s a good one. I manage to eat a decent amount of food and even manage an hour or so of sleep. I wake feeling slightly more human.

We stop for another McDonald’s. I don’t even really like McDonald’s but the calories are needed if I’m to have any chance of completing the final summit.

We pass our hotel for the night, so close to our goal, but yet so very far.

Still it’s with much more optimism that we set off from Pen-y-Pass for our final ascent, taking the pyg track to The summit of Snowdon at 1085 m

Our mountain leader declares he’ll be at the back supporting once again but as long as we have maps and can use them we can push on and summit as we wish.

The pyg track however is fairly simple and there’s no real need to navigate. It’s a fun path and it’s lovely to take our time and appreciate the scenery.

Relief as our challenge is nearing completion, we have a fun climb and plenty of laughs and silliness. This is more like it!

As we near the top, the area is suddenly engulfed in thick cloud, making visibility poor for our final walk to summit.

We are blessed with a fairly quiet summit, it’s now 6pm and slightly over our 24 hour deadline but we have completed our challenge. It would seem word has got out and summit celebration awaits, we pass a group of teens leaving and rather than breathing in a lungful of fresh mountain air we both take a huge gulp of Cannabis Smoke. Not quite how we expected to celebrate our achievement.

It would also seem that for one last time luck was on our side and again the cloud breaks. (Or maybe it’s just the cannabis smoke clearing.)  and for a brief moment we get a sneaky glimpse of the view from summit.

And just like that, we’ve done it. I honestly don’t know how, but we really have.

Only now just the small matter of a 4.5 mile walk down the Llanberis path back to the hotel. Back to food, to cider, to a shower and a bed. Bliss.

A steep path for tired legs, but technically easy. A wide dirt track winding its way down the mountainside.

The easiest path of the whole weekend and therefore, typically the one that causes me to spectacularly fall over. 🤦🏻‍♀️

I really am a clumsy idiot at times.

If walking down your third mountain in a day wasn’t quite hard enough, doing it with a smooshed up arm and hand certainly adds to the challenge. The final steep road through the village an absolute killer for tired toes, so much so we walk backwards. At this stage we really must look quite a sight.

Then finally the hotel, the much needed shower and the cider I’d been dreaming of, truly deserved and purely for medicinal purposes of course. 😉

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24 thoughts on “The National Three Peaks Challenge.

  1. It may have been a long time since your last post – but some things are worth waiting for! An excellent post, witty as always, and I really enjoyed reading it. What’s next in store for the mountain queen of the Fens? Don’t worry about the fall – we’ve all been there, and it nearly always happens on easier terrain when your guard is down, legs are tired, and you’re generally being less careful about where you put your feet. Well done – it was a great achievement. Something to be proud of.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow Clare! What an AMAZING adventure! It’s funny — I was just thinking that I haven’t received any blog entries from you. And then — as if by magic — here is an amazing entry. Carry on ……..

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Well done!! I’ve walked all three of them separately without any time limit but I’m not sure I could contemplate trying to do them all in a day! Impressed you got the views too, mine have only ever been thick most (and deep snow on Ben Nevis – which was ‘interesting’). I think you’d find the South Downs Way much easier after this…..

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Brilliant stuff, well done on the challenge (one I fancy some day) and well done on finding those Caches on the mountain, knowing they are there, means I might be able to convince my other half to join me up one of them 🙂

    Like

  5. Reading your adventures wears me out! 😉 I’m only jealous – wish I had the energy to even think about tackling a mountain (Although, I have ‘climbed’ Snowdon… on the train, but the tracks don’t go to the summit do they, so technically that’s climbing!)
    Super photos too – seeing your view from Snowdon, it’s probably a good job it was heavy snow and cloudy when we went. Sam would have likely passed out (he doesn’t do heights!)

    Liked by 1 person

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