The Diary: Three Peaks Challenge

On Friday the 28th of September, twelve members of the Carbon Credentials team set out to undertake the Three Peaks Challenge.

This challenge involves climbing the three highest peaks in Scotland, England and Wales, covering a total walking distance of 23 miles (37 km) and ascent of 3,064 metres (10,052 ft) in a target time of 24 hours.

Why would we put ourselves through this?! Carbon Credentials is supporting two amazing charities that mean an awful lot to us: Lymphoma Action and SolarAid.

Lymphoma Action raises money to conduct vital research on lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system), and to provide invaluable support to both those with the disease and their friends and family.

SolarAid is an international charity that combats both poverty and climate change. It provides access to solar lights in some of the most remote regions of Malawi, Uganda and Zambia. As a result of SolarAid’s work in Africa, 10 million people now have access to safe, clean solar light.

 FRIDAY 28TH SEPTEMBER

1 PM – Carbon Credentials Office, Regent Street

The team leaves the office to catch our 4 pm flight to Glasgow.

What are we getting ourselves into??

We are met by our driver Kev who drives us up to Fort William in our funky minibus. We encounter our first hurdle when Becca starts to feel travel sick and we need to pull over to the side of the road, but we manage to make it to Fort William for a carb heavy pub dinner before a supermarket dash and an early night.

So happy and carefree… Little did we know.

SATURDAY

4 AM – Chasing the Wild Goose Hostel, Fort William

The alarm sounds after a night of fretful sleep and the Carbon Credentials Three Peaks Team is rudely awoken to prepare to tackle our first peak. For some of the team, it’s more likely we would be heading for bed after a night at The Glassblower (our local) than getting up at this ungodly hour!! An attempt to stuff our faces is made before lacing up our boots and setting off.

 5:45 AM – Foot of Ben Nevis

Temperatures are low and the rain is heavy but spirits high as we begin our journey up Scotland’s highest mountain. It’s pitch black, but we are all prepared for the hike with head torches.

8:30 AM – Summit of Ben Nevis (1,345 m)

All twelve reach the top of the mountain together. With icy rocks, winds of 50 mph, driving sleet, and temperatures of -15°C, it is a rather anticlimactic peak. Our clothes are completely soaked, and we make the crucial mistake of lingering too long for photos which leads to a few hypothermia scares. Watching icicles form on my eyelashes is not an experience I would like to repeat…

10:45 AM – Foot of Ben Nevis

Susie the mountain goat leads the way and we leg it back down the mountain as fast as we can, dreaming of our warm van and cups of hot chocolate. The last of the group (me) makes it down the mountain at approximately 10:45 am.

Despite the wind and rain, we make it down safely in a little over 5 hours!

Lessons learned: Waterproofs aren’t really waterproof and don’t stop at the top for selfies! You can never underestimate the power of mother nature…

After taking some time to relax and recover from the experience, we make an attempt to dry our things and head south to the Lake District.

6:50 PM – Foot of Scafell Pike

We arrive in sunny Wasdale, having refuelled both the minibus and our stomachs on the way. The forecast is looking good with a balmy temperature of -4°C predicted at the top. Despite the shock of Ben Nevis, after some food and a wee nap the mood has lifted and we are ready to tackle peak number two.

8:45 PM – Summit of Scafell Pike (978 m)

Even though Scafell Pike is the steepest of the three climbs, it was a breeze in comparison to Ben Nevis. We reach the rocky summit singing Bon Jovi – Livin’ on a Prayer, and even see a couple of familiar faces from another group that tackled Ben Nevis with us in the morning. Happiness rating is at 10/10.

 10:30 PM – Scafell Pike complete

The whole team makes in down in an amazing time of 3 hours and 30 minutes. Despite this, we’ve developed a couple of injuries and Red needs a bit of support to descend because of a dodgy knee. He still manages to beat me down the mountain though……

We get back in the minibus and make our way to our final destination: WALES!!!

Lessons learned: Cheesy songs about climbing mountains really do help, see S-Club 7 – Reach and Marvin Gaye – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.

 SUNDAY

4:15 AM – Foot of Snowdon

Feeling tired after a bumpy ride, we arrive at our third and final peak. The nervous energy is palpable. It’s drizzling and slightly chilly, so we wrap up warm and make sure we get our waterproofs on before setting off this time.

We decide to take the Pyg Path up the mountain. This route is steeper and shorter than the other popular routes but famed for its views. It’s pitch black, so we don’t see any of the views and end up going slightly off piste. This was the most treacherous of the three mountains to climb and sections of the final ascent felt more like rock climbing than hiking. I tried to channel my inner James Bond as we scaled across the rocks, but panic set in and I was grateful to have such a supportive team around me.

7:00 AM – Summit of Snowdon (1,085 m)

After a precarious scramble to the top, we conquer our final peak!!! Unfortunately, the world-famous Snowdon pencil museum is nowhere in sight…… Thanks Joe…

Red’s gammy knee is in severe pain at this point, so we make the decision to come down Snowdon via the Llanberis Path which is 3.5 km longer but much less steep. To minimise impact to his knee, Red walks down the hill backwards, a style now patented ‘the Red special’.

09:45 AM – Three Peaks Challenge Complete!!!

Even though we took the long route down, we make decent time getting to the bottom of Snowdon in 5 and a half hours. What an achievement!!!

Lessons learned: Walking down mountains backwards is not recommended, but sometimes necessary.

Some final thoughts…

We managed to complete the walking in our target time of 14 hours. Unfortunately, due to traffic and a bit too much faffing around with wet clothes we didn’t get the target time of 24 hours total, but a little over 26 hours is good enough for us!!

I think I speak for most of the team when I say this was a greater challenge than I expected by far. I personally feel so proud to have been part of this mission to support Lymphoma Action and SolarAid. There were moments of intense mental and physical struggle, but the fact that we were able to make such a difference to these two fantastic charities helped us pull through.

There is still time to donate to our cause, so if you could spare a few pennies please follow the link to sponsor us here.

It is undoubtedly an experience I will never forget…but perhaps not repeat for a year or two!