The National Three Peaks
3 Peaks, 3 walkers and 24 hours of grit
I had hoped we’d have good weather during our National Three Peaks Challenge. It would be undoubtedly more enjoyable to walk the UK’s highest mountains in sun, rather than tramping along in pouring rain and high winds. And, in fact, as we started the long, eight-hour journey from Cambridge to the foot of Ben Nevis, I was hopeful. But it took about half an hour for the blue sky to turn to grey clouds and a splattering of rain, in the good old British way.
Now, don’t think we’re reckless – we had packed carefully, brought along the correct OS map (the new Ordnance Survey 3 Peaks Map which includes route and road maps for the whole challenge) and, really, we’re quite outdoorsy people anyway, always out for walks or cycle-rides. But still, I couldn’t dispel that worry from my mind that we wouldn’t complete it in time, or even at all.
We were making good progress up Ben Nevis. It didn’t take too long for us to reach the ‘Halfway Lake’ and start up the zigzags into the cloud. Soon we were surrounded by mist, able to see a few stone slabs ahead but no more. Cairns loomed out of the fog and sometimes people did too, but it was hard to tell the difference until they got close. The whole thing was rather like a scene in the film ‘Up!’, when large boulders and stones are mistaken in cloud for people. It was pretty eerie, especially as we were walking to the summit at around 8-9ish at night. We reached the summit in the same mist but were surprised to find no snow at all, which meant that the trig point was raised a few metres off the ground, and we had to use steps to get to it. A little different to the previous time I’d summitted the mountain, when the whole plateau was coated in a thick snowdrift that meant the trig was actually level with the top of the snow.
A sausage sandwich awaited us as we reached the cars, which was welcome, as we hadn’t stopped for a break on the mountain. Devouring them, we were soon on the road again, ready to tackle our third and final peak – Snowdon. It was slow going to begin with, weaving along narrow mountain passes only to reach slightly more main roads and be stuck behind a motorhome. Eventually though, we were speeding down to Wales, making good progress towards our final destination. That was then Jason had to pull over at a service station, the climbs and night drives again taking their toll. I was fretting a bit about the time – we would, from our calculations, have about four hours to complete Snowdon, which meant we would have to push on really hard to get up and down in time. But, Jason definitely needed to sleep, so he stayed at the service station for a half-an-hour kip before grabbing a coffee, while we carried on to Snowdon. As soon as we were there, we leapt out of the car, shrugged on sodden waterproofs and set off, hoping Jason would catch us up, as he insisted he would.
Because we had completed the three peaks in 23 hours 35 minutes.
Amy, aged 12