One man, One mission, Three Peaks.
10075ft Ascended – 43.2 KM Hiking – 1558.40 KM Driving
39 Hrs 30 Min.
This pretty much sums up the final chapter of my National Three Peaks challenge but of course there’s more to the story and in the aftermath I’m finding it really hard to put words on it, not only because it’s been a very turbulent year, not to mention the last 6-8 weeks with leaving my job, friends, Glasgow and relocation further South with all the stress of moving, getting sick and job hunting!
Anyway here goes.
I had planned to start easy with driving to Glasgow and pick up my dedicated driver Nicholas before heading to Fort William and setting foot on Ben Nevis, but after discovering a fault with the car’s head lights and spending most of Saturday lunch and afternoon trying to get it fixed (without luck) I decided to head to Fort William before dark a day early and since it would only be possible to drive during the day, it would mean it would take much longer than planned and I had to leave Nicholas behind as he had limited time and work commitments.
I arrived at Ben Nevis visitor centre around 1900 and weather was cold and fresh, darkness was falling but it was a clear night with loads of stars starting to peer out like pin holes in the sky.
I quickly changed into hiking gear and spent a few minutes studying the map before hitting the trail, a quick call to base (home) was a bit frustrating as signal was very poor but it got me started across the bridge and up the trail.
The hike up the pony track was pretty uneventful as I stumbled my way using only the light from a clear starry night and I mostly kept my head down to focus on the task ahead and finally after 3 hours I was on the summit plateau and had to use my lights to find my way across the snow covered path to the summit trig point. I will be honest here and tell you when I arrived I was too tired to celebrate, I just took a drink of water and turned straight round down the way I had come up.
Going down I found I had to use my head torch most of the time to see where I was placing my tired feet but near 0200 in the morning I was back down and I dropped everything in the back of the car before grabbing my sleeping bag and settling down in the passenger seat for a few hours sleep before the new day dawned. Even though sleep didn’t come easily I jumped out again at 0700 to shake the cramps out of my legs and after a quick visit to the visitor centres toilets I got back in the driver’s seat and with the first light I headed south. Next stop: Scafell Pike.
The deeper I drove into the Lake District National Park the more beautiful the weather turned and when I parked after nearly six hours driving it was like the best summers day I ever had in Scotland.
Before tackling the slopes I forced myself to sit and eat a couple of power bars while studying the map and downing plenty of water. I started walking across the fields to the first gentle slopes and I thought to myself, ‘this isn’t that bad’, but an hour later the gentle slope was increasingly steeper and my legs started burning and I knew this was going to hurt later. By now I was being overtaken by an alarming number of fell runners and it was a very different experience from a deserted Ben Nevis but still quick enough (or slow enough!) to not be walking with other groups of hikers. After roughly three hours I was at the summit and hardly stopped but glanced around and continued down again. While it remained a beautiful day, I spent very little time on taking photos as the fact that time was against me, it was always in the back of my mind.
After nearly six hours I was back at the car, now it was late afternoon and I set of as soon as I had changed my sweat dripping t-shirt and boots. I celebrated with a flapjack and coffee when I stopped at the first petrol station, at this point it started to turn dark and I “solved” my head light issue by using my front fog lights and the high beam. I arrived at Pen-y-Pass just before 2200 and it was a cold foggy evening. I was super tired and hungry so after exercising my tired legs round the parking area and checking out the toilet facilities I settled down in the car to tuck into my secret weapon…Before leaving Glasgow I stopped briefly at Emmett’s first birthday and Thomas was kind enough to force a doggy bag with pizza and a beer on me before I left. Genius.
Now it was time to eat pizza and sleep zzzzzzzzzzz
When I woke up it was still dark and also very foggy/cloudy so I figured I might as well get moving and by 0545 I had a Cliff Bar for breakfast but was low on water so it was pretty dry but nonetheless I was heading up the Pyg Track and again I was stupid enough to think to myself “this is not so bad” and soon after my legs started burning and it felt like I was on a super huge stair-master but with really uneven steeps. After a couple of hours I was just below the summit ridge and had completely lost the track but found an easily climbable gully that was leading to the ridge, and I was on the summit after approximately 3.5 hours, the fog was thicker than ever and even though the route description for the Pyg Track claims “When you join the paths you will see railway tracks running up the mountain along the right hand side of the path. This is the Snowdon Mountain Railway, which has been carrying visitors to the summit since 1896 on the only public rack and pinion railway in the UK.” I never actually saw the train tracks before I started going down which just goes to show how foggy and lost I was while scrambling up. I followed the Miners Track down as it looked easier and by now I was out of water but had no choice other than keep going. As I trundled down the hill dreaming about Welsh Dragons hiding in the mist I was only interrupted by having to say good morning to the crowds of people heading up the track. I arrived back at my car just after 1100 in the morning but as the photo below shows, it’s still not really a sunny day but my challenge was over 🙂
After a quick visit to the cafe, only to find it closed and to think I had even paid to park at Pen-y-Pass but that left only one thing left to do and that was to drive home and get a shower and some proper rest for me legs. My feet looked pretty used at this point but felt fine and I’m once again very happy about my boots. (Read about them here) I arrived back home in the Kingdom of Elmet (yes I live in a small Kingdom now 😉 ) mid afternoon and was lucky enough to catch Robynne just before she left for University and first thing I did was to celebrate with a bath and crack open the beer from Thomas’s doggy bag (Thanks Dude) and chill.
I’m really overwhelmed about the amount of support and donations I have gotten and super happy to announce we reached 112% of target = £563 = £642 including gift aid Woo Hoo 😀
THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU.
The list of people is to long to name here but you know who you are and I have not forgotten about you 😉
Also a huge thank you to Macmillan Cancer Support for the help you’re doing.
In the aftermath I have tried to start writing this post many times but the words escape me and when I’m busy searching for work and catching up on life it was all too easy to put it aside and while I happy with the small thing I have accomplished, it mostly leaves me a little lost and empty and I’m not satisfied just yet. I want to do more and try in my own little way to help battle cancer.
Please leave comments and questions below and I will get back to you in the coming days.
Dad I love you and miss you forever.