Guest post by: Petrina Marks, Executive Assistant, WE-London
It seems like a distant memory, but back in September I successfully completed my Three Peaks challenge, a journey that took me from the Scottish Highlands to North Wales in barely more than 24 hours. If you think climbing the three highest peaks in the UK is a challenge, imagine climbing two of them in complete darkness, torrential rain and bracing wind!
My challenge began on Friday 10th September with a flight from London to Glasgow. We were met by the British Military Fitness team who put us on a bus to Fort William, where we were fully briefed, informed of our groups, introduced to our ML (Mountain Leader), fed and watered. Then it was on to the bus again to the youth hostel at the base of Ben Nevis, ready for our 4am ascent of Britain’s highest mountain.
At 3am on Saturday 11th just before we set off, all ten of our group were kitted-out with survival gear and head torches, leaving us with just enough time to snap a quick photo before heading out at 4am. First obstacle to climb was ‘heart attack hill’, which we had been told is like walking up 20 really steep flights of stairs in succession. Boy, did I feel it in my legs, but it warmed me up!
With the killer hill behind us, the path to the summit of Ben Nevis zigzagged upwards; even though it was dark, it was amazing to see the paths of torch lights weave skywards. You could feel the wind driving through you and the rain whipping your face as we got closer to the summit. We certainly needed all those warm fleecy layers! Finally, we reached the top in just under 2 hours 45 minutes and in seconds we were turning around and running over loose stone and shingle back down the mountain.
As we made our way down, the rain continued to make each step slippery and treacherous. I think coming down was worse than going up. I fell on my bottom five times, and even bent one of my walking sticks! But the camaraderie of everyone pulling together was great and even when I fell, there were plenty of people around to help me back to my feet.
We finished Ben Nevis in 5 hours 5 minutes, and in a flash we were back on the minibus and heading south to the Lake District, home to the glorious fells made famous by Alfred Wainwright on TV and in books.
The minibus journey gave us just enough time to change out of our wet gear, eat and get some shut-eye. Not such an easy feat in a confined space, but thankfully my group was made up of 10 ladies, so it wasn’t too embarrassing! Cocooning myself in my sleeping bag and listening to music helped me rest and recharge my batteries, ready for the next mountain.
At 3.30pm we arrived at the base of Scafell Pike with the sun shining brightly. Although tired, we leapt out of the minibus – as time was precious – and started our ascent. Winding up uneven stone paths and along the banks of a stream, we were told we would have to cross what was once a shallow ford. However, with all the recent wet weather the water was running high and fast over the rocks. We struggled with all our kit, but made it across by helping each other to the other side. Then it was up, up, up and as we approached the summit the path became rocky and loose underfoot. Just as you thought you were nearing the summit, there was another hill to climb, until finally we reached the top – hurrah! A quick photo opportunity and then we got on way back down again. We reached the bottom of Scafell in 4 hours 30 minutes – on target! We had time to grab a quick cuppa before we were whisked away on the bus to North Wales and Snowdon.
The mini bus arrived at the base of Snowdon at 01.30am Sunday. It was pitch dark again and drizzling. We pulled on our head torches and started the steep upward climb of Snowdon along the Pyg track. My legs weren’t long enough for the giant stone steps that make up the path, so I ended up dragging myself up with my walking poles! It was so dark on this mountain that even our ML lost the path a few times, which was fun in itself, as we were not allowed to turn back. Instead, we had to scramble and climb rock faces grabbing on to grass and rocks to pull ourselves up to a new path in the dark. Of course, this was also pretty scary sometimes, as you felt you were so close to the mountain edge, but we finally found the path again, breathing a sigh of relief!
As we approached the summit we were told it was pretty stormy on top and we needed warm weather clothes to keep us warm from the wind and rain. The wind there was really fierce – almost knocking you sideways – but we all kept together and made it to the top of Snowdon after a total time of 23 hours 45 minutes. The descent on Snowdon was really hard, but as we approached the base daylight was starting to break and everyone was in high spirits as we knew it was almost over; warm clothes and sweet cup of tea was waiting for us!
At 6.30am we had finally done it, conquered all three peaks in 26 hours! It was a tough, tiring journey, which left me pinching myself: it was surreal I’d accomplished such a thing. But it was worth it – I had made new friends, conquered my fears and fell in love with the great outdoors.
My greatest achievement is raising £2350 for Dreamflight – a charity that sends seriously ill and disabled children on holidays of a lifetime. Would I do it again? Yes, I would but in the middle of summer next time!
Thank you to all of you who helped me raise money by attending tea parties, ordering my cakes and sponsoring me, for what was the hardest and toughest challenge of my life so far. Now, what’s my next challenge?!
P.S. you can still donate until the end of November at http://www.justgiving.com/Petrina-Marks-3-Peaks-Challenge