I’m a runner by nature (actually not by nature, I am not a natural runner I just work really hard at it), and running can be a bit of a lonely venture, racing anyway. I’ve been wanting to take on a challenge that involved working as a team, and importantly, completing something with a group of friends. Not many of my friends enjoy running, so it had to be something different, and do-able by a range of athletic levels.
The Three Peaks Challenge is something I’d heard quite a lot about, and seemed like a fun adventure that would test all of our endurance levels (and friendships!). Plus a group of our guy friends had undertaken it, and if they can do, well so can we! None of us are mountain goats by any means, and had very little mountaineering experience, however with a Geography degree, and two geoggers A levels under our belts we were pretty sorted on the map reading front.
We started our 24 hour attempt to climb Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon at 5.54am on a Saturday morning in July, starting first with the highest, Ben Nevis, and were back at the car at 5.36am on Sunday morning having descended Snowdon just as the sun was rising. Lots of people begin their adventure with a 4pm climb, however we chose to start in the morning after a good nights sleep, and don’t regret that at all.
Not everything went to plan, as is to be expected on any decent adventure so here are my top 5 tips for beginners taking on the Three Peaks Challenge, so they can avoid these potential pitfalls.
1. GET THE RIGHT POSTCODES– do this before you even leave the comfort of your house rather than scrabbling around on your phone, trying to find signal and search for the postcode for the next mountain. We failed to do this, ended up going to a totally different starting point for Scafell Pike (the place we wanted to be was an hour away) and had to climb a different route. It added a lot of unnecessary stress to the situation. Additionally, be aware that the Sat Nav in cars isn’t always right- bring a back up print out of your directions and local maps to be on the safe side.
2. BE PREPARED FOR ANY WEATHER– during our challenge we encountered 30 degree heat on Ben Nevis, torrential rain, hail, thunder and lightening on Scafell Pike, and snow at the top of Snowdon (how fitting!). We brought more clothes than we needed, and carried extra layers in our backpacks, having been advised to ‘start cold, you will get warmer’. With that said, it does get cold at the summit, and you work up less of a sweat thundering down the mountain than you do powering up it, so bring an extra layer that you can throw on if it gets a bit chilly. I brought a coat with me that I only wore for about an hour of the entire trip, but I was so glad to have it with me for that hour!
3. HAVE A DESIGNATED DRIVER– I know some people think that part of the challenge is to take it in turns to drive. I just don’t think this is necessary, or worth it. I loved getting in the car knowing I could nod off for the entire journey between mountains without having to stay awake to keep someone entertained or to wait for my turn. It was great not really having to worry about directions, petrol or you know, the actual driving.
4. FUEL– Bring a wide selection of snacks with you, both to keep in the car and to bring with you up the mountain. I recommend a large variety, including both sweet and savoury- you never know what will sound good to your stomach in the pitch black at 2.30am halfway up a mountain. I would never think to eat a jam sandwich in normal life, yet they were my ultimate snack throughout the challenge. Keep hydrated; we all used hydration packs to drink little and often.
5. KNOW WHEN TO ADMIT DEFEAT-sometimes it’s scarier to admit that you can’t do something, rather than pushing on regardless. The mountains, and in particular the weather, are unpredictable, and situations can change fast. Knowing when to admit defeat, and turn back or change your plans can be crucial to your safety. Climbing on a bright sunny day is one thing, walking through thick fog, pouring rain and darkness is another. Bring a headtorch and safety equipment but be prepared that you may not complete the challenge. During our trip we reached a point about 1km from the top of Scafell Pike, but knowing that sunset was fast approaching, the weather was turning, and there were sheer rock faces to negotiate, we made a judgement with our heads rather than hearts and turned back for home. It turned out to be the best decision of the weekend.
The best piece of advice I could give you- be prepared and make sure you enjoy it!
You can read more about my Three Peaks adventure on my blog www.therunnerbeans.co.ukhttp://www.therunnerbeans.co.uk/2014/07/the-three-peaks-challenge.html