Diary of the Three Peaks Challenge

On 1 July 2017 a team of eight members from Chelmsford Cricket Club completed the highly demanding Three Peaks Challenge, raising money for Helen Rollason Cancer Charity and Chelmsford Cricket Club. 

The three peaks challenge is a race against the clock to climb Ben Nevis (4,409 ft) in the Scottish highlands, Scaffell Pike (3,210 ft) in England`s Lake district  and Mount Snowdon (3,560 ft) in North Wales within 24 hours. 

Here, team member Michael O’Brian shares his diary from the challenge…

Saturday

Breakfast down, bladders emptied, we set off for Scotland. In total it took around 10-11 hours to reach the location of our first climb – Fort William.  

That night following a substantial dinner in The Locky Pub and we paid a visit to the Ben Nevis bar for refreshments and live music before heading back to our beds at the hostel (some time later).…

Sunday

Our challenge was not due to begin until 12pm that afternoon and being a small Scottish town, there is not a lot to do in Fort William.  With the best part of the 4 hours we had to kill, we headed for the five outdoor stores that Fort William had to offer. This took care of a whole 30 minutes, leaving us with three and a half hours to re-visit them again in reverse order. 

After breakfast, time went fairly quickly and with 12pm approaching fast, we were all getting anxious. For the hour or two before, we visited Tesco’s and Morrison’s to buy last minute chocolates, sweets and red bull drinks. 

While kitting up at around 11:30 am, we made the decision to set off earlier than the recommended 12pm time, thus avoiding other teams and the weather who may potentially hold us back or whom we may become stuck behind. We hit the track for our first peak at 11:45. 

START OF THE CHALLENGE

4:10 pm – Ben Nevis, Alt 4,409ft

Being the highest of the three peaks, Ben Nevis involved a trek of around eight miles in total. We were unfortunate enough to encounter bad weather for our climb and therefore navigating ‘The Ben’ was an issue. In bad weather this mountain can be a mountain rescue hot spot, for example in 1999 there were 41 rescues and four fatalities on the mountain. Navigation to and from the summit can be the most tricky in poor conditions due to the three sheer drops surrounding it! At around three quarters of the way up we were met by -5 low clouds approx. 1000m of climbing. 

On arrival back at the mini bus, Bob had the army ration pack meals in boiling water ready for us to eat. Hot meals, a cup of coffee and some fruit cake later we were back in the mini bus heading for Cumbria. It has taken us just over four and half hours to climb and descend Ben Nevis. 

It was a five and a half hour drive from Nevis, Scotland to the start point of Scafell Pike in the Lake District. Along the way, we would all try to grab an hour or so sleep.  Bob made great time on the journey allowing us to arrive just behind our planned ETA and ready to begin the next climb. Unfortunately, none of us managed any more than a quick hour or so nap therefore we all felt pretty groggy at 1.40am. Arriving to a cold and dark Wasdale car park, we made ready to climb the highest peak in the Lake District. I thought as we left that it was going to be tough navigating by head torch –but we did fine and pressed on in good spirits!

Scafell Pike – Alt 3,209 feet

About half the way up, we could see that the summit was concealed by clouds with a brisk northerly wind picking up the higher and more exposed we became – however, this was doing wonders in waking me up! All too soon the sun was at a good level to provide sufficient light to continue safely to the summit without head torches. We all donned our layers for the final 1,000ft or so. It had taken us two hours 24 minutes to reach the summit of Scafell, which meant we were on schedule and set up nicely for the descent and drive to Snowdon.

On the way down, we were all pleased with ourselves as we looked forward to a hot all-day breakfast ration pack meal, once again kindly heated up for us by Bob, our legendary driver.

Now it was time for Snowdon and the end seemed to be in sight at this point. We were all exhausted. Our limbs and joints were in agony and there was still another four and a half hours drive to Snowdon as well as the climb of the most popular mountain in Wales.  Once again, we all tried to grab some shut eye but once again, we all failed miserably (except me).

When we arrived at Snowdon, we had exactly four and a half hours to complete the climb to meet our challenge. 

Snowdon – Alt 3,560 feet

There are two conventional tracks up to the summit of Snowdon for this challenge. You can either take the Miners Track or the Pyg Track. They both meet prior to the zigzag ascent up to the summit and are by far the quickest routes up to this point.  

We reached the summit of Snowdon in less than two hours leaving us just over two hours to get back down and make the 24 hour mark! Things looked good! Going down was, although tougher on the joints, quicker than going up after all!!! 

We successfully descended Snowdon on Monday afternoon, exactly 21 hours and 25 minutes since we set off to climb Ben Nevis, 400+ miles away in Scotland!!

In total, we had covered over 1,200 driving miles, over 21 miles on foot and just under 10,000 feet of ascents up the 3 highest mountains in England, Scotland and Wales. All in under 24 hours and all for Helen Rollason and Chelmsford cricket club! We had done it, we had succeeded.

For me, the unsung hero of the whole challenge was Bob, our driver. A truly top bloke. Not once did he show any sign of negativity or fatigue and he always remained level headed throughout. He prepared our meals for when we came off the mountains and made up great time on the drive from Scotland. Without the driver it would have never been possible and so I cannot thank him enough!                           

3 PEAKS CHALLENGE 2017 CLIMBERS

Alistair Fergus              Neil Scotcher 

Carl Page                       Mick O’Brien

Chris Pearce                  Russell Rickett

David Hutchinson          Bob King

Please, please, please, take a minute to visit my just giving page and help us reach our target for such an amazing charity! It’s quick and easy to donate.

https://www.justgiving.com/Michael-O-Brien20

Thank you for reading! 

Mick