Tuesday, 3 September 2013

The Three Peaks Challenge - On top of the world!

After signing up to the Three Peaks Challenge, there’s a couple of questions you’re guaranteed to get asked by friends, family and colleagues alike. Perhaps the most common one I had, after I’d cleared up the confusion of what exactly the Three Peaks challenge is, was ‘WHY?’

There were a few points during the challenge when I asked myself much the same. After the long (very long!) trip to Glencoe, a few questionable service station toilets, a luxury coach inspiring some minibus envy from Rhian, and unfathomable amounts of Haribo consumed, all most of us really wanted to do was sleep. However, there was work to be done. With 25 miles of mountain walking on the horizon, there was food to be prepared…

'Tired but smiling at the thought of eating all this tomorrow... '

Everyone mucked in, and a rather haphazard production line churned out literally hundreds of bread rolls and countless boxes of pasta to keep us going. The next challenge we all thankfully completed successfully was not committing the ultimate social faux pas and snoring in a room full of our colleagues and friends.

After a few hours of sleep, we loaded ourselves up with carbs (and a few whiskey tasters at the visitors' centre), took a few nervous glances at the skyline and started our journey up Ben Nevis.

'Which way to Ben Nevis?'

Now, we all knew Ben Nevis was the longest of the three walks, but I don’t think any of us realised quite how long it was. The first half of the walk is relatively shallow, with lots of guessing which peak you’re actually heading towards, but once you’re past the waterfall the real climb begins. The ‘zig-zags' of Ben Nevis emerge out of the last of the foliage and towards the top third of the mountain, and I made the foolish mistake of counting how many we would have to overcome before the final stretch to the peak. For some, the reminder that there were '8… 7… Still 7… 6' zig zags left to climb was motivation, but I was left wishing I’d never looked at that map.

'Halfway there...'

 'The view from zig zag number 2, or was it number 3? I've lost count...'

But soon the zig-zags were done, and the last steep stretch to the top was in sight. Most of us couldn’t resist a quick snowball fight in the last remaining snow en route, but finally we reached the peak, and the view was worth all that walking.

'One down, two to go!'

The descent that followed flew by, and it was soon time to tuck into that food. Never did I think a Tropical Lucozade and a ham roll could make me so happy! A quick change and we were on our way to Scafell Pike…

For me, this was the most challenging part of the whole weekend. While everyone else dozed off, I couldn’t catch a wink on the bus. In the pitch black of a very early midsummer morning, we arrived at Wasdale Head. And so nine very tired climbers set off up England’s highest peak. 

As well as the darkness, the rain and the cold took hold on Scafell Pike, and the team split up towards the top as a couple of us pushed on in an attempt to warm up. We reached the top a little bit warmer, but missed out on the camaraderie and some terrific tears and tantrums towards the peak as we took our own little adventure.

In the midst of the cloud atop Scafell Pike, those of us who’d pushed decided to follow some fellow Three Peakers on their descent, only to discover they were taking a different route (and a fair bit quicker than we were too!). After a few panicked minutes emerging from the cloud we were on a different side of the mountain, trying to find our bearings. We’ll call our descent ‘the scenic route’, with an unplanned splash in the River Esk and a tantrum of my own to boot, but finally we saw some sign of life. The look on the Bed and Breakfast owner’s face when I explained we were lost and looking for Wasdale said 'I’ve seen it all before'. Somehow though, we rocked up at the bus first, and the Tropical Lucozade, rolls and pasta were lifesavers once again!

We were running behind schedule by now, and even an attempt at Snowdon was looking unlikely at one point, but after Rhian negotiated her way through a thundery Lake District and A55 all the way to Pen-y-pass, we decided to give it a crack. The Pyg Track was far and away my favourite of the three walks, but with night closing in and the elements taking hold, fellow walkers advised us it probably wasn’t safe to attempt the treacherous summit.

I should have been disappointed, but when Edwina offered me her hip flask to warm up and I heard Rhian utter the words ‘I’m on my way with pizza’ over the phone, the smile was quickly back on my face and I had the answer to that ‘WHY’ question we started out with. My legs hurt, there had been tantrums and tears, sweat, shivering and an impromptu splash in the river, but the laughter, the friends and the adventure will be hard to match. And the views weren’t bad either…

'On top of the world!'

Aaron Hill
Policy Assistant
Community Housing Cymru

The team raised over £1,600 for Diabetes UK. 


  1. It was a fantastic weekend. As we couldn't make Snowdon because of the weather I was inspired to try again which I achieved last weekend. Thanks to everyone who sponsored us my Grandson who is type 1 diabetic was very impressed by everyone's achievement.
    Sue Williams

  2. What a great achievement!! Well done to you all and Ed....I knew the hip flask wouldn't be left behind! Elaine Tate

  3. Great article Aaron - glad our nutella pics with Ed and Clair didnt make it on to the blog. It was an amazing weekend - one I will never forget. :-)

    Phillipa Knowles

  4. Don't ask why, ask why not!
    The blisters will heal but the memories will last forever.

    Unfinished Business.


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