7/4/2012 9:49:39 AM
3 Peaks Challenge - Mission Accomplished
On Saturday 30th June, 10 intrepid explorers - 9
ARM employees and 1 non-ARMer - took on the 3 peaks challenge; to
climb each of the highest peaks in Scotland, England and Wales
within 24 hours. This is their story.
The long journey north
At 9am on Friday, we all piled into the minibus and began the
long journey to a hotel in Fort William, Scotland. With a
restricted speed of 62mph, this was always going to be a tedious
journey. There is a very limited range of entertainment available
on a cramped minibus, piled high with gear, so we soon turned to
eye-spy and other such exciting games to pass the time. Some
listened to music, a few slept, whilst others discussed the merits
of Charlie’s £7 walking boots from Matalan.
Some 13 hours, a dinner stop and a few toilet breaks later, we
arrived at our destination with varying degrees of cabin fever,
tired but excited to begin the challenge in the morning.
i. Ben Nevis
We met at the minibus in the hotel car park at 7am, ready to
head off to Ben Nevis, where the challenge would start. At 7.45am,
we stood at the trail start, kitted up and ready to go. A press of
the stopwatch later, we set off up the path.
At the foot of Ben Nevis, ready
to begin the challenge
Ben Nevis is a beautiful mountain in a beautiful part of
Scotland and the views it afforded us on the way up were
staggering. We earned them mind you, with the path heading steeply
up to begin with, before flattening off for a section, and then
culminating in an arduous zig-zag all the way to the summit. The
group split up as people’s pace differed, but within approximately
3 hours, we’d all summitted the highest mountain in Scotland and
the highest point in the UK.
It was a strange experience to be walking across the snow which
sat at the summit, at the end of June! The weather was kind to us
though, as we stayed dry for the most part, save a couple of short
We had a target of 5 hours to complete the mountain, so the
descent was fast paced and needed to be completed in 2 hours. The
excitement of the downhill seemed to get the better of some of our
group, as they literally ran down some sections, enjoying the
effects of gravity. A couple of hours later, we were all back at
the minibus, having completed the mountain within the required 5
hours and having thoroughly enjoyed our first peak.
A quick change and food stop, and we were on our way again, sat
back in the minibus and heading for the Lake District.
At the summit of Ben
ii. Scafell Pike
The drive to the Lakes from Scotland was another tedious 5 hours
and 45 minutes. Most tried to grab some sleep, but the cramped
conditions and daylight made it difficult. We arrived at Scafell
Pike and were ready to take on the second peak at 8.30pm.
The climb up Scafell is tough, with no real change in the
gradient and what seems like a relentless slog to the top. All the
while, it was getting darker as the sun set and as we disappeared
into the cloud. It’s a very strange sensation to be climbing a
mountain as the sun sets, made all the more strange by the sheer
number of people on the mountainside with you. So many people take
on the 3 peaks challenge over the longest weekends of the year that
we must have passed 150 people on the way up and down.
The top section of Scafell is a boulder field which makes for
difficult walking, and in the fog, we relied on the cairns to guide
our way. We summitted around 10.30pm - stopped for a photo and
headed back down, out of the cold wind. Again, our group had split,
so in our small groups we carefully picked our way down the
mountain side, in the dark, guided by moonlight and/or head
torches. The descent was very tough on the knees as the unrelenting
gradient takes its toll. We had, however, been lucky with the
weather again and managed to stay dry.
By 11.30pm, most of our group were back, completing the mountain
in the required 4 hous. Half an hour later, the remaining few
arrived, having lost a member of our party on the mountain for a
while and then managing to find her again – a timely reminder of
the dangers in mountain climbing in the dark.
It was now on to Wales for the final assault, with another peak
On arriving in Snowdonia at some horribly early hour, we
realised our luck with the weather had run out – it was pouring.
Most people had managed to snatch a bit of sleep during the 5 hour
drive and had missed the fact that we had to take a diversion,
putting us behind schedule too.
Tiredness and grumpiness was now a real issue, as we had to get
all our wet weather gear on and tackle yet another mountain, having
had no breakfast, little sleep in the last 24 hours and with very
tired legs. We found some motivation from somewhere and headed off
into the rain. The Miners Track up Snowdon is very picturesque and
takes in a number of lakes. Luckily, it also starts with a couple
of miles of fairly flat path, allowing our legs to warm up ready
for the climb. When you reach the climb, it is just that, a wall of
rock which blocks your path, which you have to walk/scramble your
way up. Losing the path was very easy and we all went off-piste a
few times, negotiating waterfalls and scrambling here and
On the summit of Snowdon, the weather was wild, with horizontal
rain and gale force winds. Our group, now split into smaller
groups, charged for the top and straight back down again to get out
of the cold.
Wild weather at the Snowdon
The route down the mountain was enjoyable as the rain finally
abated, and we pushed for the finish. By this time we knew we had
no chance of making the 24 hours limit, but were again around the
time required to complete the mountain – 4 hours.
Finally, we convened at the cafe at the foot of Snowdon, tired,
wet through and delighted that we’d completed the challenge, even
if not within the 24 hour limit. As a group we had completed
excellent climb times but due to some traffic issues we
collectively ran over by several hours, but we checked in the rule
book, and as the traffic issues were out of our control I am
pleased to report we completed every mountain under the advised
3 peaks, bagged.
After a well-deserved, huge brunch, we headed home from
Snowdonia, tired and elated.
The journey home was a chance to reflect on what we’d achieved,
how much we’d enjoyed the experience, compare foot injuries and
enjoy the smell of 10 sweaty bodies in a confined space!
We arrived back at base, in Havant, at around 8.00pm. At this
point, a word for our drivers; two amazing ladies who gave up their
time to support our trip and were the real heroes of the piece.
Between them they drove for approximately 30 hours with very little
sleep. Without them, the challenge would never have happened – we
are extremely grateful for their contribution.
Finally, a huge thank you goes to all those who sponsored us and
helped raise money for the two very worthwhile charities we were
fundraising for – Make a Wish Foundation and MacMillan Cancer
Trust. It’s not too late if you’d like to contribute,
page can be found here.