“What’s that?” I asked my close friend when invited on the Three Peaks Challenge. She smiled, and described the harrowing adventure at my feet; a 1300 mile round trip to climb Britain’s three tallest peaks, Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike, and Snowdon, in only 24 hours.
I had second thoughts, but once told we’d take a slower pace of three days, I signed up, and enjoyed a relaxed atmosphere with time to take-in Britain’s beautiful scenery.
Our group of ten met in a convoy of three cars in Gloucester and traveled three and a half hours to Snowdon. Not only did we take a day for each climb, we climbed in reverse order, allowing us to meet locally before working our way to the climactic feat of Ben Nevis.
We started our hike an extra twenty minutes downhill as the small car-park at Snowdon was full. Our team were of different abilities, meaning some dashed ahead, whilst others, myself included, could take our time.
Snowdon was fairly gentle with a nice view of the lake below and seagulls attempting to steal our snacks. Unfortunately, thick mist meant we couldn’t see much at the summit, but warm cups of tea at the indoor visitor’s center soon took our minds off the drab weather.
We drove that afternoon to Keswick in the Lake district, staying at a YHA hostel on the river, and took pictures of the setting sun over the quaint town before pizza and a few beers.
I assumed Scafell, being the smallest peak, would be easier to climb, but its constantly steep sections made it the most intense of all three. It was worth it for the beautiful views of the valley and the babbling path-side river, which I dunked my head in a few times to refresh.
We reached a plateau atop the hills and soon found ourselves unable to see more than a few feet in front of us. Wide gaps appeared between slippery rocks and looked sure to snap our ankles should we misplace our feet. We lost sight of the cairns, the mounds of rocks we had been following, and took a wrong turn up a steep boulder field, and had to turn back.
Eventually, after trial and error, and a steep scramble, we found the path to the summit. We were once again cheated for a view, and had no visitors center to warm us. I was ready to sleep when we reached the bottom, and was glad for the drive to rest my tender legs.
Scotland made the trip worthwhile. We passed through Glasgow, admiring the architecture, before the winding roads of Loch Lomond. We stayed in Fort William at a hotel opposite the loch, and were blessed by sunshine and clear views. I felt I was on an alpine skiing holiday, and was both excited, and apprehensive of the final climb.
I was tired after five minutes, and the long, winding path went on forever. I stopped at a waterfall to admire the grassy slopes, and a set of campers who had braved sleep on the plateau. I felt a surge of childish wonder as I trudged the snow lined path to the summit, and enjoyed clear views of the Scottish Landscape: a fine reward for completing the challenge. It’s only then I realized I still had to get down, and rain had started to fall.
At first it felt taking three days was cheating, but in the end, I got to climb each peak in day-light, and even though the mist stole our summit view twice over, the views from the path and from inside the van on the road trip were spectacular. It was also great to meet new people. I barely knew any of my team mates before the hike, but afterwards, had been invited to Gloucester for drinks, and a chance to take part in any future challenges.