Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Three Peaks: What it's like climbing three mountains in one day

A few months ago I signed up for the Three Peaks Challenge. Climbing the three highest mountains in England, Scotland and Wales was never something I really ever saw myself doing, but my friend suggested it and we decided to give it a go. 

Considering I hardly ever get round to going to the gym, and I've never done any endurance training, I was pretty impressed with my fitness. What I found most challenging was conquering my fears of falling off a cliff...

Ben Nevis

Ben Nevis

We tackled Ben Nevis first. We found this had the easiest route to follow and even though it was looooong and absolutely freezing, foggy and snowy at the top, this actually felt less terrifying than the others. The route was clear and zig zagged up the mountain but it was only near the very top that we started to struggle when some of the path was obstructed with snow. I was also not prepared for just how cold it would be! As we were so high up and surrounded by clouds and mist, there were no views from the top either. 

Scafell Pike 

Scafell Pike was next on our list. The path here was steep but it was satisfying to see how quickly we were climbing and to begin with the path was pretty easy. Nearer the top though we found ourselves traipsing over loose rock and what looked like a bomb site. There was no clear path at all here – we simply had to follow the cairns and at times they were quite hard to see. While the views over the lakes were gorgeous on the ascent, at the top we couldn't see anything as fog rolled in as we arrived. Luckily it passed quickly – just a few minutes was enough to feel completely disorientated.


Lastly we came to Snowdon. We'd been told this was the easiest mountain to climb – and as it's such a popular place to go hiking, we presumed this would be a nice way to finish off the challenge.

After climbing two mountains already and spending hours in the car, I was beginning to feel the pull in my legs and my feet were covered in blisters. Starting the last mountain was daunting but knowing how close we were to finishing pushed us forwards.

Start of the Miners' Track

We decided to follow the Miners' Track, having heard that this was slightly longer, but had a gentler ascent. It started fine – we followed the path around the lakes and it didn't feel like a climb. After an hour though it became very steep and I started to panic. Thank God I had good walking shoes – the path was very rocky, with times scrambling to climb up, and nearer the top, I found the side of the cliff way too close for comfort...

I was so relieved when we reached the tops and the views were absolutely breathtaking – by far the most amazing of all three. Standing there and taking it in was one of the most incredible feelings.

The descent took us quite a while and it definitely didn't help when a group passed and told us that one of their team had slipped over the edge and cracked her head. When we finally got down to the track by the lake I was beyond happy. 

Completing the challenge was one of the most rewarding experiences and I felt so proud of myself, especially as people had doubted that we could do it. We finished with a time of just over 26 hours (Ben Nevis 5 hours 45, Scafell Pike 4 hours 45, Snowdon 4 hours 55 and 11 hours driving) and I feel I've achieved something huge. I'm impressed that my fitness didn't let me down hiking 25 miles with serious lack of sleep, and that I was able to push aside my fears and keep going. It was the most amazing experience and I'm so pleased to have done it – but I can't face climbing any more mountains just yet.


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