Almost nine months ago, four of us girls agreed to complete the National Three Peaks Challenge together as a solo event. The four were Jodi, based in Woking, Jenny in Wraysbury, Sarah in Hampshire and me in Rickmansworth. This meant that we had to organise the logistics, travel, routes, map reading, food, training, accommodation, safety ourselves. With no help from anyone - and particularly not the men in our lives!
On the 30th June 2015, that day come about - suddenly it was upon us, it seemed in the blink of an eye. Where had those nine months gone???
That being said, we had had three training weekends together - Snowdon in November, Devon in Feburary and lake District in April. We planned our routes on each mountain (except Ben Nevis - logistics a bit difficult), we organised the travel arrangements, and found ourselves a driver - Vanessa Fresstone, Army Major & friend. We made kit lists, gave out job roles and felt as prepared as we could be.
Training-wise, all four of us are pretty fit anyway, having rowing together 10 years ago, the desire to do fun stuff outdoors never left us. However, a bit of extra hill runs and a few more leg-strengthening exercises didnt do us any harm.
Fly to Glasgow on Tuesday 30th June evening, stay at an airport hotel then collect our minibus at 1030 the following morning.
Drive to Fort William, get last minute supplies and start walking the base of Ben Nevis at 6pm.
Go as fast as possible for the next 18 hours in every aspect of the challenge, and end at the bottom of Snowdon at midday.....
Tuesday evening, M25 closed. Boiling hot day
Sarah and Jodi on the Gatwick express were delayed by 40mins, and nearly missed their flight - rail tracks were too hot for the trains
Jenny got stuck on the M25 going to gatwick and missed her flight.
Wednesday morning, Jenny gets the 0730 flight to Glasgow and is completely knackered after no sleep.
I get a phonecall from the Easirent, the carhire company, telling me our booked vehicle was involved in a crash and not available for us!
Finally at 1130 we collect a 7-seater MPV which ends up being far more luxurious than our minibus would have been, and we are on our way.
A good two hours to Fort William on the hottest day of the year, with thunderstorms & lightening forecast that night, just in time for our ascent of Ben Nevis. Stunning scenery all around, snow on the top of the mountains, feeling nervous!
We eat a solid pub meal, stock up with way too much food from Morrisons (porridge, crisps(!?), bananas, nuts, blueberries, caffeine & chocolate for Ness, baby wipes and god knows what else!
We get to the carpark at the bottom of Ben Nevis, to be met with a howling wind whilst we try to sort our kit out in the carpark - essentially emptying the contents of the MPV onto the tarmac and making some sense out of kit & food.
Basically we had food for each mountain:
1. Hot meal for when we got down, with water boiled by Ness ready in flasks in position in the vehicle for us to reconstiute our dehdrated chilli, hotpot, curry, whatever our preference whenever we were ready.
2. Recovery drink for some of us to have as soon as we got in the van.
3. Cereal or porridge-type meal for an hour before ascent of the next mountain, to be had in the van.
4. All other snacks as required were either in our pockets, rucksacks or in place in the van.
Clothes were bagged according to the mountain so we could just take off sweaty stuff and put clean straight on.
Ness was in charge of organising us generally & did a stirling job!
Wed 17.02.57 - Ben Nevis
We start climbing Ben Nevis, despite warnings from people coming down telling us its really windy and ligthening is forecast!
With only techical t-shirts, leggings & Salomon running shoes (plus small rucksacks with emergency kit & water), it feels very warm & we head off an a quick pace.
An hour in, Sarah is overheating & feels sick. We have to slow right down, throw water over her & cool her down. The walk is pretty straightforward & a well marked path, we finally came to the snow and the summit. As expected, there were a few others there doing the challenge. Took pics/vid & headed straight down.
Descent wasn't as quick as hoped due to rocky underfoot but we made it in 3.40.59.
No rain. Almost perfect weather conditions.
Immediately into van.
Jodi & I at the back are immediately changed, baby-wiped down and eating our food before the other two have sat down!
Eye-pads & ear plugs in I try to get sleep asap.
Not so easy for the others, with Jenny suffering carsickness and having to stop at the side of the road to vomit, and Sarah still suffering the effects of heatstroke & unable to eat properly.
Massive thunder & lightening storm on the way to scafell & a tough drive for Ness as we get to the next mountain for 2am. Thank god she's trained to survive on lack of sleep!
Little bit of time lost, getting to the wrong start point at Wasdale head, but it meant that those needing the loos got to go!
Head Torches almost the whole way up.
Cloud cover from halfway & navigation very difficult.
Only on the way down did we admit to being a little nervous that we might easily have got lost on the way up- as we navigated by cairns and occasionally couldn't see an thing in any direction....
Again wearing only t-shirts and running leggings, Scafell was the only mountain we felt cold on; cold enough that our hands didn't work properly on the way down, proving difficult to get lycra leggings back up after a wee-stop!
This is 3 of us at the top of Scafell...Jodi is taking the pic
Its slow coming down - partly due to the rocky surface underfoot and our plan of running down the grassy slopes to the side of the path had to be aborted due to the wetness of the ground.
Completed and back down in 2.46.36hrs.
Straight into the van, same routine, try and get some sleep.
Mainly cat-napping due to windy roads, lack of comfort sleeping in a van & now daylight!
Quick loo-stop before ascending the final mountain. With 2 hours spare. We knew we could do this.
Started well, running on the flats & fast walking on the hills.
Soon realised Sarah was stil suffering, hadn't really eaten for the last 16 hours and had no energy. Our final mountain was slow & steady, but we could see our target dissapearing before our eyes as Sarah became more and more exhausted.
Whilst we suggested we go ahead and make the 18 hours, it was a team effort so we did it together. Again (third ascent of Snowdon) it was cloudy at the top with no views at all!!
We ran down the Llanberris track with the most painful quads I have ever had, and finally got to the bottom 2.30.5 after we started, completing the challenge in 18.33.1.
With a final backwards walk down the road (quads screaming way too much to walk forwards!) to meet Ness in the van, we made our way to Llandberris for some proper food - if you can call sausage sandwich, omelette & chips, cheese toastie 'proper'!
After checking into our B&B, sorting out our minging kit, we were showered & having a well-needed afternoon snooze before dinner at 6pm.
The final day was an early start, drive to Birmingham to drop off the MPV, and go our separate ways on the train home.
A fab time, spent with amazing friends, and all four of us spent the next four days struggling to walk down stairs and sit on the loo!!!
We have raised over £1000 for The Peace Hospice, so thankyou to everyone that has sponsored us, proivided mental courage and picked us up from train stations....Also thanks to our boyfriends, husbands, partners who have listened to our endless planning, stayed virtually silent through our deliberations, taken the piss out of our poor map reading & navigational skills, and ignored our random talk about food & training.