Aspin take on Three Peaks challenge
It takes some organisation to get people up a mountain, safely. It takes even more to get them up three mountains within 24 hours – something which Aspin attempted last week.
Nathan, Mike, Andy, Lizzi and Chris left Romsey on Thursday afternoon to embark on such a feat. With a people carrier full of flapjack and rucksacks, the challenge had begun – indeed the travelling was as much an endurance test as the climbing at times. Checking in at a Premier Inn near Wigan gave everyone a decent night’s sleep before the drive to Scotland on Friday morning.
Friday dawned, spirits were good – probably because we had no idea of what was to come. Touching down in Fort William mid-afternoon, it was a quick dash into Morrisons for the final provisions (if you read any blogs on this challenge, they all mention this’s supermarket – it’s clearly part of everyone’s trip). We arrived at the Ben Nevis car park around 4pm (“so you can all have an epic faff”, declared Andy, our patient driver) for an epic faff. The idea is to prepare your kit ready for when you arrive back at the car – things like clean clothes, ear plugs, blankets, more flapjack… so that you can get straight on the road again for the next mountain.
We lined up for a team photo before setting off for Ben Nevis at 4:45pm on Friday afternoon. Everyone was in a fine mood and the sun was shining. This was going to be a breeze! We paced ourselves and reached the top of Ben Nevis for a foggy photo – however we couldn’t complain about the weather at the top after ascending in glorious sunshine. Coming down was quick with the walking poles (a must!) and we wondered if all mountains would be like this as many had advised how hard it would be on our knees. Fast forward some hours and we would realise quite how comfortable Ben Nevis was and how hard the challenge would become.
Back at the car, we had a minor faff and were away within 20 minutes. Andy had boiled water for hot drinks which was lovely and we all cosied under our blankets to try and get some shuteye. We all achieved that light euphoric sleep against the faint sound of the radio for a couple of hours and all came round ready for the comfort break at Gretna services. ‘Coming to’ completely was a low point, the reality of the challenge hits you at this point as it’s 3am, and there is a long road ahead. The climbers and driver were cordial but quiet – we perked up with some coffee at Starbucks and Lizzi found time for some stretches on the coffee shop tiles so all was not lost. We all agreed we’d stay awake until the Lake District now to get psyched for the second climb and arrived in daylight at Wasdale Point, Scafell.
There were many mini buses in the car park – including a team of gentlemen who had just descended by 5am. We just could not compete with that! With sore joints and optimism, we started our climb with strict instructions from Andy to be back in 4 hours as recommended by other Three Peak blogs. Yessir! Having a driver to keep you in step is important and to remind you that it’s not just the climbers that suffer with fatigue – Andy still had some serious miles to cover and needed to rest. Scafell was by far the most difficult climb, there was almost no gradual ascent, the gradient suddenly increased and took no prisoners. We felt as if we were heaving our bodies up, wincing with each step up. I can only describe the pain as having weights attached to your hip and knee joints as you climb. We appeared to moving slowly – you’ll read shortly that we were obviously moving faster than we realised. As we overtook other climbers, got overtaken and passed by descenders, there was a general consensus that Scafell was a real blighter.
Very close to the peak, we passed a young lady nearly in tears as her male counterpart encouraged her to down her rucksack and climb up the trigpoint. Thankfully there were no tears from the Aspin boys or girl, but boy that lady make my bottle lip go when I heard her let out a sob. We reached the top and has the trigpoint to ourselves, sat down had an apple and took some photographs. Feeling mentally good but physically exhausted, we started down the mountain. Lizzi decided at this point she never wanted to set foot on Scafell ever again – no matter how breathtaking the views were. We arrived at the van at 9am on the nose – delighted with our time and feeling severely jaded. It was hard to organise food, drinks, toilet breaks and changing of clothes and we just felt knackered and confused as we hunted for more flapjack.
Back on the road, the van was quiet as we chugged up and down dale across the lakes. Lack of sleep, physical exertion and a diet of high energy foods (nut bars, apples, flapjack, banana bread etc.) was making us all feel a little dicky. Gradually, eyes began to shut for a little relief from it all. By midday, we had all begun to wake up again and were feeling chipper and enthusiastic for Snowdon. The thought of this being the final climb really spurred us on.
It was chaos at the Snowdon car park with no space to be dropped off and we were moved on by the car park attendants. For any highly competitive groups, this would have been a real set back for the timing as it probably ate 20 minutes of our time as we drove off to find a layby to make sure we were ready to jump out as we drive back to the car park. We shot off onto the Miners Track at great speed, determined to be back at the car for 6:45pm. This would mean we would have completed the challenge in 26 hours however, with the searing pain in our joints, we were doubtful we would be up and down in 4 hours but we put our best foot forward. The first part of the route was flat and we walked fast, loosening our joints and enjoying the sunshine. Day trippers meandered with their children and dogs, 3 peakers were easier to spot – they look knackered and were trying to maintain speed.
On reaching the gorgeous lake at the foot of Snowdon, we were faced with a reasonable scramble up the rock face and it looked mighty vast. The only way forward was to concentrate on the three feet in front of you rather than gaze up at the sheer enormity of the mountain. We never felt we couldn’t do it as we knew that we would, but rather we questioned HOW we were going to do another mountain after all we’d been through. Somehow the pain from climbing seemed less than it did on Scafell and we moved upwards slowly and steadily. It was reassuring to meet climbers we’d seen several times over the last 24 hours – knowing they had experienced much of the same glee, pain, optimism, despair and joy that we had. We cracked jokes and compared experiences as we passed and wished each other luck. We finally reached the top, feeling a bit dazed but happy to have reached the final peak – we took a few photos, enjoyed the beautiful views of Snowdonia and started to climb down. We took the Pyg Trail back to the car, feeling extremely excited to have nearly finished and dreaming of that big white hotel beds that awaited us in Betws-y-Coyd. Had we nearly done it? Could we almost say, “Three Peaks? Yeah, we did that.” It was a delicious feeling, we broke a jog on the last 5 minutes back to the car and there were high fives all round! We completed the challenge in 26 hours. Three Peaks!! We were away from the car park within minutes and off for a shower, food and bed. Hurrah!
That evening, there was a very happy feeling – poor Andy was exhausted, having clocked up over 1000 miles – it is extremely hard going on the driver too. We ate, giggled deliriously and had all passed out shortly after 10pm. The following morning after breakfast, we strolled to the Welsh Cake kiosk and stocked up on freshly baked goods for ourselves and for one or two lucky fathers (it was Fasther’s Day).
If you were thinking about doing Three Peaks, we say, go for it! Walk regularly for 6 months+ before hand, do some hill climbs and descends to get your hips and knees used to the sensation, pack lots of flapjack and know that you will make it even when you feel you can’t go on. We are very proud of ourselves and would like to say a big thank you to Andy for getting us to our destinatins safely.