This adventure should have been renamed ‘The 3 misty peaks challenge’ or the ‘invisible summit slog’ as despite the time of year it was anything but sunny.
Sadly, due to a bereavement, Yuki’s was unable to do the challenge with us, so Gordon, Morgan and myself were left to under take the challenge.
It is Thursday evening and after a 10 hour haul up the motoways to Glasgow we were then treated to a more pleasing array of vistas up the side of Loch Lomond and through Glen Coe toFort William. However, the heavy showers in the latter part of the journey did little to lift the spirits for the days ahead. After stocking up with energy bars, fruit and pasta salads we headed for the Ben Nevis visitors centre to check conditions for the following day. ‘ Dreich’ was the verdict (feel free to look this up on the internet). We headed back to the pub to stuff our faces with high carb food and then retired to the hotel next door.
It was a 6 o’clock wake up call for a 7 o’clock start. We were the second car in the car park, the first one still had some sleeping occupants, well I think they were asleep! Off we set, with any view of Ben Nevis obscured by the mountain in front. The air was fresh and the path clearly visible, we embarked on our challenge at 07:02. As we rounded the first mountain, we were greeted with splendid view of Ben Nevis, well we would have if it wasn’t shrouded in low cloud. It wasn’t long before we entered the cloud and started a series of long switchbacks that take us to a plateau and a shallower trek to the summit. Visibility was bad and we were encountering many people coming down from the summit warning us of the snow ahead, SNOW! It’s summer for heaven’s sake! The odd thing about walking in such low visibility, is you have no idea how well you are doing until you get to the top, and this is strangely anti-climatic when the summit appears out of the gloom.
High fives and photographs of the moment were taken, until it finally dawned on us that is was very cold and we had nothing to gain by hanging around, as spectacular views were reserved for the deranged optimist only.
The descent was harder on the bodies and with Morgan leaping from rock to rock like the beggar out of ‘The Life of Brian’, it could only going to end in tears. The clicking of Gordon’s walking poles re-assured us that he was still right behind us, but it did sound like his was knitting and that we would be presented with some commemorative scarves on our arrival at the bottom. Alas, this was not to be, but we were back in the car park at 13:10, over 6 hours after we started.
Quick change and food intake, we climbed back in the car for the 5.5 hour trip down to Wasdale Head in the Lake District. Well 5.5 hours according to Google, over 7 hours to us. Despite a hold up in Glasgow, it is hard to see how you could make the journey any quicker. In Cumbria, we were greeted with clear Lakeland views but then the disturbing news that the Wasdale Head Inn kitchen will close in 10 minutes, so we will save our sightseeing until tomorrow.
Sightseeing, yeah right! It was 5 a.m. and raining, cloud cover was at about 200m, Cricket! This was far from that, by jove.
To ensure we had daylight throughout the two walks on the second day we had to aim at starting the walk at 5 a.m. Morgan’s knee was strapped and Tiger Balmed after the pounding it got the day before, but soon warmed up and he was off, leading us the second leg of this task.
We skirted around the outside of Lingmell Fell and joined up with the main track for Scafell Pike. Despite our early start, it became apparent that it wasn’t early enough for some people and we were passing people who had started at 2 a.m.
Scafell Pike is very rocky and in parts difficult to navigate in low visibility. Wastwater was soon obscured by the low cloud to give us no reference to our progress up the mountain. Occasionally though, the cloud would lift to reveal a steep rock face just to remind us that this wasn’t called a challenge for nothing.
The summit was reached in quite good time and unlike all the warning of freezing winds, it was surprisingly calm at the top, however, visibility was low and again there seemed little point in hanging around after some photographic proof was taken of our first mission of the day.
Despite the rain, the journey down was not as slippery as it looked and with Morgan reigned in from his rock hopping antics we made a steady descent back into Wasdale. The comforting sight of Wastwater eerily emerged in front of us to guide us back to bottom of the valley.
I don’t know what to think of people who do walk up these mountains in jeans and training shoes. No, actually I do, they’re stupid!
We left Wasdale Head and travelled across country against the advice of our calm Sat Nav, who’s choice of routes is sometimes beyond comprehension.
2 down, snow down to go, sorry, bad pun! We made a short stop at a service station, where the occupants of the nearby Little Chef, probably thought we had just come from a rodeo as we swaggered uncomfortably across the garage forecourt.
As we entered Wales and dropped down into Snowdonia National Park a CD of guitar legends broke into the familiar chords of Status Quo track. My thoughts turned to Tony, my brother-in-law, who loved the Quo and insisted on seeing them every year. Tony lost his life to heart disease at Christmas and this was the inspiration for doing the 3 Peaks and raising money for the British Heart Foundation.
We arrived at Pen-Y-Pass after 4 p.m. and fortunately caught a car load of walkers who were about to leave, they even gave us their parking ticket, what nice chaps.
Final peak, tired legs, knitting needles ready, go! Off we went up the Pyg Track which rises steeply and then appears at a ridge overlooking
Snowdon and guess what! It is covered in cloud, what a surprise. It evened out and this was good, except we weren’t getting any higher, then the main push up to another ridge, this was very hard on the legs. We emerged on the ridge by the railway and met the full force of the wind cutting across the top. We had another 10 minute climb to the top, quick picture, and back to the safety of the side of the mountain out of the wind. We had a break here and considered the job done, because even if we met with an unfortunate accident, at least someone else would carry us down. We took the Miners Track back, which was a flatter route back, but seemed to take forever to get back to the car park. It was 9.15 p.m. the cloud was low and it was raining and cold. The challenge was over, or was it? We still had to get to Bangor in 25 minutes to get some food before the restaurant shut. Did we? Well that is another story.
As it Happened
|June 18 07:10|
|Left St. Albans, heading for Fort William|
|June 18 17:53|
|Arrived in Fort William. Would have got here quicker if Mick hadn’t forgot his waterproofs…derrr!|
|June 19 07:02|
|The challenge begins-Ben Nevis ascent|
|June 19 10:40|
|Reached summit. We had to walk through snow-has no one told Scotland that it is summer.|
|June 19 13:10|
|Back at car. Off to Wasdale|
|June 19 20:04|
|Arrived in Wasdale Head|
|June 20 05:55|
|Started ascent Scafell Pike|
|June 20 08:47|
|Arrived at summit|
|June 20 11:07|
|Back at car-it was very wet with cloud cover at 250m. Off to Snowdon|
|June 20 16:26|
|Ascent begins of Snowdon|
|June 20 18:59|
|Summit reached. It is wet here too, what is wrong with the weather.|
|June 20 21:13|
|Challenge completed. Well done boys and thanks to everyone for your support and donations. Off for a beer now.|
Statistics from the challenge
|Challenge miles driven|
|469 miles (755km)|
|Challenge driving time|
|Ben Nevis to Scafell Pike6 hrs 56 minsScafell Pike to Snowdon5 hrs 19 mins|
|Challenge miles walked|
|21.83 miles (35.13km)|
|Challenge walking time|
|Ben Nevis 6 hrs 8 minScafell Pike 5 hrs 12 minsSnowdon 4 hrs 47 mins|
|Challenge heights reached|
|Ben Nevis 1344mScafell Pike 978mSnowdon 1085m|
|38 hours 11 mins (Gross)|
|28 hours 20 mins (Net)|
|Total miles driven|
|1243 miles (2000km)|