Climbing for a Cause: Conquering the 24hr National 3 Peaks Challenge for Mind UK
Joe from our Paraplanning team, accompanied by two friends, Callum and Harry, recently completed the 24hr National 3 Peaks Challenge for Mind UK. Here he shares the story of their adventures….
The whole idea started in a local pub around Christmas time when I shared with a group of friends that I intended on attempting the National 3 Peaks Challenge and was in search of a driver. (Foolishly) not wanting to miss out on the action, Callum and Harry were soon recruited on to the challenge and before we knew it, a training plan was in place, a fundraiser had been launched and a date set for 9th June 2023 – the 24hr 3 Peaks Challenge was born!
We decided we were going to use the opportunity to raise money for Mind – The Mental Health Charity, a cause that is close to the hearts of all three of us. Mind are an amazing charity that carry out incredible work to make sure that no one has to face a mental health problem alone.
There were plenty of practice hikes across the Peak District and the Yorkshire and Derbyshire Dales in the lead-up to the challenge, even enduring a wet and windy hike up to the top of England’s third-highest peak, Helvellyn, as part of our training. For anyone that has climbed Helvellyn, you will know just how steep it is, and it was on completing this climb in particular that it hit home just how much of a challenge we were taking on. But, not to be deterred, the training commenced…
On the morning before the challenge began, having crammed what seemed like hundreds of bags and cool boxes into the boot of our vehicle, we set off for the long drive up to Fort William. The plan was to arrive in Fort William early in the evening, grab a bite to eat and a few hours sleep, and start around 5:00am the following morning. We would then climb Ben Nevis as the sun rose, head to Scafell Pike for around lunch time before heading down to Wales to complete Snowdon and finish the challenge, all inside 24 hours – what could go wrong?
The drive to Ben Nevis is a long one to say the least, and took us around eight hours in total, but the views as you travel through the beautiful landscapes around Loch Lomond and the Glencoe Valley certainly make up for it!
We woke around 4:00am and began our climb up Ben Nevis just before 5:00am. Spirits were high and the obligatory photos were, of course, taken as we set off up the mountain track, but Ben Nevis is a mountain that lets you know of its imposing nature right from the off, and it was clear very early on this wasn’t going to be a morning stroll!
Strangely for Scottish weather, the skies were clear all the way up and down Ben Nevis, however we were somewhat surprised to find we would have to climb through a passage of snow around one hundred meters for the summit, which set the nerves on edge. We made it to the summit, and back down, in one piece and with morale still high after a successful start, set off for the Lakes…
The long drive to Seascale gave us plenty of opportunity to recoup energy and load up on the all-important carbs. The afternoon sun was beaming for the entire drive to Scafell Pike, helping keep at bay any apprehension about the impending climb up the mountain that everyone had suggested could be the toughest, despite being the smallest of the three.
We arrived at Scafell Pike around 4:00pm after a few road delays and set straight on with our next
climb. Despite morale being high at the start, it soon began to wane as the exhaustion from the summer sun beating down on us took its toll. Running on just a couple of hours broken sleep on the drive, continuing up Scafell Pike became less of a physical feat and much more of a mind-over-matter struggle to the top, but a couple of hours later we managed to summit, albeit a little behind schedule.
We made our way down as quickly as possible to try and buy back some vital minutes. Back at the car, there was time for a brief toilet break and a splash of cold water, then it was on to our final mountain, Snowdon.
Having travelled through the usually picturesque Snowdonia National Park in the pitch-black night, we arrived at Snowdon around 12:30am. On our arrival, I recalled a conversation with Richard Urwin, CHFP’s Managing Director, a few months before the challenge, where he suggested the biggest struggle of the whole challenge is getting out of the car for the final challenge – he wasn’t wrong!
Sleep-deprived and aching but determined to finish to job, we set off up the Pyg Track for the final push to the summit. For anyone who hasn’t attempted climbing a mountain in the dark, it is as challenging as you would imagine it to be, with plenty of slips, trips and misplaced feet!
We reached the summit of Snowdon around 2:30am, almost there! After a quick water break and the obligatory photograph at the summit, it was time to set off down the mountain one final time.
Having worked our way up Snowdon ahead of schedule, we decided to take the Miner’s Track down, well-known for its rather steep decline from the summit, but finishing with a very flat few final kilometres, a wonderful thought for those aching knees and calves.
The Finish Line…
Having trudged past all the bright-eyed early morning hikers heading in the opposite direction to climb Snowdon, we had the finish line in sight. We reached the car park where the challenge ended at 4:40am, completing the challenge inside twenty-four hours, with just 14 minutes to spare! The feeling of elation at having completed the challenge was incredible and having done so for such an incredible charity made it all the sweeter! We crawled into the car for the final drive home emotionally and physically drained, but with a sense of pride at what we had accomplished.
Having discussed during the journey home whether we would take on the challenge again, there was an immediate response by all of us – No! However, having taken the time to reflect on our experience, it is genuinely one that we are looking back on fondly already, and it will be remembered for the rest of our days.
We are already planning our next fundraising activities, with Callum and I both hoping to receive places in the 2024 London Marathon ballot and, if our ballot entry is unsuccessful, it’s the Barcelona Marathon in March 2024 – watch this space!
We have managed to raise an incredible £1,430 (at the time of writing) for Mind so far, and there is still time to donate if you would like to. Click here to visit the fundraiser page and show us some support!