August 2011 Blog Update
August was a hectic month with lots of new consultancy work coming my way and 2 training trips making this a very time pressured month with little time to update my website, blogs or Twitter.
Early in the month I took on the 3 Peaks Challenge along with 2 other members of my livery company;The Worshipful Company of Fuellers, we were also joined by Bryony Baylen who was good enough to fill in for one of the team who had to drop out at the last minute. Bryony is also on the same team as me planning to trek to the South Pole later this year so it was a good opportunity for the two of us to get to know each other.
The 3 Peaks consists of climbing the 3 tallest mountains in Great Britain. The tallest being Ben Nevis in Scotland, this is followed by a 6 hour drive to Scarfell Pike in the Lake District, having climbed that mountain in the dark it’s then a further 4 hour drive to Snowdon in North Wales.
My preparations were not good. On Thursday evening Aug. 4th I had to complete a report and spent most of the night working. After only 2 hours sleep I was up and off to Heathrow to catch the 7.10am flight to Edinburgh. I spent the day visiting a clients sites in Scotland finally ending up at Glasgow Airport where I met the rest of my 3 Peaks team along with Jim of Mountain and Glen who was to be our driver for the weekend and had arranged guides for each mountain.
I was still in business mode and it it took the first hour of the 2.5 hour drive to Fort William for me to wrap up my emails and get into adventure mode. The drive seemed to go very quickly and it was it was through some wonderful countryside passing Loch Lommond and through Glen Coe.
We arrived at our overnight accommodation in Fort William ready for dinner and a good nights sleep. We were staying at the Chase The Wild Goose which turned out to be a very clean and comfortable hostel. It has been many years since I last stayed in a hostel and my memories of that experience still live with me. I can remember staying in one hostel and barricading the door of our room with the wardrobe to keep out the rather unsavory residents in other rooms. My travelling companion on that occasion and I slept with one eye open all night and one hand on a weapon in case we were attacked.
Chase The Wild Goose Had no such dramas and we all had a comfortable nights sleep following a visit to the local pub for a drink and meal. In the morning we set about making breakfast in the very well equipped and clean kitchen before Jim arrived to collect us at 10.15am. A very civilised start to our challenge.
We drove to the visitor centre at the base of Ben Nevis and had a final drink, grabbed some energy bars and we were on our way. Within half a mile I decided it was best to dive in the bushes for a comfort break before hitting the mountain path. I emerged to see the team a long way ahead and put my foot down to catch up with them. To my surprise I started feeling very puffed almost immediately and took some time to catch up with the group. I had breathed in a piece of hedge some weeks before and it was still lodged in my throat causing me some discomfort and restricting my breathing. I soon shook this off however and caught up with the group.
The climb to the top of Ben Nevis was uneventful and in the full sun which made it a very hot climb. I drank a litre of water before reaching the falls half way up and was grateful for the opportunity to refill from the stream.
We hit the summit as a team and took a short rest. We then started to make our way down using a steeper but supposedly faster route. This proved to be a problem with the team being split up by other climbers struggling on this narrow, steep descent with list of loose rocks and shale. In addition one of the team damaged his knee and therefore took a lot longer to descend. The net result was a 1.5 hour gap from the first member of the team reaching the bottom and the last who was by now in bad shape.
I had also been split from the group following a loo break and made my way down a different track. I did not lose much time but felt awkward about not sticking with the team and in particular our injured companion. Luckily he had our guide with him all the way so was in good hands.
I also took a fall trying to get past a very large walker descending with walking poles.
When I arrived in the car park two of the team was already there but unfortunately our injured companion took a further hour and a half to get down and join us.
After a quick break for food and hot drinks we set off on a 6 hour drive to the base of Scarfell Pike.
Our injured companion decided to sit out Scarfell and recover. We took off with our guide in the pitch black of night and did the full climb up and down in the dark all using head torches. This was an eerie experience especially when we got close to the summit and the mist started to roll in.
We climbed at a good pace and made it up and down in just less than 4 hours. Once again I took a fall and went off the side of a track. By this stage I was getting rather bored of falling off mountains.
Upon our return to the car park Jim had bacon on the grill using his primus stove so Bacon rolls all round along with coffee and chocolate.
We set off again in the van after our very early and very welcome breakfast. 4 hours drive to get some sleep on our way to Snowdon our last summit.
I slept well following the two climbs and a good breakfast and woke to see the dawn and foothills of Snowdonia out of the window. It was not long before we arrived in our designated car park to meet our last guide. Our injured companion decided to have a go at this summit and so it was decided the two fastest would set off to try and complete the challenge in under 24 hours. I was going to go as far as I could at their speed but would drop back after setting the early pace. Our 4th climber would be accompanied by the guide to ensure he was going to be safe on the mountain if his injury were to get worse.
With this plan of action agreed we set off at a good pace. I was happy to press on in the first few miles encouraging the two younger members of the team to go for it. I started to blow up about half way up and let them press on ahead. I found the last quarter of the climb to be hard going as the legs were starting to give out from the constant climbing. I pressed on regardless and managed to reach the summit of Snowdon which was very cold and covered in cloud.
All 4 of us returned to the car park to meet Jim. Bryony and John had made it in 24 hours dead and 23.59 respectively. Unfortunately I missed out and only managed a finish time of 24 hours 20 mins so I missed my target by 20 minutes. I blame the extra time we all spent in the motorway service station telling war stories of our military past. Jim, John and I had all been in military units and as anyone knows once you get 3 soldiers together the banter flows and time goes by. I guess I will have to do it all again to make the challenge in less than 24 hours.
Once back in the car park I discovered Sue my wife who was waiting to greet us had decided to go upon of the tracks to meet with us part way down. Unfortunately we had come down using the old miners track and so had missed her. Mobile phone signals were out so I had no choice but to start back up my 4th mountain just as I thought I was finished to find her. Sue was up about 1 mile starting to wonder what had happened to us. I found her and we made our way down to the car park with me giving her a blow by blow account of the whole experience.
I very much enjoyed this whole challenge. My climbing colleagues were great fun. It was good to meet with Bryony who I will travel to the South Pole with later this year and Jim our organiser was a good bloke, well prepared and a lot of fun. I highly recommend this experience to anyone looking to test themselves over a relatively challenging terrain.
For more details on the 3 peaks challenge go to www.mountainandglen.com
Jim Coughlan is the guy to speak to.