Finally the day had arrived and we were setting off for the start of the National 3 Peaks. This was probably the biggest physical challenge that I had ever set for myself and so it was with a degree of anticipation and reticence that I viewed the task ahead. I had undertaken a lot of training particularly since the Yorkshire 3 Peaks six weeks earlier when I had climbed each of the mountains separately, and was feeling optimistic about the walks but slightly apprehensive about the effects of the driving in between each stage.
We were planning to start at the base of Ben Nevis at 5pm that evening and complete the challenge after climbing all three peaks and reaching the base of Snowden by 5pm the next day - a total of 25 miles of walking and 500 miles of driving in 24 hours. There were nine teams of between three and four walkers, each team having a separate driver. We set off in the morning and as we made our way up the M6 towards the Highlands, we bumped into fellow Challenge members in the service stations at which we stopped for a break. The Yorkshire guys in their pink and lime green signature outfits stood out in the crowd, but I did not expect anything less.
We rendezvoused in a small hotel at the head of Loch Lomond for lunch by which time four teams were travelling in convoy and the camaraderie was encouraging. We reached the car park at about 3.30pm and were soon joined by all of the remaining teams. In total there were three from Cerner, three from Wirral, one from Yorkshire, one from Milnrow and one multi national team.
By the time we met up at Loch Lomond we had been on the road for about eight hours and the challenge was yet to start, but the mood was good so we brought forward our start time to 4pm and made good time up Ben Nevis. The teams were quite spread out as we made our way up the first two thirds of the mountain and when we broke out onto the plateau the weather was very kind. It was great to see the line of walkers all dedicated to raising money for Improving Chances. A nice moment before pressing on to the last third of Ben Nevis, the difficult bit, mainly because of the adverse weather conditions. When we reached the top we were pleasantly surprised as the cloud cleared and the views were magnificent. It was not as cold and there was a lot less snow than there had been three weeks earlier when I had been up there with Jeff and Adan. I think what kept me going at that point was seeing people in the team as they passed us or we passed them on the way down. Spirits were high and we quickly made it back off the mountain.
When I reached the car park Gary, my teammate, was already down and we were straight in the car and off. John was our designated driver and there was plenty of room in his car to stretch out although it was not easy to sleep and I don’t think any of us did, but it was bearable.
We reached Cumbria in the middle of the night after more than five hours' driving and headed to Scafell, a remote mountain overlooking Wass Water. The roads lacked street lighting and about five miles from our destination we struck a large stone in the road. We carried on but that event was to complicate matters later. We arrived at Scafell at about 3am and both Gary and I wanted to sleep in the car as we waited for first light, but it became very clear that John wanted us to get going as soon as possible!! At about 4am we started up Scafell and once we had got over the stiffness, the walk was lovely. The weather was very kind and as day broke the air was still and the sky was clear. Again there were some lovely views. We reached the top and made our way down in just less than four hours. It was amazing to see how many of the team members had started up the mountain in the dead of night and the Cerner boys were well ahead, descending when we were only a quarter of the way up.
By the time I had reached the base of the mountain Gary was already on his way to Snowden with another team. John had awoken to find that the bump in the road on the way to Scafell had split his tyre, and as they were “anti-flats” he had no spare wheel. Our transport arrangements had fallen down. Gary had hitched a ride with the Yorkshire lads, and I had to wait for the lads from Milnrow to make their way off Scafell. They arrived about 40 minutes later and my addition to the car made it very cramped. Billy was driving and he did his best to get us to Snowden as quickly as possible. We hit driving rain as we entered Wales and the weather had turned by the time we reached Snowden.
Once there I got straight onto the mountain following the PYG Track. It was just after 11am, giving me less than five hours to complete the walk. The stiffness in my legs was really kicking in now, not helped by the cramped conditions in the car. I set off by myself and made good time up the mountain. As I neared the top Gary passed me on the way down. He was doing very well and he looked certain to make it within the time. It spurred me on and I reached the summit. Tim, who was leading the team from Yorkshire, was just ahead of me and I picked up the pace to catch him up. I think a combination of me speeding up and him slowing down to wait for me meant that we were able to descend together. Tim, Stewart and I all crossed the line into the Snowden Car park at 3.40 pm, completing the challenge with 20 minutes to go.
I had achieved the challenge within the required time and felt quite proud. I would like to thank my team for their support and say that the sight of Gary in the distance spurred me on while the driving skills of Mr Scampion are something to behold!
The winning team in our party was the Cerner team, whom we christened the 'Mountain Goats' and who came in at 19 hours 51 minutes. They were followed by the Three Amigos, led by Jeff Realey from Wirral Hospital, who took 21 hours 20 minutes. Finally, in third place, came The Good Looking Bar Stewards from Wirral Local Authority who completed the task in 22 hrs and 45 minutes.
Best of all, the event raised more than £10,000 in sponsored for Improving Chances, which is fantastic. My grateful thanks to all those who took part and those who raised sponsorship on behalf of the charity.