The ups and downs of an epic adventure

VET’S DIARY: IN truth, this report is a week late as our epic adventure took place the weekend before last, writes Dominic Plumley. In reality, it has taken me this long to recover and put pen to paper!

The epic adventure in question was none other than the Three Peaks Challenge which, having completed the trial, I have to confess as a title seems a little understated.

On paper, the prospect of climbing Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon, the three highest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales respectively, was daunting enough – especially when you set yourself a 24-hour deadline to complete it.

In the doing, getting from A to B, while trying to catch 40 winks if you were lucky, proved no less physically demanding than the climbing itself.

It all began, if you ignore the five-hour minibus journey to get us to the start point, at 5.30pm on a beautifully sunny Friday evening. With the main heat of the day passed, conditions were perfect to climb Ben Nevis and our intrepid team of 11 set off in high spirits. By 5.45pm even the best of us were puffing!

Wrapped against the expected elements at the summit, there had been significant snowfall the week before, we were all overdressed and sweating like polar bears in a sauna.

A quick drinks stop and the removal of a couple of layers had us on our way again.

We were reminded that this was a marathon and not a sprint, though time was of the essence!

About 200 metres from the summit we ascended into thick cloud, with visibility down to about 20 feet on the top. Though the path was fairly broad and obvious, our navigational expertise was tested in these conditions, especially where there was lying snow.

After the obligatory group photos, it felt good to descend back into late evening sunshine and the stunning views of various lochs drifting in and out of cloud made every ounce of energy expended worthwhile.

By 10.30pm we were all safely gathered around the minibus again and enjoying Rosie’s most delicious carrot and squash soup, one third of our task completed. As we all clambered aboard, grabbing sleeping bags and travel pillows, our chariot suddenly seemed much less roomy, not to mention stuffier.

Tom, our hired driver, revved the engine and off we zoomed into the night, heading for the Lake District like Jenson Button in a hurry.

Hurtling up the Wasdale Valley at five in the morning had Jenny and Inge reaching for their now empty sandwich bags and as we alighted the bus their faces matched the brilliant green of our surroundings.

Any feelings of nausea soon passed as we set off up peak number two – Scafell Pike.

The weather couldn’t have been better with not a cloud in the sky and the ascent seemed to pass without event, the group summiting at about 7am.

Once again the views were spectacular, but our challenge afforded little time to enjoy them and the snap of the camera shutter (actually a sound effect on a digital camera rather than a mechanical process) signalled it was time to move on.

David’s sausage buns provided the perfect sustenance for the next road leg as we left Cumbria and headed for north Wales.

Unfortunately, it soon became apparent that the M6 was being sponsored by NCP Car Parks and our progress was snail-like, the delays meaning it was well into the afternoon before we joined the masses at Pen-y-pass, looking to climb Snowdon on a baking hot afternoon.

The previous efforts had taken their toll with Rob and Nick both dropping out with nasty knee injuries.

Undaunted, Rhoda, Becca, Pam, Adam and the rest of the gang hit the trail and, having overshot the 24-hour deadline by little more than an episode of Corrie, completed the challenge with smiling faces and weary limbs.

How sweet the welsh beer tasted.

Well done to everyone for a tremendous effort and many thanks to Tom for driving through the night with only the sound of my snoring to keep him awake.