My 3 peaks challenge

My blogs are usually property related, however…. as well as my passions for property I have other loves in life; one of which being ‘fitness’. I use this term loosely as it probably best describes how much I enjoy all things ‘keep fit’ from the gym, too team sports, solo sports, leisurely activities as well as eating well and looking after my general health and well-being.

So here it is, my current blog offers you an insight into my latest ‘Fitness Challenge’

On the first weekend in June 12 fellow gym enthusiasts and I (plus a dedicated driver) embarked on our charity adventure. The Three Peaks challenge… described as one of the UK’s ultimate challenges which involves trekking to the top of the three highest peaks in England, Scotland and Wales in just 24 hours!

After many years of regularly attending Topnotch gym, Quarry Bank I’ve been meaning to get around to moving the goal posts, pushing myself outside of my comfort zone and getting involved in a personal challenge. I considered a triathlon, a marathon and other single man competitions but never quite got around to signing up. When my PT from the gym suggested gym members sign up and take part as a team in the 3 peaks challenge I literally jumped at the chance.

So it was decided on June 4th 2011 ‘The Topnotch Team’ would ascend the 3 peaks.

Running my own business, hosting several networking groups, forever upgrading my surveying qualifications AND maintaining a social life is hard enough so my friends and family were slightly concerned how on earth I would fit in the training required for the 3 peaks. That was easy, I love training… its my time out. For whatever reason when I switch on my ipod, crank up my heart rate and get physically and mentally in the zone, I switch off. This makes training part of my downtime after a day at work and gives me plenty more energy to get on once training is over.

As the weeks, then months went on I worked hard, doing more and more classes. Not being an experienced walker/climber meant I would be working different parts of my body than im used too, muscles needed to be strengthened and this could only be achieved by diversifying from my normal gym routine to incorporate work outs that would assist in particular these areas. Then leading right up to the event Sunday ‘Boot camp’ was introduced (as my fellow team liked to call it). Simon our team leader and PT took us to our local park for a 90 minute intensive outdoor training session every week. Knowing he’d push us, I’d always run a 2 mile warm up to get the blood pumping before he hit us with uphill sprints, power squats, hill running and other interval training exercises. Strangely, although it hurt afterwards, I enjoyed every minute of it.

Then whilst getting myself ready physically I had another vitally important challenge to accompany my training and that was fundraising! We decided to opt out of the organized race and let Simon lead us through from start to finish, this allowed us the flexibility to pick our own charity and know that 100% of our fundraising would go directly to the chosen cause; ‘Help for Heros’. Founded in 2007 the charity helps the wounded Servicemen and Women returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.

The message of the charity is simple:
‘They are strictly non political and non critical, they just want to help. They believe that anyone who volunteers to serve in time of war knowing that they may risk all, is a hero. These are ordinary people doing extraordinary things and some of them are living with the consequences of their service for life. Help for heros helps the heros get better and enter the next chapter of their lives’.

I set myself a personal target of £1000 and was overwhelmed by the generosity of the people who offered me support, sent donations and left kind messages. People who I have never met where pledging via a link to a personalised secure web donations page and their reasons behind doing so were humbling. When times are hard and sponsorships are being requested week in week out I was truly grateful to everyone who made a donation.

As I write this we don’t have a team total as donations are still coming in but I look forward to updating my blog with the grand total as soon as it has been confirmed. For those who missed the pre sponsorship opportunity but wish to help a great cause feel free to visit my fundraising page, donations can still be placed:

So back to the challenge, what exactly did it involve?

The team began with a late night/early morning ascent of Ben Nevis (1344m) with only our head torch for light. Then its onto to the Lake District to climb Scafell Pike (978m) during the late afternoon. We then had a further late night/early morning ascent of the final mountain, Snowdon (1085m) to complete the challenge and celebrate with a beer at the finish line.

I had no clue what to expect all I knew is I didn’t have any pre conceptions and I knew this would get me up the mountains and back down not knowing exactly what to expect. If I’d have known how hard it was going to be I’d have dreaded every ascend, not knowing allowed me to enjoy every second of pursuing a finish line that I didn’t know whether or not was in sight! My other helping hand was a book I took along for the journey; It was fate… the day before the challenge I was mooching round Waterstones wondering what book may take my mind of the pain between mountain’s and there it was staring straight at me – Ben Fogle & James Cracknells ‘The Crossing’. Their autobiographical account of their race by rowing boat, across the Atlantic ocean. It took the time in which we completed the challenge to read the book cover to cover and it was the perfect travelling companion. It inspired me, motivated me and above all gave me the mental strength to push on every time I needed it. (Usually about 5 minutes before we started the ascent of each mountain). If anyone yearns to accomplish mind over matter read this book… ‘If you don’t mind, it won’t matter’. That’s what I kept telling myself.

I was told that Ben Nevis was the most beautiful of the three mountains, the one I’d enjoy the most. I think no one would disagree that at 13.30am any mountain is far from beautiful especially when its pitch black. It was, to be blunt, harder than I anticipated. It felt like we were zig zagging up the mountain side for ever. Every time I looked up and saw what I thought in the distance was a shadow of a mountain peak another would peep out from beyond. I also found the terrain of Ben Nevis difficult, one minute it was rough, then pebble-like then it went to large smooth rock face followed by short sharp igneous rocks, then snow and what can only be described as slate. However, my ill feelings began to diminish as at around 3.15am the sun started to rise and the peak was in reach. When we arrived I was over the moon (it certainly quite literally felt it) The summit was cold, windy but extremely beautiful and uplifting.

On the basis that we were after all competing to complete the three peaks in 24 hours we departed soon after, following our footsteps through the snow and back down the mountain. I have to say, I found the mountain descends the hardest part of the challenge, it was painful, it hurt my knees and knowing its two hours to the bottom it hurts your soul. As we started so early in the morning we were the only team descending as most other teams taking part in the challenge had opted for the early rise climb. I felt slightly sorry for those half way up, red cheeked and wide eyes as they clearly wished they were on the descend with us, but not that sorry, my competitive blood rushed through me and I felt very satisfied that it was in fact us who had not far to go to complete mountain number one. We arrived back at the mini bus ready to board and head for mountain two after a cool down, a long stretch and some hot food to warm our rumbling bellies; it was 6.30am.

I was nervous on the arrival at the second mountain, Scafell Pike.

I was told by others that had already climbed this 3209 ft peak that it was the hardest of the three. Dreading it was probably a slight exaggeration but I wasn’t far off. I knew it was going to be steep so I made sure I was hydrated and well fed, it proved me right and surprisingly it was my favourite climb.

Looking back I put it down to the time of day; mid-afternoon when I was possibly at my most awake, a time when I would be not far off from heading to the gym at home and I was fed and watered. Climbing in the afternoon meant you could see where you were climbing and admire the amazing view. Don’t get me wrong it was a hard climb, with steep igneous rock to maneuver over from start to finish. The summit plateau of Scafell Pike, is covered with shattered rock debris which provides the highest altitude example of a summit boulder field in England as well as providing a total body work out when stepping up and over every individual boulder. I used my ipod for this particular climb which gave me a rhythm to climb too and continually helped me to climb on despite the burn. The view from Scafell is breath taking, it was a clear afternoon when we arrived and we could literally see for miles 360 degrees around us.

It was amazing how the pattern of my feelings from Ben Nevis repeated themselves almost identically on the third mountain, Snowdon. We climbed again in darkness, Snowdon was steep and somewhat more difficult than Ben Nevis due to the bodies fatigue at the last hurdle. Having already climbed two peaks and travelled many miles I have to say I thought I would be more tired and stiff than I was but the post climb stretches I had done proved invaluable. Knowing how I felt on Ben Nevis and knowing I really wanted to enjoy the final climb I put my energy into embracing the company of my fellow team mates. We talked, laughed and even played a few games to boost morale on what was the final leg of our journey together.

It didn’t feel necessarily how I thought it would feel when we reached the summit, Snowdon boasts some of the best views in Britain but it was very damp, very cold and very windy. At the back of my mind I knew we had that final timely descend which probably slightly takes away from the momentous feeling of relief that you have reached the final peak, but it did feel great to know we’d made it.

The panoramic view at first sunlight was amazing; we took it all in and I promised myself id return again on a summers day to enjoy once again however, next time having I would not have endured three prior mountain climbs. We couldn’t stay long, we had to descend in a set time of approximately 1 hour 40 mins to meet the 24 hour deadline. We took the Miners track on the way down; a much flatter route although a little longer in distance.

With about 100 yards to go and the mini bus in view we waited for the entire team to congregate before crossing the finish line together, it felt brilliant.

To sum up the 3 peaks challenge; I loved it. It inspired me, made me physically stronger than ever and taught me about team spirit, it allowed me to achieve something I’ve never achieved before and it helped me to do something genuinely good; ‘help our heros’.

I now can’t wait for the next challenge, so watch this space, same time, same team, next year…

I’ll keep you posted on what it is we choose to do next!