Three Peaks Challenge

Immy Higgins, Lower Sixth, writes: About a year ago I decided that I wanted to raise some money for Mary’s Meals since I had seen how inspired my Dad was by the charity. He suggested that I attempt the Three Peaks Challenge: to climb the three highest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales (Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon) in under 24 hours. I asked three friends from St Edward’s to join me: Mia, Lexi and Caitlin. After a long, frenzied GCSE season we set off to Scotland in my family’s cramped car with my Dad at the wheel and my Mum with the map.

Our spirits were soaring when we reached the foot of Ben Nevis, having had lots of sleep and hot food. We started the 4409 ft climb at a gallop, which we soon realised we would never be able to sustain. The steep gradient shocked us and we were all silently unsure if we were fit enough to keep going. However the gradient eventually became less steep and we raced up and down the mountain in around 3½ hours. We had started at 4.30pm, so it was now 8pm.

My Dad drove to the Lake District in the growing darkness and we reached Scafell Pike in the Lake District at 1:30am. Weary and sore from not just the first climb but an uncomfortable, fitful sleep in the car, we managed to keep a smile on our faces and began the second climb in a cloud of midges! Scafell was our most challenging climb because not only did we know that we had one more mountain to go, but also it was pitch black and we couldn’t see anything save the watery light of our head torches. All of a sudden we couldn’t find the path, so had to navigate by compass; we clambered up almost vertical slopes, unable to see where we were going, but somehow reached the top. As the sun rose, we realised how close we had been to the path all along! Thankful to be going downhill we set off at speed, only to go the wrong way again. I thought this would provoke some sort of collapse of morale in our group, but it didn’t and we persevered in high spirits. At 5.30am having got back into the now smelly, stuffy car, we all fell fast asleep and woke up to the smells of steaming porridge as we neared Wales. Our energy levels varied widely through the drive; one moment we were all dozing, the next we would be singing, laughing and shouting.

We reached Snowdon at 10.30am, so had 6 hours to climb Snowdon — the only problem was that it was raining sideways!! However we also met all the parents of my friends, including Alexia’s 8 year old brother. Their perkiness and cheerfulness raised our spirits and we embarked on the final 3560 ft climb. We began quickly, all desperate to finish as fast as possible, but as cold and tiredness overwhelmed us we began to slow down. The torrential rain never stopped and we were soaked through. I distinctly remember us all at one point leaning against a slab of rock and, although none of us voiced our moans, we all knew that in that moment we were at rock bottom. Cheese sandwiches and crisps proved to be our saviour and with our energy levels restored, we squelched on to the top. Having reached the summit we got down as fast as we could, the final stretch seeming to go on forever. On reaching the car we found out we had completed the 3 mountains in 22 hours 40 minutes – we couldn’t believe it!

After a big group hug we made our way to the hotel, where hot baths were taken and bucket of hot food eaten. The feeling of achievement and pride that evening was immense. I think that the greatest challenge was not the physical side, though it was exhausting, but the mental challenge; keeping going even when dog-tired, thirsty and sick of yet more Twix bars – that was tough! Our family and friends understood how difficult it had been and sponsored us generously. In the end we raised £6,000 for Mary’s Meals, enough to feed all the children in Mpatseabwire School, near Blantyre in Malawi, for a year. I would recommend this challenge to everyone, but get a good guide for Scafell Pike!!

 

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