In May 2018, I completed this challenge together with five absolutely amazing human beings who luckily for myself and them of course, I can call my friends. For those who don’t know what this is about, you climb the three highest mountains in England, Scotland and Wales in as short a time possible. Dead easy.
A guy I work with suggested it to support the Teenage Cancer Trust and I was like yeah I’ll do it. I probably didn’t entirely listen what I was signing up for. I like mountains but it would be quite an exaggeration to say I had been regularly hiking before. My parents do it and I always thought it was pretty boring.
So I got the gear and we did a trial run of Mount Snowdon in April as according to our schedule this was the one we would climb in the dark. This was the first time it dawned on me that I might have signed up to something a little out of the ordinary. Who climbs mountains in the dark? We left at stupid o’clock in the morning and drove to Wales. Apparently this climbing lark is quite popular so we had to park a bit away from the actual mountain because at dawn the car park at the foot of the mountain was full. What the heck. After a two mile walk along a pretty narrow road trying to avoid getting run over by cars and mad cyclists, we reached the bottom of the hill. Sorry mountain. By that time me and two other girls were already like what have we let ourselves in for. So we scrambled up this mountain and then back down, having a little stop by a lake and all got burnt to ashes in the process. Not quite but we all ended up with serious sunburn. So after this first taste of proper hiking, I started to think oh shit, this is actually going to be a challenge.
Fast forward a month and we met in a car park to drive up to Scotland. There is something about road trips that is just cool. Driving to Scotland takes some time, so we stopped for a picnic by the Humber. With lots of cake. So far so good. Ben Nevis is quite a way away, so apart from picnics, the day was pretty much spend in a car. Bleugh. After checking into the hotel and a stroll to the local Tesco to buy some Scottish bread (don’t ask), we had our last supper. Start time for the next day was 4am so we were really sensible, went to bed early and of course not a drop of alcohol. Haha as if. According to my clever phone, I slept ten minutes that night.
Alarms went off at 3am. No breakfast at this time so we had bought some stuff the night before. Because I’m such a nice person, I made us coffee after my shower and served one of the girls tinned peaches. As I mentioned it was 3am and I was still tired so I didn’t bother getting dressed before doing so. At least it woke the girls up and I might have acquired the nickname Topless Coffee in the process……
Anyway, all dressed (including myself) and ready off we went. First obstacle was actually finding the starting point, which proved to be somewhat difficult with no GPS of any kind and three girls in the car. But we got there in the end. Now, I have to say, this was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. The tranquility – despite the company – the mountains, the sun coming up, that just had something. We even encountered some stags. Spectacular. There was only one other guy on his way up, pretty convenient too. I hate saying hello to people just because they scramble up the same mountain as we do. Despite our stabby sticks – hiking poles to you – getting up there was actually requiring quite some effort. But we made it. There was still snow on the top and we got rewarded with an amazing view. Quick break, then it was time to move on. Someone in our group might have left some yellow snow behind too. We were on the clock after all. It got pretty busy on the way down, but hey we had done our first peak. How bad could the rest possibly be. Temporarily pretty shit as it turned out.
Next stop was Scafell Pike. Looking rather idyllic in the sunset, it’s also close to Sellafield and the radioactive sea as one guy in our group pointed out a few times. The mutant sheep on the mountain became a running joke, but it is kind of creepy to get baaahed at out of the dark when you try getting off some rock. Now this was meant to be the easy one. Oh it was not. Climbing a mountain in the dark when you don’t have a lot of experience is a little stressful. On the way up, one of the girls in our group pulled a muscle in her thigh. Somehow she managed to drag herself up the hill and down again, with a little help from the rest of us but also sheer admirable determination. We got to the top at about 10.30 pm, catching a last glimpse of the sun before it went pitch black. We were pretty tired at that point and just wanted to get down. Not that easy when you have no idea where you’re going and it’s a little foggy. Then another girl in our group hurt her knee. We knew it was bad, but didn’t quite realise how bad. Our group leader carried her down most of the way. Did I mention the mutant sheep by the way? They got pretty freaky. Also, meeting people in the dark on their way up, not really reassuring. None of them asked if we needed any help by the way and it was obvious we were struggling at that point so their mountain climber team spirit obviously sucked big time. How we got off this stupid mountain with two injured people, I’m not quite sure. That I will never set foot on this bloody rock again though, that I’m sure about.
When we finally got to our cars, we were all overtired, pretty smelly and still had to drive to Wales and climb another one. We questioned our sanity at that point. How we stayed awake I don’t know. Steak and sausage rolls from Gregg’s and a constant supply of Costa coffee definitely helped.
Wales, Mount Snowdon. Last one to conquer. It was clear that our knee invalid wouldn’t be joining us so she had to wait in the pub at the bottom of the mountain which seemed like heaven right now. Thigh girl slapped on the Ibuprofen gel and was like ‘I’m doing this even if it’s the last thing I do’. After refueling on some ice cream – our food choices as time had gone on during this mission not impossible went from good and nutritious to distinctly greasy, fatty and full of sugar. Not that anyone cared at that point. We started moving. Slowly but surely we worked our way up the mountain and to the top. We even remembered to get our picture taken at the summit although we all looked like something the cat had dragged in. Something pretty dead at that too. It did cross our mind to cheat a bit and take the train down but it a) cost a fortune and b) was fully booked anyway. But there was a pub at the end of this. That kept us going. The sheer joy of seeing that little white house in the distance nearly made me cry.
Sitting down on something that wasn’t a rock or a car seat after 28 hours of this ordeal was indescribable. The burger and cider I ordered was as close to nectar and ambrosia as you could get. My arms and legs first felt like lead, then like they were about to fall off. I had bruises in places I didn’t even know you could get. But we did it. The sense of pride we all felt could have been bottled. We had this idea – before we embarked on our adventure – we would party it up in our hostel dorm. Haha, no. We had much needed showers – our clothes stood up by themselves and socks had to be labelled toxic waste – and fell into bed. Cuddling our medals because when you achieve something epic, you get a medal. I want more medals now. I want to look like Mr T. Without the mohawk.