Challenge completed! So here’s how it went…
We set off from Hilton at 6pm on Wednesday evening, stopping off for a healthy bite at McDonald’s en route to our overnight accommodation at Penrith Travelodge. After an Olympic Breakfast, we set off for Fort William. We arrived just before 2pm and tucked into some fish and chips. With some time to use up, we visited several outdoors shops looking for any kit or supplies we may have forgotten, as true Scottish weather set in – a nice gentle rain.
We drove round to the car park at the foot of Ben Nevis and began to get into our waterproof gear about half an hour early. The weather meant that any view of the target was obscured, and it was surprisingly quiet within the group as we waited anxiously to get started.We set off on Ben Nevis at 5pm and happily the rain ceased about a quarter of an hour later. We took the decision as a group to have a team photo at the summit of each mountain, and hence kept in reasonably close proximity on the long slog upwards.
Reaching the first summit, especially being the highest, was a real boost and instilled more belief that we would actually complete the challenge. The feeling was brightened by further improving weather, which afforded several glimpses of the beautiful views from near the summit. We were amazed to see that some sheltered areas still supported snow!The descent was quicker and despite darkness falling before we reached the minibus, we got back at 9.30pm, 30 minutes ahead of schedule.
After tucking into a helping of home-made Spaghetti Bolognese, which the drivers had kindly interrupted their sleeping attempts to heat, we bundled back into the minibus for the long slog down to Wasdale Head. At this point, Dan was feeling a little queasy (maybe the “challenge” was just that!), and it was decided it was best to allow him some extra time outside the minibus! Happily, this soon passed sufficient for Dan to rejoin us and we set off.Sadly we weren’t now the only ones in the minibus as a number of Scottish locals had also joined and were making their presence felt (midges in case you were wondering). Some, such as Nathan, learnt the benefits of applying insect repellent when in Scotland in late summer!
The journey to Wasdale Head is long and arduous enough anyway but 62mph can seem really slow… (just ask the drivers!). This was however an opportunity to try and get some sleep, however these minibus seats were clearly designed for short journeys! I didn’t know the backside could go numb so quickly! Perhaps unsurprisingly, we didn't get much sleep, and by about 2am were all awake (of sorts) and beginning to get sorted out for Scafell Pike.The minibus rolled into Wasdale Head at around 03:50, in the pitch black. The schedule had us starting the mountain at 4am, so after some quick, last minute preparations we set off on time. The weather forecast showed a 20% chance of rain, so most opted to pack the waterproof trousers in the rucksack and using our head-torches set off. We found the path easily and set off alongside Lingmell Gill.
Sadly, in the dark it isn't easy to see where to cross the ford, and we had continued too far (not that we knew that in the dark!). After some scrabbling up some steep grassy banks, and several consultations with various GPS devices and maps (it is remarkably difficult to interpret OS maps in the dark when you can’t see the contours of the land you are standing on), we eventually found our way back onto the correct path and continued trudging up the slippery rocks.Shortly after we reached the low cloud, and then lo and behold we found the 20% of rain. Sadly, this wasn’t just rain but also hail and a rather strong, chilly breeze. Scafell isn't the easiest to climb under any circumstances, but being soaking wet, cold and in darkness, this took the challenge to a new level. Where else would we have rather been??
The descent was unremarkable, and despite the issues encountered on the way up, we got down in exactly 4 hours, so remained on schedule.The journey to Pen-y-Pass in Snowdonia was frustrated by a few hold-ups (not to mention a few toilet stops for some!), and we ended up losing an hour, meaning we arrived at the Miner's Track on Snowdon with 3 hours and 10 minutes left if we still wanted to complete the challenge inside the 24 hours.
The weather was fair with just a rather strong wind near the top. We continued to insist on a team picture at each summit and all reached the top in 1 hour 50 minutes, leaving the descent for each man to go at his chosen pace.Nathan and Ben set off down like a train (maybe they wished they were on one?) and Dov and Paul followed soon after, leaving Dan and Jem to protect their knees a little more.
Nath and Ben got down with 6 minutes to spare and much to most people’s surprise, Dov and Paul followed (even breaking into something resembling a jog for much of the last 15 minutes!) 5 minutes after, completing the challenge with less than a minute to spare! Jem and Dan followed in the next 15 – 30 minutes, meaning everyone had completed the challenge well within the expected climbing time – a fine effort!So there ended the challenge. After a leisurely sort-out of the minibus and some final photos, we set off on the trek back to Hilton, stopping only for another bite at McDonald’s.
One last thing that we learnt is that 26 hours in a minibus is a long time, but despite alternating between keenness to leave the minibus, then soon after to get back in it again, it still isn't a comfortable place to spend long periods of time!I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the team for their hard work, before and during the event, perhaps especially the drivers who had time off work simply to make the whole event possible. But may we not forget the reason we did this challenge. A huge thank you to all who have already sponsored us, and to those who haven't, please give generously.
Many thanks for your interest.