- Kerry Sutton
3 Peaks Challenge in under 24 hours
The Cougar team completed the 3 Peaks challenge!
Wow! That’s the first word that comes to my mind when I think about this challenge, it was WOW!
It was a women only event. There were 7 of us in the team, 5 walkers (Charlotte, Susie, Hazel, Clare and I) and 2 support crew members (Kerry and Karen).
Kerry and Karen drove us from Bath to Fort William on Friday the 13th of May in the Cougar (our van’s nickname). They ensured our pit stops were in the best service stations, allowing us to fuel up where there were farmers’ shops. The journey was an opportunity for us to get to know each other. Being from Bath, Winchester and London, we had only met twice on zoom beforehand. A few of us had managed to do a long training walk together in Bath 3 weeks before the event which had been good fun. We also took the time to organise our own 'corner' of the van as it was going to be pretty much our home for the next 3 days.
We arrived in Fort William early evening, dropped our bags at the hostel “Chase the wild Goose” and went for dinner at the well named Ben Nevis Inn. It was ideally situatied at the bottom of Ben Nevis, which had its head in the clouds at that time (infact for the whole duration of our stay there). So we could not even see where we were going the next day. Of course, being in Scotland, we had to have Haggis, venison sausages and black pudding for dinner!
On Saturday, we were up at a reasonable time after a good night sleep, had a good shower, prepared our gear and went for a very nice breakfast at the Highland Soap Larder. If you ever go to Fort William, I highly recommend this place, for the food as well as for the products they sell.
Then, it was time to head for the Ben Nevis visitor centre to finally start this 3 Peaks challenge. The objective was to climb the 3 highest peaks in the UK (Ben Nevis in Scotland, Scafell Pike in England and Snowdon in Wales) in less than 24 hours (driving time between the summits included).
At exactly 12:00, Kerry gave us the signal and off we went to conquer Ben Nevis! 16km (the longest) and a total ascent of 1330m (the highest). On the last 2 kms before the summit we encountered fog and snow (in some places almost knee high), so our poles were very useful. We quickly took a few pictures at the top and went back down on the same way as the way up. All of us being runners, we even did a small section at a jog on the way down. At that time we were still quite fresh and the Ben Nevis trail has some nice runnable sections. We came back at the Cougar in a very good time of 4:44. However, being a group of chatty women, we lost a bit of time when we were back at the van as we all re-organised our bags and went for a change of clothes instead of jumping straight in the van to hit the road as quickly as possible. From that point on, Kerry did not allow us to do this as the clock was ticking.
While Kerry and Karen were driving, we refuelled with the food that we had brought with us, took care of any niggles that had appeared on Ben Nevis and tried to rest. We arrived at the bottom of Scafell Pike at about 22:45, jumped out of the Cougar and kicked off our walk to conquer this second summit. This one is a 8.4km return walk for a total ascent of 922m. The challenges here were the time at which we kicked it off (almost 23:00, when we normally should be in bed) and the gradient (between 20 and 30%). That’s where I personally had my low moment, for about the first 2 or 3 kms. But with the support of the others in the team, I managed to keep going and we conquered the summit in 1:56 in the middle of the night. It was a very clear sky and an almost full moon, so the view from up there was just beautiful in the night. It was really worth it! We had a good moment of good laughs when coming down as Hazel suggested we were researchers collecting stones on the moon. It really helped make part of our descent easier. We were back down at the Cougar in a total time of 3:52 and this time we jumped straight in the van to hit the road as quickly as possible.
With only 4 hours between Scafell Pike and Snowdon, our priority was to try to get a little bit of sleep and as good a breakfast as possible. We started our walk to the top of Snowdon at 7.49 am.. That gave us a bit more than 4 hours to complete it. As our bodies were starting to feel the 2 previous ascents and the lack of sleep, we knew we did not have a minute to spare. We climbed Snowdon via Pyg Track, 11km return and a total ascent of 732m. There are not a lot of easy sections on that trail, loads of big rocks that require focus. We conquered that summit in 2 hours 02 mins. The clouds that had been covering Snowdon when we started the walk, had disappeared. And we had a stunning view from up there! We took a few pictures and went straight back down. We knew we had to be quick. But our legs were so tired that we could not entirely rely on them. In the end we managed to complete that walk in 4:05, which meant we completed the whole challenge in 23:55, with 5 minutes to spare!
YES!!! WE DID IT!!!
For me that was definitely one of the best challenge I have done so far, not just because of the distance (35.5km) or because of the cumulative ascent (2984m) but mostly because of the team (walkers and supporters included). We worked so well together, supporting each other whenever we needed it, but also relaying each other to ensure that we were always keeping a good pace. And all that while chatting and laughing a lot about anything and everything. Thank you so much Charlotte, Clare, Hazel, Susie, Kerry and Karen! I really had a blast with you ladies and I hope you did too.