The National 3 Peaks

Steven Gregory

What a weekend!

11 Fitlifers, met at Fitlife Haddenham at 6am on Friday 13th (not ideal, but we roll with it) for the long drive up to Fort William. The 17 seater minibus was quickly populated with a mass of baggage that was part clothing, but mainly food! I think the team might have thought we were off to feed every human and goat that we pass on all 3 mountains judging by the mass of food being transported up to Scotland.

The minibus had 3 drivers from the team... Nigel, Dean and Hannah. The requirements were to have a D1 licence which you have automatically if you past your driving test before 1998... Many thanks to you 3 old timers for coming through for us! We split the drive in to 2 hour shifts, stopping for 15 minute comfort break with each change over. So before we knew it, we were having afternoon tea on the side of Loch Lomond... That is a must for anyone traveling up to Fort William for a well deserved carb load and stunning views across the 24 mile lake.

We arrived to Fort William at 5pm with time to stop at M&S for a food top up. Most of the team were confused why we needed to stop, but still found room to spend £20 on more unnecessary food.

Dinner and lights out by 9PM. Perfect.

4am alarms, time for a quick shower, coffee and banana and we met back on the bus for 4.30am for the short drive to the bottom of Ben Nevis.

Without doubt there was some nervous energy, but spirits were high and everyone was eager to get going. So the first foot onto the mountain was 4.55am.

4.55am - At the base of Ben Nevis.

The first section of Ben Nevis is steep. Sections of rocks and boulders with gravel tracks mean you are at 1000ft in under 1 mile. This is always a surprise to the group and you can see the panic in the eyes as everyone is thinking the same... 'IS THIS HOW IT WILL BE THE WHOLE TIME'. Luckily it isn't. Ben Nevis flattens out a little in the mid section of the ascent before you meet the zig zag path to the top. Nigel informed us there are 9 zig zags, which really help with motivation as you tick each one off with every switch back. At the end of the zig zags comes the snow, and lot's of it. The group were absolutely shocked at the amount of it. Even though we prepared them and everyone had crampons, it still shocks you to see so much of it in spring/summer. With crampons on we made our way up the snowy sections to the summit. Visability was very low, only being able to see about 10 metres ahead at best. Luckily, myself and Nigel knew where to go to find the summit else you could get yourself in some trouble up there. A few wrong turns and who knows where you'd end up. A cold reminder of how vulnerable you are when mother nature decides to come down on you. The temperature was about -10 degrees at the top, another shocking element for mid may.

We Summited at 8am in 2 groups. A few of the group were feeling sick on the way up, a mixture of travel sickness from the day before and a poor nights sleep mixed in with physical exertion is a recipe to slow you down for sure. But they all made it up safely which is a credit to everyone!

8am - Group 1 on the summit of Ben Nevis.

With everyone getting cold and not a view in sight we quickly made our way back down. With us returning to the minibus at just after 10am. A great tip for anyone attempting the 3 peaks in a group is to change clothes before you get back in the vehicle - needless to say, no one wants the pong of a 5 hour hike setting in for a 6-7 hour drive.

The drive to Scafell was delayed by some traffic outside of Glasgow. Unfortunately, this gave us a big kick in the gonads in terms of completing in under 24 hours, but spirits were still high, and on we drove towards the Lake District.

The drive towards Scafell Pike is incredible. You go through what seems like never ending single track roads, having to basically park it in a hedge for other cars to get past. But it really does get you excited to get out and start what is the hardest climb of the 3.

We started our ascent of Scafell at 6pm. There is no time to get loosened up here, you are straight into steep gradient and there is no let up. Most people make the mistake of thinking Scafell is the easy one, with it being the shortest in distance and lowest in height. But this is not a walk in the park. The weather could not have been any more perfect, you could go to Scafell every day for a year and you wouldn't get more than 5 days like the one we had. It was crystal clear and not a breathe of wind with temperature at the top of a mild 13 degrees. We all summited at 8pm. We spent some time at the top to take photos and just take in the scenery. It was really spectacular up there.

8PM - Scafell Pike Summit.

We just about made it down before it got dark, and after a quick change were back on the winding roads towards Wales. Unfortunately, one of the team got severe travel sickness during this drive, having to stop every few miles for a 'pit stop'. It is one of those things you don't really think about when preparing for this challenge, when ost of your focus is on the climbs themselves, you pay little attention to how the travel might effect you. And unfortunately, it cost one of our group.

After a few stops on the way, we arrived at the bottom of Snowdon at 3.45AM. Pulling up into the car park, almost everyone was fast asleep. So waking them all up to say we are about to climb the highest mountain in Wales was met with much less enthusiasm than the previous 2 mountains. But this is what is so great about this challenge, it tests you mentally as much as physically, it almost feels like you are on a survival mission at times, and getting out of a warm van when you are sore and tired to climb a mountain in the middle of the night is certainly a mental test.

We were doing the Llanberis track, meaning we park in the train station where the train takes you to the summit. There were a few murmers of - Is the train running yet, as we got out the minibus.

The conditions were good at Snowdon, infact we only needed our headtorches for the first hour and by 4.45AM there was enough light to remove them. Snowdon is a nice gradual climb, with 3 steep sections. The final stretch seems to go on forever but it is well worth it as the approach to the summit is breathtaking. You navigate a ridge with panoramic views just above the mist of the cloud. We summited just before 6AM.

6AM - Snowdon Summit.

We all broke up into small groups of 2/3 for the descent. Some just wanted to rush down to get it over and others needed to take their time feeling the effects of climbing 3 mountains with next to no sleep. But the important thing is we all made it back to base safely.

All of the group was back in the car park by 8AM. Exhausted, but elated.

As if by chance, the burger van opened up in the car park at 8AM, serving us bacon rolls and cups of tea.

The best thing about this challenge is that although it is individual in respect of needing your own 2 legs to carry you, there is such a strong team bond that is needed to finish. Everyone experienced lows throughout the 24(ish) hours, but without fail, someone is on hand to pick them up and carry on. It is a special special challenge and one I would recommend everyone experiences once in the life time.

8AM - Job Done.

Feeling inspired?

We have opened up next years 3 peaks bookings. But this time, we are running two groups... 1 that wishes to fly round in under 24 hours, and another who want to take their time and enjoy the experience.

Book your place now to avoid missing out!


Steven Gregory