And now for something completely different!
Last weekend the Loram race bus could be seen chugging north up the various motorways as usual, but for once it wasn’t heading for a race track, it was heading for Scotland, and more specifically Ben Nevis!
A little explaining is perhaps needed here. The trip to Ben Nevis was no sight seeing tour, it was the start of the ‘Three Peaks Challenge’ The challenge involves climbing the highest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales (namely Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon) in a 24 hour period. It’s quite a popular but daunting challenge that thousands of people attempt every year. Note the word ‘attempt’ there, this isn’t no picnic!
Bev and Justin, still smiling at around 6 hours into the journey!
Joining Ross on this latest mad idea / adventure would be his cousins Justin and Mark as well as friend and fellow postie Frank. Meanwhile Brian would be driving the bus and Bev would be doing what she does best and supplying an endless supply of food!
So, after an 11 hour journey from Torquay to Ben Nevis on Friday we were happy to pitch the tents and take a wonder to the bar before turning in for an early night, lots of energy would be needed the next day!
Tent view on saturday morning
5:30am on Saturday and the team appeared from their tents and began final preparations for the challenge such as packing bags, double checking of routes and equipment and most importantly, breakfast!
See if you’re smiling like that in 24 hours time!
“WE’RE CLIMBING WHAT?!?!”
By 7:10am we were at the foot of Ben Nevis and starting the climb, too late to back out now, grind your teeth together and get through!
From left, Frank, Mark, Justin & Ross ready for the off!
Despite pretty poor conditions we were soon having a quick stop to wriggle out of waterproofs as the climb was certainly keeping us warm. Once we got higher though the weather really closed in so it was back on with the waterproofs as we pressed on for the summit.
Waterproofs off, waterproofs on…..repeat…..
As so many people hike up Ben Nevis every year the path is reasonably easy to follow in all but white out conditions but there are still some several thousand feet drops reasonably close to you so it pays to keep your wits about you!
A couple hours later we were passing snow (Snow!) and had made it to the summit! On a clear day it’s said you can see 125 miles in all directions…….unfortunately we could see about 20 foot!
The highest men in Britain!
Still, we were very pleased to make it to the top in such good time and after snapping some photos we began making our way back down. It became apparent perhaps half way down just how popular a mountain this is as we were seeing more and more people coming up whereas when we were on the way up we only encountered 3 other groups. We finally made it back to the campsite (which is directly at the foot of Ben Nevis) in 5 hours which was very pleasing for four people who hadn’t really trained beforehand!
After a quick Pot Noodle and a brew we were all aboard the bus and on our way south to Scafell Pike in the lake district. It must be said our Sat Nav took us down some terrible roads (real wing mirror in both hedges jobs) which didn’t really seem necessary but we made it to Scafell Pike at around 7pm on Saturday evening and didn’t waste any time in beginning the climb.
Let the Scafell climb begin!
Sadly a short while into the climb Mark was forced to turn back as his knee (which had started aching on the descent at Ben Nevis) was still playing him up so he decided to retreat to the pub for dinner rather than risk getting stuck on a mountain in the dark….probably a good shout that!
So, down to three but undeterred we carried on towards the summit but the weather really wasn’t playing ball this time as the cold wind and rain really gave us a pelting. To make matters worse it also looked like it would be dark long before we made it back down so we had a bit of a joint decision to ‘get the hell on with it’ which we did, scrambling up the relentless scree of Scafell. Every time we thought we’d neared the summit we’d eye another rise in the fog and have to go again. Picking a route was proving much trickier than on Ben Nevis too but we stayed on track and made it to the summit, and boy did we know it was the summit as the wind was really howling up there!
Smiles of relief at the summit!
Couple of quick photos and then we were off back down, Frank had a little tumble but bounced right back up (you can’t keep a good man down!) and Justins ankles were giving him a spot of bother but we made it almost all the way down before we had to resort to torches which was fantastic. A check of the watches revealed we’d completed it in 3 hours, 45 minutes too which was far quicker than we’d expected, it’s amazing what a bit of fear can do for you 😉
We had rather shot ourselves in the foot though as we’d been so quick Brian, Bev and Mark were still in the carpark some mile away from the pickup point which meant another walk as we couldn’t get a phone signal. It was quickly becoming apparent why the organised teams had walkie talkies! Once back in the bus we were on our way for all of five minutes before we had to pull over as Ross was threatening to re-decorate the inside of the van, the mixture of odd foods, exertion and a bumpy little road not agreeing with him! Still, a minute of two later we were on our way with the sat nav again sending us all over the place before we eventually got on a sensible road and headed for Snowdon, the final mountain.
The plan had been to get some sleep on the way to Snowdon but it’s fair to say that didn’t really happen and when we eventually arrived at around 4am on Sunday morning it was three very tired walkers who began swaying their way up Snowdon in the dark! Still, the sun was soon coming up which was a big help as we began the serious stuff. On paper Snowdon was supposed to be the easiest of the mountains by quite a long way but it certainly felt like the hardest, although being the third mountain we’d climbed in 24 hours it was probably always going to be tricky! As we neared the summit we again had very bad weather with strong biting winds and very poor visibilty but we staggered our way to the top by 6:40am, we’d officially peaked three times in 24 hours!
Justin at the Snowdon summit
After taking some more foggy summit photos to go with our Ben Nevis and Scafell Pike foggy summit photos we began making our way down. As we were feeling pretty wobbly legged by this point we decided to take the gentler but longer route down the mountain to avoid any potential mishaps following the route we’d used to reach the summit which seemed pretty dodgy in a few places. It seems we’d all rather ‘switched off’ now that our challenge was complete however as we managed to make a navigational mistake and came down the wrong path. After realising our mistake we decided to carry on down our wrongly taken route which would just bring us out at the Snowdon ranger station, as opposed to the railway station we were aiming for.
They looked happier 24 hours ago!
The real problems were just starting though as try as we might we just couldn’t get through to Bev, Brian or Mark in the van so we had no choice but to take an £80 taxi ride right round the mountain back to our original starting point. An £80 taxi ride that became a £100 taxi ride after we got back to our starting point and found the van wasn’t there! It must be said the air was getting fairly blue by this point as everyone was very tired and wobbly. Justin nearly fell straight over just standing up at the base while Ross was nursing a bad knee and feeling like he was about to throw up. Happily we found the van pretty quickly and a quick change into dry clothes lifted everyones spirits, as did breakfast at the local cafe!
We then had the ‘small’ journey home from north Wales to Torquay, a final challenge all of its own but we arrived home at 7pm, safe and sound, all in one piece, which was the main thing. Although it must be said Ross did rather struggle on his post round the next day and Brian woke up more than once thinking he’d fallen asleep driving the van!
Next up we’re back to what we know (sort of) as we head to Thruxton on August 18th for the sixth meeting of this years Quaife Intermarques, should be fun…..just please don’t let there be any hills!