Well Friday 29th June eventually arrived, after the previous 6 months practice walks etc, organising, I think everybody was now just itching to get going on the Challenge itself.
As will become apparent, the weather was not all it could have been to help us all during the challenge.
Friday 29th June 2007. till Sunday 1st July 2007.
Following our minibus pick up at 9.30am, it was back to various homes for people to prepare for themselves for the challenge.
Everybody ready on the 4 minibuses, plus our back up vehicle, just as we prepared to leave the heavens above Northampton opened up and dumped quite a substantial amount t of rain on the buses, at this point us in Bus no 1, thought we might be in for a wet weekend, as water was pouring through the roof of the minibus, just above 1 of the single seats, funnily enough nobody wanted to "Bag" this seat.
After about a 10 minute "Shower", the rain cleared and the sun came out to smile down on us all.
Off we went, the 1st part of the journey which is always a little anti climax, usually stuck in traffic for a while on the M6, this did not change this year, only about a 15minute hold up on the way to Sandbach Service station, chance for Coffee, stretch legs etc.
We left Sandbach after about 45 minutes stop over, at 15.40.
Another couple of hours M6 driving till we reached TEBAY Westmoreland service station at 17.45.
A very welcome "HOT" meal was taken here; this was to be our last decent meal until after we had completed our 1st peak, The BEN.
Leaving Tebay around 18.50, we then had another couple of hours driving, until we reached HAMILTON Service station, it was during this journey that I started to get slightly concerned about the minibuses, The minibuses that we had hired this year now have speed limiters fitted, this limits the maximum speed of the buses to 65mph, due to this we were starting to lose time slightly with our travelling, not so much because of the maximum speed, but because of the time, after slowing the vehicle down or going up hill, that the buses actually took to regain the 65 MPH.
We eventually reached Hamilton Services at 20.55, staying for tea, coffee etc and then leaving at 21.20 for the final leg of our journey through Glasgow, (M8) to Fort William.
After the weather forecast for the previous few days we were amazed to still see the sun shining brightly right through till about 10.00pm
It never really got dark at all due to the clear skies, absolutely fantastic weather.
When we reached the Glen Nevis Visitors centre Car park at 12.15am, we met up with rest of the group, Elaine’s 2 cousins, plus the 11 Royal Navy Guys, Elaine’s father and other relatives had also driven up from Polmont to join us at the start of the Challenge.
With dry weather at Fort William, there did not appear to be any of the annoying "Midges" about that we usually encounter.
After everybody had got ready for the climb, final farewells etc, we eventually started the "CHALLENGE" at 1am.
So off we went 46 walkers all in a line starting our 1st ascent of Ben Nevis, "The BEN".
After about an hours walking, it really was light enough to turn off the majority of our head torches, Venus could be seen clearly in the Sky, along with the glow of the FULL MOON, just hiding behind the mountain (Strangely enough Saturday’s full moon, was also known as a BLUE MOON, this occurrence happens approx every 3 years, when 2 Full Moons appear in the same month, the last full moon was 1st June).
Approx 3.am we arrived at the "lake in the Mountain", this particular lake is used to supply fresh water to the Ben Nevis Distillery,
At this point, we noticed that the sun was starting to rise in the East, quite a substantial orange glow appearing. It was here that we decided to stop for a breather and some snacks etc.
After our snacks we continued for about 15 minutes, and then crossed the RED BURN, this is approx half way between bottom and summit.
The next stage of the of the walk starts to become quite steep in places, with the path now Zig Zaggin it’s way to the top, every time we stopped and looked east the Sun was rising steadily higher, quite an emotional time, as I, even after several treks up Ben Nevis, had never witnessed such a beautiful sun rise on Ben Nevis, the clear skies were boding well for clear views when we reached the summit.
After some interesting walking across the normal snow patch that covers the path close to the Summit, (Due to the clear skies the snow patch was rock hard, like walking across a skate park.
On the summit it’self, the actual rocks were all covered in a thin layer of snow / ice, which made for a very tricky last few yards to reach the top of GREAT BRITAIN.
5.15am on the Summit of the BEN, with Fantastic views all around the Mountain, what a wonderful experience for all the 1st timers on the BEN.
Quite uncannily at 1 point, some very fine mist dropped over the summit, due to the moist air, and the strong sun, this then created quite a wonderful RAINBOW for a few seconds.
After the Photo shoot etc, we finally started to Descend from the BEN at 5.45am in wonderful sunshine.
Due to clearness of the day etc, the group all split up for the trek to the bottom.
Final walkers arriving at the bottom at 9.45am, still a very respectable time for the BEN during a 36-hour 3-peaks challenge.
Breakfast at Morrisons went well, although longer than expected due to the long waiting time for the breakfasts.
After re-fuelling at Fort William, it was time to set off for the LAKES.
Leaving Fort William at 12 noon, slightly later than anticipated, again due to the waiting time for the Breakfast.
I think that most people suddenly found themselves very very tired, after the trek up the BEN and then full breakfasts; sleep was the order of the day.
As we reached Loch Lomond, the weather began to change (As forecast), it was now raining, quite heavy showers between Fort William and Seathwaite.
Following a short stop at Gretna services ( 16.10 till 17.00) we left for the next leg of journey the 90-minute journey from Gretna to Seathwaite, via Keswick and Seatoller.
Arriving at Seathwaite around 18.15, in the rain.
After getting ready for the walk ahead, we started our ascent of Scafell Pike at 7pm, in a torrential downpour, which lasted for about 45minutes.
As we were ascending to Scafell Pike we could only just make out the huge hill in front of us "GREAT END", however, looking back to Seathwaite / Seatoller, we had a fantastic view of DERWENT water, with the sun shining down, strange how the sun is always "OVER THERE".
With climbing to GREAT END continuing the weather was starting to deteriate in front of us, with the fog starting to envelope us, by this time, 8.30pm, again due to the cloud cover, it appeared that darkness was not far behind, we were also still having quite frequent showers.
After crossing the stream to reach GREAT END, I made the decision that we would continue to ESK HAUSE, and review the situation from there.
Because of GREAT END, we have to make a detour to the left here so as to get round Great End.
After reaching ESK HAUSE, due to the thickness of the Fog, Night walking, Rain, and the very slippery rocks ahead around BROAD CRAG, I decided that the summit attempt should not now go ahead, at this time of the evening with visibility dropping to around zero metres, it would have been quite foolish to take a such a large group of people (46) over BROAD CRAG ETC to the summit of SCAFELL PIKE.
Following photo’s etc, in the mist, we started our descent back down to Seathwaite.
The descent back to Seathwaite did present a slight problem, After summiting SCAFELL PIKE we were due to descend down to Waswater, our minibuses already having left Seathwaite to meet us at Waswater, Mobile phone signals are notoriously difficult to obtain around Waswater etc.
Eventually after a call back to Northampton, and then a landline call from Northampton back to the Wasdale head pub, contact was eventually made with our drivers, who polished off their meals and promptly drove the 2-hour journey back to Seathwaite.
AT THIS POINT I MUST SAY A MASSIVE THANK YOU TO ALL OF OUR DRIVERS, PLUS THE 3 NAVY DRIVERS, WITHOUT DRIVERS THE WHOLE CHALLENGE WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO TAKE PLACE, WE CAN NOT PRAISE THE DRIVERS TOO MUCH.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH LADS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.
Following a change of clothes etc in the minibuses, we and the drivers, had an hour or so of sleep, before we left the Lakes for North Wales.
After leaving Seathwaite at 2am, we journeyed down the M6, stopping briefly at Lancaster services for fuel etc (4.20am till 4.35am).
The weather as we reached North Wales was not too bad, quite dry, but cloudy, then when we reached Llandudno the rain started.
We reached Pen Y Pass car park at 7am, still on time for completion of the 3-peaks challenge within 36 hours.
Again, as we set off the heavens opened, this torrential rain was to continue on and off, mostly on, for the next several hours.
Due to the footpath ( The Pyg Track Route) being reasonably clear to the summit of Mount Snowdon, the group left to make their own way to the Summit and back, starting our ascent of Snowdon at 7.40am, the last group reached the summit, very wet and bedraggled, but thankful to be on the last summit at 10.30am, quick photo’s then the descent, again still very wet with quite torrential showers all the way to Pen Y pass, last group arriving for the picture call by Elaine, who also was quite wet after waiting for a couple of hours in the rain at the foot of Snowdon taking the individual photo’s of everybody has they passed the "FINISH" line.
The final group arriving at 12.45pm, 3-peaks in 36 hours completed by everybody.
Hot tea was made available to everybody supplied by our "Back up" van drivers.
Then of course the wine , beer etc also came out.
In conclusion of the challenge.
The Start of the Challenge was BEN NEVIS, with the weather the views etc on this mountain certainly made for a very good start to the Challenge, I think due to the fabulous views on the BEN, this more than made up for the wet miserable weather on Scafell and Snowdon.
ON A PERSONAL NOTE I WANT TO 1ST THANK ELAINE, LEE, IRENE AND ALL FAMILY AND FRIENDS OF YOUNG RYAN FOR INVIITNG ME TO LEAD THE GROUP ON THE CHALLENGE THIS YEAR.
I did not know Ryan, but through this challenge and over the past 6 months of practice walks etc, I feel that I have learnt so much about Ryan and do now feel as though he was a friend of mine.
I FEEL SO PROUD TO HAVE BEEN A PART OF THIS CHALLENGE, WITH SO MANY FRIENDS AND FAMILY AND ROYAL NAVY COLLEAGUES OF RYAN TAKING PART, IT HAS CERTAINLY BEEN FOR ME, A VERY EMOTIONAL 6 MONTHS.
THEN OF COURSE I CAN NOT EXPRESS MY THANKS TOO MUCH TO ALL THE WALKERS / DRIVERS , HELPERS ETC WHO HAVE MADE THIS CHALLENGE POSSIBLE, THIS YEAR MY CLIMB OF BEN NEVIS WAS MY 20TH, I have taken Church groups, 3 -peakers, family members and friends up over the last 12 years, but for me the actual sunrise this year made for a very special 20th time.
MANY MANY THANKS TO YOU ALL FOR ALLOWING ME TO TAKE PART WITH YOU.