We watched the weather forecast avidly for about 4 days, and decided that there was little difference between any of the days, and so decided the challenge would start on Tuesday 19th July.
The team met for a cooked breakfast at 9.30 – it was a lovely morning and our team was made up of the two of us, Malcolm & Jim – who did the driving, yes we needed two vans, and David and between us we had 4 dogs!. The dogs all made friends with each other in our garden and then we set off for Fort William. The weather forecast was very mixed for the next 24 hours – but certainly when we left Glasgow it was beautiful. We stopped at the Green Wellie and I even decided I needed to buy new sunglasses, as I had lost my old ones and I just might need them. (How wrong can you be?!)
Finally we arrived at Fort William and that was it – the start of The Three Peaks! At 3.30pm we set off and the three guys joined us for the first part, with the four dogs were eager to get going! After about 1/2 hour we parted company, and Grace, Jess, Tazi & I continued on our upward trek of Ben Nevis. (The tourist track)
The view disappeared at about 2000 feet and we walked in the cloud for the remainder of the climb. The top was bitterly cold and although we took a quick lunch we really didn’t want to hang around.
After so long of in the mist, it was lovely to finally catch sight of something other than white cloud!
We were delighted to arrive back in the car park at 8.30 – 5 hours after we left it. I said to Grace “both you and I know that I would not have done this in 5 hours if I hadn’t been with you – my natural time would have been 6 hours, and yours probably 4, so 5 hours is a good compromise!”
Coming off Ben Nevis in 5 hours meant we had extra time to relax, to go into Fort William and try to find toilets and then get something to eat. The public loos were locked and the Chippy had run out of chips! We did eventually succeed – and then started the drive down to The Cobbler. The intention was that we would sleep for a few hours – but I think the most that happened was that we dozed. Tazi was totally unsettled and I think Jess was the only one who managed to sleep!
We had set our alarm to get up at 3.00am and planned to have a cup of tea before we headed up the hill. The midges made sure that didn’t happen:( I now know what the plagues must felt like. So off we went at 3.20am. The fine drizzle meant that we were wearing our waterproofs, and soon felt like we were walking in our own personal sauna – but because of the midges we couldn’t stop to take them off. No fabric could cope with those conditions! I think it’s fair to say that both Grace & I felt fairly low at that point – we realised we were in for a muggy day, and there would just be nothing pleasant about it at all. It was truly a challenge, and possibly without the commitment of doing it for The Well we may well have given up and gone home.
Finally after the forest we were free of the midges and able to be released from the saunas.
Tazi has a very strong sense of smell, and before I could stop him, he picked up the scent of a deer or something, and disappeared over the river and into the mist. When he is so focused he doesn’t even hear his name being called, and for 10 minutes we had no idea where he was or if he would come back. He finally did, much to my relief, but that meant he had to stay on the lead the rest of the time – just to add to the challenge!
I have now climbed The Cobbler 3 times and 3 times I’ve had exactly the same non-view.
I also remain one of the people who has never got to the very top of The Cobbler. Don’t know if I ever will! (For those who don’t know, you have to climb out on the rock behind Grace and through what is called ‘the eye of the needle’ – not sure I have that head for heights, there’s quite a drop from that cliff.)
We arrived back in the car park at 7.00am and woke the guys up – well one of them was already up. As we were changing out of our wet clothes (again), Malcolm very kindly cooked breakfast for us:-) What a welcome surprise that was. Thanks again Malcolm.
The drive round to Rowardennan was too short and before we knew it we were ready to start the final peak. Tazi was banned from Ben Lomond – as it is usually the sheep capital of the world!
Grace & I had decided that we would allow ourselves 5 hours to do Ben Lomond – we were tired from climbing two hills already, and no sleep. We set off at 10.10 and soon found ourselves in . . . . low cloud cover. One of the real wee pluses was meeting 2 guys who had been told what we were doing, and they stopped to encourage us – that helped keep me going! At one stage I was literally forcing one foot in front of the other, but I knew the end was close, and then it was the final ascent. Together we walked to the Trig point, and I turned to Grace and said: “We did it!” Grace replied “Yes, but we still have to go down!” I said “I don’t care, I don’t have to climb another metre up – down is fine!” Grace took out her shelter (‘hotel’ as she calls it) and we had a nice cosy lunch at the top.
After 20 mins we started our descent, I could finally enjoy seeing other people trudging up through the miserable conditions – knowing that was all behind us. I had found my extra reserves and told Grace “I know this is not true, but right now I feel as though I could climb another hill!” Grace’s response? She laughed, we both knew this was impossible!
We arrived back in the midge infested car park at 2.30 exactly! We had completed the three peaks challenge in 23 hours to the minute!! We had walked through drizzle, and cloud for 13 hours. We had climbed a total of 3,202 metres (10505 feet). Finally I understood why nearly all of the training we had done had been in the most appalling conditions – for at least on the day we were not surprised by them.
We probably ended up choosing the worst 24 hour period of the week and I really felt sorry for the three guys, they were more or less trapped in the vans because of the midges, but bless them they didn’t complain, but it also meant that our plans for a bar-b-que and celebration at the bottom just didn’t happen, and after a quick goodbye we set off for home, a nice long bath and bed! It’s not often I sleep round the clock, but that night I did.
So that’s it! It’s over – and I now feel that I’m fit enough to do it!
Thank you to Malcolm, Jim and David for being our willing support team. We couldn’t have done it without you.
Thank you to Grace for agreeing to do it with me – as you know I learnt so much from you! And also to Interserve Scotland for giving Grace the time to do the challenge with me.
Thank you to everyone who sponsored us – your support kept us going, and made it worthwhile. (At the time of writing over £3000 has been pledged – I will update the final total when I know it.)
Lots of people sent us messages of good wishes, before, during and after the challenge – thank you, and to all who prayed for us, we were very much aware of that help too.
We are both thankful to God for giving us the strength and well-being to be able to take on such a challenge.