“We did it!”


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.


Bog walk

Grace and I decided for our final serious training before the big day we would do the Campsie Fells – the whole ridge, all 15 miles of it.

This has been on Grace’s bucket list for years, and finally she had someone mad enough to agree to do it with her.

We met at the Glengoyne distillery at 7.30am (I’m so looking forward to NOT having to get up at 6.00 on Saturday mornings!) parked one car there and happily drove to the Tak Ma Doon Road – I was blissfully unaware of what lay ahead.

Jess & Tazi seemed to have learned the importance of not just running off from the beginning of the day and conserving at least a little of their energy!

Not long after we reached our first peak, there was no path and we arrived in tussock capital of the world. All the training guides for doing treks or three peaks said you should leave a path and try to walk over tussocks, as this would increase your stamina. Well Saturday must have increased our stamina infinitely! I lost track of the time, but I think out of the 7 hours and 15 miles that we walked, 5 hours and at least 10 miles were over tussocks, heather and up and down peat bogs. Gortex boots are brilliant, but even they could not hold out against the bogs, and we both ended up with exceedingly wet feet. (Maybe the fact that at times we sunk up to our knees, might have had something to do with it!!)

Grace excelled herself at the end, I chose the easy option of walking round Dumgoyne, Grace & Jess ran over it! Indeed they arrived back at the river just about 5 mins after us. My only consolation was that she did not arrive before me!

On arrival at the car, we realised that we had left our nice dry socks and shoes in the other car which was parked 15 miles away. Ah well never mind, at least we were on solid ground.

I now know just how tired I’m going to be when we do the Three Peaks for real. I’m just glad that we are doing three Scottish peaks and not the official three peaks.

The next update will be the last one. We have no more training planned, just now hoping for dry weather on the 19th & 20th July.


Arran – Memory Marker

Grace & I had set Monday 4th July to do a full day’s training for The Three Peaks.  On Sunday Grace sent me a text and said “Would it be too radical to go to Arran to do Goatfell and rest of ridge?” Exceptional weather calling for serious memory marker?!”

I agreed that was a great idea. So we met at Central Station on Monday morning, bright eyed and bushy tailed – and that was just the two dogs:)

Fantastic day, and off we set from Brodick to walk up to Glen Rosa, up the valley and unto the ridge. The two dogs were in serious doggy heaven – no sheep to worry about and they could just run, and they did.

We climbed up over Beinn Nuis, unto Beinn Tarsuin, where we had our lunch, and on a very steep slope, poor Jess was sliding down the grassy slope at one stage. From Beinn Tarsuin we made our way to Cir Mhor.

Getting to Cir Mhor took us much longer than we had expected, lots of scrambling and as Grace says “technical walking” – which I’m not used to. We found the path off Cir Mhor, or at least thought we had! The huge rock slabs of over 2 meters high had other ideas, and eventually we had to give up, make our way back up and find an alternative route of Cir Mhor. I wished I’d had my camera to hand at one stage, as I helped Tazi up to Grace, who then lifted him up. He must have been terrified as he was gripping unto to her for dear life! His front paws round her neck and his back paws round her waist! I think even if she hadn’t been holding him, he would have stayed on himself anyway!

This wee delay meant that we could not make it from the Saddle back to Brodick in time for the last ferry. Oops. Now there was just the challenge of walking back to Brodick and trying to find somewhere to stay that would take two dogs. The Glenartney Guest House had a twin room, and willingly allowed Jess & Tazi to stay too. What a relief! They even provided food for the two dogs.

We virtually ran back down the hill to the wee restaurant and managed to get in for the last food order at 9.00!

We certainly made memories that day!! And were so thankful for the kindness of the guest house owners, we had to leave before breakfast was served on Tuesday, but they left us all we needed for a cold breakfast before we got the ferry back to Ardrossan at 8.20.

I never appreciated a toothbrush so much as on Tuesday morning.

After I got back I looked up some of the guides of the ridge that we had done and read this:

“Arran’s 4 Corbetts are sufficiently close to one another to be climbed together, but Goatfell is popular as a single peak and is described separately.  The Three remaining peaks lie on a long winding ridge that starts with Beinn Nuis (729m) then goes N to Beinn Tarsuinn, Cir Mhor and finally Caisteal  Abhail. Cir Mhor is a more comact hill with with three ridges, NNW to Caisteal Abhail, WSW to join the A Chir ridge of Beinn Tarsuinn and E to a bealach. (The Saddle). All three ridges are well served by paths, but the descent from Cir Mhor to the saddle is very steep and should not be attempted.”


More training

After a month of not being to get to the hills for one reason or another (torrential rain, conferences, injuries, ill-health, other commitments – to name but some of the reasons), Grace & I finally ignored the depression of another wet Saturday in the west of Scotland, and got back into training. We spent Saturday afternoon on the Campsie Fells. Grace being Grace, we couldn’t possibly go up the gentle slope rising from Crow Road carpark – no we went up the front of the Camspies – approached from the Lennoxtown Road. At times it felt we should really be using ropes!

Being on The Campsies on a ‘driech’ day gave Grace the opportunity to teach me some navigational skills – as we trudged our way through bogs and slime. Reaching the intended fence on virtually a  straight line, using clumps of grass to guide, gives a great sense of achievement.

The two dogs, as ever, did at least 4 times the work that we did – and both thoroughly enjoyed their afternoon.

Psychologically it was good to get back unto the hills, even just to give us the boost that we needed, after a month of really restricted training.

We decided to move the challenge back one week, having lost that month, and Grace being committed to SU camp at the beginning of July. That decision was also a relief, as I for one was certainly beginning to feel the pressure of not being able to train during May – now I’m really looking forward to it again, knowing that yesterday put us back on target.


Craft Group

One of the activities of The Well is a craft group for women.

A place where women can relax, build friendships, learn new skills – just generally a time for themselves.

At the craft group yesterday I was so wishing I had had my camera with me – a scene which would not be repeated in too many places, a Pakistani Muslim woman was sewing an Indian Sikh lady’s suit!  How good it was to see people who would not normally have reason to meet each other, helping each other in a very relaxed environment.

Three Peaks Challenge

In December last year I went to the Aiming 4 Excellence Conference with Grace Penney from Interserve. In one of our conversations, we discussed what a good thing it would be to do a Three Peaks Challenge, as a fundraiser for The Well. But really it was just a conversation . . .

In February of this year I met up with Grace again, and the subject of the Three Peaks came up. As we talked about it, we came to the conclusion that really we didn’t need to the formal Three Peaks (the highest peaks in Scotland, England & Wales), but we could just make up our own Three Peaks. By the end of our walk together we had a whole plan. We would do Ben Nevis, The Cobbler and Ben Lomond in under 24 hours! Three Peaks virtually from Sea Level.  I wasn’t very brave, I didn’t tell anyone what we were planning – after all there was just the minor detail of me having to get fit in time to complete the challenge!

The first step on the journey to fitness was to  . . . . no not join a gym, nor go swimming – it was to get a dog! I knew if I had a dog, I would have to go out every day rain, hail or shine. So one week later Tazi came into our lives & the training began.

At the end of March Grace, and her dog Jess, along with Tazi and I headed to The Cobbler . My first proper Scottish hill in many years. I was relieved to put in a respectable time of completing the hill in 4 &1/2 hours. At the end I asked Grace to be honest, did she think that I could be fit enough by July to be able to do this. She had no doubt that it was definitely possible.

And so I went public! I put it into our newsletter, and started to tell people, and to a man the reaction was the same: “Wow, that’s some challenge!” As jaws dropped & eyebrows were raised!

Since that day I’ve spent many more days in the hills – about half of them in glorious sunshine – the rest? Well let’s just say I’m very thankful for Gortex!!!

Three weeks ago Grace & I had our next big challenge. Two peaks in one day. We started The Cobbler at 9.30 am, and as we neared the bottom at about 12.30, we met a group heading up. “Oh you guys must have had an early start” they said “what are you going to do for the rest of day?” “Climb Ben Lomond” says Grace. If only I’d had a camera! The expression on their faces was priceless!

We were off The Cobbler at 1.00 and drove to Ben Lomond. Just as we arrived at Rowardennan it is no exaggeration to say the heavens opened! Thunder, Lightening, Hailstones – we had the lot! Only the totally mad would even consider getting out of the car in such conditions – never mind climb a mountain!

At the top we met a solitary Polish guy, he had never climbed Ben Lomond before (indeed his attire & the contents of his day sack suggested he had never climbed anywhere before!) He asked us “What is the view like from here?”

Grace decided she wanted us to complete Ben Lomond in 4 hours, so any time I went into plodding mode, I was jivvied along, and with Grace’s encouragement we did Ben Lomond in 3 & 3/4 hours – a PB for me, and not bad at all considering we had already climbed The Cobbler that morning. The two dogs probably climbed at least 4 hills that day. So from the start of The Cobbler to the bottom of Ben Lomond it took us just a little over 9 hours, and that includes a very slow drive between the two mountains. For me the most amazing thing was was that I wasn’t really tired, and hardly sore at all.

But since that day, due to other commitments and the inclement weather (have you seen the torrential rain and the 100mph winds?) I’ve hardly got out at all. That will have to change very soon!

I am so encouraged and delighted by the sponsorship that has already come in. It’s unfortunate that due to timing of The Well becoming an independent charity, that we’ve not been able to set up direct giving through the website, but don’t let that stop you! We still accept cash and cheques:-)