“You are doing the 3 peaks!” with great emphasis on the exclamation mark, was the phrase that greeted most of us as we told friends and colleagues we were embarking on the Three Peaks Challenge for Hospitality Action.
Three months of preparation later; from cliff walks, running the office stairs daily, to evenings ‘planning’ in the pub, it was time to head to Glasgow. After a final drink and evening’s pep talk with tips; what makes a successful team, how to complete the challenge within the time limit – walk like Sherpas, and the dreaded “if you hold us back you will be asked to stop the challenge” we lay our weary heads on the hostel pillows for a fitful night’s sleep, fearful that we might be the person sent back down.
At 6.50am on Saturday morning we started our first mountain, Ben Nevis, initially more akin to a nice stroll through slightly undulating fields, but within 30 minutes we were walking up a steep, rocky incline into a mist covered mountain. The knees felt it first quickly followed by the calves, thighs and pretty much every other muscle in the body but through grit and determination and encouragement we arrived at the summit elated and ready to take on the other two! Remarkably Eliza, ever the master of Sales, happily chatted to our new team throughout (apparently this helps you breath!). As we completed our descent of Ben Nevis it was clear that Sasha’s concern of her ‘tan lines’ was in vain as the mist came close and our waterproofs became the clothing of choice. We’d completed Ben Nevis in 5½ hours, just over our allotted time, but with strong spirits we set off on the 6 hour drive to Scafell Pike.
Focus on the next step, not the next summit
As we crossed into the Lake District the rain got harder and the wind blew stronger and by the time we reached Seathwaite, there were flood warnings and 45 mph winds awaiting us. Within 10 minutes of starting our second peak the rivers bulged over their banks and as the rain thrashed down, the paths and rivers became indistinguishable. The following six hours was a true test of our physical and mental ability…
Your body can do so much more than you think possible
The rain found its way through every gap and although at the beginning we had leapt from rock to rock over the water, as our boots became wetter we just ploughed through, water gushing around our ankles. Over the following hours our team encountered every emotion from anger, frustration, fear exhaustion and the wind cut to our bones. When we reached the top there was a brief feeling of elation until we realised night was closing in and we had to walk back down again! We crossed rivers that were overflowing to bursting, scaled rocks with sheer drops beneath and scrambled up grassy, rocky banks when most sane people were either in the pub or tucked up in bed! Within half an hour of leaving the summit darkness had fallen and with head torches glowing the descent was slow progress as Neil our guide checked and double checked map and compass to be sure we were on the right path as every path looked just like a river. There were moments we feared we were lost, especially when another group passed who had started from a different town, but with no choice but to trust him we battled on.
Never underestimate the power of team work and positive mental attitude
By the time we got back down to the bottom of the mountain at 12.50am Sunday morning we were soaked to the skin, with waterproofs that were no longer water proof, boots that had absorbed rivers and rucksacks containing what should have been dry clothes and were now sodden! We were told to shake our waterproofs outside the mini bus and put them on the floor and to eat, drink and get some rest. Sadly the eating didn’t involve steak or lobster and there was certainly no Sauvignon Blanc or G&T to be seen!
When you’re thirsty, sucking rainwater from your gloves can be as good as a glass of Champagne!
4 hours later at just before 5am Sunday morning we were approaching Snowdon and the final part of our challenge. Ours joints creaked and as we staggered out of the bus into our soaked waterproofs and boots we were greeted by the exceptionally cheery face of Mik, an acquaintance, who had decided to join us to climb Snowdon. Some of us were less than pleased to be joined by such enthusiasm in our current state, however, when at the first break Mik whipped out flasks of hot coffee and tea we could have wept with gratitude. Our guide had declined to mention that we were taking the Pyg Trail up, the steeper and rockier of the trails, and as the rain continued down, we were left imagining how beautiful it might be. After three or four “this is the final push” from our guide Neil, we could see the top! As we took the final steps together as a team
“Nearly there”, “Not far to go” and “It gets easier from here” seem to have a different meaning on the mountains
The elation of reaching the summit of Scafell Pike was amazing but the feeling on reaching the summit of Snowdon was out of this world – we had now reached the highest points on the three biggest mountains in the UK and all in just over 24 hours – phenomenal!! The descent was full of laughter, joy and relief and much reminiscing on the exploits of the previous 24 hours which saw Saturday night on Scafell described as Epic, Monumental and probably best of all Biblical! We reached the bottom just over 27 hours after starting at the foot of Ben Nevis and we were all over the moon.
…and remember there’s always: “Just one final push!”
We had all completed probably the biggest challenge in our lives and we had achieved it together – supporting each other when one was down and making each other laugh when crying seemed more appropriate! It’s hard to think of the words to describe the feeling but the feeling of accomplishment and the bond we have as a team now, is already helping us to plan something tougher for next year!
The Red Carnation 2012 Three peaks team: Andrew Chantrell, General Manager at The Old Governement House; Eliza Foord, Director of Sales; Eddie O’berine, IT Support; Sasha Kerman, Content & Community Manager and Stephanie Chiswell PA to the Managing Director.
If you have been inspired by our account and feel like supporting this fantastic charity our Just Giving page is open until September 2012. Hospitality Action offers vital assistance to all who work, or have worked within hospitality in the UK and who find themselves in crisis.