“Suzie, I have a question for you”; is where it all started – “have you heard of the 3 peaks challenge?” JR continued – “No, I haven’t but sounds fun” was where it went downhill – or rather uphill. 3 of them in fact, all equally as steep and exhausting as the next!
On Friday the 16th September I made my way to Luton Airport to meet 3 of my Red Carnation Hotels colleagues – JR (the boss), Sandra and Sarah. We were on our way to complete the 3 Peaks Challenge to raise money for Hospitality Action*.
Laden with walking boots, my trusty red ski jacket, a head torch, 2 walking poles, a rucksack full of homemade flapjack and blister plasters – “You won’t be able to walk for a week because of the blisters” friends and family advised, I happily accepted their words of wisdom except for those along the lines of “don’t do it, you must be mad”
Arriving at Glasgow airport, we immediately spotted another group of fellow hikers; it quickly became evident that I was no longer alone in the “lack of preparation” and “ignorance of the task at hand” department, so I started to feel a little more relaxed.
Around 5pm we were met by a guide called John, “just back from Killer” he confidently boasted, excellent experience I noted and started to look forward to the task ahead. I watched as John disappeared into the distance with another group and turned around to be greeted by Andy, a young man from Hereford who led us off to our minibus without a whisper of Kilimanjaro or similar boastful experience – I wasn’t convinced.
On arrival by mini bus at Fort William, we were joined by 3 other teams at the “Bunkhouse” which is exactly that – a house full of bunk beds. After a large glass of red, we left our guide Andy at the bar and after briefing him to be “at his best” for the morning I settled down for the night with the words “breakfast at 5am” tormenting me as I tried desperately to get some sleep.
5am is a little early for Muesli but I was determined to stock up – “Andy 3 Peaks” as we had now nicknamed him was the last to join us for breakfast and had a look of too many red wines from the night before; I was still not convinced and as the rain streamed down the window of the Bunkhouse, I reluctantly pulled on my waterproof trousers, layered myself up with thermals, 2 t-shirts, a fleece and ski jacket – determined I would not be beaten by the miserable weather.
At 6am we arrived at Achaintee House, at the foot of the mighty Ben Nevis. “This seems OK” I thought to myself as we picked up pace and started to head into the hills, I started to get in the swing of using my new walking poles, enjoyed the convenience of my new “bladder system” (water bottle with straw attached) and started to feel like a real adventurer.
30 minutes in and hanging at the back of the group – it started to go slightly wrong. “Is it too early to drop out now?” I thought to myself, looking across at my team mate Sandra, I uttered the formidable words “I can’t do this” to which she dutifully responded “neither can I” so we decided to take a breather. “SUZIE GET A MOVE ON” were the booming words of encouragement from JR – “no time for sitting down” he continued and so despite the rain, leaking bladder system (see above), exhaustion and inevitable stitch, I de-layered and with some kind words of encouragement from Andy 3 Peaks ¬– I got a move on…
Reaching the top of Ben Nevis was amazing, the Red Carnation Flag was swiftly removed from JR’s back pack and we posed proudly for a team photo, unfortunately due to the poor weather conditions the views were non existent and so Andy 3 Peaks promptly led us back down Ben Nevis and back to the mini bus for the next leg of the journey – Scarfell Pike in the Lake District.
Spending 7 hours in a mini bus, drenched and exhausted was almost as uncomfortable as the climb itself. We eventually arrived at Seathwaite, at the foot of Scarfell around 7pm and were reminded to pull out our head torches for the night climb. Climbing a mountain in the dark is not something that would have ever occurred to me a sensible idea and as I stood clinging to the rock face at midnight, being told to “lean into the mountain” I understood why. “This is ridiculous” I shouted in amongst some other choice words “someone is going to get hurt” – my concerns were once again met with JR’s words of encouragement …“Get a move on Suzie”.
Several hours of climbing later and as we headed back down the Pike, I started to appreciate the wonder of climbing a mountain in the middle of the night, as we walked through flowing rivers and skilfully traversed the harsh rock face, It dawned on me that I might actually be starting to enjoy myself..
After making it back down to the bus at approx 2am; we had 3 hours to rest while we made our way to Snowdon – the final peak! Waking up on a warm bus after a couple of hours sleep, with 2 mountain climbs behind me and the sound of rain lashing down outside – to say I was less than eager was an understatement! As many of our team mates chose to quietly sit the last one out and swap the looming 7 hour hike for a few extra hours sleep; I also started to question whether two peaks was perhaps enough….”Get a move on Suzie”
Starting out from Pen-Y-Pass, we made our way up Snowdon in the dark, absolutely exhausted I felt a slight tickle of excitement “I am almost there” I thought to myself and I couldn’t quite believe it. As the sun rose over the beautiful lakes of Snowdon I once again reflected on the past 24 hours and upon reaching the top of Snowdon, I was delighted!
I was certainly delighted to have completed the challenge and for such a worthy cause – but more so that it was almost over. Andy 3 peaks and I made it to the bottom of Snowdon at 12pm to be greeted by the lovely people from Hospitality Action; I proudly showed off my medal and posed for a final photo. I was delighted to have successfully finished the challenge, but at the same time felt quite sad that it was all over…as I said my goodbyes to Andy 3 Peaks – my new found friend – and briefly pondered my future as a mountain guide – I was ushered back to the waiting mini bus and for the final time heard the now familiar instruction to “get a move on Suzie”.
Written by Suzie Wotton, Vice President of Marketing at Red carnation Hotels
* For over 170 years Hospitality Action, the Hospitality Industry Benevolent Organisation, has offered vital assistance to all who work, or have worked within hospitality in the UK and who find themselves in crisis. Red Carnation Hotels raised £5000 for Hospitality Action during the 3 Peaks Challenge and will proudly continue to support the organisation’s great work.