Why we conquered the Three Peaks Challenge

A team of Sue Ryder staff, friends and family took on the Three Peaks Challenge to support the ongoing capital appeal to extend our Dee View Court neurological centre in Aberdeen.

The group set off to conquer the Three Peaks Challenge

At the end of April, I joined a team of Sue Ryder staff, friends and family taking on the Three Peaks Challenge. The task was to hike Snowden, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis - all in 24 hours.

Before taking on the challenge, I realised that, while I have hiked before (at least once), it's never been remotely as difficult as this was, and it was different because there was always a rest stop halfway through at a pub! I also wasn't entirely sure where each of these places was in the UK, or their respective difficulties to hike.

Despite this, I joined the team based out of the Sue Ryder office in Doncaster to support our wonderful charity to reach more people. We need to raise £3.9 million to fund the extension to our Dee View Court neurological centre in Aberdeen.

Before we all knew it, the time had come for our group to meet in Doncaster. We were 9 hikers, 2 drivers and a Husky, about to drive the best part of 7 hours to Ben Nevis closely together in our little coach. Ahead of us lay over 25 miles of rough and rocky terrain, an ascent of roughly 3,500m, unpredictable weather conditions, and innumerable conversations about our particular mental and physical states.

Walkers ( and dog) pause on the way up Ben Nevis

Ben Nevis

Commencing slightly late due to traffic, the group enthusiastically began the ascent of Ben Nevis at around 6.00pm - with weather on side and views spectacular! We quickly realised variants of “Are we there yet?” would be commonplace as some of us struggled to conceptualise a climb of this size.

As we progressed towards the top, strong winds, foggy scarce visibility and snow rammed home the unfamiliar challenge of a mountain ascent. There was no longer a path as we followed cairns (man-made piles of stones) - oh yes and the GPS! The group was elated at reaching the summit, but that didn’t last long as it was quickly followed by a desire to be back at the vehicle.

The descent was tricky in the dark and rain; at times we could only see as far as our head torches would let us! Some falls and the fact this was only one third of the challenge contributed to low group morale. At the bottom of the mountain, we consumed some much-deserved calories and quickly slept before our 4.00am wakeup call. Mountain 1: down, taking ~6 hours.

Walkers head across a bridge on Ben Nevis

Scafell Pike

Wake-ups are rarely pleasant, but add in your joints hurting and the fact you’re expected to climb a mountain and they're downright ugly.

Once we got going again, our ascent actually turned out to not be too bad. The weather was kind and hiking more business-like, knowing that the weather may change later on in the morning. The group quickly hustled to another windy top, taking our time on the way down to take in all the scenery (and because our joints were hurting!).

We spent around 3 hours in all on Scafell Pike - the shortest of the three peaks - before we were back on the road for the final challenge.

Three Walkers head up the hill looking over the valley

Mount Snowdon 

Last one, and mixed feelings in the group staring down Snowdon - 'the busiest mountain in Britain'! It wasn’t easy to tell if anyone was joking when proposing to take the railway up to the peak. Add to this our chosen tracks - “Pyg” ‘the most rugged and challenging of the six paths up’ and the “Miner” track down.

Splitting into separate groupings to accommodate different paced approaches, the ascent path was scenic before morphing into mildly terrifying along the ridge of the mountain.

The slower of the groups was unfortunate to take the brunt of the worsening weather as sleet and winds ploughed into the already testing environment. To the credit of the hikers, they persisted through hours of weather and managed the steep descent into the embrace of warm soup and congratulations at the café at the base after 5 hours of climbing.

Team at the top of the mountain, surrounded by cloud

Finally, the group arrived into Doncaster at 1.30am with weary team members craving the type of sleep that lying down horizontally can achieve.

Some members of the group managed the challenge in less than 24 hours, some slightly over, but all with a sense of collective achievement and camaraderie in motivating each other through the 20+ hours of driving and up to 14+ hours of hiking over the two days.

All the hikers are very thankful to our volunteer drivers, motivating donors and organisers, without whom we’d have never been able to complete this challenge. To them, we say “Thank you all very much!”

Why we did it: to support the Sue Ryder Dee View Court Capital Appeal

Imagine you can't walk, talk or feed yourself. And even though you're only 30, you're living in an older people's care home because there is nowhere else for you to go.

As Scotland's only purpose-built specialist neurological care centre, demand for a place at Sue Ryder Dee View Court is high, and there's a waiting list that never gets any shorter. We launched an appeal in June 2017 to extend Dee View Court and provide a home for 20 more people, and the team wanted to support this ambitious project.

It's not too late to donate to our challenge!

Author

Jacob on the mountain

Three Peaks Challenge fundraiser and Sue Ryder staff member

Jacob Brown

Jacob works at Sue Ryder's London office. He set himself the lofty goal of raising £1,000 for our Dee View Court Capital Appeal by climbing the three peaks as part of a group of Sue Ryder supporters.