On 3rd October 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic, and with Storm Alex battering parts of the UK, 13 members of the Luctonians 3rd XV set of to conquer Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike & Snowdon within 24 hours
They had aimed to raise £1000 for St Michael’s Hospice – Hereford which, like all charities was suffering because of restrictions due to the pandemic. However, on 17th November at Mortimer Park, they presented St Michael’s a cheque for money raised by the incredibly generous donations from members of the Luctonians Community. That cheque was in the amazing sum of
Read the Peak by Peak account
Saturday 3rd October 2020
At 5am, a group of 15 men met at the Luctonians RFC clubhouse. One was already eagerly awaiting our arrival in Scotland, having travelled up the day before. Everyone was full of excitement for the walks that lay ahead of us. Our scheduled time to start the walk in Scotland was 5pm and, fortunately we had a true master of the road going transport in our ranks. Taff had advised that if we wanted to start walking at 5pm, then we would be best off starting the journey at 5am, allowing 12 hours for what would normally be an 8 hour drive. However, Ben Mcgowan had left his poles at home so had to rush back for them and Josh Stack, his cousin, had arrived with barely a drop of fuel in his Range Rover. And so began the first of the day’s delays.
We were around an hour and a half into the journey when Josh’s Range Rover had a blow out on the M53 coming round Chester. Just what we needed at 7.30 before anywhere was open. Luckily, all other teams were quite comfortable, chilling with a coffee in the service station a couple of junctions ahead, and, in true “Top Gear” style, we left them behind to sort themselves out.
So, one half of the team headed to Taff’s favorite truck stop for a Scottish inspired breakfast, and as we tucked into our haggis and lorne sausage, the others, now with a new tyre, used the time to catch back up!
The rest of the journey was pretty plain sailing and half the group arrived at the Ben Nevis visitor center at around 2.15pm, having managed to get a glimpse of some of the fantastic scenery that western Scotland has to offer. Taylor the navigator managed to lead himself and the Range Rover to the wrong start point so there was a brief moment of panic and scrabbling before meeting at a junction along the path.
Finally out of cars and doing what we came to do, tackle mountains, everyone was in very high spirits for the first gentle incline. Before attempting the challenge however, someone had shared with us a funny trip advisor review of Scotland’s highest mountain. Some of the phrases which stood out were “too long”, “too cold”, “not even a good view from the top” – I can now say with absolute authority that this is an accurate representation of what we experienced.
Dave, Challenge Organiser and Walk Leader had left the car park in only shorts and a T-shirt, which proved somewhat skimpy for the -5c temperatures and horizontal snow we experienced at the summit.
With darkness approaching, we made it back to the car park with barely enough light to see the feast which our valiant drivers had prepared. A quick & shameless costume change, sheltering from the elements in the visitor center and a boil-in-the-bag beans & sausage and pot noodle later and we were on the way.
Ben Nevis climb commenced at 2:57pm and returned to base at 7:32pm. Time taken – 4hrs 35mins
24hr Challenge clock started at commencement of climb
Still buzzing with the excitement of completing Ben Nevis well within time but with Dave’s nagging ringing in everyone’s ears about the turnaround timings, all teams headed for the Lake District and Scafell Pike. Ben Nevis had been a new experience for all of us and as such we had no choice but to keep going and find out what was in store for us.
In training, 5 of our contingent had climbed Scafell Pike only weeks prior to our challenge weekend. Even with their glorious weather conditions and bright daylight they told tales of a never ending slippery, uneven, messy, stoney, tough & steep climb. This hardly filled everyone with enthusiasm.
As we arrived at the base, timings looking tight to complete within the 24hrs, and the torrential rain which had been forecast until morning looked well and truly set in. Nevertheless, we put on our boots, poncho’d up, switched on head torches and, at 1:44am, we began.
Not long into the climb we lost our senior member of the squad. Bowing out at 2:00am in the torrential rain is no shame at 50 years of age, so the 12 continued.
Around 40 minutes into the climb there is usually a little stream with a few stepping-stones to cross. I say usually because in our case we happened across what can only be compared to Niagara Falls with not a stepping-stone in sight!
After risking life and limb to cross, we had almost another 2 hours of climbing in now saturated boots. A quick couple of blurry over exposed photos at the peak and we were downward bound. The first of us finished this one in around 3 hours 45 with the stragglers reaching for their dinner after around 4 hours 5 minutes. This time the chefs had boiled us some Chicken Tikka Massala in the bag.
All enthusiasm for this challenge was now at an absolute low, but we remembered what we were doing it for, so there was nothing but to pack up and head to Wales.
Scafell Pike climb commenced at 1:44am and returned to base at 5:46am. Time taken – 4hrs 02mins
Snowdon seemed to be a different story. Despite passing floods on the way, from the storm we had seen at both previous peaks, we arrived at the car park for the highest point in Wales and there was little more than a drizzle in the air. What a treat! So, dressed in our group tops and ready to return victorious, with around 5 hours left on the clock to complete this one, we set off.
Spirits were high the whole way. The final 30 minute climb did its best to dampen our mood as, once again, we questioned whose silly idea the whole escapade had been. We made friends on the way up with an obliging lady who agreed to take our photo at the summit, before realizing her son was playing in a Bromyard Youth team at Luctonians that very day. Wow! There was a quick sharing of port & brandies then time to get off the mountain.
The trip down took a little longer than expected and a lot of motivation was needed to keep the pace up, as our jubilant mood had made us complacent.
Crossing the finish line with 40 minutes to spare, we had never been so pleased to see a north Walian car park. The sight of our support drivers waving and cheering us on gave us the last-minute boost to jog over the finish line and stop the clock.
Snowdon climb commenced at 10:08am and returned to base at 2:17pm. Time taken – 4hrs 09mins
24hr Three Peaks Challenge completed in 23hrs 20mins
We must thank everyone who has helped and supported us in any way: By running our Social Media campaign whilst we were battling the elements on zero hours sleep; lending us vans to take us across 3 countries; driving us & cooking for us. We couldn’t have done the challenge without them
Especially though, we pay tribute to those of you who have donated, and to our magnificent sponsors
THANK YOU ALL