In 2009, under unfriendly October skies, I attempted the National Three Peaks Challenge, but the weather forced us to turn back, prioritising safety over success. This year, I undertook the challenge again with two friends, and the odds seemed stacked against us from the start.
Our group hailed from the Woodbridge Football Club Veterans team, a bunch of over-35s, mostly in their 40s. What was supposed to be an eight-person team dwindled to just three. We couldn’t justify the club minibus for our journey, so, being middle-aged and mindful of the environment, we opted for an electric car.
As if that wasn’t challenging enough, two weeks before the big day, gout struck, followed by a positive COVID-19 test. A sore foot and diminished lung capacity made the climb seem almost impossible.
Our goal? Raising funds for two charities close to our hearts: Tom’s Trust, a fantastic charity which is dedicated to providing mental health support to children with brain tumours and their families, and Prostate Cancer UK.
Our adventure began with a scenic drive to Scotland, covering over 500 miles. Charging stops were part of the journey, and we swapped driving duties to ease the strain. The Scottish Highlands greeted us with breathtaking vistas as twilight descended.
A restless night in a basic hotel awaited us. My stomach trouble and unease added to our pre-climb anxiety. At 6:30 AM, we prepped for Ben Nevis, stopping to charge the electric car. An unexpected encounter with an American tourist at McDonald’s added a touch of camaraderie before we began our ascent.
Ben Nevis is a relentless climb, like ascending a never-ending staircase. Halfway up, my breathing became laboured, and eating or drinking while walking was nearly impossible. But we conquered it in under three hours, lucking out with improved visibility at the summit.
Next, we raced to the Lake District, hoping to complete Scafell Pike in four hours. It was still daylight, but the steep and intense climb tested our resolve. Struggling with post-COVID complications, I slowed us down, but we persevered.
As night fell and the cloud covered us, Scafell Pike’s summit became a disorienting blur. Lost on the descent, we encountered panic and a thunderstorm. Google Maps eventually saved us, guiding us back to safety.
The drive to Wales was a grueling overnight journey, with frequent driver swaps to stay awake. Exhausted and soaked, we reached Snowdon. My deteriorating condition led me to stay behind while my comrades braved a challenging climb.
They faced steep sections and sheer drops on the ascent, but their determination prevailed. They reached the summit in time, although our 24-hour target had slipped away.
Lessons learned? Timing, weather, and clear paths are vital. Having a dedicated driver is a must.
Our journey was tough, but it was all for a good cause. You can support us by visiting our Just Giving page and donating to Tom’s Trust and Prostate Cancer UK.
Written by Martin Shave, Trustee of Tom’s Trust
Martin is an industry lead for Microsoft in the UK having worked in the IT sector for over 15 years, prior to which he worked as an accountant in practice and in the Higher Education sector. During his time at Microsoft, Martin has managed teams across a variety of industries including a number of years leading the Public Sector team which helped healthcare providers to improve their service.