Fundraiser Guest Blog: Tackling the three peaks for the Archer Project by Ian Brownlee

9th November 2021

Thinking of taking on the Three Peaks Challenge to raise money for the Archer Project and wondering whether you should? As someone who has done this already I would recommend it wholeheartedly! Few things you do in the next year will bring you quite the same sense of achievement as climbing the three highest mountains in Great Britain in less than 24 hours and your family and friends will be happy to sponsor you to do it.

I signed up for the Three Peaks Challenge in late 2019 with a view to completing it in August 2020. Unfortunately, the rules around Covid-19 at the time meant that this was impossible but I was able to re-register for the trip in 2021. Shortly afterwards the self-doubts began. Don’t worry if you have misgivings too. It is a formidable challenge; 22 miles of walking in 15 hours involving over 10,000 feet of climbing is not quite a stroll in the park. And at 66 years of age I did wonder if I would be up to it. 

But I’m reasonably fit for my age and exercise regularly so I decided to take the challenge on. The good people at Global Adventures Challenges (who organise the event for the Archer) sent me lots of helpful information including a training diary. So in June I started trekking up some of the hills in the Peak District on a weekly basis and by the beginning of August I was tackling both Winn Hill and Lose Hill in one sitting with the addition of eight miles in between. This really was invaluable preparation although with hindsight I might have managed on a little less training. It does depend on individual levels of fitness and how confident you are in walking up steep hills but some training is definitely required.

The challenge itself began with a train journey to Glasgow on a Friday afternoon. Two minibuses were waiting at the station and the assembled party – 17 of us – were taken off to spend the night at the Youth Hostel in Glen Nevis. I was the only one walking for the Archer but I soon got to know the others on the trip. We were all there to raise money for our favourite causes so we had a lot in common straightaway. 

The Hostel was very modern and provided a good night’s sleep but we were up at 4.30 on Saturday morning and by 5.45 we were at the bottom of the steep and rocky track that pointed towards the summit of Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis. It’s four miles to the top and some sections of the way are very steep. But by virtue of putting one foot in front of the other and stopping briefly every now and again to admire the expanding views we got there. Global Adventure had arranged for three local guides to accompany us on each of the mountains and this enabled the group to sub-divide quite naturally depending on how fast people were able to walk. Despite the light rain that shrouded the summit on our arrival the sense of relief on getting there provided a tremendous lift to the spirits. Now I had climbed one summit I knew I could conquer them all and that felt good!

The descent back to Glen Nevis took almost as long as the climb because of the gradient and the rough terrain. But six hours after setting off we were back at the youth hostel and clambering into the minibuses for the transit to the Lake District and Scafell Pike. There’s no word for the road journey but tedious. We stopped once to buy food for the rest of the trip but most people snoozed as best they could. I recommend taking eye-blinds and a light blanket with you for the minibus because any sleep you can snatch is definitely a bonus. 

Night had fallen by the time we reached Wasdale Head and it was now raining quite heavily. Well, you wouldn’t want it to be too easy would you?  Our three Lake District guides greeted us and slowly we began the ascent up the side of Scafell crossing fast flowing becks and clambering among strange rock formations on the way. This was when I realised that good quality waterproofs and sturdy boots were a must on this challenge. Also, it helped to have a fairly high level of determination and self-motivation under the waterproofs. Nothing we were asked to do was impossible but it was certainly demanding. That said, each step upwards felt like a real accomplishment and at no time did I consider turning back (which was an option if you really wanted to).  

The round trip to the summit and back took a little over four hours so were still on schedule to complete the whole challenge within the 15 hours of walking which had been allocated. It was essential to have a change of clothes with you in the minibus because by now (2.45 on Sunday morning) we were all absolutely drenched. Some more snatched sleep punctuated by a stop at a motorway services for coffee and doughnuts and then we were at Pen-y-pass above Llanberris and eager to complete our task. Only (only!) Snowdon stood in our way. Yr Wyddfa as it is known in Welsh is a bit of a trudge over some steep rocky paths so you need to get your head down and concentrate on the one foot in front of the other principle. Gradually as we neared the summit ridge the mists which had accompanied us lifted and a watery sun showed us some spectacular vistas. 

We reached the summit at about the same time as two thirds of the population of the British Isles (or so it seemed) and there was the normal queue to ascend the final summit cairn. I used the time to do a little jig of joy and it’s hard to describe how happy I felt then. I really hadn’t been sure in advance I could do this and now I had succeeded. That, I suppose, is the nature of challenge. On the way down I even managed to jog a little along the wide and firm Miners track, so elated did I feel. Just as well really, because the clock was ticking on that 15 hour deadline. But we did all make it and afterwards we retired to the Royal Hotel in Llanberis for a very welcome pint of beer and a burger. 

I hope this description hasn’t put you off. The Three Peaks Challenge is certainly demanding but it is also one of the best things I have done in a very long time. Friends and family were very supportive when they heard what I was contemplating and I managed to raise over £2,000 for the Archer without really having to try too hard with the fundraising. 

So why don’t you give it a go? I’m sure you won’t regret it.

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