Five out of Six Peaks
Posted on 31st July 2023 at 17:05
What the f*ck happened?
I didn’t want to write this, I had envisioned writing an article in which I complete all six peaks, and regal you with amazing tales of daring feats and beasts I slayed. But alas that was not to be, lest you can’t tell from the title, I didn’t complete my six peaks challenge, it’s the first challenge I’ve set myself in which I had to pull out. I’ll get to what happened soon enough, but first I want to tell you about the amazing time I had taking part in this adventure, and what an awesome team I was fortunate enough to work with.
Before I go on, I should state that my two running mates, Paul and Lee did manage to complete all six peaks, and raise nearly five grand in the process, so overall the challenge was a big success.
On Friday 7th July I set off to Scotland in a van with four other guys, Darren and Josh had given up an entire weekend to drive us 1200 miles around the UK, and the fine athletes Paul and Lee who were going to attempt the six peaks with me (The three national peaks, Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowden, and the three Yorkshire peaks, Whernside, Pen-y- Ghent and Ingleborough, a total of 50 miles and 5561 metres ascent).
Day one, the Drive to Scotland
We set off about 10am on what should have been six hours and forty-one-minute journey up to Fort William. With rest breaks at the services that should have been seven and a half hours, so ETA 5:30?
Within the first hour I discovered just how much fun this journey was going to be, as we cramped up in the back trying to straighten our legs.
We stopped at a service to stretch and buy overpriced coffee, then we got back on the road and looked set to make it up to Scotland in good time, were it not for someone who managed to impressively flip over a caravan right across the road on the M6.
This set us back about ninety minutes, during which we discussed the best lane we should be in as the traffic always seemed to be moving much quicker on the lane we weren’t in. As this conversation petered out, we discussed the merits of various air fryers, and the time just flew by.
After what seemed like the same amount of time I could have ridden a one legged turtle to Scotland in, we finally arrived in Fort William around 7:30pm, hungry and in need of a carb up before our big endeavour, we hit town and managed to stumble upon the shittest restaurant in Scotland, it was quite a find, and ought really to have World Heritage status so that the Jocks can boast of this masterpiece in poor service and horrendous food.
We left the restaurant with dismay and headed to our lodgings, which were set in a beautiful woodland area, and seemed set up specifically for hikers and groups, we got a room with six beds and the perfect acoustics for an all-night fart fest.
After an hour or so of sorting kit, eating more food, grabbing a shower and making sure we could just get up in the morning, grab a coffee and go, we finally turned the lights out around 11pm ready to get up at 5 the next day.
Day Two, Ben Nevis
After what seemed like a short nap intermittently interrupted by farts and snoring, the alarms went off at 4:30am, and I rolled out of bed to go make coffee in the communal kitchen, Paul and Lee joined me for a mix of porridge, peanut butter, protein shakes, bananas, more coffee and various endurance boosting foods.
Then we each had time to get a quick shower, our last opportunity to smell nice that weekend, and head out the door to begin our journey, after a ten-minute drive we arrived at Ben Nevis about 6:30am, spent 10 mins doing some warm ups, stretches etc, and began moving.
This was my first time on Ben Nevis, and I was fortunate both in the company I ran with, and the amazing sunny conditions which afforded us clear views all the way.
Ben Nevis is an anglicised name, the original Gaelic name is Beinn Nibheis, thought to mean venomous mountain. Aside from being the highest mountain in Scotland, and indeed the UK, it’s actually a former volcano which collapsed in on itself.
This would be the biggest climb we’d face at 4409 feet, nearly a thousand feet taller than Snowden and Scafell Pike, however it didn’t seem like such a steep ascent, and the conditions were great going up, we ran past large groups of hikers, and made our way up in decent time ready to unroll our banner for a photo, the view from the top was amazing, it was a sunny clear day, and whilst I couldn’t make out the various landscapes, you can apparently see Northern Ireland on a good day.
Then began the easy bit, a nice jog down, although we had to be careful with our footing as there was lots of loose rocks. We made it back to the car park having completed Ben Nevis in two hours and fifty-three minutes, feeling strong still and ready to take on the other five peaks.
Before setting off to the lake district we scoffed as many calories as we could, did some stretching and then crammed into the back seat of the van where our legs would be held hostage for the next six hours.
After a fairly straightforward journey with no delays due to traffic, we arrived in Wasdale head, the weather was still great, but a small micro climate of fog and rain had gathered at the top of the mountain we were about to head up.
We got out the van doing our best impression of octogenarians on a slow march, took a little time to limber up, and then set off to the top of our second mountain, adding a little distance on the route as we had forgotten the proper start point.
Going was great till about halfway up, when the combination of heavy rain, strong winds and loose rocks took its toll on our plucky attitudes. We continued, overtaking large groups of walkers, and made our way to the top.
On a good day, you can apparently see the summits of Wales, Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of Man, on this day we took in the amazing view of dense grey fog in front of our face, and not much else.
We then carefully made our way down and back to the van after two hours and sixteen minutes, where we got on with fuelling ourselves for the next big mountain, did a little stretching and folded ourselves into the van.
And this is when it started to go wrong for me.
I’ve always suffered with car sickness, I prefer to drive most places myself, as I make a terrible passenger. The combination of running (which diverts blood away from the stomach) eating lots of food (which requires a decent operating stomach to consume properly) and winding bumpy roads of the lake district, forced me to ask Josh to stop the car a few miles out of the lake district, I slid the door of the black van open, jumped out and then like a really shit member of the A team I emptied the contents of my stomach all over the surrounding hills.
Once I allowed myself to vomit, I couldn’t get my stomach right again, and in retrospect I might next time consider car sickness tablets, or asking to drive for a bit myself, or getting out earlier and just walking to allow my food to go down a little.
I got back in the car, and we headed to Snowden in the pouring rain, on the way we stopped by a service station at which I managed half a burger king meal but was already feeling sick again after a few bites. We got back in the van, and I fought against my car sickness for the rest of the journey.
We got to Snowden not long before midnight and found that hundreds of other runners were taking part in the annual Snowden challenge, literally a twenty-four-hour race in which participants see how many times they can get to the top of Snowden and back down again.
As we pulled up in the van and limped out like a trio of STD ridden leppers, we were greeted by the angriest man in Wales, who was unfortunate enough to live right next to the path which begins the ascent to Snowden, and so had to contend with people coming and going all day and most nights, making noise as they pulled up in their vehicles and chatting to each other as they began to attempt the largest mountain in Wales.
We did try to keep the noise down, but I doubt we contributed many decibels to the neighbourhood compared to the coachload of hikers who turned up after us to complete their three peaks challenge and joined us and the hundreds of other runners lighting up Snowden in a big snake like pattern with our headtorches.
Snowden, (original translation Snow Hill) or as it is now known, and in fact used to be known, Yr Wyddfa (pronounced urgh-with-va, the first syllable uses a tongue roll) is supposedly where King Arthur slayed the giant Rhudda Gawr, the name means tumulus, or burial mound.
There are six routes to the top, some are complex and arduous, as the ones used by Sir Edmund Hillary as a training area before he climbed Everest back in 1953. We took the most straightforward and common route to the top, unfortunately the train wasn’t working at that time of night.
It was an easy climb up and back down again, but my lack of nutrition and hydration due to sickness was beginning to take its toll and I struggled a little to keep up with Paul and Lee, we chatted with some of the race participants, one guy I spoke to had already been up it five times since the race started at ten that morning.
Unfortunately due to the darkness we didn’t get to enjoy the beautiful views of Snowden, apparently from the top on a good day you can see England, Ireland, Isle of Man and with a decent enough pair of binos right into the bedroom window of Carol Vorderman.
We got our photo with our banner, and made our way down to the bottom, skipping merrily as we went, only taking a small diversion off the path and onto the train lines because we all enjoyed going back uphill so much.
Safely down again at the bottom and tip toeing past Mr Angry’s house we got back to our vehicle and began taking on board more food and water ready for the final part of our challenge, the Yorkshire three peaks.
I struggled again to eat anything, managing a couple of ginger biscuits, which promptly came up again 10 mins later alongside half my stomach lining and an unidentifiable organ which I’m sure I probably didn’t need anyway.
Day Three, Yorkshire Peaks
It was only a few hours’ drive to Yorkshire, none of us got much sleep, if any, and I kept everyone’s spirits high with my motivational groaning and sighing as I contemplated whether I should even start the Yorkshire three peaks given how rough I felt at that point.
We pulled up to a lovely sunset, and I felt that given people had sponsored me, I might as well give this a go, at this point I had completed the three national peaks but hadn’t managed to eat or drink much since after Scafell Pike and had been sick a few times since then. I still felt sick, but I didn’t want to quit, so I figured I’d just give this a go and see how I got on.
I emerged from the van feeling like I was just coming round from rohypnol after a particularly tough night in an enclosed space with a randy Rhinoceros.
I stumbled to the back of the van, picked up my wet kit, and together we set off holding hands with a can-do attitude and a little pep in our step knowing we were now near the end of this challenge, just twenty-five miles left, and just three steep mountain/hills to climb up and then we’d be all wrapped up.
First up was Ingleborough, as we set of on a straight up climb, I began to feel my joints loosen and we were able to run a little and in no time at all we made it to the top, this didn’t really present me with any problems and I began to feel more positive that I’d be able to see this through to the end no problem. From this first peak we had about thirteen miles to run to Pen-Y-Ghent, the weather conditions were perfect, sunny with a little wind, along the way the drives crew met us with supplies, and I managed to eat some melon and half an energy bar.
We then set off, and as we got a mile or two near the next summit the wheels began to fall off, it was quite sudden, I struggled to keep up, fell behind Paul and Lee, and then felt my glands swelling in my neck, a headache came on, I was a little dizzy and my sickness was returning.
I struggled on, but knew that I was really slowing down the lads and it didn’t seem fair on them, as Paul made it to the top he decided to record a little update for all the people following us on social media, unfortunately it was ruined by the sounds of me throwing up another apparently unnecessary organ, along with a melon, what little water I had managed to drink and half an energy bar.
It was at this point I made the decision I really didn’t want to make, I turned to Paul and Lee and said in an overly dramatic whine “just go on without me, I’ll only slow you down”.
To be fair to the lads, they did at least half attempt to feign disappointment, but we all knew it was for the best, given the increasing heat, my dehydration from a lack of fluids and constant sickness, the sensible decision had to be to call it there, so with a heavy heart and just seven miles and one peak left to go, I stayed with the support crew whilst Paul and Lee whizzed off and smashed it out the park for the charity, doing an amazing job whilst at it.
After a calypso, a bacon sandwich, and a lie down for a couple of hours, I felt much better, I was able to see Paul and Lee bring it home at the end, and after a round of high fives, fist pumps and chest bumps we all got wearily in the van and headed home for a long sleep and a ton of calories.
According to my scales I lost five kg in one weekend, most of that likely from dehydration, after about a week I’d put most of the weight back on, started running again and am now preparing for whatever challenge I take on next.
I’m super happy for Paul and Lee, and proud to have helped raise money for such an amazing cause, it’s given me some humility to finally have to pull out on a challenge, I know lots of amazing runners who have had to quit at some point, the more challenges you take on the more likely you’ll come across a situation where the only sensible solution is to pull out before you harm yourself and put others at risk.
All together £4591 has been raised so far, if you’d like to sponsor me any further, please do so on this link which expires in the next week. Would be great if we can get nearer to that five grand target :)
Thanks for reading about my challenge, next time I hope to have a more successful outcome personally.
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