Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019

Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019
On the Archduke's Path in Mallorca

Tuesday 17 May 2022

16 and 17 June 2005 - 'Two Peaks' aka 'Three Peaks support'

                                 Challengers on the summit of Snowdon

Thursday/Friday 16/17 June 2005

Sue having gone to Ireland, I rushed around all day before driving up to a timeshare (Brockwood Hall?) near Millom to spend an evening with my brother Dave and his wife Maggie. Dave was 'well-oiled'. They were not impressed with the time share's quality and would probably have gone home had I not been visiting. The last part of my journey had involved two hours in thick fog. They said the thick mist hanging outside had been there all week. They were very miserable. I had forgotten to bring any booze and they had run out - just as well given Dave's condition. 

Maggie vaguely understood what I was doing, but the concept and its manner of execution completely escaped Dave, who kept asking the same questions and failing to understand the answers....

"Why walk anywhere in this weather?"
"Do what in 24 hours?"
"What is the point of it?"
"Sleep in the car!?"
...and on and on and on ...

After a brief respite watching the last of this year's Bill Oddie / Kate Humble / Simon King wildlife programmes, and after a nice chicken casserole, I left at 10 pm to drive to Seathwaite. It took me over an hour and a half, so the trip to Millom was a very major diversion which I regretted. I could have used more time at home.

So, to the purpose of the trip:- to help Dave and Sara Stevens (who Sue and I met on our honeymoon in Greece) and their friend Caroline do the Three Peaks. They had planned to set off up Ben Nevis at 5 pm and aimed to be at Pen-y-Pass after climbing Snowdon (via Ben Nevis and Scafell Pike) 24 hours later.

I found some phone reception outside Cockermouth at about 11 pm and established that they had been up and down the Ben in 5 hours and were passing through Glencoe. All was going well. So I parked up at Seathwaite, which was deserted, and slept on the back seat of the Espace (quite comfy) until around 3 am, when I was woken by a vehicle. Thinking that this was my team, I quickly got ready. The weather had deteriorated from a moonlit night to a thick drizzle, so fleece and waterproofs were needed, plus a bum bag for a few other bits and pieces.

It was not my team, but another group doing the same thing. They were taking their time getting ready. My team had stopped to change, etc, and had taken much longer than expected. By the time we left Seathwaite at 3:30 am it was light enough not to need torches. The other two members of the team were friends of Dave and Sara - Caroline and Robin, and dog Lucy. Robin was driving (fast) and Lucy was the mascot. T-shirts had been produced especially for the fundraising trip.

We set off through the farmyard. The three walkers were clearly tired from efforts on the Ben. It was warm and humid, so fleeces were soon removed, and I took Caroline's rucksack for the rest of the day. The rain continued, intermittently heavy, but mainly just as a misty veneer. This was Caroline's second mountain ever (the Ben was her first), and she has a 24 year old son!

Once up at Styhead we were in fairly thick mist, which occasionally cleared a little to reveal indistinct rocky vistas. But we could have been anywhere. No photos were taken.

So, left at the stretcher post for a few hundred metres, then right - down and up the Corridor Route. The others, none of whom had been up any of these three peaks before, wouldn't have managed this and would have got lost around here. The path, whilst clear to me, did not fit their definition of a path. They would have been looking for a long time. We proceeded slowly up the route, with me ahead trying to coax them into going a bit quicker. I made a slight navigational error and took a route steeply up from the head of Piers Gill, to reach a col between Scafell Pike and Broad Crag, from which we easily ascended to Scafell Pike's summit. 6:15 am, 2 ¾ hours.

A group of 14 London bankers, also with a guide, was on the hill somewhere, as evidenced by a Lucozade bottle seen on our retreat, but we saw no one at all on this hill (they probably went by the usual Lingmell Col route and missed us).

The steep section up to Broad Crag had been tough - lots of stops - Caroline is asthmatic. But its descent was easier and we were down in 2¼ hours, by 8:30, by which time the rain had stopped. This still compares poorly with Naismith's formula time of 4:34, but I reckon we were slowed by wet rock to the extent of about 30 minutes.

The others had had a dry walk on Ben Nevis, with good views and the bankers for company and guidance (especially on the Ben's cloudy crown). Now they had to change out of wet things, etc, so as I pottered down the motorway they were having longer stops and fell behind schedule despite some high speed driving by Robin. Charnock Richard services met my immediate needs, and I kept myself awake by taking the Mold > Ruthin > Cerigydrudion > Betwys-y-Coed > Capel Curig route to Pen-y-Pass. Even then I had a half hour wait in thick mist at Pen-y-Pass before we got going up Snowdon at 1:30 pm. Still, it gave me plenty of time to stoke up with pork pie, butties and chocolate.

Soon after we had started, the weather cleared. The Pyg Track had dry rocks and fine views down the Llanberis Valley. 

Looking down the Vale of Llanberis

Taking a breather on the Pyg Track

All of us were in a good mood and were moving more quickly than on Scafell Pike, although we had written off any chance of making the 24 hour deadline (even though I now know they had never planned to drive back down to Caernarvon, but instead to finish at Pen-y-Pass). [I've always started and finished this challenge with a foot in the sea, but this was their version of the Challenge walk and sponsors had been told of their plans. I have no quibble, especially considering none of them had been on these mountains before.]

We had a good walk up this easy path, with lots of people around so even without me the three challengers would not have got lost (though they would have occasionally hesitated and lost time). Some of the rock steps were found tiring, but views were good, in between passages of swirling mist. Almost, but not quite, Brocken Spectre conditions - we didn't observe one, but I bet others did.

Despite the mist around us, we could see folk scampering across Crib Goch, with bright blue sky above. It was with relief that we left the steep sections behind and join the path by the railway for the final trudge to the crowded summit (a train had just arrived). See summit photo above.

Dave tries to hitch a lift on the train!

This was Caroline's third mountain ever. She was very pleased and ebullient, telling everyone of her achievement.

It had taken 2 hours 10 minutes to climb Snowdon, and given the easy path and the knowledge of the planned finish at Pen-y-Pass, I suddenly realised it may be possible to get down by 5 pm and achieve the 24 hour target for the three challengers. They were all up for this, seemingly much fresher than they had been on Scafell Pike, so without further ado, other than summit photos, the three orange shirted challengers dashed off back down the track. We were soon in light mist, and with no views to admire a good pace was maintained.

Spurred on by the prospect of 24 hour success, we even did some jogging. The timing was perfect. After pausing only to say hello to the 14 bankers seen on Ben Nevis, and in Caroline's case pausing with whoever she could to brag about her achievement before sprinting off again, we jogged in to Pen-y-Pass precisely 24 hours after the 3 challengers had set off up Ben Nevis. And the 14 bankers were already 24 hours into their trip when we passed them on their way up Snowdon, just half an hour from Pen-y-Pass. Two others who were doing all four summits (Ireland as well) had not been seen since Ben Nevis - they were probably ahead, but they must have used the Wasdale route up Scafell Pike.

Wild (well!?) celebrations followed, with beers for Martin and Dave and champagne for Sara, Caroline and Robin.

Finished! The team lines up at Pen-y-Pass

A most successful outcome, and much appreciated by the challengers was my presence on the Scafell Pike section. A slow drive home got me back by 9 pm.

Here are our 'route notes' - I've guessed the Ben Nevis distance and ascent estimates:





ascent (m)

Ben Nevis





Ben Nevis to Seathwaite





Scafell Pike





Seathwaite to Pen-y-Pass















[My diary continues on the following day: 'Another 5:30 am start. I drove to Manchester airport for the 7 am flight to Belfast.' Oh to have that amount of energy 17 years later!]

[And talking of Challenges, Sue and I should at this point be enjoying a backpacking trip across Scotland - the TGO Challenge - for which I've vetted a few routes. Sadly some family health issues that are now mostly under control meant that our heads weren't in it this year, so what with Covid concerns last year, and the cancellation due to Covid in 2020, that's three years of TGO Challenges that we've missed. From what I can gather, conditions have been a bit wet, but our footwear and clothing would probably have kept us dry, if a bit sweaty. Good luck to everyone doing it, and we may see them in Braemar and Montrose.]

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