In March I was honoured to attended the Marriage of Martyn and Phillipa, two people who deserve so much happiness together. The group I had spent most of the day with were gathered in the bar colouring and drinking beer, having given up all pretence of being “grown-ups” while the Wedding breakfast (for the real adults) took place, as the diners started moving from the hall to the bar and the evening guests arrived, another friend turned to the giggling group I was sitting with, and invited us to do the 3 Peaks Challenge with her this summer. We, being sober and mature enough to make big decisions like this, of course all said yes.
Here I am, nearly 6 months later, with blisters instead of big toes, peeling skin on my hands and one side of my nose that I missed with the sun-cream, and legs that never want to move again, but so glad that I stuck with my half-drunken decision and climbed those Mountains.
Monday 15th August.
I woke up at 5am, managed to drag myself and all my belongings from my Hostel dorm room without waking anyone up, and quickly set about finding something to make coffee in. I hit the jackpot finding a Turkish style stove-top espresso pot and had 2 cups while doing the final checks through my day bag and watching the sun rise. I made 2 more cups for Pip and Martyn as they got up and joined me before we set off on the first day of our adventure. 7 of us gathered in the Ben Nevis North Face Car Park at 7 am that morning; Pip, Martyn, Becky, Jenny, Rik, Debbie and me, and we set off, laughing and joking along the path to the Valley. Our route is not a commonly chosen one, after the valley walk along the stream we took a left and part walked, part crawled, up a steep hill with no trodden paths until we reached 1000m, we then turned right and walked towards a ridge. I have never walked along a mountain ridge before. I have crippling vertigo and, in an instant, went from being cheerful and positive to a weeping nauseous mess who took of lot of persuading to move her feet, but I made it. I was guided carefully around the rocks, up and over the top to follow the best path at different points, I completely missed the glorious views from our rest stops but I made it. There were several moments when I almost didn’t get going again after a brief pause, in the one of them I remember somebody, I honestly couldn’t say who though, saying “I know you don’t want to look down but have a look at Martyn’s feet, if his fit on the path yours certainly will.” It’s amazing how such a simple concept can be lost when fear takes over your whole body. At another one of these points, on the final assent to the top, as the adrenaline was subsiding and I just wanted to curl up in a ball and go to sleep, Martyn passed me, calling out “Go Team!” to everyone and adding “Go Team Simo” before running off and waiting for us girls to catch up to him at the top.
All of the highs and lows were worth it at the top though. Ben Nevis has, on average, only 3 days a year that a clear view can be seen from the top and there is always snow on the North Face and often on the Summit but we arrived to a 360 degree sunlight view. It wasn’t even particularly cold, just a bit of wind that we put our coats on to shelter from while we stopped. After a 7 hour assent, we were at the highest point in Great Britain.
We speedily made our way down a much easier route and back to the cars where we headed on to Borrowdale YHA in the Lake District to shower, smother ourselves in after sun, stretch and sleep.
Tuesday 16th August.
I normally move about a lot in my sleep but I woke on Tuesday to find myself in the same position I had fallen asleep in the night before. I felt stiff and struggled to get down the stairs to breakfast but managed it and was rewarded with food and coffee. The sun shone bright over the glorious English countryside, we repacked and headed off for the day. Where 7 of us completed Ben Nevis, only 4 of us would make it up Scafell Pike and Snowdon; Rik and Debbie had only ever planned on doing one and Pip had gotten sun stroke so stayed in the shade to read and sleep. Half way up Scafell, I realised that the quicker I moved, the less I felt the pain in my legs so Martyn and I marched on, taking brief stops when I started finding it hard to breathe then moving on again shortly after. Becky and Jenny preferred to keep a consistent steady pace and agreed to meet us at the top if we wanted to move on ahead. We were greeted my the most breathtaking view I have ever had of the country I call home.
On the way down Martyn ran ahead so he and Pip could get back to their home in Chester, shower and start dinner ready for when we arrived having picked my car and Jenny’s camping gear up from Wilmslow, a 40 minute detour. As Becky, Jenny and I neared the car park we were overwhelmed by the desire to soak our swollen feet in the cool stream and so spent a few, blissfully calm moments perched on rocks with clear mountain water rolling over our feet.
Pip and Martyn had served up a feast when we arrived and sent us off to comfy beds following a warm shower.
Wednesday 17th August.
After the split in the group climbing Scafell Pike, we decided that Jenny and Becky would leave Chester at 8am and take the scenic Watkins path up Snowdon while Martyn and I would leave at 10am and take the shorted, less picturesque, Pyg track at our pace and all meet at the top. The Pyg track is pretty much all large stone stairs, the burn in my thighs was horrific as I tried to concentrate on nothing but my breathing, almost like a meditative state while on the move, which worked when I really focused. We pushed on, only having a proper rest stop twice, the first of which we used to smear sun cream all over our faces, and the second was to lay on a slope with our feet higher than our head in an effort to feel our toes again, and 1 hour and 43 minutes after leaving the car, we were at the summit battling away the flying devil ants that seemed to be attracted to the Trigg Point and nothing else. Our little group of 4 met on the steps outside the Summit Centre with our hot beverages and Pip’s home-made cookies and stared out at the third clear view of week, a view that nobody ever thought we would be lucky enough to see, especially after the previous 2. We had done it.
The descents of both routes included a quick natural ice bath. Where Becky and Jenny had spa holiday type views of trees in the valley, Martyn went for a full on swim in a lake surrounded stones while I stood knee-deep and talked to a Labradoodle who was also enjoying the cool relief on the hot and sticky walk.
If somebody had said to me a year ago that I would spend my holiday climbing 3 mountains with blue hair and still come away smiling I would have laughed at them but I did it. I did it because there is an Idiot that I love, who once terrified his sister by chasing her through Adelaide with his blue hair, sitting among the stars yelling “Toughen up Princess” every time I pause at something that scares me, he’s laughing at the many different colours my wild and messy hair is going through, and best of all, he’s grinning when I climb those mountains and overcome those fears all while looking ridiculous and not caring what other people think.
I have been lucky enough to receive a couple of donations towards the memorial trip to Australia in September through completing this challenging week. If you would still like to donate then you can do so through paypal to firstname.lastname@example.org as my Just Giving page has now had it’s 30 days and closed.
Thank you to everyone for their encouragement and congratulations to us all for making it through the challenge.