Three Peaks Challenge (Part 2)

Don’t forget to check out the first half of my 2-part Three Peaks write-up. This carries on where I left off last week!

phase #3 – Scafell pike

We left Ben Nevis almost as soon as the last people were down, around 14:10. I fuelled up on some food I’d bought the day before at a service station, and made a conscious effort to get some sleep because a friend who’d done it last year advised sleeping whenever possible. I’m an awful sleeper, but I managed to get an hour’s nap or so before the next service station stop. Because of the time constraint on the challenge, we had far fewer and shorter stops than the day before so as not to waste unnecessary time, and we arrived at Scaffel Pike around 20:40. By 20:50, after water refills and loo breaks, we were ready to start the second climb.

Ready to climb Scafell.

scafell stats

Despite being the shortest and smallest mountain, standing at 978m above sea level, it is most people’s least favourite. I went in with low expectations and a desire to get it out of the way, and therefore was surprised when it turned out to be my favourite climb. Although it didn’t have the adrenaline of the first or the prospect of finishing of the last, it was gorgeous and I absolutely loved it. I pushed the climb so that I wouldn’t have to do too much in the dark, because the footing near the top is extremely precarious and poor light would only have exacerbated the risks of injury.

starting to get a bit dark… (photo taken at the top)

Sunset on scafell

After a few snaps at the top and a snack, I pushed on and caught up with the group that was slightly ahead of me, allowing me to get the worst bit out of the way whilst there was still a bit of daylight. I managed to take my eyes off the ground to appreciate the hues of the sunset too.  However, pretty soon, it got pitch black and so I switched my head-torch on for the final 30 minutes of the descent, however I still almost fell about 4908054 times… At this point, the efforts of Ben Nevis started to sink in and my bum began to feel pretty sore. I was very grateful when I got to the bottom and could sit down!

head torches on!

Steps: 15,000

Distance: 8.5km 

Duration: 2 hours 38 minutes

Phase #4 – Snowdon

I had about 45 minutes between finishing Scafell Pike and when the last person came in, which I made use of to get changed, refill my water, refuel and brush my teeth. When we drove off for our final destination, there was only one thing on our minds – sleep. I think I managed to get 1-2 hours in total between Scafell and Snowdon, which I guess is better than nothing. However, it’s fair to say I felt pretty drained upon arriving at the bottom of Snowdon. The only thing that got me through the start was the fact that it was our last climb! By starting the climb at 05:22am, we had just under 4 hours to complete it which was plenty of time. Nevertheless, a group of us decided to ascend at a decent pace rather than lag behind (although we didn’t run up like some!).

snowdon stats

I have to admit, I was demoralised climbing Snowdon. Everyone had told me that it was the easiest because it was “flat” for the first few km followed by a very short, steep stretch to the top. On the contrary, I found the start incredibly difficult – as well as the middle and the end. We accidentally veered off course a bit (the path was almost non-existent), and instead of back-tracking we decided to scramble to get back on course. At this point, I just wanted it to end and so couldn’t really admire the beauty of the surrounding environment which is a shame since it happened to be my first time in Wales!

the smile does not reflect the pain

“sprint finish”

At the top, a teacher and I decided to “run” down because, after checking our watches, we realised that we might be able to complete the challenge in under 23 hours. However, the footing was so precarious it was almost impossible to simply run down. We would jog for short stretches (20m or so), before we had to use our hands to scramble down rocks. Halfway down, we realised that although the sub-23 was still in sight, we’d have to pick up the pace to achieve it. So then we sort of just abandoned fear and caution and almost sprinted to the bottom. Whilst we had lots of close calls (nearly breaking numerous bones or falling off the edge…), we both made it down in (mostly) one piece. Seeing the minibuses in the distance was, I kid you not, one of the best moments in my life.

Pano taken on Snowdon

Steps: 20,000

Distance: 11km

Duration: 2 hours 41 minutes

Overall challenge duration: 22 hours 52 minutes

phase #5 – the end

I don’t think I’ve ever felt such bone-weary exhaustion as I did after completing the challenge. Within the 22 hours and 52 minutes of my challenge, I probably had a total of 3 hours sleep at a push. 51,000 steps and 36.5km later, I was dead. But also elated. And that elation definitely trumped the exhaustion for me. Call me crazy, but I want to do something similar again. It’s also made me super excited to try fell running if I get into Edinburgh! Although it is incredibly challenging, it is so so worth it in my opinion. I’d highly recommend it to anyone who’s thinking of doing it. If you’re worried about the 24-hour limit, lots of people do it over 3 days at a slightly more sustainable pace. Something to think about if you want to go with your family!

all relieved to be finished (although think this was taken climbing Scafell, I just ran out of Snowdon shots!)

reflections

If I’m 100% honest, I only have 2 regrets. Not bringing a pillow for the bus, and not bringing an eye mask. I think these would have increased my chances of sleep by quite a lot! But sleep deprivation is part of the experience 😂 I made up for it by getting almost 12 hours’ sleep when I got home though. I also got to tick something off my summer bucket list. Win-win if you ask me!


Tempted to try the Three Peaks Challenge after reading my 2-part series? I’d love to hear about your own experiences if you do 🙂

Emma ♥♥