Saturday, 6 May 2017


On September 11th 2015 I took part in an event with Mind that challenged every fraction of my mind and body. The aim of the Three Peaks Challenge is to climb the three highest peaks of England (Scafell Pike), Scotland (Ben Nevis) and Wales (Snowdon) in 24 hours.

I signed up to do the challenge by myself, and whilst I'd be doing it with other people, I would only be meeting them the day before the event. Initially, the thought of arriving in Chester (our meeting point) on my own and meeting all of these people made me far more nervous than doing the challenge itself. I was sure that everyone else would be coming in pairs or in teams and I'd be the only one tackling the event as a lone ranger but much to my surprise, it was quite an even mix. Thank goodness.

We set off for Fort William and the several-hour road trip meant that the ice was quickly broken between the group and we all got to know each other. Unfortunately I didn't get the chance to speak to everyone but there was certainly all round 'good vibes' from the get go which made the prospect of the challenge far less frightening. An early night and an even earlier rise later, we were ready to rock and roll.


Our challenge officially commenced and we were introduced to the 1,344 metres of Ben Nevis in Fort William and off we marched. About a half hour in, I remember immediately becoming far too warm in all 4 of the layers I was rocking and I had chugged a hefty amount of my water supply already, mistake number one, but the pace was steady and we were making good progress. Whilst the prospect of climbing Nevis is daunting it's actually incredibly enjoyable, and not nearly as difficult as it may seem. The views are so beautiful that you almost forget that you're on a challenge and working within a time frame because it's so tempting to just stop to admire everything and take a thousand photos. I had climbed Ben Nevis about a year previously so I had already stocked up on more than enough photos from that trip, and I could focus more on the trek itself this time round, but I couldn't resist a sneaky few.

It's definitely beneficial to pack your bag in order of the things you'll need as you go up, such as having your waterproof near the top if you're not already wearing it, and having your water and snacks in a side pocket so you can just grab them quickly. It just saves the hassle of having to take your rucksack off regularly to fish through your bag to find whatever it is you need. A waterproof bag cover is also essential, I made the mistake of not using one on Ben Nevis and a lot of my things got absolutely soaked, which was entirely my own fault but ever so frustrating.

A downfall to this climb is that it's rare to catch Ben Nevis on a clear day and the peak is more than likely hidden by fog. And it's bloody freezing. So the 4 layers I had previously thrown off earlier on in the walk were quickly thrown back on as we got closer to the summit. Quick tip to anyone who may be planning to climb Nevis: Gloves are essential. And definitely more than one pair, because if you are greeted with drizzle as we unfortunately were, your first pair will already be soaking (if they're not waterproof) before you reach the top which is when you will really need them. I would also recommend wrapping up well before reaching the top because you won't want to spoil your time on the summit by just wishing to hurry down again because you're so bloomin' cold, and didn't take the time to wrap up before hand. Mistake number two.

Something I adore about climbing a mountain is how encouraging everyone is who you pass, whether you know them or not, they will go out of their way to say hello and to wish you good luck. Ben Nevis is somewhat of a tourist attraction so there were plenty of well wishers on our walk and it was just lovely. I remember the descent being relatively easy, until we got about half way down and my legs had already started to become quite tight and sore. This must be a joke I thought to myself. And another downfall was that I had realised my phone had broken on the way down due to getting wet in my pocket which I was absolutely gutted about because it meant I couldn't take any more pictures of the challenge. Very trivial and un-important in comparison to most things, but nevertheless, a reminder to invest in some form of waterproof casing so photo taking opportunities don't go a miss.

We made it down the mountain and gave ourselves a big pat on the back knowing that we had finished what we thought was the hardest peak of the challenge. Climbing a mountain gives you the most amazing feeling of triumph and elation, even more so when you're doing it for a purpose. I think doing an activity or a challenge like this when you suffer with a mental illness is one of the greatest things you can do because it is so much more than simply walking to the summit. For me it was both an emotional and physical victory and reminded me of an inner strength that I had forgotten I had and hadn't seen in myself in a long time.

I think the only major setback we had on this part of the challenge was that the backdoor windows smashed on one of the minibuses out of the 3 we had, which meant we were slightly delayed in setting off to our next peak. Although a little while after we were off for part two of the challenge, Scafell Pike in the Lake District, my home turf.


I can't remember exactly how long it took to get from Fort William to the Lake District but it was enough time to have something to eat and also sleep for a while because we were due to start our next peak before midnight. Mistake number three was not packing nearly enough yummy food for the trip. I had plenty of snacks but they didn't quite suffice like a tupperware box full of lovely pre-prepared pasta would have, for example, which is what a lady sat across from me was tucking in to. I had just forgotten how much fuel I'd really need for the challenge, which I will definitely take into account next time. Also what I remember is that my sore leg situation hadn't improved at all really, and sitting on a mini-bus for a good few hours just added to the overall stiffness. Despite the leg issues, I have to say, I was really looking forward to this one because I hadn't climbed a mountain in the dark before and was quite excited about the prospect of only having a head torch to guide my way. I'm actually quite scared of the dark in most cases but that sort of added to the mysteriousness of it.

Oh my goodness my legs, was my immediate thought after we set off walking. I hadn't realised quite how much they were hurting until we started to walk at an incline. It was manageable for the first half an hour but the terrain was ever changing, and we were soon climbing over big rocks and boulders. In normal cases that doesn't sound particularly difficult but every step I took brought tears to my eyes because the pain in my legs felt like I had badly pulled something. Thank the lord it was pitch black so no one could see that I was fighting back many a tear. And just to moan even more, if I remember correctly it was raining quite heavily which just added to the disastrous turn of events.

I'm just going to be honest and say that this peak was absolutely awful and I didn't enjoy it one bit. Mainly because I was in quite a lot of pain and I really did think to myself more than once that I wouldn't be able to go any further because I was convinced that I had done something to my legs. I was thankful when we reached the summit and started the descent, although it wasn't really much better. Another member of our group was also hurting quite badly but he soldiered on like a right trooper, so I tried to pull myself together a little bit on the way down. As we got nearer to the bottom we were left to find the mini bus on our own as our brilliant mountain guide was helping our injured friend down slowly. This was all a bit too exciting and meant we actually ended up getting a bit lost. Absolutely the last thing you'd want in this case because I know we were all itching to get back onto the mini bus. I can't remember how long we were lost for, and although it wasn't long at all it felt like ages had past but we eventually made it back onto the bus after turning a few wrong corners. Phew, finally and thank goodness. Good riddance Scafell Pike.

I'd like to add a little disclaimer and say that I hope my experience doesn't put you off climbing Scafell Pike, as of course every walk is different to the next. I'm sure it's wonderful on an average day when you haven't already climbed a mountain beforehand, or when it isn't the middle of the night. And when it isn't raining and pouring.


Another long bus journey, and this one was for sleeping so I was pleased that I managed to get a few hours in. Mistake number four was my lack of a pillow which meant I was sleeping in the most awkward of positions for the whole journey. We made a pit stop at a petrol station just a couple of hours outside of our destination and I remember getting out and realising how flaming stiff and achey my legs still were. Despite nearly packing it all in after the disastrous evening on Scafell I wasn't gonna let a thing stop me from finishing the challenge.

I think I managed to get a couple more hours of sleep in before we arrived at the base of Snowdon. It turned out to be a really lovely day so that certainly brightened the spirits because you could tell it was going to look gorgeous further up. Thankfully the dreaded leg situation had calmed down a bit after taking some ibuprofen so I was very pleased about that as you can all imagine. It really was a lovely walk, although I remember there being so many steps! The further we climbed the harder it got. Snowdon is the smallest in height out of the three but it certainly felt like one of the more difficult. It was very warm and I think also quite humid which just added to the difficulty of it. Our mountain guide, who had a lot of experience with mountain rescue, was telling stories of different people he had rescued, and how women have attempted to climb the mountain in heels. Heels.... Here I am struggling in my sturdy walking boots and there's women who have tried it in heels. Most likely failed but even so, it was time to man up wasn't it.

I think I had managed to keep up quite a decent pace on the other two mountains, even Scafell Pike, but I struggled with this one. Although my legs didn't seem as sore I felt exhausted and became out of breath quite quickly so regular water breaks and breathers happened along the way. I would love to do Snowdon again by itself another day so I can fully appreciate it. Saying this, the views were beautiful and I was so pleased that the weather had simmered down because it really was lovely. Instead of climbing Snowdon, you can actually take a little train up to the summit which many people do as I understand climbing a mountain isn't to everyones taste. I don't think it runs all year round but for the majority of the year it's a fun alternative for anyone who perhaps can't manage the whole hog or would like to experience a gorgeous view without working up a sweat. I can tell you now that there was many a time where I wished I could have jumped on that train on the way up.

My group already got on really well considering we had literally met just a day before but I felt incredibly comfortable being with this group and especially on this peak. I had so many chats with as many people as I could and it was refreshing knowing that I could be as open as I felt comfortable and it wasn't a problem. Every step I took was driven by the constant encouragement that the group gave to me, and to everyone. Despite being exhausted, it was saddening to think that it would all be over early that afternoon.

I felt like last leg until the summit was never-ending and I could see it but I didn't feel like I was getting any closer. It was also really quite cold which I didn't expect as it was warm all the way up but nothing a few layers couldn't fix! Even when we reached the summit, I have to admit that it didn't hit me that we had completed our last climb, in the moment I just sort of felt like I had just finished a normal walk on a normal day. Of course I was pleased that we had made it but I was admittedly rather keen to come back down again. For me, it felt like it took twice as long to descend, I think we might have taken a longer route but I'm actually really glad we did. I was quite keen to sit down by this point I won't tell a lie, but I had so many wonderful conversations with people which more than made up for it. However, mistake number 5 was that I was using an aluminium water bottle which clipped to the side of my bag and I had somehow gotten a bit of dirt in the water which meant I didn't have any drinkable water with me a good 50% of the walk. Obviously in desperate measures I'd have drank it but I wasn't down with taking the plunge this time.

I think even after getting back into the mini bus after completing the challenge, it still hadn't quite registered that I had just completed the Three Peaks Challenge. I'm sure I fell asleep until we got back to Chester, where we all said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. I arrived home and I'm pretty sure I had a little weep to myself due to the fact I couldn't move my legs a certain way before having a really long snooze.

Doing this event really was the most challenging but uplifting thing I have ever done and I am so grateful that I was able to do it. My group were incredible and some of the loveliest and most genuine and inspiring people I have met, and I am so thankful. I will keep this challenge in my heart and I sincerely hope that other people take the plunge to do events like this because I promise you, you won't regret it.

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