Grand 3 Peaks walking Challenge 2018 - £20,000 raised (so far !!)
The group assembled at A1M Durham Services at 10am on 26/5/18 and loaded luggage and walking gear into two minibuses and a Transit van. Amongst those who took time out to come and wave us off were Eric Heaviside, John Thompson and Stephen & Helen Walker. By 10.30am we were heading up the A1. Heading West along the A69, we were soon at Carlisle services, with another stop made south of Glasgow. Traffic was heavy through Dumbarton and Loch Lomond, but some deft navigation bypassed some of it, and we arrived at Glen Nevis just after 5pm.
Ben Nevis 26/5/18
Departure was at 5:40pm from the Visitor Centre, which is a mere 45ft above sea level, meaning that you basically climb the whole lot! Crossing the River Nevis by the footbridge, the path soon ascended steeply, and in the very hot conditions frequent stops were essential, and the party soon spread out into small groups and individuals. The path has recently benefitted from much remediation work to repair the erosion caused by high numbers of visitors, so that it now resembles a large rocky staircase. Passing below Loch Meall an t-Suiche, a clear mountain torrent emerged from beneath a mini-glacier, remnant of the winter snow cap, and the opportunity to refill water bottles was gratefully taken! The path then levelled out a little, but it didn’t last; this is merely the warm-up to the ‘Five Fingers’ – a seemingly unending zig-zag heading relentlessly upwards to the summit dome. With the summit almost in sight, the path was obliterated by a steep slippery snow field, more like a ski slope than a trail! Reaching the summit plateau, a huge snow cornice overhung a sheer drop on the left, with a jagged boulder field on the right; the summit cairn and refuge hut just 100 yards ahead over flat terrain. At 1347m (4400ft), the temperature is chilly to say the least, so a quick scamper up to the trig point, refuel on chocolate bars, admire the amazing view, then head back down. Most of those who made the summit did so within 2-3 hours of starting out. The journey back downhill is often dreaded by many, as, despite assistance from gravity, the constant strain and jarring takes its toll on the knees. The refurbished path definitely helped with the descent, as there were fewer areas of skiddy scree and stones to be wary of, and a firmer footing was appreciated. As the day closed, and the light started to fade, our intrepid party returned to the car park and the welcome sight of the minibuses. Not quite so welcome were the dense swarms of the dreaded Sabre-Toothed Midge, which hastened our retreat into the vehicles.
Scafell Pike 27/5/18
We drove down from Glen Nevis during the night, back through Glasgow, a short break to change drivers and buy fast food, thence to Carlisle and across to West Cumbria. Wasdale Head is difficult to reach from any direction! By 06:15am we were parked in the already-busy car park and soon were raring to go. Again, the weather was beautiful, but a stiff breeze was whipping up waves on the dark surface of Wast Water. As with Ben Nevis, the path does not go far before it rises steeply, but again the trail has been reinforced and made good and the walking, for a while, was not difficult. Heading up Lingmell Gill, the trail divides, the right-hand fork going up the near-vertical ‘Scramble Route’, the left taking a less perpendicular approach via Lingmell Col to the summit. Those who chose the Scramble Route elected not to descend that way! After the fork, the left branch continued to climb, the track becoming more steep and rocky, and several of our party reported being physically blown backwards by gusts of wind. Ascent times were typically 1h50m to 2h20m, reflecting Scafell Pike’s lower summit at 977m compared to Ben Nevis’ 1347m. On the summit we met several other people, including a couple of wiry fell-runners who had already summited 3 and 5 times respectively that morning, putting our own efforts slightly in the shade! Nonetheless everyone we spoke to was full of admiration for our endeavors and wished us every success. A few minutes were taken to admire the fine views; Wast Water, Sellafield and the Irish Sea to the West, Derwent water and Cross Fell to the North, to name but a few. As before, the descent was achieved much quicker than the ascent, and by 11am we were leaving Wasdale en route to Snowdonia – or so we thought! Wasdale on a Bank holiday weekend is a traffic magnet, and the single-track road was passable only with the greatest of difficulty against the incessant stream of opposing traffic. Nonetheless, and with some patient traffic management from Ivan, we escaped onto the A-roads of south Cumbria.
We’d enjoyed two glorious ascents and our suntans were coming on nicely, but it couldn’t last. Reports of thunder and lightning in Wales cast their own pall over the group, but despite considering abandoning the final climb, it was agreed that we’d press on and see when we got there. Rain greeted us in Llanberis, with clouds obscuring the mountain tops. Nonetheless, some of us set off walking from the railway bridge and headed up the road to the Llanberis Track, whilst some of the more eager participants were driven through the Llanberis Pass to the other, harder, steeper trail known as the Pyg Track. The Llanberis Track follows the railway, with a much gentler gradient and even a café along the way. The intermittent rain and humid conditions made for uncomfortable walking, and the thunder and lightning playing over the mountain tops to the West were unsettling to say the least. At 720m the Llanberis Track reaches Clogwyn station and becomes steeper. A rescue helicopter hovered nearby, and I wondered if they had a spare seat. The temperature dropped sharply as cold winds from the north crested the ridge. The cloud base also lost the will to fly and we were soon enveloped in cold, wet wispy mist. At this point some of us decided to follow the rail track to take advantage of the shallower gradient, as no trains were running. This part felt the longest as every minute we expected to arrive at the summit, which seemed to simply recede into the clouds. Eventually we reached what was probably the summit dome, and a set of granite steps led upwards (and upwards) to…. The summit cairn! With more relief than joy, hands were placed on the trig point at 1085m, signifying the summiting of the three peaks within 24 hours. Sadly, there was no spectacular view to reward our efforts, we were not tempted to linger and were soon making our descent. Ascent/descent times ranged from 3h30m to 4h30m.
Returning to the car park, we discovered that one of the minibuses had broken down (Sunday evening, Bank holiday weekend) and Ivan was in damage-management mode. A pair of taxis were parked by the vans, courtesy of the AA, but some of us had a stark choice to make; either take the taxi to the hotel and find our own way back home, or take the taxi back to Durham Services, right there and then!
The end result was fantastic news that the 3 Peaks Challenge managed to raise £20,000 towards the Durham 2021 Festival appeal and all the walkers gained a daily advancement in Masonic Knowledge and Companionship.