A Tale of 3 Mountains in One Day

The National Three Peaks Challenge in the UK is quite simply, hiking the 3 highest peaks in Scotland, England and Wales within a 24 hour period. I took up the challenge with some work colleagues a few years back and what I learned was  completely different to my expectations.

As a leader for charity fundraising efforts within my department of a large retail head office in the UK, my colleague and I organised everything from bake sales, art auctions to the most challenging event - the national 3 peaks! That's climbing 37km's (or 23 miles), ascending 3,064 metres (10,052ft) and driving over 740km's (over 460 miles) to summit Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon in one day.


So why did I do the National Three Peaks Challenge?

Well, it seems that doing something I never thought achievable to help someone else out is the motivation I need. That and the fact that my fellow fundraising leader said 'I'll be the team support, but I'm not hiking 3 mountains in a day!" so that was that. I was doing it, and that was my first lesson learned - think differently about how you can achieve your goals. Some people call it being selfless, or kindness. I like to think I'm helping a stranger out because I can.


How did I prepare for the 3 Peaks Challenge?

Hiking, lots of hiking. I hiked with my husband, friends and work colleagues. I started months before our challenge and ensured I hiked every weekend whether at home, away or abroad. I also stopped drinking and started running. Well, jogging! My friend and work colleague was training for the London Marathon and wanted some companionship during her lunchtime runs. So I joined her because I hate running and knew it was the only way I'd actually start running, but knew it would benefit me. And it did to improve my cardio vascular and stamina.

I also continued my gym training. However, when you're gym training, I encourage you to engage with a personal trainer to work out a plan around any known physical issues. I didn't and what I missed out on was building up muscle mass in my thighs to help counteract a knee problem I had been living with for years. That and proper stretching and foam rolling to alleviate the tightness in my calves and ITB. I learned a hard lesson: during the decent of Ben Nevis, my known knee pain flared up. By the time I got back to base, we had to get straight into the bus and drive through the night to our next peak - Scafell Pike. By the time I got there, my legs had ceased up and I was unable to hike.


Who was in your team?

Well, here was the best part of the event. The people that came together to complete a once in a lifetime experience. Like minded colleagues within the team came together, and friends from across the wider business. People from different backgrounds, hiking experience and levels of their career. We became friends and built a lasting bond.

My next lesson was a surprise and delight. The actions of one colleague, Mike, said more to me about leadership than any training or book has ever done. He was our head of ecommerce operations and an experienced hiker. He set the bar high and achieved his goals. When I was unable to walk due to a ceased knee by the time we arrived at Scafell Pike and due to a refuelling challenge - we were not going to achieve the 24 hour goal for the three peaks. He turned to me and simply said, "I'll wait with you and help you get your mobility back. I've climbed Scafell plenty of times before and will again. It's more important that you feel supported and get better." Together we shuffled around the foothills of Scafell Pike in the early hours of the morning. My knee stiffness eased and I spent time stretching, walking and resting. This allowed me (along with the help of some strong Ibuprofen) to complete Snowdon in a few hours time.


So, you failed the 3 Peaks Challenge?

No, we succeeded! We succeeded as a team. We all celebrated together knowing we'd done something unique that will live with us for the rest of our lives. And that we helped a young boy from an underprivileged background work towards achieving his dreams as a gymnast. A lasting memory for me was the other people we met along the way and why they were on the mountain. I met a very elderly gentleman on the snow capped top of Ben Nevis. He was off to meet a friend at a mountain hut. To this day I don't know whether this was someone still on this earth, or not. I made lifelong friends during our adventure into the wilderness. I discovered that a colleague shared the same birthday. I returned the offer of support to walk beside another colleague who found a section of Snowdon challenging due to a steep drop-off on one side. And lastly, I was in awe of another at her extreme fitness levels and organisation of her day-pack!

Thank you all, you made the adventure amazing, fun and unforgettable. 

Mike, Jason, Catherine, Martin, Bevan, Keri and Katie - I salute you!