The Three Peaks Challenge

Scaling the highest peaks in England, Scotland and Wales to raise funds for two Island charities was the challenge that the eight strong team from the Jersey Everning Post and Channel 103 set themselves. This is their story of The Three Peaks Challenge. Rohan donated some outdoor clothing to ensure the team of journalists were better protected from all the elements they would face on their challenge.

Official Group Photo - the team

MANY weeks ago, it all seemed like a great idea.

After watching a TV programme (probably featuring Ben Fogle or James Cracknell or some other adventurer) one journalist suggested scaling the three highest peaks in England, Scotland and Wales in 24 hours. Just two weeks later, a group of seven had been assembled.

And so at 4 pm last Saturday that team, consisting of JEP journalists Richard Heath, Andy Sibcy, Jo Hutchison and Julien Morel, Channel 103 journalist Giulia Heath, Les Quennevais teacher Kate Sibcy and UK-based hydrologist Andy Heath-Brown, set off up Ben Nevis in Scotland with hope and fully functioning knees.

At 4,409 feet tall, the mountain, the highest in Britain, was a monster of a climb.

Following a relatively gentle beginning, the path eventually began to zig-zag up the south side of the mountain until we found ourselves ploughing through a seemingly never-ending snowfield.

Ben Nevis in snow

Our hard efforts were rewarded on the summit with some spectacular views from the roof of Britain.

Ben Nevis the top

About two hours into the descent, big Ben claimed his first victim as Jo rolled over on her ankle. Unbelievably, just five hours into the challenge, she was forced to retire.

Despite having one woman down, being half an hour behind schedule and being housed inside a minibus which had been fitted with a device preventing us from going faster than 62 mph, we were still confident that we would return to Jersey victorious as we set off to the Lake District.

Seven hours later, and without any sleep, we arrived at the base of Scafell Pike at 3.45 am – 15 minutes ahead of schedule. Scafell Pike is a big, ugly, miserable mountain. And it’s a liar. After gently luring us towards the summit with a relatively gentle foothill trail, the mountain suddenly turned nasty and deposited us in a scree field with no discernible path.

Scafell Pike dawn ascent

As if that didn’t dent morale enough, the mountain then kids you into believing that every horizon high above your head represents its summit, but when you arrive, there’s another one waiting 20 minutes or so up the hill.

This game went on for about an hour until we arrived at the rocky summit after negotiating the final section of scree, which had frozen over in the bitingly cold gale-force wind.

But despite the problems, we completed the mountain in good time and set off to Snowdon at 8.30 am on Sunday – half an hour ahead of schedule.

A few hours into the drive morale within the group hit an all-time low as we trundled along the motorway at our restricted speed and slowly fell more and more behind schedule. Time ticked on and what should have been a three-hour drive took over four and a half hours, and momentarily at least it seemed that it was game over.

There are two interpretations of the challenge – one where walkers climb and descend all three peaks, and another where you simply have to reach the three peaks, and so the challenge ends at the summit of Snowdon.

Faced with aching limbs, fragile knees and just two hours and 55 minutes to complete a four-hour round trek, the girls and UK Andy opted to finish the trek at the summit.

Climbing Snowdon Giulia Heath

The others summoned all their reserves and motored up Snowdon in less than an hour and 20 minutes and ran most of the way back down. All members completed the challenge with just 15 minutes to spare.

Beers in Llanberis with support Brian Mcgill

THE HIGHS AND LOWS

Andy Heath-Brown
High point: The high point – literally – was reaching the summit of Ben Nevis in good time.
Low point: The descent from Scafell Pike – hungry, cold and desperately trying not to break an ankle.

Richard Heath
High point: Reaching the summit of Snowdon in just one hour and 18 minutes and realising that, unless I did something very silly, I would complete the challenge.
Low point: Half way down Snowdon, realising I had done something very silly in underestimating the distance to the finish line. I had a choice to run the rest of the way or fail. I ran.

Giulia Heath
High point: Realising I was still mobile enough to start walking up Scafell Pike at 4 am despite one hour’s sleep in a crammed minibus. Other highs included reaching the summit of Snowdon and discovering that the pub at the bottom of the mountain served Peroni on draft.
Low point: Exhaustedly negotiating the scree to get to the top of Scafell Pike and almost being blown off my blistered feet by the icy winds.

Andy Sibcy
High point: Turning left towards the summit of Snowdon from the top of the steep path and realising that we were going to complete the challenge in 24 hours.
Low point: Seeing how stupid I looked in my hat in all the pictures.

Kate Sibcy
High point: Tucking into a Pot Noodle at the base of Scafell Pike.
Low point: Coming down Scafell Pike because I was in agony with my knees and I thought I might not make it. It was only the thought of not letting down the people who had sponsored us for such worthwhile causes that got me through.

Jo Hutchsion
High point: Getting to the top of Ben Nevis after trudging through snow for the last 20 minutes of the hike. The views from the top were spectacular and made the three-hour journey completely worthwhile.
Low point: Spraining my ankle on the way down Ben Nevis and realising that I would have to retire from the challenge.

Julien Morel
High point: Unsurprisingly, making it down to the car park at Pen-y-Pass at the foot of Snowdon with 15 minutes to spare, thus completing the challenge within 24 hours.
Low point: Doubting we would make it as our minibus trundled along the motorway to Snowdon and we fell way behind schedule. We knew we would have very little time to get up and down Snowdon.

THE EQUIPMENT

Andy Heath-Brown
Preparing to undertake one of Britain’s toughest walking challenges – the National Three Peaks – is not something that should be taken lightly.  As well as the mental and physical endurance required, it is also essential to have a well prepared kit, of which clothing is an important part. The range of potential conditions that can be experienced across all three peaks is wide, with snow, wind, rain and sun equally as likely to be withstood. Our Rohan clothing more than withstood these elements. We made use of Rohan’s light but warm trousers, which were comfortable but well-fitting, and wicked away moisture quickly. The fleece jumper provided ideal warmth at higher altitudes, but also remained breathable in less extreme conditions. Finally, the waterproof jacket provided the fine balance between being lightweight but also durable, and was equally adept at keeping out both wind and rain. We stood up to our challenge, thanks in no-small part to Rohan clothing which stood up to the challenge too.

Richard Heath
When I unwrapped the Rohan gear I wondered how clothes so light were going to keep me warm on the mountains, especially as I was about to attempt Ben Nevis, which I was reliably informed was covered in snow. Even as we set off, I was a little concerned that the gear was going to stand up to the challenge. But it worked! The trousers were excellent in protecting me from the cold wind and the fleece was warm but breathable. The jacket was light enough to wear in the quite warm conditions of the foothills and offered more than enough protection from the altogether more hostile conditions on the summit. One of the problems with walking clothes is that they can be quite bulky. But Rohan has somehow managed to create very lightweight gear which offers superb protection against wind and cold weather.

Giulia Heath
The clothing was very comfortable. Though it was lightweight, it kept me warm and dry – even at the summit of a very windy Scafell Pike.

Andy Sibcy
Although I have spent a great deal of time in the outdoors walking and kayaking, I have never owned a pair of true hiking trousers before, believing them to be the unnecessary uniform of the bearded rambler. How wrong I was. The Rohan Bags trousers we wore on the Three Peaks Challenge were both comfortable, light and kept the weather out. I will certainly be using them a lot in the future. The Cloudbase jacket was both wind and waterproof, and, importantly, it packed down small and was light to carry when not needed. All in all, I was very impressed with Rohan.

Kate Sibcy
The clothes were the best walking clothes I have used. The trousers were so comfortable – I could hardly feel them.  They were light enough not to get too warm and yet kept the wind and chill off on the upper reaches of the mountains.  I’d recommend thermals for colder weather and the roominess of the sizing meant that thermals could be worn with no problem. The stretchy material was also really comfortable for curling up in the van between the peaks and I was grateful for that. The best thing about them is that I forgot I was wearing them and you can’t ask for more than that! The fleece was a gorgeous colour – and the pockets were in really useful places for storing snacks and iPods etc. A lot of thought has obviously gone into the design.  It was really cosy, too. When I first saw the jacket it did not seem robust enough to wear on a mountain. However, in practice, it was perfect. The lightweight ‘Barricade’ fabric was deceptively strong and kept the wind off.  The real benefit was in how light it was to carry when it was not needed. There was plenty of room for layering and it seems a small thing but I found that the angle and size of the pockets were perfect for resting your hands. Too often pocket openings are too tight to rest comfortably in or at a silly angle. They were perfectly positioned for access and comfort on the Barricade jacket. I have been wearing it ever since! It was also nice to have such a stylish colour of jacket with minimal branding and superfluous detail on the outside. It is simple and elegant. Thanks so much for the clothes – they certainly helped me to complete the challenge comfortably.

Jo Hutchison
I found the trousers extremely comfortable. They were stretchy and flexible which allowed me to move easily up the mountain. They kept me dry and warm as did the jacket. The loose material and air pockets kept the clothing breathable and I did not overheat. The cream and red colour combination worked well and the style was feminine.

Julien Morel
Superb. There is no better word to describe the Rohan clothing that I wore for the Three Peaks Challenge. We were, it has to be said, blessed with beautiful weather: clear skies, light winds – except at the top of Scafell Pike – and a warm, but not too warm, sun. So I only needed my Cloudbase jacket at the summit of the middle peak. But I always had it with me – packed tightly at the bottom of my daysack. Although I only needed a base layer for the other two peaks, there was thick snow at the top of Ben Nevis so out came the Microrib Stowaway V-neck fleece to keep me warm while we posed for photos. And during the long drive down to the Lake District and onto Snowdonia, it kept me toasty in the minibus. But one piece of kit that keep me company for the entire challenge was my pair of Bags – Rohan’s iconic outdoor trousers. Although the fabric is lightweight, my legs were never too hot, never too cold. Our challenge was tough but we succeeded. That success was down to a number of factors: the weather, our tremendous support driver, our own determination, and our kit. The three peaks tested that kit, and it passed with flying colours.

Julien Morel Sub editor Jersey Evening Post

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