Twenty-seven intrepid adventurers from Jersey arrived at Glasgow airport, ready to undertake what was to be an epic six-day charity challenge to raise money for the Grace Crocker Family Support Foundation. The team had been training for months, and were as prepared as they could be to climb the three highest peaks in the UK AND cycle in between.
There were a few nerves showing as we met the group who had flown all the way from Jersey. We were transferred to Glen Nevis to tackle our first mountain, Ben Nevis.
After a quick brief, we began the climb from the Glen Nevis Visitor Centre and were blessed with one of the best mountain days experienced by the More Adventure mountain leaders, Danny and Tom. Clear blue skies, no wind and superb views made the 1300 metre climb to the summit almost pleasurable!
The whole team were up and down in no time at all. We knew straight away that this was an incredibly fit and determined team.
The support crew – John, Paul, Don, Teresa and Luke (our charismatic cycle leader), had assembled the bikes by the time we got back to the visitor centre. As the climbers came down off the mountain, they jumped on their bikes and cycled the few miles into Fort William and to their accommodation.
The following morning we did some last minute sorting of bikes and kit, then Luke led the first group off. Our route took us south on the A82 to towards Glasgow. Along the way, the team climbed the famous route up Glencoe, down over Rannoch Moor then along the banks of Loch Lomond, with stunning scenery, some challenging climbs and awesome downhill stretches.
It was obvious how much preparation the riders had been doing and soon the team had arrived just West of Glasgow for the second night of their journey.
The next day the riders left shortly after breakfast and continued their ride south. We kept the teams close together as they skirted around the south-west of Glasgow. There was a great deal of stop-starting, with traffic lights causing absolute mayhem. Further into the ride, the teams suffered no less than five punctures, a broken brake cable and a monster climb right in the middle of the day!
They rode through rain and wind, battling the elements for over 12 hours and stopping only for food and water. It was a long day, covering a distance of over 105 miles. We sensed a great deal of relief as the heavens opened just as the last group arrived at our hotel in Gretna. The food that evening was fabulous and just what 27 hungry cyclists needed. We briefed the group on the following day, then they all retired to their beds for a much-deserved rest.
The rain drizzled down first thing. Today would be our first cycle and mountain day as we were heading into the Lake District and to the highest peak in England, Scafell Pike. Spirits were high (a mighty all-you-can-eat buffet breakfast in the brilliant hotel helped!) as the teams left. The route headed south towards Carlisle through rolling hills and quaint English farmland before reaching the A66 into the heart of the Lakes. From Keswick, the teams cycled along the glorious banks of Derwent Water to Seathwaite where lunch was served.
After a quick change into their mountain gear and a bite to eat, the team of 27 riders plus John (an inspirational mountain climber, truly dependable support driver and great bloke!), began their ascent of Scafell Pike along the Corridor Route. There were a few spicy sections (jalapeno-rated) which necessitated a hands-on approach, but the team (who had already smashed out over 50 miles!) tackled these with ease.
We were soon stood on the summit, our second of the journey, then made our way back to Seathwaite where the riders grabbed bikes and cycled back to our hotel in Keswick. Luke, our Cycle Leader, had been to the brilliant Keswick Bikes (http://www.keswickbikes.co.uk/) and had couple of buckled wheels fixed, bought a new tyre and sorted a few other minor faults with the bikes.
The next morning, the exertions of the long and arduous previous three days were beginning to show but the riders were still in high spirits and keen to get on. The route left Keswick (impossible without a hill or two!) then straight south along the beautiful yet busy A591. We stopped for lunch in Lancaster before continuing south. Team 1 arrived into the hotel around 19:30 with Team 2 arriving shortly afterwards. The final slog up the hill really tested every rider, understandably after a brutal 110 miles in the saddle! Team 3 arrived a little later and had been held up a great deal with a series of punctures and other bike problems. Every member of the group greeted them at the hotel door – it was a very touching moment and undoubtedly boosted the already impressive team spirit. We went out to collect some pizza and a Chinese and returned with a banquet to satisfy even the hungriest of cyclists!
The final day had arrived. It was an early breakfast as riders fuelled up for the long day ahead. They left in two main groups and had a short but sharp descent towards the sea before heading south-west into the unforgiving hills of North Wales.
There were some tough climbs followed by some even tougher climbs as the teams pushed themselves to the absolute limit. As the final day, it was a real test of determination and resolve. Both teams arrived at Capel Curig for some lunch and were subjected to an inspirational and rousing speech by our man Danny. They weren’t going to give up and had come too far to throw in the towel.
We parked the vans at the foot of Snowdon and began the final mountain climb at around 18:00. The weather was looking atrocious and both More Adventure Mountain Leaders knew it was touch-and-go whether a summit bid was even possible given the strong winds and torrential rain forecast for the summit. This was where the team would have to push themselves like never before. They’d cycled for nearly 500 miles ascending around 3700 metres, AND climbed the highest peaks in Scotland and England – a total of over 2200 metres…all in the space of 5½ days! This was going to be a huge ask.
The weather began to deteriorate as the group climbed. It was obvious that people were just going through the necessary motions, and at times, the whole team fell silent with the exertion involved after such a long journey. We were in no doubt that had this team of incredibly fit individuals would have hopped, skipped and jumped up this mountain had it been the first day! There was still humour there though, they couldn’t help but giggle at a guy coming back down with his girlfriend dressed not in Gore-Tex, but what looked like a tweed smoking jacket. He was drenched and his girlfriend looked less than impressed.
We plodded on and reached the saddle just beneath the saddle just after two hours in. The wind really picked up here and gusted at around 60mph as the team made their way up the final few hundred metres to the summit. The cloud was down and it was around 0ºC with wind chill. THEY ALL DID IT! All twenty-seven clambered slowly and carefully up the trig-point mound and hugged the tower of concrete at the highest point of Snowdon. What an astonishing achievement for all to have made it!
We didn’t want to hang around so the team quickly congratulated each other, took some video footage and photos, then got back down slowly with some very sore knees throughout the team.
Back at the car park the team were met by Don, Teresa and John, with some fizzy and big hugs! We were transferred back to our hotel in Betws-y-Coed for showers, a fabulous Indian buffet and two very moving speeches by both Nigel and Aidan.
The team had achieved so much and, even in the absolute face of adversity (punctures, broken cables, buckled wheels, brutal hill climbs, swollen ‘water-melon’ knees (thanks to Brian for that one), spicy rock steps, atrocious weather…the list goes on), had fought through. Their passion and effort shone through all of this, and they had proved themselves not only as determined, fearless and unequivocally fit individuals, but also a group with an extraordinary ethos of teamwork and support. There had been tears, laughter, sweat, grime and aches, but the whole team pulled through. An incredible performance by all involved and a real pleasure to be a part of.
More Adventure would like to thank Nigel Crocker for all of his hard work before and during the event, and to the rest of the team for being such a fantastic group. Thanks also to Don, Teresa, John and Paul, whose superb efforts in supporting the team were undoubtedly invaluable to its success.
If you would like to find out more about The Grace Crocker Family Support Foundation, a charity that offers financial and emotional support to parents whose children are sick, you can do so here: http://www.gracecrocker.org/Welcome.html
This Ultimate Three Peaks Challenge was to raise money for this incredible cause. If you would like to donate, you can do so here: http://www.charitygiving.co.uk/gracecrockerfsf