September 22, 2015 at 23:37 #3323
The Club CatParticipant
On the first weekend of September (2015), myself, two friends of mine from school (Alexander and Jake) and some randomer they dragged along from their uni (Steve) attempted to complete the Three Peaks Challenge (climb the highest mountain in each of England, Scotland and Wales [Scafell Pike, Ben Nevis and Snowdon, respectively] in under 24 hours, including driving time, for the uninitiated). To cut a (very) long story short, we succeeded, with a time of 23 hours 45 minutes for Jake and myself, and 23 hours 50 minutes for Alexander and Steve. Jake and I ‘ran’ the last part.
We decided to do the standard order (Nevis, Scafell, Snowdon) and at the usual time (6am-6am). Our training was less organised. Jake had done some cycling and about four hours (cumulative) over the preceding month, Alexander and Steve had trained by having desk jobs, and my training consisted of sitting on a sofa drinking wine and practicing magic.
On the eve of the attempt we enjoyed a leisurely (my dad, our driver, hardly even broke the speed limit and we only overtook about two cars at a time) drive up to Fort William, enjoying esoteric conversation about programming, and, after scouting the starting point, we settled in for a wee drink and some haggis (no whisky due to having to get up early, however tempting the list of 35 they had was). Since this was Jake’s first time in Scotland, I availed of the opportunity to educate him on the life-cycle of the haggis:
Haggii (plural of haggis) are small creatures (about 1 foot long elliptically-compressed spheroids) with one leg shorter than the other two. This is because they naturally live on hills, and their off-set legs allow them to run more easily on the slopes (some clans [collective term for a group of haggii] run clockwise, while others run anti-clockwise). However some clans have five legs (such as those in the Cairngorms), seven legs (Glen Coe) and even 11 (the hardy Skye haggii). The lowland haggii (for instance those found around Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh) sometimes have two legs, sacrificing stability for speed in order to outrun the Gortex-furred dog-walkers patrolling these less-extreme environs. No-one is quite sure why haggii always have a prime number of legs. The diet of the haggis is the Scottish national plant, the thistle, and many people speculate that this is why the Scots chose the thistle. Because of their delicious meat (which is traditionally served with tatties and neeps, for good reason) hagii have been hunted for centuries, but are now somewhat rarer, due to over-hunting in recent years. In order to hunt a haggis, you need only lie in wait until it’ circular path around the mountain brings it near your position, at which point you simply jump out, scaring the haggis, causing it to attempt to run in the opposite direction, whence it inevitably falls over due to it’s off-set legs.
At 5am the following morning, we were ‘awake’ and ‘raring’ to go. Starting Ben Nevis at precisely 6:15am, we quickly ran out of breath, after foolishly letting Jake set the pace. I took over, and we made good time up to the switchback on the plateau. At this point, a separation became apparent in the group between Jake (actually who had done some training, and whose pain threshold will only be discovered through dedicated research by his future physiotherapists) and myself (the most experienced hill-walker among us) and Alexander and Steve. Although we kept stopping to wait, we eventually gave up and got to the summit 10 minutes ahead of them. after taking a few photos of the cloud, we started down, Jake and I running past many bewildered walkers and trying not to slip and die on the loose shale-y shit on the ground. Once A and S caught up at the switchback, we ran into the first traffic jam I’ve ever experienced on a mountain. Fecking tourists. We battled on, even through the midges at the base, and set a respectable time of just over four hours (15/20 minutes over). After faffing about getting in the car, we departed for Scafell Pike.
It was at this point that my friends were first introduced to my dad’s driving properly; we overtook 31 cars between Fort William and Glasgow, three in a go on a roundabout, and four in a row on one memorable occasion through Glen Coe. At Scafell Pike car park, we stretched, I had a shit and we downed tea/coffee before embarking on the shortest mountain on the route. Once all the comments about the journey down (in which ‘terrifying’ and ‘nearly shat myself’ occurred more than once), conversation died down; this hill was a little bit more painful than the last one. We only got lost once, having to scramble over some Fairhead-esque boulders to get back on track, and kept moving more-or-less non-stop til the top. Haflway through the challenge, and with some pretty views to show for it, we didn’t hang around too long before turning back and starting down. Again, Jake and I ran parts of it while Alexander and Steve walked. Jake and I also managed to make a girl cry when she asked how far until the top and we said “Umm… Yeah, a fair way.”. Highlight of the walk. I think we might have started going a little bit crazy by now, because I continued my haggis lecture, but rather than being shunned, the discussion grew deep. Alexander wondered what would happen if a haggis fell into a lock or the sea. As has just been discovered, it turns out that the haggis changes to suit this new environment by turning into what we call jellyfish. From this, we can deduce that the recent rise in the number of jellyfish on our shores is due to the deforestation of Scottish forests; once a haggis starts rolling, there is nothing to stop it from reaching a body of water and jellyfying. It was just getting dark as we got down (in almost exactly 2 hours 30 minutes), making the drive out along the tiny roads… exhilarating.
At Snowdon car park, we donned many layers, and Jake made a whole load of what we termed drug-water, consisting of codine, caffine and paracetamol. Alexander and Steve partook heavily, and Jake downed the best part of a bottle. I only had a wee taste, cos why not. We followed the sign for the Pyg Track, but after about half a km, I wasn’t sure we were on the right path, so we stopped and wasted about 5 minutes studying the map. Turns out, I had all the features wrong in my head, since we came up Llanberis Pass from the other direction than I thought. Being full dark, we made certain to not drift apart on this hill, which seemed like it was going to be an issue while the track was nice and flat (and even downhill in parts), but then the damn trail damn well ran out, and then the damn cloud came down, so we were lucky to be able to see 4 fecking metres ahead of us. This was quite the low point. It took us three hours to reach the summit. By which time we were above the clouds, not that we were really in a mood to appreciate the stars. It was at this point, on the first step down, my knee decided to implode, which did not make the walk down any better. We were in a bit of a state now: Alexander was sleep deprived; I’d just injured my knee; Steve had been complaining about injuring his legs for a while; and, although Jake was surprisingly chirpy, it was only because he was slightly high on his drug-water. The walk off this godforsaken hill was pretty damn miserable, not made any better by the nagging feeling that if we moved quicker, we might just make it. Jake and I once again broke away on the flat since the sun was coming up (all the while reminding us of the time passing) but stopped to wait due to my feeling it was unethical leaving them (Jake protested this quite a lot). Having said that, once the car park was in sight, I thought we’d failed, but Jake and I ran anyway. We’d only gone and done it! Fecking yes!
Distinctly type 2 fun, but good craic none-the-less, especially meeting all the other groups attempting the challenge, including the one guide that rolled a big fat joint at the top of Ben Nevis.
We all fell asleep in the car fairly promptly, only to awake as my dad swerved sharply into a parking space outside a cafe in some unpronounceable Welsh town. When we spoke to the owner, he said that watching us get out of the car, he’d made a bet with himself as to whether we were drunk or had just come off the hill. I’ll tell you now, that that fry-up was one of the best I’ve ever had, only partly because it was actually good. Going to the toilet was not, however. Neither was going to the Peak district the following week.
Totally worth.September 23, 2015 at 00:43 #3328
Nice one dude, I fully encourage the haggis lore as well as the fast escalation of your dad’s driving.
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