Eastbourne 32 3 Peaks Challenge 25thâ€”26th June 2010
Dear diary, this weekend I went for a wander......and raised £10,000 for Charity! The mountains of Ben Nevis, Scafell and Snowdon may be described as ‘fortresses built by Nature for herself’, but how appropriate to raise our newly acquired midge nets to Shakespeare, when on June 25th 2010 this happy breed of men, from the little world of Eastbourne Round Table set sail to conquer the highest mountains of Scotland, England and Wales, simply known as the 3 peaks. After 3 months of training on the Downs and much tossing and turning in the early hours of Friday morning, the cry of seagulls drew 10 apprehensive, but excited Tablers, to Eastbourne train station. The nervous anxiety broken only by the arrival of Russ, who clearly thought we were going to Spain, and a chauffeured Ian H, who had obviously been doing his and hers chores since January! So looking like a cross between the lost boys and a Torremolinos bound stag party, thoughts of the World Cup were put on ice as our journey began.
The sight of Eric ‘King’ Cantona and a traditional English breakfast at Gatwick lifted the passion, which in truth kept the plane in the air all the way to Glasgow, where a controlled crash was followed swiftly by a military style pick up. At this point we should tip our bobble hats to the designated drivers and support crew of Chris ‘Virgil’ Steel, Ashley ‘everything’s sorted’ Pugh, Ian ‘I’m coming through’ Pickard and Timtom ‘left no right’ Hervey, for whom the challenge began the day before, sorting provisions and getting the wheels to Scotland to enable this all to happen. Dreams of promenades and piers, cream teas and 99s dissipated to the sounds of rousing music and dry ice affects from the front of the buss - we were bound for the mountains.
Ben Nevis – “Snow in June & It Robbie Burns!” “There it is”, “no there”, “maybe that’s it”, “OMG”! One thing is for sure, wherever the mountain was hiding no one was quite prepared for the searing heat of Glencoe. With no sign of Jimmy Saville and with more kit than a well-equipped battalion, the nervous challengers tried to figure out where on earth they’d packed the sun cream and mosquito nets, and mused that only Russ was in fact appropriately dressed. With Derek too scared to go to the shop by himself, we prepped our feet with Shane ‘I’m wrapping mine for Christmas’ McGreevy showing how it should be done and as if our lives depended upon it. We fuelled ourselves on Colbran Cake (thanks Judy) and said our farewells to the support crew. If you thought this was going to be a quiet affair, then think again, as with a stream of teams from all points of the compass, we departed for our first summit. “The birth-place of valour, the Country of worth” wrote Burns, oh! and home to a bloody big hill. This kind of challenge was always going to result in redden swollen faces, bulging eyes, racing hearts, bad backs, dizziness, exhaustion, dehydration and a little of the Queen’s English, but who would have predicted it within 20 minutes from the start. Ian P turned into a blueberry as his back buckled under the weight of the small car he was carrying, and Brett ‘Action Man’ Matthews quite simply removed his bergen and threw it in the bushes in utter disgust. Stripped down and off and to the sound of Paul ‘motivational speaker’ Wilton we climbed slowly up alongside the red burn, and burn it did with muscles tightening and threatening to ping at any moment.
As the expanse and magnificence of the Scottish Lochs and mountains sprung up around us, we contemplated how far, how high and how much bloody longer? If ever a bunch of guys looked out of place – for a moment anyway – it was now. The mountainside scarred by gullies and out crops did its level best to look God like in appearance, but this band of brothers plodded and plodded and plodded up the rocky path to self-discovery. Snow in June! Yep, if any of us thought we would slip up, none of us thought it would be on snow. As the mist enveloped us and the freezing chill of a light Scottish breeze blew indignantly on our suntanned faces, the summit came into sight. What should be the highest and loneliest place in the United Kingdom was in fact similar to the busy concourse of a mainline station, where on the summit plateau we had to wait our turn to record our first conquest. Our RNLI flag unfolded, we smiled magnificently and started texting loved ones - yep you can get a signal of the summit of Ben Nevis – For a brief moment we forgot ‘what comes up must come down’ – and there’s no App for that! I think we can safely say it hurts more going down, with Con ‘sticks’ Cronin at one point proclaiming he would never walk again. Unlike falling it seemed to take forever to descend, as the vans and tents of base camp slowly came into view. Basking in the evening sun our worn bodies were welcomed by the finest Pugh Stew (thanks Debbie) we have ever tasted. “The Lake District, and don’t spare the horses”, rang out the cry, and so with the logistical precision of a forward army post we were ‘talced’, changed and packed for our return to England. I should assure you at this point that we ‘talced’ ourselves and not each other.
Scafell “More Heavy Metal than Wordsworth” As the early hours of the morning drifted by, sleep deprivation ensued, as many tried to get much needed rest in what can only be described as ‘cabin class in a storm!’ Derek ‘gear freak’ Godfrey began to threaten murder, whilst Chris ‘face book’ Wilson and Jonny ‘laughing’ Bowles dribbled and snorted their way through the next six and a half hours. However, Stevie ‘I can sleep anywhere’ Garner just drifted into dreams of pipefittings and soldered joint. Wordsworth wrote ‘But now the sun is rising calm and bright’, but what he didn’t write was how difficult it was to find a parking space in Wasdale on a Saturday morning in June. The airy convoy of white mini busses, carrying 3 peak virgins, had not counted on the parking abilities of our own Mr Steel, and so whilst everyone else waited, we disembarked and began a heavy weary plod up Scafell. Brown tongue and Devil’s staircase are not euphemisms for what we got up too, but what we had to get up before tackling the rocky false summits of England’s highest mountain. As we stood on another misty summit, we had learned to get the hell out there before you lost feeling in your fingers! With everyone now firmly addicted to wine gums and tracker bars, down we hobbled, a little more strung out than before. Did I mention coming down hurts a lot, with Russ ‘ah my ankle’ Colbran making great claims for his blue badge – a ruse to get free parking for Airborne.
The site of Chris, Ash and TimTom serving porridge from a lay-by would normally frighten the average man, but not today, it was a vision of beauty, like coming home and finding Kylie in the bath...sorry where was I, oh yes, anyway it tasted great. With renewed energy and clean teeth it was back in the sticky sardine tin and a warm windy drive for these Anglo Saxons, who far from their sunshine coast were about to enter the wettest place in the UK.
Snowdon “The Need for a Great Glass Elevator” By now the 15 Bear Grylis impersonators could only dream of a cold shower, as the searing June sun greeted us on Snowdonia’s Llanberis Pass. I’d like to tell you how well we all looked and felt at this point, but the painful truth was that we were now hooked on ibuprofen and wine gums, with some even carrying secret stashes of red bull shots, only to snap when challenged. Delayed by traffic, struck by sun and happy to kick Kylie out the bath just so we could drink the water, we began the hobble to the summit of Snowdon. A flat start through corries and alongside clear tarns served only to deceive the mortals among us, and the sight of a wall of rock between us and the top resulted in a collective gasp for a word or phrase that wouldn’t offend the nearby sheep – we didn’t succeed. With embarrassed sheep abound, and a few of us flagging, we climbed with strides that would make step aerobics look like a spectator sport. With the now familiar sight of Stevie G’s arse out in front, we quietly gasped our way to the top. We had conquered the third and final misty summit, our challenge was complete. This seemingly disparate group of accountants, bankers, builders, plumbers, surveyors, estate agents and electricians, not normally associated with such feats of physical pain had done what it said on the tin. We had taken the
requisite 14 hours to ascend and descend the 9,800 feet, and covered the nearly 26 miles of walking. With travel times added in, we achieved this magnificent feat in a little over 24 hours. So with emotions high we unfolded our Children’s Wish banner, remembered why we had pushed ourselves so hard, and hobbled for home. Did I mention it hurts coming down, and please do not offer an Eastbourne Round Tabler a wine gum or tracker bar in the near future - at least not until our next challenge.
Coming Home With hands aloft and seatbelts tightening we headed for a celebratory night in Telford, consisting of a warm shower and a well earned beer, but soon thoughts turned to clean sheets and a pillow having not been to bed for over 44 hours. Life’s ordinary things had overnight become simple luxuries, and maybe there lies something to reflect on. However, we awoke early to a Midlands heat wave, and with imaginary surf boards on the roof rack, thoughts of England progressing to the quarters and once again having familiarised ourselves with what we do best - a good fry up - we headed to the sunshine coast, known more importantly as home.
To our sponsors and supporters, a huge appreciation for helping us raise much needed cash. When all the analysis has taken place we shall hopefully have raised around £10,000 for local charities close to our hearts, including the RNLI, Prostate Cancer Awareness and Round Table Children’s’ Wish. If you ever thought something magical was possible, you were right. We believed in ourselves, supported each other, forged friendships and conquered Nature’s fortresses. Like England’s footballers we were coming home, only these 15 Lions will still be roaring for some time to come victorious in our quest.
Like King Arthur’s Knights, we’d hatched plans, plotted details, pulled swords from stones and left Eastbourne 32 Round Table our Camelot, in our determination to support those 3 Peaks Challengers who support others, make and save lives. To our families and friends, thank you for letting us pursue this challenge, as without you it would not have been possible.