I’m not going to lie, I hate hiking. I’m not the kind of person that climbs mountains for fun. But when I heard about the Three Peaks Challenge that a team of Newbold School teachers, parents and friends were embarking upon as a fundraiser for the school, I was intrigued. When invited to join, I signed up, telling myself it was for a good cause and not bothering to get all the details.
It was just as well that I didn’t have all the facts because I may not have signed up had I realised the endurance test that awaited.
The Three Peaks Challenge involves climbing three British peaks (Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike, and Snowdon) back-to-back in 24 hours. The adventure (officially known as the National Three Peaks Challenge) covers a total ascent of 3,064m over 23 miles. We were blessed to have knowledgeable navigators with experience of the peaks as part of the Newbold team. Everyone else involved had been training hard and studying up on nutrition, equipment, etc., to get ready for this big physical feat well before I signed up.
Our intrepid team of seven (four staff – Johannie Gungadoo, Mel Jennings, Keren Milanovic, Victoria Stanborough), two parents (team leader and experienced navigator Rafa Jimenez and myself) and one additional friend of the school (Ruth Evans, another skilled wilderness navigator) started the ascent of Scotland’s 1,345-metre Ben Nevis (the highest mountain in the UK) early Monday morning, May 30, 2022. It took us a good four hours to reach the mountain’s snowy peak.
I couldn’t wait to go back down Ben Nevis as there was little to see due to near-zero-visibility blizzard conditions. Also, my regrettable decision to climb the mountain in shorts meant I was freezing.
Luckily, we made decent time getting down the mountain and were then driven six hours away to Scafell Pike (the highest peak in England) by the excellent Darren Johnston, a Newbold School parent who had kindly volunteered to be our driver for the trip.
I’ll admit that I was dreading climbing Scafell Pike. Not just because of the physical challenge of climbing to the 978-metre peak but because, by the time we got to the foot of the mountain, it was almost sunset. We would be doing a large part of the ascent and all the descent in the dark with torches. Although we had all agreed that it was perfectly fine for any of us to sit out any of the climbs if needed, we all decided we were up for the next leg of the challenge.
The team spirit shown over the six hours we spent climbing and descending Scafell Pike that night was terrific. Between jokes about my shorts, random stories, and lots of words of encouragement, the Newbold School team bonded. We were careful to stay together, stay safe and support each other as we hiked through the night.
When we got to our third mountain – 1085-metre Snowdon in Wales – it was apparent that we would exceed the 24-hour challenge time, but none of us was too concerned. We just wanted to complete our last climb. We put one foot in front of the other and made it to the very windy Snowdon summit in about three hours before turning around for our final descent to the finish line. We all made it back in one piece!
The cause behind our Three Peaks Challenge – raising money for Newbold School’s Forest School Program – resonated with me and kept me going through each stage of the experience. My daughter (currently in Year 2 at Newbold) loves the outdoorsy, sustainability-focused education she gets through the Forest School program, so I knew it was a cause worth backing. If you want to join me in supporting Newbold School, I thank you for giving through our Three Peaks Challenge fund: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/newboldschoolmountainclimb.