Acer Three Peaks Challenge – July 2013

THEY MET FOR THE CHALLENGE AT HEATHROW’S CROWN RIVERS

TO PREPARE FOR THE TRIP WITH AN ASSAULT ON THEIR LIVERS

THIS CONTINUED TO GLASGOW, TO HELP CALM THEIR FEARS

AND INCLUDED THE DRAMA OF 10 MISSING BEERS

THEY ARRIVED IN FORT WILLIAM NOT A MOMENT TOO SOON

AT A HOTEL FULL OF GUESTS FROM THE MOVIE “COCOON”

FOR A DINNER SO SMALL WE NEED BURGERS-TO-GO

(LEAVING PLENTY OF SPACE TO BE FILLED WITH PINOT)

THEN IT’S OFF TO THE BAR, AND HOW WILL WE FORGET

THAT INSPIRING PERFORMANCE BY “TOMMY WYNETTE”

NEXT DAY, IT’S BEN NEVIS – THE TOUGHEST OF ALL

BUT ARE WE ALL WORRIED? OH NO, NOT AT ALL

OUR FOCUS IS SET ON THE “CAR BOOT BUFFET”

(“HAVE I GOT ENOUGH WAGON-WHEELS TO FUEL ME TODAY?”)

'THE BEN' WAS A CHALLENGE, BUT WE MADE NOT A FUSS

(APART FROM THE TIME WE WERE HIT BY THE BUS)

THROUGH WIND, ROCKS AND SNOW WE ASCENDED AT LAST

DESPERATE FOR SARNIES, OUR WELL-EARNED REPAST

BUT FOR SOME LADS – LIKE STABLES –LUNCH WAS A DRAG

THE TOP OF BEN NEVIS IS THE PLACE FOR A FAG

SO WE ALLMADE IT DOWN AT THE END OF THE DAY

AND ALL BUT THE THREE OF THEM WENT THE RIGHT WAY

MEANWHILE “CAR BUFFET” WAS OPEN AGAIN

FOR PORK PIES AND WOTSITS ENJOYED IN THE GLEN

THEN IT’S BACK TO THE VANS, AND CARLILE’S THE NEXT STOP

AND LET’S FACE IT , BY THEN WE WERE READY TO DROP

AT THE BOTTOM OF SCAFELL, THE ELITE GROUP WAS GONE!

LED BY LEADING NEW SATNAV BRAND: TOMTOM …AND TOM

THE GOING WAS TOUGH, SO WE STOPPED TO RELAX

AND WATCHED WHILE OUR LEE GAVE HIMSELF A QUICK WAX

THEN WE’RE OFF AGAIN, FOLLOWING MORGAN MACHINE

(AND WE NOTICED THAT ESAT TODAY WAS QUITE KEEN)

NOT TO MENTION OUR LINDA – SHE’S FAST, SHE IS FIT

BUT CAME DOWN WITHOUT TELLING, SO IS DEEP IN THE ****

WE REPAIRED TO THE SWAN FOR A PRIZE-GIVING DINNER

WHERE THE MARS BAR DESSERT WAS THE OVERALL WINNER

THEN OFF TO CLIMB SNOWDON, THE LAST OF THE THREE

WE’RE WELL-PRACTISED NOW, SO HOW HARD CAN IT BE?

WELL, THE TEAM SPLIT IN TWO, WITH 12 BOYS “TEAM ELITE”

WHICH INCLUDED YOUNG BARRACLOUGH, NOW BACK ON HIS FEET

THEY CLIMED WITH A MISSION, DETERMINED TO WIN

AND THEN DOWN TO THE LAKE FOR A FREEZING COLD SWIM

THE SECOND TEAM MADE IT A LITTLE BIT LATER

WITH MELVILLE SUPPORTING THE BEST OF TEAM ACER

AND SOPHIE AND SARA DID BRILLIANTLY TOO

(CARL SAID THAT YIRREL WAS THE BEST IN OUR CREW)

WHAT A TRIP WE ALL HAD, WE WILL NEVER FORGET

THE FIRST OF OUR “LIMITS” – WITH THE BEST YOU CAN GET

THE CHIT-CHAT EACH DAY WAS INSPIRED, NOTHING LACKED

WITH PLENTY OF ANECDOTES, AND THE ODD “HASLAM FACT”

LIKE THE “FACT” THAT HASH BROWNS ARE A DIETER’S DREAM

AND THAT BABIES IN BACKPACKS ARE “DEADER” THAN THEY SEEM

OH WE ALL HAD A LAUGH, WITHOUT MUCH OF A DRAMA

IT JUST TOOK A BIT LONGER FOR SOPHIE CHARARA…

Snowdon

 So, with throbbing feet and aching joints it’s come to the final peak: Snowdon, The highest mountain in Wales at 1,085 metres.  After today, you can cast off your boots and never enter nature’s cruel arena again.

On the ascent, there’s plenty to look at. Snowdon is a designated national nature reserve because of its flora and fauna. Keep an eye out for the Snowdon lily, a rare flower only otherwise found in the Alps, Carpathians and North America.

The first recorded ascent was by the botanist Thomas Johnson in 1639, and by the early 1800s it was a popular tourist destination. By 1847, wooden cabins had been built at the summit for Victorian adventurers. Over time, these were replaced by a summit building (used during WWII for experimental radio work and radar development), which has recently been refurbished. The brand new summit building opened in 2009. No sitting around on jagged rocks today!

Unfortunately, Snowdon doesn’t have any famous ghosts. It does, however, have a famous giant called Rhitta Gawr. Rhitta Gawr was a fearsome warrior who took his victim’s beards as trophies to fashion into a cape. One day, he made the mistake of demanding the beard of King Arthur. Versions of the story differ; one has Rhitta Gawr being made to shave off his own beard, rendering him “much humbled”. The better version has King Arthur duelling the giant, and slaying him with his sword. Arthur then decreed that stones should be placed on the giant’ body to make a grave. The Welsh name for Snowdon – Yr Wyddfa – literally means “mound of earth and stone over a grave”.

You may have no giants to best in combat, but still looking to assert your superiority atop a mountain? There are some less brave souls who come to peak by train, a line that opened – amazingly – in 1896. Find somebody who’s done this and mention that you’ve walked up, which is more of an experience. Don’t forget to also mention how this is also your third mountain in as many days, with a tone of carefree insouciance, as if this is just how you like to pass a weekend.

All finished. As you sit on the summit of Snowdon, consider also that Edmund Hillary used to climb Snowdon as practice for Everest. You’ve walked in some of the footsteps of Edmund Hillary. Everest may be the next logical step. If not, it’s still an accomplishment.

Today’s romantic poet: William Wordsworth, whose poem “Snowdon” sums up both the enjoyment of the trek, and the anticipation of its ending: 

With forehead bent

Earthward, as in opposition set

Against an enemy, I panted up

With eager pace, and no less eager thoughts.

Scafell Pike

Now to the shortest of the three peaks, though still the tallest mountain in England. At a mere 978 metres high – requiring an ascent of about 4,331 feet – this is the most relaxing of the three treks, and it would be plain embarrassing to not sprint to the summit.

If this is not desirable, then walking is probably also an option. After all, to be fair, this is likely the hardest of the peaks, with the steepest incline and difficulty in bad weather. Not to mention the ghosts. Three ghosts spend their time on Scafell Pike:

Moses Rigg, a whisky smuggler who hid his illicit distillery at the top of Gable Crag

A headless man clutching a wriggling bag (believed, for some reason, to contain cats)

A horse. A horse ghost that gallops past.

But don’t worry, as to the existence of these ghosts, the official Scafell Pike website notes that “investigators have yet to confirm proof” of their existence and, if they should exist, it’s unlikely they’d choose the one night of your ascent to begin attacking invaders to their home.

Yesterday was Keats, and today’s Romantic poet of choice is Coleridge in 1802. He wrote the very first letter from the peak, in which he seemed a little more light-hearted than Keats had been:

I had a glorious walk – the rain sailing along those black crags and green slopes, white as the woolly down on the under side of a willow leaf, and soft as floss silk. Silver fillets of water down every mountain from top to bottom that were as fine as bridegroom 

The summit provides a beautiful panoramic view of the surrounding Lake District countryside, as well as the satisfaction in being 2/3 of the way through the Three Peaks challenge, a calorie deficit that permits bad food and good drink, victory over three ghosts, and further bragging rights.

As to what’s on the summit: rocks. A field of boulders – igneous rock to be precise – through which a path is marked with chalk.  But again, the view is incredible. On a clear day the range extends from the Mourne Mountains to Snowdonia.

Still the trek is its own reward. As the website points out: Why climb Scafell Pike? Because it’s there.

Ben Nevis

In 2006, some conservation volunteers from the John Muir Trust made a surprising discovery at the top of Ben Nevis: a piano (minus the keyboard). A man named Kenneth Campbell claimed he was likely at fault. In 1971, he carried a 226lb organ up there to raise money for charity. The John Muir Trust was adamant: this was definitely a piano, not an organ. A McVitie’s biscuit wrapper found at the scene was dated to 1986.  This led to Mike Clark of Dundee, who apparently was happy to take a piano up Ben Nevis, but not his litter down:

A group of 24 of us took the piano up the mountain. We attached poles at the front and back with four men on each pole. We took it in turns to carry the piano.

It was a lot harder than we thought it would be but we kept going. We got up to the summit plateau but it was covered in mist and was very cold. So we sat down and drank a bottle of whisky and ate a packet of McVitie’s biscuits.”

Furthermore, a rusted wheelchair was found hidden away at the top in 2008. No answer for this has come forward. No one’s taking credit.

When the trek gets hard, and you’re beginning to flag, remember that. Some people once took those things up. A man carried an organ by himself. A group carried a piano and then drank a bottle of whiskey. A backpack’s not that bad.

Ben Nevis is 1,344 meters high. However, a direct route is obviously impossible, so it has to be approached in a zigzag fashion. This makes for a refreshing stroll of a round trip totalling about 10.5 miles, taking from between 7 to 9 hours. Running times may vary.

At the top, you can bask in the beautiful view and satisfaction that you’ve climbed the highest mountain in the UK.

An old observatory sits atop the summit, although this is largely derelict, having been out of service since 1904. An emergency shelter sits on top of the observatory tower for those caught in unfortunate weather. Besides its reassuring presence, this is also the highest man-made structure in the UK. Next to the observatory, just near the summit point, is also a war memorial to the dead of World War II.

Head over to the summit point and enjoy the view. On a clear day, you can see Northern Ireland. On a clear day, that is. John Keats, who climbed Ben Nevis in 1818, was not so lucky, as he gloomily pondered in this poem:

All my eye doth meet

Is mist and crag, not only on this height

But in the world of thought and mental might.

Take satisfaction where Keats did not; you just climbed the highest mountain in the UK.