Every now and then, you decide to do something out of the ordinary. Something worthwhile. Something that will not only challenge you but also please you. Recently I had the privilege and pleasure of helping a group of local ladies fulfil that wish, as we embarked on the National Three Peaks Challenge.
This was one heck of a road trip! Leaving Belfast (in our snazzy Target Dry jackets), we first took on the highest peak in the UK, the mighty Ben Nevis in Scotland, before heading south to complete the extremely gorgeous and picturesque Scafell Pike in England, and finishing with the breath-taking Snowdon in Wales before sailing back to Dublin and driving north again to complete our challenge. Five countries travelled, three highest peaks climbed and nearly 1000 miles driven in 5 days. Needless to say a large glass of wine was entertained in the celebrations!
We chose to complete one peak a day, in comparison to the popular 24 hour challenge that seems to have grown rapidly over the last few years. It’s nice to see that the British Mountaineering Council is also recommending this approach. Personally, I am not a fan of the 24 hour structure. I feel it not only increases risk of injury when attempting to complete all three mountains in such a short time frame, but it also has a negative impact on the environment both on the hills and the surrounding areas in terms of traffic, littering and human waste. It also reduces the amount of financial spending taking place in local areas in terms of retail and tourism. The abundance of people being off loaded from a bus and ‘dumped’ on a mountain, to practically run straight up and down again, only to scramble straight back on to a bus….well, just simply fills me with a mixture of dread and disappointment!
I fully understand that taking on a challenge such as The Three Peaks, is often a test of physical and mental strength for a lot of people. I used to be a competitive athlete, so I get it! However, when it comes to the hills, I just don’t understand why you would want to rush that experience and miss out on fully enjoying your surroundings. Hiking against the clock, for me, takes away what hiking is all about. For me, submerging myself in nature in its purest form such as mountain ranges, is all about really appreciating the natural earth. It’s about watching cloud formations, watching weather systems approach, feeling the temperature change, the sun’s heat penetrate your body and the wind on your face. It’s about taking time to have a cup of tea and watch the ravens dance, listen to the wildlife sing their songs, and fully embrace the feeling of achievement and wholesomeness when finally standing on that summit. So, for me, I’m finding myself ask the question, ‘when did it all become about the challenge and not the experience’?
But hey, each to their own! I never say never, so who knows, one day I may find myself taking part in one of these challenges. Perhaps for a good cause such as a charity fundraiser. However, if I do, I will ensure I take the odd moment to look up, I won’t leave any trace and will gently look after the environment and surrounding areas that I have the privilege to explore.