The Three Peaks Challenge is a daunting test for anyone's mettle, but for one of our Adventure Race Team, Ali, his masochistic thirst for endurance racing meant he had push things a bit further... deciding to run, cycle and climb the entire journey between Britain's highest peaks. Here's how he got on...
"At 7am on the first of June I set off from Pen-y-Pass car park for a true adventure. I had no race number and no competitors, just several days of struggle, exhilaration and an overwhelming drive to push hard and complete. Ahead of me were the ascents of the three highest peaks in England, Wales and Scotland, 40km of running and 760km of cycling. Combining my two great loves - mountaineering and self-propelled journeys - this challenge brought together the best of the UK Three Peaks. And I knew it was going to hurt!
"The previous year my partner and I had a very different journey - one of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery in the battle against that too common disease - Breast Cancer. During those dark times, I hatched a plan for a charity fundraising event to give something back to the charities that had supported us - Macmillan, the Cancer Unit at our local hospital and The Haven. I needed something that my 'normal' friends and colleagues would recognise (the Three Peaks) but also something that my adventure racing and 'outdoor' friends would see as a true test; and one worth them digging in their pockets for. People had run and cycled the 3 peaks but no one had added in rock climbing. The concept of 3cubed was born.
"I had a friend to help on each climb - Tom for Lliwedd on Snowdon, teammate Si for Central Buttress on Scafell and Pete for Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis. I was also supported by my partner and other friends along the way who met me every 50 miles or so, but for most of the cycling I was on my own. Those hours were long and hard. Plenty of time to think.
"While I was head down, hunched over the saddle, Facebook was working its magic. My challenge really seemed to catch people's attention. I even had complete strangers supporting me. The first night an extremely kind family we met at a campsite offered their house in Southport. However, after the planned 3-4 hours of sleep that night, the next day was even tougher being on my own and I struggled to keep awake. At the foot of Scafell I decided that the route I’d picked was too wet so I opted for a scramble instead; still no easy option given my fatigued state.
"As I was suffering from sleep deprivation, I decided that a few extra hours each night would make things better - so I planned for 6. This was perfect. I started enjoying the riding far more, although I was dreading the West Highland Way due to the saddle sores. To my relief switching in a different saddle for my mountain bike meant less pain, and suddenly I was loving the riding again. Even the long slog carrying the bike up over Devil's Staircase in the rain flew by and soon I was whizzing down the descent into Kinlochleven with a big smile on my face loving the technical descent.
"One last leg popped me over into Glen Nevis. It was late and raining still; not a good time to be on the North Face of the Ben, so I left my climb until morning. After constant rain all night the conditions were no better when we got to the CIC hut at the base of the climb, so the safe option to take the Carn Mor Dearg Arete was made and soon I was on the snow covered final summit. It felt great being up there high right at the end of my challenge, but even better being back down to Glen Nevis. I’d completed the whole challenge in 4 days 4 hours and 52 minutes, raising nearly £6000 for charity in the process.
"My challenge had many similarities to the journey my partner and I had the year before: the end seemed such a long way off at the start, but by breaking it down it became manageable. We supported each other; there were good times and bad, laughter and tears and significant discomfort at times. That said, I did manage to keep most of my hair (apart from a few strips on my leg where my physio Charlotte had strapped my ankle - ouch).
"Most importanty, however, I could have stopped at any point, no matter how hard it got. That wasn't an option for my partner."