At 7am on Friday morning our team departed DWAD HQ in Folkestone headed for Fort William in the Scottish Highlands and the start of our first ever Donations With A Difference Challenge - the daunting National 3 Peaks. With motorway closures and traffic hold-ups it was a much longer journey than anticipated and we didn’t arrive until well over 14 hours later.
After spending the night at the conveniently located Glen Nevis hostel at the foot of Britain’s highest mountain, we were ready to begin our attempt to summit the highest mountains in Scotland, England, and Wales and, if possible, do it within 24 hours.
Some of our team found the ascent of Ben Nevis easier than others and the difficulties on the way up cost us quite a bit of time. This was compounded by the misfortune of one of the team suffering an ankle injury descending the uneven rocky path. By the time we got back to the bottom it was clear that the secondary target of completing the three mountains within 24 hours would be beyond us. We had conquered Scotland and stood on the highest point in the British Isles, but we were now under no illusions about the difficulty of what we were attempting.
Undeterred, we headed south to the Lake District. With the 6-hour journey interrupted for an unscheduled roadside stop for an upset stomach, it seemed that not much was going right. It was always likely that we would have to ascend Scafell Pike in the dark but had we been able to arrive earlier we would have had better luck with the weather. After initially making good progress up the mountain, traversing streams and clambering over rocky steps, we reached the notoriously difficult to navigate upper section of the peak. By this point the cloud had descended and thick fog made finding a safe route upwards in the cold and wet virtually impossible. We had already wandered off the path once in the near-zero visibility before correcting ourselves and we were reluctant to get into a situation that would make unnecessary work for the local Mountain Rescue team. Having got ourselves no more than 15-20 minutes from the summit we made the frustrating but ultimately sensible collective decision to turn back.
At this point a lesser team might have given up, but despite all the setbacks there was no moaning and spirits remained good. We continued to Snowdonia as planned and, those of us who were still able to, took out our frustrations on the final mountain, reaching the summit in a time that would have been impressive even without the trials and sleep deprivation of our prior efforts.
While we were disappointed to come away with only 2.9 peaks rather than the three we set out to achieve, the attempt was still worthwhile and we learned many valuable lessons from the experience that will stand us in good stead should we ever attempt something similar again (inevitably conversation on the way home turned to the topic of the one that got away and what we might do to rectify it).
Our team for the event was Dan Dyer, Andrew Martyn, Paul Tingey, Kelly Wager and Jake Wilkins. They were superbly supported by lead driver Mark “The Machine” Harrison of Ashford Executive Cars and co-driver, chef and DJ Alan Tingey. Donations With A Difference would like to place on record their thanks to this magnificent seven for their efforts on DWAD’s toughest fund-raiser to date. We would also like to thank everybody who sponsored our team members. The final total raised for DWAD’s grant fund is still to be determined but is likely to be in the region of £1,400.
Finally, this event would not have been possible without the generous support of Enterprise Rent-a-Car in Dover. We must also thank Cotswold Outdoor for providing discounted clothing and equipment, and DWAD’s Will Chan for all his work to support Dan and the team.