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Five Peaks Challenge 2008

Part 1

Fifteen years ago when bagging the three peaks of  Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis in 24 hours was quite a rarity other than by dedicated fell runners. I wondered if I could do it, so to check my ability I ran the Breidden Hill race, then organised by High Sports, with height gain and distance similar to Snowdon. Armed with confidence from the race I chartered a coach from Boulton’s and recruited a bus load of assorted people, mostly unknown, to join me in this adventure and raise money for Hope House Children’s Hospice, then still in the planning stage. The trip was such an all round success, the pain was soon forgotten but the memories live to this day; not to mention that we raised about £12,000.   

Following this success I was encouraged to look for something bigger and better hence the new challenge of 10 years ago to repeat the above but continue on in one odyssey to complete Slieve Donard in Northern Ireland, and Carrantoohil in Ireland within 48 hours. Thirty nine of us completed this and we raised about £15,000. This required us to complete the three peaks in 22hours, so to ensure we had minimal delays Pauline Richards provided a superb on board catering service at the end of each run. Those that had done both trips thought this was even better than the first. I quote one of the ladies at the end of this trip “I’m on such a high I just don’t want to go home”. That was it, or so I thought!

Little did I realize that ten years later it is still being talked about, and I have had my arm twisted severely to do it again, which goes some way to explaining why an old age pensioner is sometimes seen running round the mountains of Wales trying to get fit.

The trip this year is a sell out of 47 taking up the challenge which starts up Snowdon on Thursday evening 26th June at eight pm and with luck will end in Kate Kearney’s Pub (just out of Killarney) for some Guinness on Saturday night. By that time there will be some stories to tell, no doubt a few injuries to nurse (not too serious I hope) and a whole load of money raised.

47 challengers including 12 ladies
Total run distance approx. 43 miles
Total ascent approx. 16000 feet
Total coach journey 1500 miles

Part 2

A total of 45 challengers were picked up on schedule and we left for Snowdon in overcast drizzly conditions, as we approached Snowdon the rain became more than torrential, the rivers at Capel were raging torrents and water was cascading down the sides of the mountains, the like of which I had never seen before. By the time we reached Pen-y-pas the rain had eased a bit, but cloud was down to the car park. We set off up the Pyg track and walked, ran, stumbled, slipped and splashed through the gloom to the monolith on the ridge where we popped out into clear blue skies and magnificent views over the western peaks and the Lleyn Peninsula bathed in the evening sun. As we descended to the coach the cloud cleared all around briefly, but by the time we left on schedule at 10:30pm the tops were again shrouded.

A brief stop on the M6 and we were on to Scafell Pike arriving in Dungeon Ghill at 3:00 am Friday to disembark in groups for the long run in along the Cumbrian Way, the bobbing head lights were quite surreal. The route took us up Rossett Ghyll, past Angle Tarn, over Ill Crag and then Broad Stand before the final climb to the Pike, the hoped for sunrise never appeared. The descent was then by way of the Corridor route, Styhead Tarn, Stockley Bridge and Seathwaite to the coach at Seetoller. Unfortunately one group got lost in the cloud and after waiting some time I decided to forego my ascent of  Ben Nevis and send the coach on and wait with the relief vehicle to ensure their safety. We then traveled with the relief vehicle to Ben Nevis to rejoin, but far too late for any meaningful attempt on an ascent. The coach meanwhile, after starting late, got further behind schedule due to traffic and roadworks, which meant that less than three hours was available to climb and descend the Ben. The faster runners took it on and returned within the time but not everyone made it.

We left on schedule at 6:00pm and caught the midnight ferry to Larne and then traveled to Newcastle to climb Slieve Donard, starting again in the dark just after 3:00am Saturday. The ascent here starts at sea level and passes through trees before climbing up a valley to the Mourne Wall which provided much appreciated shelter for the final climb to the summit. The top was shrouded in cloud and the wind would nearly blow you off, but the descent was easy in the lea of the wall and then wind assisted back to the car park for a full breakfast.

We left Newcastle on schedule at 8:00 am, with everyone on board for the long haul across Ireland. Road improvements around Dublin meant that we got ahead of schedule but some of the gains were lost in the little towns near Killarney. However we got started up Carrantouhil at about 3:30pm allowing four and a half hours to complete the challenge. The climb up is initially fairly gentle but rough under foot until the Devils Staircase which is loose scree and rises very steeply for about 400metres, this takes you up to the ridge for a final rocky climb to a large cross on the summit. Again the top was in cloud and no place to hang around. Everyone made it back to the campsite and a shower followed by a meal in Kate Kearney’s Cottage.

The following morning following breakfast at KKC we left for Dublin and home at about 11:00pm Sunday. From pledges given I am hopeful that the trip will have raised about £20,000 for Hope House. I’m sure everyone has stories to tell and will be boring their friends for weeks, and some had a few grazes but thankfully nothing more.

Do it again in 10 years? I don’t think so! I said that last time.

Alan Morris


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