Three Spinnaker staff successfully tackled 3 peaks in 24 hours to raise money for Sailors’ Society – quite the feat, even for our intrepid trio. Matt King, who heads up our Sales and Marketing recruitment division, shares his trek diary…
Friday 17th June
It's 9am and my stomach is in knots.
I'm waiting for Lauren to pick me up as I go over my suitcase, making sure my last minute Black's delivery is all packed up. I'm about to embark on what is sure to be the longest weekend of my life and the fear is mounting.
We pick Ellis up and head to Stansted. After some very interesting directions on my part, we drop Lauren's car in the car park and wait for what seems like an eternity for the coach to take us to the terminal. Panic is now twofold; will we make our flight, and do we even want to?! What are we doing? The most intense airport check-in is over and we're waiting for our flight. All I will say is: bag drop, RyanAir & Stansted. We arrive in Glasgow feeling a new emotion, that of excitement! We're actually here and this is actually happening.
After a stroll around Glasgow picking up some last minute items (including a singular hiking pole, a purchase I would later regret) we arrive at the Glenlee Tallship, where we're met by our fellow climbers. The panic and fear is gone now and it's all about the excitement.
I can't speak for the others, but by this point I’m buzzing with adrenaline and ready to get the whole thing going, having sat with some marshalls over a fabulous dinner who gave some expert tips on how to cope with the impending 24 hours of sleeplessness. An absolutely stunning sunset follows us back to the hotel and we head to bed.
Saturday 18th June – Morning
It's 7:30am and we're at breakfast.
The knots are back and I'm not sure if it's the panic or the whisky on my porridge (before anyone comments, I didn't request this specially!) The 26 other teams are congregating in the hotel lobby waiting to board our coaches to our first destination, Ben Nevis.
We're on the coach for a few hours, passing through the astonishing scenery of rural Scotland. Driving past lochs that seem to stretch forever and hills that get taller and taller, the realisation begins to hit Ellis as he realises Ben Nevis is actually an awful lot taller than these mere mole hills: "It's taller than that? How much taller? HOW TALL!?"
Saturday 18th June – Ben Nevis
We pull up to Ben Nevis after another couple of hours and a pit stop gathering provisions for the hikes, including Jelly Babies, nuts and whisky (of course). We're met with a traditional Scottish band playing bagpipes to send us on our merry way. We're ready.
Ben Nevis starts off as a dirt path before turning into uneven rocks and scree slopes. "It's just around the corner, then we'll be at the loch! Half way, then!" Lauren repeats, for at least 45 minutes. Ellis is frustrated at the optimistic and misleading words. As are the other teams we're hiking with!
And then, it appears, like a mirage. We've made it! The sense of happiness we all feel at seeing the edge of the loch is palpable. The realisation we are only half way and the sinking feeling is even stronger…The sun is burning now on us and there's not a cloud in the sky. The conditions were perfect.
After 2.5 hours we reach the summit and it's like nothing you've ever seen before. The world just stretches forever and you can see nothing but sky and peaks. A well-deserved 15 minute break, including a cigarette, whisky, a can of Fosters and a Peperami (we're only human!) and we're heading back down. Not sure what was worse, the climb or the descent (this applies to all mountains bar Snowdon, read on).
After another 2 hours we're FINALLY at the end…oh wait, a set of arrows. We must follow the arrows, right? Wrong. We end up taking an even steeper route that I'm not sure we even climbed up in the first place. That's because we didn't.
Like 10 other teams over the course of the day, we ended up taking rather the detour and arrived at Glen Nevis youth centre. Being the resourceful lot we are, we hail a cab. In essence, we could have walked 10 minutes back to the coach park but we are lost! Who knows what direction to go! (Maps have been forgotten about at this point). Finally, we're back and we've made it on to Coach 2 – the end goal of Ben Nevis.
Saturday 18th June – Evening
Feet numb, knees beginning to ache, clothes sticking to us from sweat drying we are back on the coach for the 5 hour drive to Helvellyn in England. We're now with a new set of teams, but we're all feeling the same thing: exhaustion and pain. It provides us with a sense of group solidarity that definitely continued over the next 17 hours. Some broken sleep later and a very rude awakening and we've arrived at Helvellyn. It's about 2:30am and it's foggy and lightly raining.
The layers that had been shed for Ben Nevis are definitely back on now. I have a headtorch on that seems like it could light up Blackpool. I'm not one for fading into the background…
We start the ascent and automatically I know this isn't going to be my bag. Whether it was the lack of sleep, food or my height I am NOT enjoying myself. Ellis has been possessed by the mountain goat that snuck into Lauren on Ben Nevis and is powering up the mountain. I'm struggling.
The ledges between boulders to get up to the summit are simply too big to go long stretches on. My knees are hurting. My chest is pounding (stupid cigarette, 5 minutes prior to starting)
After the most taxing climb with yet more false hopes ("25 minutes more and it'll get flat!" "Oh it levels off in 15 minutes" "Not long now!") from Coach 1 who have been passing us on their descent for a good 45 minutes by now, we finally hit the now infamous plateau.
Trouble is, we're above the clouds and it's dark and foggy. Blackpool Illuminations on full blast, we get to the summit and enjoy another fag, whisky and can of Fosters. It is now freezing and the wind is picking up. Pathetic fallacy, anyone?
The descent is, again, worse than the ascent. But we don't get lost! We make it in a good time and enjoy our second bacon buttie of the Challenge thus far. Ellis applies more Deep Heat, because the back of the coach really needs more bad smells…
Sunday 19th June – Snowdon
After a 4 hour coach ride we arrive at Snowdon in Wales. People are running on fumes by this point, unless you're Coach 1 in which case you just aren't human and are running on an undiscovered alien battery. We begin the climb after a warning from Andrew Crompton, "Left, left, left!" and stick to his advice.
Snowdon is another entity altogether; it's more rugged and being so close to the edges genuinely puts the fear of the mountain gods into you. After 30 minutes of zig-zagging along jagged rock paths the weather turns and it is now raining torrentially with 60 mph gusts as we get higher and higher. There is no longer a strict path. I feel like Tomb Raider, pulling myself up over rocks and lifting myself onto routes that I don't know we'd have seen had there not been climbers in front of us.
People are descending, making the climb even more treacherous. Exciting, in a weird "near death experience" sort of way? We finally get to the top and the weather is worse than ever. You can't see four feet in front of you. BUT WE DID IT! WE MADE IT UP TO THE THIRD PEAK IN UNDER 24 HOURS! YES!
There was such a massive sense of achievement in completing this challenge in such a short space of time, and we are proud to have done it to raise money for Sailors’ Society. You can still donate at our JustGiving page at https://www.justgiving.com/Matthew-King24/