Best Foot Forward – The 3 Peaks Challenge

Ben Nevis in the background as viewed from the Commando Memorial Spean Bridge

Game on.  The three peaks challenge, as organised by Doc Cox and Ed Moss-Ward, starts Saturday with ‘The Ben’ being the first climb of the event, to be followed by Scarfell Pike and finally Snowdon.  For most of the team the event will start with a very long mini bus drive up from the South Coast of England on Friday 13th – the first day of many school holidays.  I wish them well.  For me it will be a lie in at Aird on the Point of Sleat, a calm ferry crossing and then a short drive down towards Fort William.  Possibly a stroll on the golden sands at Arisaig and a pause as Ben Nevis comes in to view just before the Glenfinnan Monument.  A very less than arduous one hour drive.  Photography on the Isle of Skye has many advantages but this was not one of the ones we thought of when we chose to relocate!

RNRU 24 Hour 3 Peaks Challenge

I felt an appropriate point of reference for those new to the event would be the Commando Memorial which is found at Spean Bridge.

The Memorial Looks East over the Commando’s Training Ground

The iconic statue of three Royal Marines in full combat dress commemorates the fallen Commandos of the Second World War.  The figures, cast in bronze by sculptor Scott Sutherland, look North, East and South over some of Scotland’s most picturesque and unforgiving terrain – the training grounds for those early pioneers of today’s elite force.  Disembarking from their transport trains at Spean Bridge they were welcomed to their new environment with a seven mile speed march to Achnacarry Castle (home of Clan Cameron) in full battle order.  Those who failed the time with returned to unit.  Achnacarry Castle was to be their home during Commando training which included a weekly beach assault, including live firings, on the banks of Loch Lochy.

However alongside the imposing 17 foot statue there is a Garden of Remembrance.  Names in this garden record fallen Marines and Commandos from WWII right through to today’s operations in Afghanistan.  It serves as a poignant reminder of the ultimate sacrifice that many have paid.  It also gives a context to how someone like former Royal Marine, Aaron Moon, can describe himself as ‘lucky’.  Aaron is currently recovering from yet another operation on his amputated leg and will be unable to join the group who are undertaking the challenge.  He had hoped to be well enough to tackle Snowdon.

Ben Nevis with the last remnants of her winter snow behind the Ski Slopes of Aonach Mor

The picture above shows the snow slopes/mountain bike route of Aonach Mor with Ben Nevis behind.  The challenge team will be walking the 10.5mile return route from Glen Nevis which includes 1352m of ascent (Ben Nevis is 1344 high so yes they go down hill some of the way).  In good weather the team will have some of the best views imaginable from the summit but if the clag is down the mountain and its notorious Gardyloo Gully, Tower Gully and Five Finger Gully can become a test of navigation on its broad summit plateau.

Looking West down Loch Linnie from near the summit of Ben Nevis


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Scafell Pike

Of course for the challenge team Ben Nevis is only one of three peaks that they need to scale.  Following the descent of Ben Nevis those that choose to stay awake can enjoy the scenic route through Glencoe, over Rannoch Moor, along the banks (Bonnie Bonnie) of Loch Lomond and through the Southern Scottish Uplands before they skirt the Northern edge of the Lake District until they reach Wast Water at the western foot of Scafell Pike.

Looking West from Scafell Pike over Wast Water
Looking East from Scafell Pike

The walk up Scafell Pike from Wasdale involves a further 912 metres of ascent with a round trip of seven miles.  Although Scafell Pike doesn’t possess the dangers of a 614 metre cliff, to be found on the The Ben, it is still a rocky summit with some interesting drops for those that venture to close to the scree shoots in bad weather.



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The road out of Wasdale is not good for those that suffer from car sickness as it twists and turns towards Keswick.  For most it is a time to catch up on some sleep.  As the team leave the Lake District there pass through the Greater manchester motorway mayhem before heading in to North Wales and the ascent of Snowdon along the Pyg Track.

The Pyg Track will be a further 6 1/2 mile round trip and a further 730 metres of ascent.  Most of it at the back of Glas Lyn where the climb out of the core is steep.

Snowdon with her head in cloud viewed from along the PYG Track
Clear views South East from Snowdon


Nearing Snowdon’s summit viewed from the PYG TRack



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