Part Two of our Three Peaks Challenge sent us up England’s highest peak, Scafell Pike. This time, not only did we have tired legs and been cooped up in a minibus for six hours but we also had the darkness and 1am start to contend with. Bring it on!
It was such a strange feeling walking in the dark. I loved being part of the group, everyone together. Daniel led the way, with Jim behind then me, Mike, Ilze, Rick and Simon. We meandered steadily up this mountain path, asking Jim for details on how the route would go. He’d mentioned a number of times about a tricky “boulder field” when we got to the top.
I was shocked at one point as we passed a field of sheep, because my light reflected off their eyes in a piercing yellow glint. It looked positively evil! Do these sheep never sleep? Like the hard city types that we are, we gave them a wide berth!
Sure enough, we soon came across this boulder field; an intimidating mass of jumbled, craggy boulders. Jim and Daniel led the way, following a line of cairns. We were making good progress until suddenly the guys ahead stopped and questioned each other. They weren’t 100% sure we were on the right track. Jim seemed expectant to find a descent but it wasn’t anywhere to be seen. And, to be fair, all the boulders looked the same in the dark, and the cairns (seeing as they were just piles of rocks anyway) looked exactly like the other boulders. Surely a cleverer logistical plan for a path could be put in place in this area rather than cairns…? What made it trickier was that it was dark, a little foggy and therefore we couldn’t see the peak of Scafell Pike to locate where we were heading.
This time, we decided to go through the boulder field again, hugging the boulders and going left, ostensibly the way we should be going. But we kept going left, and one big circle later we found ourselves back where started.
This time, it was clear they were not picking up a trail and Jim’s; “I’ll just check the map…oh blow it, I bet I haven’t swapped the maps over…” was a real crusher. Here we were, near the top of Scafell Pike, but completely disorientated, at 4.30am in the morning and lost. And we had no map.
The discussions continued, what do we do? Well, Jim said that it could still be another hour, possibly hour and a half before we reached the top and then we had to find a way down. Daniel declared he wanted to carry on…we all did…but the safety of the group had to come first. We had to go down.
Utterly deflated, we returned back to a path we didn’t even know took us down. We managed to find our way but gloom was settling on the rest of our party. There was a deep frustration and disappointment and the lack of talking really conveyed this.
I could tell Rick was really frustrated and I tried to lighten the mood in a really simple way by reminding him of teamtalks from our former football captain/gaffer Joe Westhead. Even that raised only a slight smile.
And that was that. A far-too-long six hours of walking and we didn’t even make the top. The challenge appeared over.
(Rick and I got revenge on the mountain nine months later! Read about it here)