Picture the scene: it’s 5 o’clock on a springtime morning, the birds are just starting their morning chorus and you’re clutching your morning caffeine fix, eyes slightly blurry with sleep as you find yourself stood in a car park surrounded by bags, rucksacks, walking poles and enough Jelly Babies to keep Bassett’s in business for a few more years.
A buzz of anticipation builds as you climb the steps of the nearby coach – have I trained enough? What if I can’t do this? Do I have enough snacks?
If nothing else, and whatever your stream of consciousness as you embark on Meningitis Now’s Three Peaks Challenge – a 36-hour hiking challenge that will see you tackle the UK’s three tallest mountains through both day and night – I can promise that you’ll be well looked after every step, stride and stagger of the way.
Meet the mountains
Guided and supported by the fab Meningitis Now Safety Team, the first mountain on the list that #teamtangerine encounter is Snowdon, which rises to a respectable 1,085 metres above sea level. It’s usually at this point that each person starts to form his or her own answers to the initial question about their fitness level (it’s also at this point that the Jelly Babies can come in handy).
Next up is Scafell Pike, the shortest at 978 metres – but it’s best not to get complacent as this is arguably the most technical, thanks to a large expanse of boulder field near the summit and the fact that it’s going to be around 1am by the time we get there. My favourite memory of Scafell is from my first year on Three Peaks; as we completed the first section of the descent, dawn broke on the horizon and out of the gloom emerged the most incredible, un-spoilt, mountainous surroundings that quite literally made us all stop for a few minutes and just stare. Or maybe we’d fallen asleep standing up…
Following what seems like the shortest drive ever (but only because you’ll most likely be sound asleep for the duration), we save the best for last – Ben Nevis at 1,345 metres. Reaching the summit of the highest point in the British Isles brings the strongest feelings of elation and is followed a few hours later with a well-deserved bottle of beer and celebratory meal with your new-found friends back in the safety and warmth of our hotel for the night.
Due to the nature of the challenge, Three Peaks probably isn't the one to go for if you're not good on little to no sleep - but don't worry, it's not the only option! Our Lake District 8 Peak Challenge strikes the perfect balance, with two days of walking to cover eight of the most spectacular mountains that the Lake District has to offer, including Helvellyn, Skiddaw and Scafell Pike. This event is an absolute favourite of our Safety Team as, while arguably more technically challenging than Three Peaks, it offers more of a true hill-walking experience, with the added bonuses of having a bed to sleep in overnight and a nearby pub!
Can you go the distance?
Training for one of our trekking challenges has to be a bit more involved than simply going for a walk a couple of times. There’s a really good schedule included in the Welcome Pack Handbook once you sign up, but to really give yourself a boost you should try and incorporate some strengthening exercises like squats, lunges and planks. We’ve got a handy photo guide you can use – just contact our Events team at firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy.
Meningitis Now also hold a training day in the Brecon Beacons in April, which is a really good chance to test out your fitness, make sure your kit is comfortable and correct, and meet some of your team mates, the Safety Team and staff who will be looking after you throughout the big weekend.
Eating all the things
As part of #teamtangerine, you’ll be provided with a packed lunch for both walking days, however you’ll need to supplement these with snacks that are high in carbohydrates and protein – nuts, trail mix, chocolate bars, energy gels and of course Jelly Babies are all great choices. You’ll also need to keep well hydrated – between 1–2 litres of water for each mountain and plenty more in between.
Have you got what it takes?
I’ve taken part in the Three Peaks Challenge as a member of staff twice so far, and both times I’ve come away feeling absolutely overwhelmed by the drive and determination of everyone on the team - in fact, I love it so much that I've officially joined the Safety Team so that I can still support our fantastic participants even though I've moved to another department within the charity. In 2018, I'll be part of the Lake District 8 Peak Challenge Safety Team and really hope to meet you!
All walks of life and levels of fitness are represented, with everyone pulling together to encourage and support each other. I won’t lie; there are times where your legs are nothing more than lead weights, but nothing can beat the overwhelming sense of purpose and achievement that comes from summiting some of the most spectacular mountains in the country and knowing that you are making a difference to the lives of those affected by meningitis with your incredible fundraising efforts.
So go on - get your boots on and get out there!