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3 Peaks Challenge: Day 2 18/06

The day had arrived! Months of training, wearing in walking boots, contemplation over which socks would be the kindest to feet and bulk buying of blister plasters had led up to this day. This morning we could see a little more of the Uk’s highest mountain as she loomed above us. All those miles hiking in preparation seemed like nothing more than a morning stroll as we caught a glimpse of the first hikers making their way up the path.

After a hearty bowl of porridge we donned our backpacks and headed for the base trail, a quick selfie and we began our journey up Ben Nevis hoping our 8.30am start meant we would make it down before dark!

It may have been raining but soon we began stripping off layers as there was no easing in gently into this climb..the uneven terrain and steep ascent had our muscles working hard straight from the off. Spirits were high, conversation still flowed, and the views took our breath away. As we rounded the side of the mountain the path became steeper and the fog rolled in around us bringing with it harder and relentless rain, and it soon became clear we needed to ‘get up and get down’. The cold began to hit us the higher we climbed and we began to separate so everyone could be comfortable going at their own pace with the option of turning back if it became too much. On we ploughed, joints beginning to suffer and us feeling like we had stepped onto the film set of Braveheart (Unfortunately no sign of a long haired Mel Gibson). Occasional stops for bites of soggy sandwiches gave us the fuel we needed, but with such dense fog and battering wind and rain there was no chance to lay out a picnic blanket and enjoy the view. Huge piles of rock shaped into pyramids (Cairns) loomed into sight to guide us safe passage to the summit, and great patches of snow broke up the seeming endless grey landscape of rock. Finally we arrived at the highest point of the UK..exhausted, sore and saturated to the bone I had to hold back a tear, feeling incredibly proud to have made it! Barry and I met Trev and Steve at the top, after they had motored on ahead (practically athletes the pair of them!)Our two girls, Gina and Laura, along with Bob our maintenance man, were still behind us, and given how incredibly tough we had found it, even after training hard, we were almost certain they would have turned back. Imagine the pride and elation we felt when we met them only 15 minutes from the summit, steely grit and determination written all over their face. A quick hug and Laura’s departing words of “I’m going to get to the top of this and make my son proud” and we knew they would reach their goal.

What we hadn’t realised was that the journey down the mountain was just as hard, if not more so than the journey up. The high we had felt quickly turned to deep concentration as we navigated our tired and sore feet down rocks and across waterfalls. The need for a comfort break soon took hold, so Barry did the gentlemanly thing and held up oncoming walkers so I could get a little bit closer to nature! Legs like jelly we turned to the final bend round the mountain, and saw our campsite in the distance. At 3pm we reached the foot of the mountain again, shattered but proud and in desperate need of a hot shower and a cup of tea. Back at camp we waited for the return of Laura, Gina and Bob, and we waited, a number of phone calls to check on their welfare and we knew they were ok but poor Bob had taken a tumble so progress had been slow on the decent and despite Bob encouraging them to go on ahead without him, those two wonderful girls supported, encouraged and guided an injured Bob to the bottom….9 hours after they set off the 3 amigos returned to base camp, tired but proud!

Fast forward a couple of hours, finally warm, still soggy from yet more rain, aching in places we didn’t know could ache and full of burgers we retired to bed, happy but hurting and hoping we would be able to move in the morning.

It really was a truly memorable and special day for us all, and a real reminder to never ever underestimate the strength of character, kindness and determination to succeed of the young people we work with. Our girls, Laura and Gina really showed us what they are made of, and its strong stuff!

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