As soon as I got in the car at the bottom of Ben Nevis, we were en route to the Lake District.
It was about 6pm and our estimated arrival time was anywhere between 10:30pm and gone midnight, subject to traffic, speed etc. Although speed was going to be an issue as our beautiful new Skoda certainly wasn’t capable of the speeds my Audi was, at least not as easily anyway.
To do 75mph you had to have the engine at 4000 rpm!
I didn’t even want to look at Google maps until we were pretty much on the fringes of the Lake District. It was simple: HEAD SOUTH, THEN HEAD FURTHER SOUTH AND GET OFF THE M74 AT ALL COSTS!
As we trudged down the M9, M80, M73 & M74 we had to battle the waves as torrential rain made the spray from other cars immense. Overtaking a lorry was like driving completely blind.
All I’d eaten was granola bars post Ben Nevis and my dad hadn’t eaten properly yet either, so we knew a stop was needed at some point – for fuel for both of us and the ‘new’ car.
I wanted to minimise the stops as much as possible though. Even pee breaks were shunned as much as I could. So much so I pulled off the impressive feat of peeing into a 1.5 litre bottle while on a dark (no streetlamps) motorway. And if that’s not impressive enough for you, I did it without getting a drop anywhere but in the bottle! And no, I didn’t turn the interior light on. #Skills.
Our stop came in the north regions of the Lake District – just south of Carlisle. I couldn’t even tell you what I ate……..
Come to think of it, it was a Costa tuna baguette and a cheese on toast toastie, I think?
Then the real fun began. Trekking over the lake district to the traditional starting point for Scaffel Pike, Wasdale Head. Even once we’d came off the M6 we still had over an hour of driving to do, and none of this driving entailed taking in the sheer beauty of the lake district, like you would do in daylight, as it was pitch black everywhere.
The drive went on forever and we ended up on the western edges of the lake district, super close to the Irish sea. As the clock neared 1am we were working our way down the tiny country lanes with the wipers on full speed and my eyes on watch for goats and farm animals sitting in the middle of the road. Thankfully they were always pretty prompt at moving out the way and letting us past.
Because it was dark and I’d only ever been here once before, the uncertainty of whether we were at the right place was strong. But my geographical sense didn’t let me down as despite the dark I began to feel confident we were in the same place as before. I could make out the big lake that runs alongside the base of the main mountains around this district.
Final confirmation came in the form of seeing dozens of torchlights on the main ridge of the mountain as we drove alongside it. I pointed it out to my dad and he couldn’t believe there were that many people climbing it at this late hour and in such poor conditions.
‘I’m not the only nutter in this world!’ I reminded him.
It was fascinating to see so many torches staggered all over the mountain though. Some seemed to disappear into the sky and others were just poking out above the treetops.
We pulled up in the main car park and just about avoided getting the car stuck in the muddy grass (could’ve added even more spice to an already trying story?), and now it was decision time: to climb it now or wait till later?
The original plan was always to start it anywhere between 3 and 5 am but it was only a little past 1am at the moment……..
Torrential rain and the warning of my pal Chris, who’s done Three Peaks himself before, were strong factors in my decision. ‘Be careful with Scaffel at night, mate. It’s easy to get lost and pretty dangerous alone if you don’t know it well.’ I knew he was right too as my gut feeling was to try and salvage some sleep and attack it once the sun was up, or it was at least lighter/dryer.
I groggily woke up curled in a ball on the back seats of the Skoda, with my head jammed up against the left passenger door. My dad was snoozing in the front passenger seat. All night long we’d heard cars pulling up and leaving, so to say the sleep was ‘broken’ was an understatement.
As per, I was slow to get going. Even more so at this rough early hour on a Sunday morning. But at just after 5am it was already later than I’d originally wanted to set out.
But psychologically I’d told myself I’d had more sleep and I could now see fine, so there was no risk of being lost now – plus it had stopped raining and only a little drizzle remained in the air.
Time to get cracking. I crossed the path we took last time and walked through the field and over the little bridge to the official starting gate…….
5:38 am was the official start of the climb and it was game on. Funnily enough, Scaffel Pike wasn’t one I was that worried about as when I last climbed it, I did so in 1hr 25 mins – a pretty fluent time. Plus it’s the ‘shortest’ mountain of the 3 so how hard could it be?
I knew it was steeper than the others but boy did I forget how steep it actually is in places. Flat ground is as rare as the 29th of February, which is normally a nice challenge but post Ben Nevis and after barely a couple of hours of ‘sleep’, this was a rough climb – and one that had me crawling in places; barely moving but my eternal motto carrying me through: one foot in front of the other, again and again, and again.
The weather was all over the show on this ascent. I saw drizzle and rain at the start, thick cloud cover during the midpart and then at the top, the most incredible sight…….
There wasn’t an ounce of wind and I was sweaty in my trusty silk shirt and joggers. The last time I was here I had to wear a coat and hat as the temperature was 2 degrees Celsius and the wind was ruthless.
This was beach weather, suntan weather and most importantly, perfect picture weather.
I met a wicked group of people from Eastbourne, Sussex, on the summit – an even mix of guys & girls (3 of each) – who kindly took my pic and got me in their group pics. (Guys, if you read this please send me that group pic and I’ll add it to this post :D).
We chatted for a while and then attempted to descend together. I was thinking it was sensible, 7 minds are better than one, right? And the company was nice!
The first third of the way down was super generous in terms of views as the sun lit up the iconic views over the lake, and just made them look a million times better than I previously remembered.
Once we hit the halfway point (approx) the weather changed again and the cloud cover was even thicker than the earlier stages of the climb. You could literally see little more than 5-10 metres in front of you.
As I would pull away from the Eastbourne crew and turn back to see where they were, I’d barely be able to see the guy leading them. Some of the girls were really suffering with their knees and who can blame them? Scaffel is a steep son of a b*tch and the conditions now were very poor; the ground was wet and very slippery.
It was at this point I was faced with a conundrum: To stay with the group or to forge ahead?
I’d been stopping to wait for them probably as many as 10 times or more and I was fine with it as I liked their company. But eventually my fast nature began overriding as did my realisation of everything this challenge was about: speed and solitude. So from here I had to say goodbye and power on.
I slipped and went skidding a fair few times around the bottom third to a quarter of the descent. It was fun but damn dodgy too, you only had to roll an ankle or slide a little too fast/far and you could snap your shit up. And as much as I’d enjoyed wrestling with the tribulations so far, I didn’t fancy having to finish the Three Peaks with a broken ankle, busted knee or twinged back……..or all three!
3.5 hours or so after we started my climb came to a close and I was back at the wet and dreary Wasdale Head car park. I’d passed dozens of budding Scaffel Pike summiters on my way down and one thing that stood out was the friendliness of everyone I passed. Not a single person didn’t say hello on my descent! Maybe that was party due to my warmed up social demeanour and my aggressive eye contact with everyone throughout? Either way it was pretty cool.
Oh and right before I reached the official end of the journey, I cheered on a group of 3 girls who were on the very first stint of the climb and having a breather. Anyone who’s done Scaffel from Wasdale (probably most) will know the first little push is BRUTAL. So much so when I first did it I wasn’t sure I could even climb this mountain in any respectable time. Obviously this time I was wiser and shared my wisdom and encouragement with the girls.
Their spirits seemed instantly lifted. Girls, I hope you made it and I hope it was worth it!
Around 9:20 am it was time to bid farewell to the Lake District and make tracks to the infamous Snowdonia National Park.
‘Shouldn’t be too bad, we’re over the worst of the travelling.’ Was definitely the naivest and outright stupidest thing I said all adventure.
Google maps gave us the soul destroying estimated journey time of over 5 hours and 200 miles plus. At this point I just zoned out and kept following the navigation. Fuck me, the Lake District is MASSIVE, was my next realisation.
Some 90 minutes later we picked up the M6 and began trying to take a chunk out of the bastard journey. My feet ached and my legs were sore. I was half hungry, half fine and the car was also hungry for more fuel.
Join me in part 3 of my adventure where we’ll reach the climax and tackle Snowdon!
As always, I’ve put together a little video to go along with the blog post on my YouTube channel. The video is below. I greatly appreciate any likes, subscribes or even just an anonymous watch. Thank you.
I hope you enjoy my raw adventures so far and once again, I hope even more they inspire you to do the things your soul is begging you to.
The 'brains' behind StraightTalkingFitness, a site all about discovery that leads to strength in all formats; fitness, mental, emotional and spiritual. Everything starts from within and projects outwards. Master the body, master anything and everything.