It’s been almost 24 hours since I returned home from the 3 Peaks Challenge. While I’m still processing the experience, there is one concept that became a recurring theme throughout the journey. In the Art of Possibility, Zander says “You can always grace yourself with responsibility for anything that happens in your life. You can always find within yourself the source of any problem you have.” It’s not about taking more than your fair share of responsibility for any given situation, but understanding in what ways you contributed to it. Of the many lessons the experience taught me, it certainly helped me to internalise that concept.
To quickly provide some background, the national “3 Peaks Challenge” involves summiting 3 specific UK peaks within the span of 24 hours. The 3 peaks involved are Ben Nevis in Scotland (1345m), Scafell Pike in England (978m), and Snowdon in Wales (1085m). The total vertical climb is about 3000m and the hiking distance is 42km, or roughly the length of a marathon. You can do it independently during any 24 hour period, but it’s popular to attempt the challenge on the weekend closest to the summer solstice so you can take advantage of the extra daylight. It takes about 10 hours to drive between the 3 mountains, so providing there are no delays, you have 14 hours to hike, eat, and recuperate. It’s the type of masochism you all know I’ve come to love :p.
At midnight on Saturday I found myself 15 minutes from the top of Scafell Pike in dense fog and pitch-dark with a handful of team members. The final ascent has no discernible trail save for evenly-spaced piles of rocks on an already very rocky landscape. One team member was out of water, another ran out of headlamp battery and two had forgotten headlamps altogether. Only one other in that group was an experienced hiker and we made the difficult decision to turn back. None of us completed the challenge within 24 hours. Just 4 of 25 group members managed to summit all 3 peaks. Thankfully, all of us walked away without any significant injuries.
While I didn’t personally drain the batteries out of anyone’s headlamp, there are many ways in which I contributed to the situation. I completely underestimated the challenge, was not as prepared as I should have been, made assumptions about others’ experience levels and didn’t help provide guidance in key moments. When hangry and sleep-deprived, it’s easy for anyone to make these sorts of mistakes. Although I haven’t started reading The Checklist Manifesto yet, I’m sure the lessons would have come in handy!
Regardless, the scenery was absolutely gorgeous and the weather was temperate. We encountered fog at the top of all three peaks, but only had to deal with rain during our Snowdon decent. While it’s tempting to return and complete the challenge, that’s not high on my list. Might sound like an oxymoron, but The Guardian wrote an article entitled “Ten low-key European ultramarathon races“. Planning to draw from that for inspiration :].
Oh yeah, and Brexit. History in the making! Hope all of you are well and able to draw learnings from life every day.