“Dave Nevis”

“Damo’s first hand account of the adventure”

Well, the team made it… Almost!

DamoWhat a few days we had! Highs, lows and that wasn’t just the mountains! We picked the minibus up and set off for Scotland after a lovely fry-up – courtesy of Sue at The Club. Kev put his foot down and found out that the minibus was limited to 62mph (100kph). Apparently this is standard for anything over 8 seats thesedays. Oops!! We had to recaulculate our journey times to work out if this was still possible within 24 hours. We needn’t have worried though (read on)…

After what seemed like a day and a half, we arrived in Fort William and checked into the hostel. A lovely 5 Star room with 4 bunk beds greeted us. Quick “dibs” on who was having top bunks and we set off for a meal at the nearby pub with Ben Nevis prominent in the background. The setting was lovely.

Peak #1 – Off We Set

Alarms rang off at 04:30 with a view to start climbing at 05:30. “Suiting up” and having breakfast took a little longer than planned, so we actually began the challenge at 06:02. A quick post onto Facebook and off we set! Team Wayne were go go go! Kev (Giles) led the way, with Mike, myself (Damo), Carl and Bow following. We feel the need to point out that Kev was leading the way as he was the one with the map(s)…

Kay, Den and Kev (Midgeley) watched on as we started out trek – after letting off a helium balloon and saying a few words in memory of Wayne (after all, let’s not forget why we were doing this in the first place)!

Anyway, about an hour into the trek we were back level with the road! We realised that the minibus could have dropped us off a bit nearer the peak (oops)! First lesson learned. Then we came to a valley with a fork in the path. Which way to turn? Left or right? (This bit is crucial in the story in what is to follow)!!

Kev got the map out and we opted to turn right. The ascent soon became much steeper and the views behind us were stunning. We stopped for a drinks break and a phone call from BBC Wilts, where we had a live chat with the breakfast DJ standing in for Graham Mack. They wished us luck and off we plodded on our mission.

BowNearly 3 hours in and we were near the summit. The climb was a lot harder than we had anticipated. We’d previously been told that Ben Nevis (although the highest) is a fairly easy climb. This was certainly not the case here though! We had a gut feeling we might have taken a wrong turn, but from ground level those mountains all look about the same height! But we reached the top (Mike first). He phoned down to me and said the immortal words (which are still playing through my ears) “I hate to break this to you sweetheart, but this aint it”!!

As you can imagine, the next words to come out of my mouth weren’t for family reading! We’d climbed the wrong bloomin’ mountain!! Some research and map reading (along with the assistance of a tour guide back at the bottom) led us to realise we’d actually climbed “Stob Ban” – one of the toughest mountains in the highlands, which stands at over 3,200 feet! (not as high as Ben Nevis, but a lot tougher to climb – especially with our hiking equipment)! The team quickly dubbed the mountain “Dave Nevis“!

We made it back to the road at ground level, but we were still over 5KM away from the minibus at base camp. We tried to ring the support team to come and collect us, but there was no signal! We ended up walking another 3km towards them before we finally managed to get them to collect us just after midday. (nearly 2 hours behind schedule).

Obviously we’d already “failed” the challenge, but decided to persevere (joking that we couldmaybe photoshop some photos of the team onto the actual peak of Ben Nevis), and deciding we’d still attempt the other 2 in 24 hours…

Exhausted and stressed we rocketed down (at 62mph) towards the Lake District. Goodbye Bonny Scotland! Target arrival at Seathwaite Farm had previously been 4pm, but we arrived just after 5:45pm and set off right away.

Peak #2 – Scafell Pike

Mike & CarlScafell Pike (although the shortest of the 3 peaks) is deemed to be the toughest, due to the rapid steep ascent and peaks and troughs near the summit. About an hour into the climb, I had to turn back. I’d sprained my ankle. I was gutted, but didn’t want to hold the team back. There was no way they’d make it back down between 10pm and 11pm (target of 4-5 hours) if they were “carrying” an injured member. It was a tough call, but in my heart I knew it to be the right one, for the good of the team.

Another hour later, I arrived back at the minibus and Kay strapped my ankle up. But an hour after that, Kev and Bow turned up as well! Kev had hurt his back, Bow was struggling with his ankle as well and Mike and Carl had motored on ahead at a phenomenal pace (they are the youngest and fittest after all). So we all waited back at the minibus and expected them back somewhere between 10pm and 11pm (sunset was difficult to judge in the valley, but it was still quite light til gone 10pm)…

Mountain Rescue

11pm came and went. We thought they’d easily be back by now, especially at the pace they were going! Midnight came and it was properly dark by now. We were obviously a bit worried. We tried their phones (but Carl had left his back at the minibus and Mike had no signal). So we set off with torches and high-vis jackets back up the bottom of the path to see if we could see them. No sign…

We phoned 999 and got through to Mountain Rescue. We gave them a full assessment of the situation, the equipment they’d taken with them (including survival kit) their age, fitness, general health etc and Moutnain Rsecue deemed they’d be safe on the mountain but probably lost. As you can imagine, this didn’t make Kay or Den feel any easier! The whole team was upset and worried. We phoned again at 3am and Mountain Rescue did another risk assessment and advised us it was almost certain that the boys had “gone to ground” and would make it back down at first light.

This wasn’t good news, so Den and I set back off at first light (04:30) and climbed Scafell Pike. Den in trainers and me with my sprained ankle. We got rightup near the top and bumped into a backpacker who’d just made his way down from camping at the summit. He’d not seen the boys (our hearts sank). On the way down, we met another camper who’d seen 2 boys fitting their description heading towards Langdale, past Esk Pike (the opposite direction) around 8pm. If this was the case, they’d have set off down the mountain aiming for the lights of Langdale or Eskdale.

Den and I descended Scafell Pike, arriving back at Base Camp just after 9am. Still no sign of the boys now and emotions and tension were running very high. I rang 999 again and the operator said to me “Their names aren’t Mike Murray and Carl Wright, are they”? I cried my eyes out with relief! “They’re at Brook House in Boot, do you want the number”?

A quick chat with the local farmer and plugging the address into Sat Nav and off we set to fetch them. Unfortunately Boot is a 90 minute drive around the other side of the Lake District! It was nearly midday by the time we picked them up – sat in a pub garden eating toasted hot cross buns and looking 100% healthy and safe. Kev and Bow were ready to hang Mike!! But the truth is we were all so relieved and emotions were now that of happiness and joy – despite our now obvious failure at having not completed the challenge.

Homeward Bound

Naturally, we abandoned the mission and headed straight back to Cricklade. We decided to carry on with the auction and raffle and agreed we’d tell the story of how we’d tried (but failed) to complete the 3 peaks within 24 hours. Kay also advised us that Carl wouldn’t be climbing any more mountains anytime soon!

We joked that the next 3 peaks we’d attempt would be Common Hill, Blunsdon Hill and “Bloomin ‘ill”!!

We arrived safely back in Cricklade just after 5:30pm and the prizes were all set out beautifully in the club ready for the big event (more on this to follow). I can quickly summarize by saying we had a cracking night, with loads to drink and we raised nearly £3,000 on the night and a whopping £9,600+ in total overall!

We might not have made the 3 peaks, but I think we did everybody proud – especially Wayne (who would no doubt be laughing his sock off at our efforts).

A massive thankyou to everyone who supported us! It’s been emotional and one hell of a journey!

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