Baker Labels Staff Climb the National Three Peaks
2022 has already been an active year for the staff at Baker Labels. This latest challenge was their biggest yet, involving 26 miles of hiking up and down Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon, the highest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales.
Two Teams, Two Challenges
Harry and Tom Baker had come up with the idea for the challenge having climbed Ben Nevis on a trip to Scotland in the summer of 2021. Thirty members of staff signed up at the outset. With mixed levels of fitness but equal levels of enthusiasm, two teams were created. Group A had the ambitious plan of completing the challenge in just 24 hours, while Group B aimed to do it in 2 days. After months of planning and training hikes at Box Hill, the final number to set off from Bakers on the adventure was 14 hikers and 2 designated drivers.
In addition to the huge climbs, both teams would have to contend with adverse weather conditions and frustrating traffic diversions during their 1200 mile round road trip.
Departure from Bakers
Groups A and B arrive at Ben Nevis Visitor Centre
Peak 1: Ben Nevis 4413ft
It was an animated and eager group that set off from Baker Labels in Brentwood at 10.30am on Thursday 8th September for the 506 mile drive up to Fort William. They arrived at their destination at 9pm in time for pizza and beers before heading for a good night’s sleep. At 7am on Friday morning the teams had a hot breakfast at the Railway Station café and were ready to start their climb up Ben Nevis at 8.30am. Rucksacks were well stocked with drinks, snacks, waterproofs, hats and gloves. The weather was fair and with most of the team starting out in shorts, they started at pace, over taking other groups on the path. It’s a 5 mile brutal hike over mostly uneven ground to reach the summit of Ben Nevis.
The first one in Group A to reach the top was Harvey Dailly in 1hr 59min. Twenty five minutes later, the last of the Group A team reached the cloud covered summit. After a flag waving photo, they immediately began their descent. Ascending Group B team members received encouraging support from the descending Group A as they passed each other. “Not far to go now” “Just a few more bends” “You’re doing great, keep going!”
Ready to start!
Group A Summit Ben Nevis
Coming down was easier on the heart rate but less kind on the knees and ankles. A couple of tumbles produced scrapes, bruises and a fresh respect for fell runners. By 1pm Group A were back in the minibus and were en route to the Lake District. Meanwhile Group B members were divided along the trail, each facing their own challenges. Without any time restrictions, they could tackle Ben Nevis at their own pace. Hollie Jones took the opportunity to pet all the dogs accompanying their owners up the mountain! The team eventually departed the foot of Ben Nevis at 5pm (and headed straight for a cheeky McDonalds!)
Group A's "Old Boys" Scott and Andy on Ben Nevis
Joe and Harry enjoy the Ben Nevis climb
Peak 2: Scafell Pike 3209ft
Mountain guides from Climb Scafell had been booked in advance to lead our teams up the most direct route to the summit of the highest point in England. Group A met them at the National Trust carpark at Wasdale Head at dusk and didn’t hang about with any formalities other than a quick, “Hello, let’s go!” An ambitious start to the climb almost left the guides trailing at the back of the group. Soon the pace slowed, darkness fell and the climb steadied out under torch light and enveloping cloud. Scafell is a relentless steep climb, bringing the group all sorts of questions, demons and doubt. Visibility was practically zero and the torches only illuminated the foggy air around each climber. This is where the guides earned their money!
At the summit, driving rain and gale force winds literally brought the guys to their knees. Energy reserves were running low so, after forcing some sweets and squidgy bananas into their mouths, they began the treacherous descent. Most of the team took a tumble on the way down, despite the guides taking them away from the slippy rocky path they had ascended. At 11pm they were back in the carpark relieved, traumatised and quite unprepared to be accosted by Group B who had arrived in the carpark just in time to see them leave.
Group A Climb Scafell Pike
Scafell Pike Summit for Group A
As Group A headed off through the winding roads towards the M6 and South to Wales, Group B tucked themselves into the nearby B&B until their Scafell climb at 5am the next morning.
Following the same route, Group B began a steady climb under bright moonlight. Although windy and cloud covered at the summit, the sun was peaking through and Group B were able to complete Scafell without the drama that Group A had faced. The descent was slow and brutal on the knees though and they left for the next stage an hour behind schedule.
Group B climb Scafell in morning moonlight
Group B Summit Scafell
Peak 3: Snowdon 3560ft
While Group B had been waking from their cosy slumber in the Lake District B&B, Group A had already started their final climb. At 4.15am they made their way up the Pyg Track from the Pen-y-Pass. The word was that Snowdon would be the easiest climb of the 3 peaks. They were more than a bit surprised therefore by the start of the route. Still in darkness, a steep climb up large, stepped boulders slowed their pace. This made them start to question if they would be able to complete this final peak within the 4 hours they had remaining.
Precarious cliff edges and unseen drops kept them alert as they trudged on up and up. Reaching the cloud covered summit at 6.15am before sunrise meant they were robbed of any views from the highest point in Wales, but it did mean that they didn’t linger.
The clock was ticking…
They knew if they took the same challenging route back there was a chance their 24 hour target would be lost. A split in the path during the descent guided them towards the Miners’ Track. A scrambling steep drop to the edge of Glaslyn mountain lake and then a 2 mile flat or easy descent allowed the team to lift their pace as they headed towards the finish line. At 8.01am the 8 strong team went through the gate back into the Pen-y-Pass carpark to complete the National 3 Peaks Challenge in a final time of 23 hours 31 minutes. A fantastic achievement for all eight of them to cross the finish line together, in one piece!
Group A descend from Snowdon summit
Finished! 23 hours 31 minutes
Change of plan
Meanwhile, Group B’s late departure from Wasdale Head was compounded by a route diversion when the M6 Southbound was closed. With arrival at Pen-y-Pass predicted for 5pm and a minimum 5 hour hike to complete, the decision was made to delay the Snowdon climb for Group B until Sunday morning. Without a guide, a night climb was a risk not worth taking. Instead, they arrived at the hotel in Llanberis to join Group A for celebratory dinner and drinks. With tired and sore bodies, no-one was up for a late night of partying!
At 5am on Sunday morning while Group A continued their slumber, Group B set off for Snowdon. With advice from the now experienced other team, they took the Miners’ Track instead of the Pyg Track. This meant a steady 2 mile start with minimum ascent. In compensation, this was followed by a near vertical climb (maybe a small exaggeration). However, with the sun rising and the morning light being crystal clear, the views over the lakes and mountains were stunning and a welcome distraction. Cue lots of stops for photos to get their breath back! At 8am the whole group reached the lightly cloud covered summit.
Sunrise on Snowdon
Group B Summit Snowdon
The final descent was in glorious sunshine and while they were enjoying the views, the route back to the Miners Track was missed. Instead the group accidentally made their way back down the challenging Pyg Track. They were more than relieved with their decision to climb up via Miners after witnessing the exhaustion of most of the climbers they passed on the way down. Group B all agreed that Snowdon was their favourite climb. The sunrise, the views and the slow pace made it both enjoyable and rewarding. A finishers’ breakfast in a café near Pen-y-Pas at 11am was the final sweetener before hitting the road back to Brentwood.
Si and Hollie on Snowdon
Challenge completed. 3 Peaks in 3 Days!
Doing it for charity
The Bakers Three Peaks Challenge was part of a year of activities planned to fundraise for local charity SNAP (Special Needs and Parents). Already this year we have taken part in the Brentwood Half Marathon & Fun Run and the Nuclear Races muddy obstacle race. After the buzz of the 3 Peaks Challenge, the team cannot wait for whatever the next challenge may be.