The day finally dawned, one that yours truly had been planning for, dreading, looking forward to and all those other mixed emotions that happen before a major man test, but this one was one of epic proportions. The climb Ben Nevis, Skafell Pike and Snowdon and cycle the 480 odd miles in between all within 72 hours. So with my intrepid support team, Stable Sprite (left) and Keeeef (right) with Spotty the action Berner (bouncing out of shot) and Gerry the Discovery loaded with kit, more kit, food and bikes we set forth.
Spotty conserved energy while yours truly tried and failed to do the same.
Soon we were sampling the delights of Fort William and quickly found out why no one was sat outside, there were a million midges waiting to feast on our flesh.
Eager to get on and finish yours truly abandoned the idea of starting at 3am next day and instead decided to get on with it on the no time like the present principle.
By 8.34 pm Spoty, Keeef and yours truly were sort of ready and of we set, the clock ticking.
The most remarkable thing about Ben Nevis aside from how easy it was, or the very attractive young lady walking towards me in stockings and suspenders (note this was an hour into the challenge so this was REAL not hallucinating) clearly lost or on some charity challenge (this image was obliterated almost by meeting her colleague half an hour later further up the mountain, a lardy bloke dressed the same but somehow less appealing) was in fact the two stags that suddenly appeared on the path right in front of me so close that I could have touched them. We three plus Berner stood looking at each other but the magic was broken by yours truly reaching for his camera and they legged it. By the time I pointed and shot they were specks in the distance.
As the path zig zagged I met several groups of weary summiteers one of which was kind enough to take a picture of me and my wonder dog.
As night fell the mist closed in and the terrain changed to rock and stones but two and a half hours into the challenge we were
the highest living things in the UK. We paused a while to soak up the atmosphere and discover a lack of head torch so set off back the way we came. Whereupon we met Keeef valiantly making his way topside so turned back and did the same again. 52 years Ive waited to stand on the summit of Ben Nevis then twice in one day! The path back was long and slow due to Keeef's glasses constantly misting over and it being dark.
But before long, as in under six hours since we started we found the stable sprite ever vigilant and after a quick brew yours truly changed into fashionable lycra and
the long ride south began.
Twas a long ride southwards into a headwind which got worse as Glencoe approached.
Soon Glencoe was conquered
as the pics show and then on to
another high point
before descending to TyneDrum for breakfast of marmite sandwiches. Thankfully my support team forsook the delights of TyneDrum with its 24 hour cafes, hot and cold running toilets and comfy chairs and instead found a luxury lay by with attendant midges.
Pressing on we hit Glasgow where health and safety was thrown to the wind as Keeef cooked fried egg butties in the back of Gerry on a garage forecourt.
The support vehicle and I parted company at this point and while I took the scenic traffic free route through Glasgow the team played come and get me. Now as helpful as cycle routes are and no doubt they keep us safe they are not designed with a cyclist who has rapid progress in mind.
This coupled with three lane closures and detours meant that time was lost and sense of humours frayed but we continue south
eventually meeting in another lay-by even more salubrious than the last as this was used for fly tipping. Refuelled by pasta and sugary products the pedals were soon turning again
only to stop some 10 miles further as yours truly suffered an off at a round about when the left pedal and bike separated.
This was not according to plan but the team found me and with the spare bike ( the one with no gears or brakes) now in service more progress was made.
Back in the wilderness of the A7 another fuel stop
where Nathan my mascot came out to play before being stuffed back in the back pack and made to suffer another 30 miles.
So, 200 miles on from Ben Nevis we stop at Gretna Green by the friendship Cairn and make camp. 26.5 hours have now passed.
3am I begin sorting my kit after a great sleep in a small tent with a big dog.
The bike was loaded up, so was I and off we set
posing for an ace photo. Ever onwards and increasingly uncomfortable in the saddle area despite generous applications of what was referred to as "Arse Butter" by the team we hit bad weather some 12 miles from Wasdale Head where yours truly insists on a stop and breakfast somewhere where they have a nice toilet. Here essential adjustments were made to body mass and clothing. Boxers now in the bin yours truly had a much more comfortable ride ahead.
Spotty enjoyed his bacon sarnie
and his owner enjoyed the torrential rain heading to the base of Skafell Pike.
Low cloud and poor visibility did not bode well
but Gerry looked moody
adding to the atmosphere and off we wended
to a point where this is almost the top, Keeefs phone stopped working because of water and as we summited the idea that it couldn't rain any harder was swiftly dashed by the torrents that fell from the sky. We met a film crew who were filming a three peaks race, we tried to help them out by playing silly buggers in their shots, I think they appreciated it.
The silver lining to all these clouds was the fact that while we were clambering over rocks and through streams swearing that Skafell was the most disgusting abomination of a mountain ever, Stable Sprite fixed number one bike, which was just as well given what lay ahead.
More pasta was quaffed and by 5pm I was back in the saddle spinning south and into the most horrendous weather, monsoon like rain and monster hills, not like all the others, these were bastard steep and sly in that they sneaked up on you.
In all the rain the quote of the weekend was made by Keeef who asked me to hurry up as I sat in the chair at the lay by drinking chocolate milk as the rain was running down his neck.
What can be said about the section from the Lakes to Liverpool, except that it was the make or break of the mission. At one stage I got into Gerry and ate a bit of food and contemplated not finishing while Stable Sprite read me good luck messages. The thought of sitting in a Land Rover while he crunched on his twigletts, Keef snored and Spotty drooled or get back on the bike was soon resolved in favour of the lesser of two evils and so we headed south again with Stable Sprite navigating and yours truly avoiding drunks in Lancaster and Preston and so to Liverpool. Now the Merssy Tunnel allows bike through before 6am, I got there at 5.55 am and opted for the safe way and put my steed on the rack and was carried under the river to Asda where we had breakfast and I changed into some almost dry clothes.
Obviously I had to take tourist pics of Liverpool
and of Spotty enjoying his McDonalds breakfast. Confidence was now high, 80 miles to go, one mountain and 13 hours, what could possibly go wrong?
Especially after a nice 20mph section to Prestatyn where another obligatory picture was taken, the Offas Dyke monument, so it starts or ends here and I've walked to it, cycled to it and now cycled past it.
My support team ever excellent
put up with my strop over the lack of Mr Whippy and they set off to meet me at Conwy Bay. Lots then went wrong. 10 miles after this pic my right knee began to seriously complain about moving and some pain killers were needed. These were in Gerry. Then the weather changed from wet and windy to summer sunshine and roasty hot, and as I was dressed for wet weather cycling I began to cook. Never mind, with the car park in sight I would soon have access to drugs and dump my gear except it was at this point that Stable Sprite phoned to merrily inform me they had now headed off to Snowdon having got lost on the A55. So, no support and now 41 miles to go things looked bleak. But I had 9.5 hours on the clock so all would be well. Except it wasnt. Having searched my pack for cash I bought a couple of cheeky full fat Vimtos and a banana from a beach hut and unwrapped myself from a lot of kit which I somehow managed to store in my back pack or on my person. I could not in any way keep any drink down and food either got stuck or came back up as soon as I swallowed it. This coupled with intense chest pain made me wonder if pressing on was actually a sensible option. By now I had reduced the gap to 31 miles between me and the team but this was not an improving story. The national cycle routes already noted for their lack of directness now chose to send me over all sorts of hills rather than directly to Llanberis at the foot of Snowdon. At 12 miles out my right knee refused to move and when forced to tried to raise objections by yelp inducing bolts of pain. Again a rummage in my bag (matron!) produced two paracetamols which did nothing other than give me the moral high ground and ability to bollock my body for not playing ball now that it had had its medicine. I figured out that one legged cycling could make better progress than walking but not nearly as good as manning up and taking it, so I did and got closer still to 8 miles. There were now 5.5 hours left on the clock and things were perilously close to unravelling thanks to Google maps not finding me a quick route to Llanberis. I took the initiative after wobbling through a river crossing and finally meeting a bank I could not cycle up. Maps out I plotted a quick 8 mile route to the support team and made it in time for a slap up meal which I forced to stay down before we began the final assault on Snowdon. At this point Spotty went lame and had to be retired to the vehicle with Stable Sprite and so the long slog up began.
The rain that had dogged this mission found us
but with Keeef as packhorse we soon reached the summit
where the enormity of the achievement hit home, so far we had taken 70 hours 15 minutes and 44 seconds, only taking 2 hours 15 to get to the summit.
Now I had to get down.
This was the easy bit
especially as the joy of what had been achieved kicked it
summit selfie, obviously. And so downhill from there making the final gate by 71 hours 56 minutes for 480 miles and three peaks.
A well earned breakfast waited for me at home, somehow Stable Sprite stayed awake long enough to pilot Gerry who again never missed a beat on another epic Scotland adventure.
And so it ended. As it began with a car load of gear, this time wet and smelly. But this time flush with the success of beating the challenge. I only know of three groups who have done this, one failed, two are record breaking tri athlete teams. I am a fat bloke who decided to give it a go the hard way, North to South and solo on the bike sections. It can be done. I raised a lot for Myeloma UK. Thanks to all who supported me, especially my team and my beautiful and oh so patient wife who put up with my absence through training.