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Three Peaks Challenge

Published by St James Senior Boys' School on Thursday 12th of October 2023

Following on from Mr Wassell’s ordeal last summer and the incredible care that he received at Harefield Hospital, we knew that we wanted to do something big to raise some money to give back specifically to the Intensive Therapy Unit (ITU) who looked after him so beautifully when he was at the peak of his illness.
We have always liked big projects, and knew that we would need to capture the imagination of our audience if we were to raise the kind of money that we hoped to, so we decided to assemble a team of 15 – 18 year olds to take on The Three Peaks Challenge.


The Three Peaks Challenge consists of summiting the tallest mountains in Scotland (Ben Nevis), England (Scafell Pike) and Wales (Yr Wyddra) within 24 hours, a massive undertaking for fully grown adults, let alone a group of school age pupils and their teachers! However, our belief is clear at St James – if a young man puts his mind to something, he is truly capable of anything, and this would be proven to be correct over the course of the project.

While the rest of the pupil body was enjoying a relaxed inset day on Friday 29th September,
the Three Peaks Challenge Team spent the day travelling 500 miles up to Scotland where we would spend the night.
After a hearty breakfast and a final briefing from the guides, the group loaded up the minibuses for the short trip from the hotel to the base of our first mountain, Ben Nevis, and the start of the challenge.
The weather started out rather nice – overcast but warm, and the group made excellent progress on their ascent. Green fields and grassland quickly gave way to rock and scree as the beautiful view of Loch Linnhe, Fort William and the Scottish Highlands shrank below us, and we moved into the cloud.
After negotiating the ‘zig zags’ up the steepest part of the mountain, we found ourselves on the summit plateau and in deep, freezing fog which illustrated just how high we had climbed in a relatively short period of time to bag the first summit of the three in good time.
The descent was unremarkable other than the sudden influx of traffic on the mountain paths due to the relatively nice weather below, adding many ‘tourists’ to the groups of ‘3 Peakers’ and serious walkers, slowing the group down. Despite this, we pushed on, getting back to the car park after 5.5 hours on the mountain, in good condition and in good spirits for the 5-hour drive down to Scafell Pike.

On arrival at Scafell Pike it was clear that the second mountain was going to give us a stark contrast to the first. Driving winds and heavy rain met us at the bottom and stayed with us right the way to the top and back down again. Due to the weather and the fact that this mountain was being climbed overnight, with nothing but head-torches to light our way, progress was much slower than we had hoped. Safety was quite rightly prioritised over speed and the whole group negotiated the test well. On arrival back at the buses, it was clear that we would miss the target of 24 hours, but this was through no fault of our own. Traffic coming down through Scotland and the conditions on Scafell Pike had added on more time than we could hope to gain back and the decision was made to slow down, enjoy the rest of the challenge as much as possible and ensure as many of the team completed it as possible.

This decision allowed us to enjoy the unique drive down the winding lanes of the Peak District at 4am and take care to give wide berth to the many sheep who were stationed in the middle of the road – clearly bemused as to why there were a couple of minibuses out at this time of night! After a breakfast on the move, we arrived at the final mountain, Yr Wyddfa, highly motivated to get the job done, despite the wind and rain continuing to keep us company. Varied conditions underfoot and beautiful views of the surrounding lakes and mines kept the team’s tired brains awake and we quickly found ourselves at the summit for a quick picture in the wind, rain and fog before retreating into the café for a hot chocolate to warm up.
The descent down the miners’ trail was a jubilant one with all of the boys and staff on a high after realising what we had just accomplished. Yes, our legs and brains were tired but we had completed something significant and in conditions that would have put most people off.


The boys and staff were magnificent company and dealt with the horrendous weather and challenging conditions with humour and candour making it a thoroughly enjoyable and fulfilling experience for all.

Three Peaks Challenge - Photo 1
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