The National Three Peaks Challenge – three mountains, three countries, 24 hours. The challenge involves summiting Scotland’s Ben Nevis, England’s Scafell Pike, and Wales’s Snowdon within a gruelling time frame, demanding feats of strength and resilience that go beyond what most might imagine. In hindsight, I am happy I wasn’t fully aware of what was lying ahead of me when my alarm went off at 4.30am on that Saturday morning in Fort William. Some might say it’s naïve not to understand the physical and mental strength needed to complete the Three Peak Challenge. However, one never truly knows what it takes until reaching the other side and having a moment to look back and reflect on the journey through the rearview mirror.
The Brutal, Rewarding Experience and the Power of Unity
Drawing from personal experience, I think it is fair to say that the challenge of summiting Scotland’s, England’s and Wales’s highest mountains in 23 hours and 50 minutes is the most brutal, exhausting and emotional experience I have ever had. It is also the most rewarding one, which I ironically don’t boil down to my own personal strength.
If there is one thing that this challenge has opened my eyes to, and strengthened my belief in, it is the power of unity and the people we surround ourselves with. You are only as strong as your weakest link… sounds like a cliché when you are facing a wall of rocks to climb in the dark at 3.30am, after ten hours of climbing, surrounded by people who were strangers less than 20 hours ago. However, without these people as the support system they quickly had become, I would have felt like giving up (and this is not because the only thing I could see was the head torch of the person ahead of me!). When a singular mission and a united belief become greater than what you could achieve on your own, you rise above your own capability and strength.
The Power of Clear Goals and Team Focus
On Snowdon, the final summit, 1085 meters above sea level, I was fighting. I was fighting the pain in my legs, the time pressure, tears, the demons in my head, sleep deprivation, lack of energy, and lack of strength. But, there was nothing that would have made me give up. I was told that “in 15min, this steep section is over” and we would have a short breather and energy intake (only to find out there was another 20min of steep elevation…). My colleague Mark, blinds me with his head torch when he turns around to check on me “You OK? Remember, one step at the time”. And that became my mantra – one obstacle at the time. Focusing on the bigger picture – might it be reaching the summit, the amount of money raised for the charity Centrepoint, the 24 hours challenge, pushing myself physically and mentally to a place I didn’t know I could. The small wins were the only things that got the team and I to the end. One mountain, one section, one rock, one step at the time.
Now, back in hectic London, I still carry these freshly emphasised values: an overriding mission, a sense of empowerment through teamwork and a laser focus on specific goals. What if the summit is the same as the end of the financial year, the OKRs set for the quarter, or the change your business is wanting to see through? Would it be possible to reach this successfully without clear and aligned goals, where the sense of “we” is lacking? Personally, I don’t think so.
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Mathilda took on the National Three Peaks Challenge alongside seven other S&S team members in aid of Centrepoint. Centrepoint provides homeless young people with accommodation, health support and life skills in order to get them back into education, training and employment. Their mission is to end youth homelessness by 2037. Pretty great huh? It’s a fantastic charity that we hold very close to our hearts so if you can, throw us a few pennies and help us make a difference!