Three Peaks With  A Difference - Bank Holiday, May '97
From David Boulton, climber. David is employed byTrailwise in Ashton under Lyne.

The thought of doing the three peaks, Snowdon, Scafell and Ben Nevis is one which a friend of mine Mark Smith has tried for years to persuade me to join him in. The of walking up the tourist paths and all that time cramped up in a minibus filled me with dread. No Thanks!! was always the reply

Then in March whilst he was trying to persuade again (he's persistent for sure), we hit upon a new idea, well new to us anyway. Why not try to complete the routes via scambling and climbing alternatives. Two others were to attempt the peaks with us, Russell and Ken. We all had different levels of experience, Paul is a Mountain Leader, Mark is a regular climber, Ken a novice, Russell has done the KIMM and myself with a few years of climbing and walking. Two other friends, Derek and Chris volunteered to be our drivers.

The routes we eventually decide on were all ones which Paul and I had done before. The Crib Goch Ridge was the obvious choice to reach Snowdon and was to be our first peak. Scafell was to be more problematic, the drive would lead us to the head of Borrowdale valley and thus on to Sty Head. With no direct lines to the summit of any appeal we decided to go via Great End. Skew Gill presented itself as the best route up, which could then be followed by Cust Gully above. The final summit on Ben Nevis was to be reached via the 'classic' Tower Ridge.

We set out with no intention of completing the routes within 24 hours as per the usual Three Peaks challenge, the routes we had chosen would not allow it.

At 3.30 am on Saturday morning we parked up at Pen y Pas and prepared to set off (after the obligatory group picture!). As we pulled on our sacks we were joined by a group from Lytham St Anne's, oh no! were they going to dog us round all weekend?? No luckily, they were doing the Welsh 3000's and with a mutual sigh of relief we passed them and headed up to Crib Goch in the pre dawn murk.

Day broke as we started allong the ridge, sun tingeing the clouds which surrounded Llewid and Snowdon with a red glow. We reached the summit at around 5.45 am. The summit cairn was all frosted with ice and with strong winds chilling us we soon took shelter in the nearby tramway. We stayed there a few minutes eating and waitng for a break in the clouds to give us a view, the clouds stayed and we had to continue without the view. By 7.30 am we were back at the minibus walking the drivers for a brew.

Time was lost on the way to Scafell, firstly McDonalds was on the wrong side of the carriageway and we all wanted Mcbreakfast. Secondly we hit the Blackpool Bank Holiday traffic. Nearly two hours of the schedule slipped away.

Close to 1.30 pm we were on our way up to Sty Head. The day was becoming pleasant with the temperatute reaching the mid 70's (or 20 something if you're in Celsius). We passed a family with a daughter aged only seven on their way up to Scafell just before we entered Skew Gill.

The Gill passed with little incident. Cust Gully was more entertaining with a squeeze under a chockstone and a tricky headwall which required a rope for Ken.

Back in the open again we headed for Scafell and passed the same family again as we climbed the final steps to the top.

The route back to Sty Head and Borrowdale was more of an amble however Paul twisted his knee and Mark was suffering with arthritis in his knee. Back at the bus Derek and Cis returned from a trip to the icecream van to make us a brew.

Refuelling ourselves was the next item on the agenda and the Little Chef at Gretna Green beckoned. An impromptu but interesting sight-seeing trip around Glasgow follwed. Cis was driving and Derek got full blame for the navigation errors. We eventually decided to wake Mark from his slumbers to get us out of Govan and on our way to the highlands.

At about midnight we bivied down at the end of Glen Coe and tried to sleep. The plan was to set off at 4.00 am but this didn't deter Mark from pitching his tent. Soon after 5.00 am we set off from the distillery towards the CIC hut, our pace was slow largely due to fatigue and constantly snapping pictures of the ever improving view of Tower Ridge. We headed up agreen bay making for East Gully which separates the Douglas Boulder from Tower Ridge. At the top of East Gully we roped up, Paul took the lead with Ken leaving Mark and myself to climb below and help Ken if needed. We progressed swiftly up the ridge and were soon on the traverse beneath Great Tower.

The covered gully leading up was at first site daunting, dark and filled with snow. Looking closer steps were cut all the way up. Only Tower Gap barred our way. Clouds came down and in seconds visibitly was down to 20 yards. Unfortunatly Ken's visibility wasn't vertically affected and he could see the corries hundreds of feet down on both side of the gap. Paul and Mark beleyed as I guided Ken across and down the gap, a few minutes later he had stopped shaking and we were on our way to the summit. We topped out at 11.45 am just 30 hours after we had stood on Snowdon.

The day was rounded off with a celebratory meal and a beer at the Clachaig Inn in Glen Coe.

Summit to summit the route would have been six hours quicker if we had started in Scotland, also we would have missed the holiday traffic and another bonus, McDonalds is on the right side of the road! Doing the peaks in reverse we reckon would bring it inside 24 hours, Good Luck if you give it a try.

Best Wishes David Boulton June 97.