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National Three Peaks Challenge

In the late 1980’s I ‘upped the anti’ in relation to endurance events by arranging the first of what became several almost annual National Three Peaks challenges to raise money for local charities and of course set myself and colleagues a more difficult challenge. The challenge was to achieve the highest points in Scotland (Ben Nevis), England (Scafell Pike) and Wales (Snowdon) inside 24 hours including the driving stages i.e. once the clock started it did not stop until we had completed the challenge. I would also stress that we didn’t stop the clock on the summit of Snowdon which some people do – our challenges were sea level to sea level.

The summit shelter on Ben Nevis

These events didn’t all go according to plan e.g. we had a minor accident in the van on the way to North Wales in the first year but we learned every time we took on the challenge. These events were not set up to assemble the fastest team possible – quite the opposite they were to give people who were not normally accustomed to mountain walking an opportunity to fulfil ambition and achieve personal goals. I didn’t organise this event every year due to other commitments but having done it both ways i.e. Snowdon first and Ben Nevis first, we preferred getting ‘The Ben’ out of the way first and fine tune our start time to maximise on daylight. This would normally mean that we set off at about 6pm (usually in late June or early July), depending on weather conditions, to be back down in the van by 10-10.30pm for the journey to Scafell Pike.

Crib Goch from Snowdon

On the last occasion we achieved this challenge in 1998 we changed the start time to 8.30am to accommodate the assembled team which at that time had an average age of 46. I enjoyed all these challenges and the team were blessed with a first rate driving and support crew who learned a little every time. We had it fine tuned by getting straight into the van after descending the hills and slick pit stops for refuelling that Formula 1 would have been proud of.

3 Peaks Team

The Yorkshire Dales Team Building Exercises

From 1993 until 2004, the year of my retirement from the Police Service, I organised events that became known as the ‘Dales Team Building Exercises’, principally because the majority took place in the Yorkshire Dales whilst others took place in the Peak District. The general schedule for the day was that ‘willing participants’ would assemble at Doncaster by 6.30am and we would then travel by minibus to a location in the Yorkshire Dales where the walk/exercises would begin. The participants would be split into teams by me in advance and I would designate one of my ‘trusted assistants/adjudicators’ to accompany each team around a pre arranged course. The teams had to follow a series of instructions handed to them as the walk progressed in a sealed envelope by myself, the minibus drivers or the assistant walking with the team. I took teams out of their comfort zone by splitting them into unfamiliar groups and appointing a team member as team leader, one as map reader and one to deliver the teams results at the debrief at the end of the day. The envelopes either contained a general description of where to go, a grid reference and a task to perform either at the point where the envelope is given, somewhere on the route to the next point or on arrival at the next point. The tasks varied including taking a team photograph at a given point, solving a village quiz or carrying out a team task. At the end of the walk we assembled at a local pub and each team in turn delivered their ‘results’ to be penalised for breaches of Ernie’s rules and/or the country code. I had my own hidden agenda which included that the team achieving the fastest time never won and the result was usually decided on the most original Polaroid photograph taken during the day – safety was top of the list for these days and we never had anyone suffering major injury, blisters and muscle strain yes.

Another confession before I move on – I am known for the odd practical joke. The day before one walk I was asked by one team member, Pete, if I could give his team any clues. I suggested to him that a 30 length of rope may come in handy. I was not the most popular person in the world when after 15 miles of walking up and down hills and through peat bogs Pete asked me when the heavy 30 foot rope he had been carrying all day would be used – I told him it wouldn’t be needed. Another occasion when I suggested a snorkel and flippers may come in handy for one team. It was on top of Ingleborough in rain and low cloud that the team member realised it was a con but he gracefully stripped down to his underwear and donned the snorkel and flippers posing for a photograph – I had to give them the award for winning the day after that didn’t I?

The debriefs became legendary and quite noisy – after several beers the team members who had worked extremely hard all day didn’t take kindly to me penalising them for breach of Rules 9 and 10 which were  Rule 9 - The organiser is always right and Rule 10 In the event of a dispute Rule 9 applies. At the end of the day we all had a laugh and went away contented. The vast majority of people came again and again so it can’t have been that bad but I do concede that the distances on some days were perhaps a little too long. I refined the exercises as the years went by settling with a distance of about 12 miles incorporating more team exercises and tasks.

When planning and carrying out these exercises I was again blessed with a great back up team of drivers and assistants without whom the events would not have been as dynamic and ‘controversial’. I pay particular thanks to regular drivers Dave, Alan and Pete and to regular assistants Paul, Mick and Ian – they all have the same sadistic streak as I have when it comes to watching people suffer. I have lost count how many times I have walked hills such as Buckden Pike on these exercises 50 plus would not be an exaggeration but I enjoyed every visit. When I think back to the reasons for these events starting I suppose there are many including to allow others share and enjoy my passion for walking in the hills, to help gel together the teams of people I was responsible for and of course to have a good laugh following the hard days with a few beers, debrief and curry/fish and chips on the way home.

Our monthly walking group on a trip to Ingleborough

Before moving on, to his credit, in the past few years one of the original team members for the Dales Exercises, Mick, who became one of my trusted assistants has taken it upon himself to arrange the minibus for 6 weekly days out in the Dales for serving and retired officers. I am a regular member of this walking group (I missed the last one as it coincided with the first day of my recent Coast to Coast Walk) and normally fix the route for the day. We have a good day out followed by a few beers at the legendary Fighting Cocks (real ale pub) in Bradford and a curry at the Kashmir or Karachi Restaurant. Thanks for the invites and comradeship Mick.

Approaching retirement and beyond

A reader may think I had all the time in the world to walk as often as I wish – that’s not the case I was extremely busy at home and at work. As I said earlier Linda and I decided to take a few ‘gap years’ and we both wanted to pursue amongst other things long distance walking. We had several idea’s of what we wanted to do and I of course had a 30 plus year objective of completing Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk. In 2003 whilst still working I did the Dales Way with my eldest son Steve in the standard 6 days. We both enjoyed it and it convinced me that retirement was right for me. The following year Linda and I retired and did the Dales Way together in a leisurely 9 days – it was fantastic and neither of us had second thoughts about retiring and still do not. We had shorter days into Grassington, Sedbergh and Bowness to spend a half day in each looking around. I did the Inn Way to the Yorkshire Dales later that summer, again with my son Steve but he received a knee injury mid point and had to catch the bus/train home. The following year 2005 saw other walks including Linda and I walking the Dales Way again in our standard and leisurely 9 days. I hope to include some of these walks on this site in the next few months so watch this space. Planning for 2006 commenced as early as August 2005. It had to be the big one for me ‘Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk’.

Linda and me an the end of the Dales Way

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