Written by Ryan Nappi (The Best Man!)
As a Best Man, how do you come up with a stag party that will stand out from the rest? How do you ensure it meets the expectations of the groom-to-be, whilst also remaining a lasting memory for everyone that dishes out the cash to join the party?
Our Groom, Steve Yates, is an active guy who always has something in the diary to train for. Whether it’s a marathon or a personal record on a weeknight run, he loves to achieve new feats. He is also a keen fundraiser, namely for endangered animals. So, the answer seemed simple …
The National Three Peaks Challenge: climbing 23 vertical miles (the equivalent of 17,000 stair runs) in 24 hours, summiting the UK’s three highest peaks; Ben Nevis (Scotland), Scafell Pike (England) and Yr Wyddfa (also known as Snowdon, in Wales). And whilst we are at it, let’s try to raise £1,000 per peak for a well-loved charity, which, of course, was Save the Rhino. I shared the idea with a few of the lads to make sure I wasn’t crazy. Surprisingly, they were captivated. In a matter of minutes, they were looking up routes and researching hiking boots. My backup plan of flying to Benidorm was looking less likely.
In total, 17 climbers signed up. The main hurdle to overcome was securing designated drivers. For that, I am forever grateful to the fathers of the bride and groom, Graham and Cliff.
We began at the foot of Ben Nevis. The idea was to stay together, but this challenge is 90% psychological and 10% physical. After 20 minutes, we began to spread out. The wind was low, rain clouds non-existent, and the sun shone on the face of the peak – perfect visibility. The climb is long with steep ascents and switchback after switchback taking us into the clouds. The first groups made it to the coveted trig point in around two hours. As the following climbers made their way up, Steve and I summited an extra three times to ensure everyone had their photo taken and to help the final climbers come back down the peak. Anyone who has taken on the challenge will tell you, the descent is the painful part! It plays havoc on the knees.
Proudly, all 17 climbers managed to summit the highest peak in the UK.
We left Scotland two and a half hours later than planned, so we knew already that the 24-hour finish time was out of our hands. Still, we wanted to complete the peaks as quickly as we could. At 11pm, with spitting rain and in pitch black, we approached Scafell in the Peak District. Torches and GPS at the ready, we got going. Scafell is much like the description of Tolkien’s mountainous ranges of Mordor – desolate and unforgiving. As we set off, a handful of climbers decided to sit this one out. A couple more turned back halfway due to injury. Ten of us continued the arduous journey to the summit, where we would go off route approximately once every five minutes. The conditions were not in our favour at all. Even when we were within touching distance of the matching trig of those at Ben Nevis and Yr Wyddfa, we couldn’t find it with our torches. We searched on until someone finally caught a glimpse and we made a run for the stone. We were soaked through, and it was freezing. We didn’t hang around.
As we left the Peak District, we were begging for the heating to be switched to the maximum in the vans. Our wet boots, coats and gear hung in the back as we tried to get some rest. Before you knew it, we were in Eryri (Snowdonia). The sky was dark and ready to burst at 11am. I hadn’t thought about the possibility that this final peak would also be covered by rainfall and was now checking local forecasts, hoping for a dry climb… 95% chance of heavy rain and 40 mph winds. We were way behind schedule at this point and our after-party was still four hours away in Cardiff. The clock was ticking. Seven of us took on the final peak. Our boots felt like fishbowls. The wind made the final stretch tricky, but we managed to summit as a group to find zero visibility at the peak. Every step down was tough, but together we pushed on to the very end. We made it in just under three and a half hours.
We had gotten to the summit of all three peaks and back in just under 29 hours.
And that was that. We regrouped at the bottom of Yr Wyddfa. Freezing cold, we got out of our climbing gear and into the vans with the heater turned up to sauna level. It was a whirlwind of a journey and it wasn’t until we arrived to a hero’s welcome in Cardiff that we realised what we had achieved. I know we will remember the feat we accomplished together for a very long time – only cemented further knowing we helped Save the Rhino along our path.
If you ever climb, you’ll think you’re mad at 1.30 am trying to find your way down Scafell Pike. But when you look across the lakes of Yr Wyddfa on your final peak, you’ll know that you’ve done something amazing. If you want an unforgettable experience and to support a great charity, grab your boots, walking poles and rain coats, and get out there.
Climbers: Steve Yates, Lawrence Smith, Liam Siva, Jordan Walsh, Gavin Boseley, Ryan Nappi, James Buck, Liam Bell, Grant Bell, Ryan Vear, Kieran Huggett, Ben Thorne, Tom Goodchild, Lewis Sartin, Ali Thorogood and Steve Campbell.