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6 Peaks Challenge

Michael Gent (Chairman)

 

On 24th July 2014, 23 friends and I set off on what I can only describe as the hardest challenge we have ever attempted – both physically and mentally.  There can be no denying, on our part, that the terrain in the Cairngorms is relentless, especially after climbing up and down it for 24 hours on very little sleep (by the time we reached the base of Ben Nevis all of us had been awake for 32 hours straight). Matthew Plumb (a long serving Royal Marine and the expedition leader) described the topography as ‘some of the harshest’ he has ever come across and a few experienced climbers and members of the group that have trekked in the Alps and Himalayas were blown away by the difficulty of this climb. The 5 peaks that we scaled were gruelling and arduous (in fact, some members of the expedition are still struggling with their knees and ankles even months after the challenge), but all of us battled on to the end – which I think is testament to how much we all care about raising money for our chosen charities. The route had never been attempted before and we now understand why. We would like to say a huge thank you to everyone that donated and helped us raise over £8,300 for WaterAid and Parkinson's UK. The British Government also matched our donation to WaterAid through the ‘To Be a Girl’ campaign which took our overall total to over £10,000 – sincerely, thank you.

 

Though we had originally intended to climb 6 peaks, the unpredictable climate scuppered our chances of adding Ben Nevis to the list. A weather front moved in as we descended Cairn Gorm and by the time the expedition reached the base of Ben Nevis the rain was pouring and the hill fog had moved in, reducing visibility levels to a mere 10-15%. The fact that we would be descending the peak in absolute darkness swayed our decision and we heeded the climbing centre’s advice not to summit.

 

2 team members have since climbed Ben Nevis.

 

 

 

The founding members of The Pelargos Foundation

 

Top row (from left to right): James How, Adam Rimmer, Michael Gent, Will McMillan, Dave Chisholm, Matthew Plumb, Peter Woodcock, Luke Cripps, Phil Streit, Tom Lindley, Jason Wallace, Robert Owen, Jonny Marx, Michael Dorr, Josh Holland, Tom Masters.

 

Bottom row (from left to right): Matthew Howitt, Michael O’Shea, Stephen Miskell, James Allen, Lewis Chisholm, Chris Fletcher.

 

En route to Scotland, the trekking team has to face a gruelling 10-hour bus journey on the hottest day of the year.

 

Matthew Plumb (Royal Marine Commando and team leader) makes some last-minute map calculations.

 

The calm before the storm – the expedition reaches its start-point at 11pm and the walking begins …

 

What may look on the surface like an impromptu dance rave is actually the team using glow sticks and head torches to navigate through the tough terrain.

 

After three hours or so of walking, blister plasters, talcum powder and knee supports are used as a precaution to treat minor niggles.

 

The summit of Braeriach (peak 1)

 

After 4 hours of walking in pitch-black conditions, the team reaches the summit of the first peak.

 

 

The climb plateaus and the sun begins to rise above the peaks in the distance, liberating the ramblers from the darkness and temporarily absolving them from the ache of climbing up steep slopes.

 

 

A quick snap of sunrise.

 

 

The route boasted some incredible views of Scotland’s highlands.

 

The summit of Angel’s Peak (peak 2)

 

The trek was littered with boulder fields that would go on for some 300-400 metres. Some of the stones were up to 3 feet high and very difficult to traverse, especially when going downhill.

 

The summit of Cairn Toul (peak 3)

The team gathers for a drink and food break on the sheer south face of Ben Macdui, the toughest peak on the route.

 

A snap taken part way up Ben Macdui shows off the height of Braeriach (the first peak the team scaled).

 

Walking up Ben Macdui (aka Mount Doom). The route erupts up precipitous scrubland from a height of a few hundred metres above sea level to 1309 metres at the pinnacle. A giant boulder field near the summit, several false peaks and the sheer gradient makes this an extremely draining, almost soul-destroying climb.

 

The summit of Ben Macdui (peak 4)

 

The summit of Ben Macdui (peak 4)

 

Even at the height of summer, the temperature at the top of the peaks drops dramatically and snow is still visible in certain spots.

 

 To the team’s despair, the route down Cairn Toul takes the expedition through another huge boulder field, descending all the way down to a stream near the base of Ben Macdui. All of the elevation gains that the walkers have been steadily making will be lost on the way to peak 4.

 

 

The summit of Cairn Gorm (peak 5)

 

Upon reaching peak 5, the trekkers have been awake for more than 27 hours, walked the equivalent of a marathon up and down hill and burned more than 9,000 calories.

 

In spite of how hard the challenge was, The Pelargos Foundation will be back with an even tougher test in 2015 to raise as much money as possible for charity. Watch this space …

 

 

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