Three Peaks, the Hard Way

Early in June, Alistair Morris completed a continuous, self-propelled, rock-oriented take on the national Three Peaks charity challenge. He climbed Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis via a classic graded climb or scramble on each, ran all the downhills and cycled in between on the long boring bits that teams usually drive (like loons).

Alistair on peak number two, Scafell Pike
© Alistair Morris

For the lot he clocked up a respectable total time of 4 days, 4 hours and 52 minutes.

The route, which was supported by friends and family, involved 40km of running, 6700m of ascent and descent, and 750km of cycling. At Loch Lomond Alistair exchanged his road bike for a mountain bike, to reach the foot of Ben Nevis via 80-odd off-road miles on the West Highland Way.

En route to Snowdon's summit he met a friend with a rope to climb the big Lliwedd classic Avalanche, Red Wall and Longland's Continuation (260m VDiff). Sadly, rain on both Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis then meant that he had to downgrade his climbing ambitions from Bridge's Route (HS) to Thor's Buttress (grade 3 scramble), and Tower Ridge (Diff) to CMD Arete, respectively.

Nevertheless his team thinks this run/climb/bike combination was a first, which is perhaps surprising for a challenge that gets done so often by more conventional motorised means.

'My two loves are mountains and journeys' Alistair says, by way of explanation.

'I wanted a challenge that my non outdoor friends and colleagues could recognise - thus the 3 Peaks - but that my outdoor and adventure racing friends would respect as a challenge. The concept of a journey is an important part of adventure racing as well as being self propelled. The mountaineering routes came from wanting to find an interesting way up rather than just trogging up and down the tourist path.'

The mental aspect was the hardest part of the trip, he reckons:

'There were some really low points when I was alone and left to my own thoughts being tired and at times struggling with the navigation on the bike.' 

'My thighs were pretty tired after the cycling which made the climbing hard,' he says, 'and along with the tiredness that could easily lead to a mistake or two. So being on a rope or on easier routes helped on all three hills.'

We think four days all-in sounds pretty impressive, but Alistair insists it wasn't a race, and in fact he chose to slow down a bit:

'I have spent a lot of time on long multiday adventure races struggling with the tiredness. After the first night when I only got 3-4 hours sleep I struggled with the sleepmonsters on the bike on my own (much easier in a team) so decided for safety to get 6 hours a night. This made the journey so much more enjoyable but obviously took more time. I don't regret that at all. Weather and timings also made things a little slower - for example on the third day I arrived at the Ben with probably enough daylight to run up and down if I wasnt doing the scramble and if it wasn't low cloud and rain.' 

Alistair's partner, who last year had cancer, was his inspiration to do the trip as a charity fundraiser.

'[She was also] my main support - she drove and met me every 40-50 miles with food and drink. Other friends came along to support. My physio came out and set up a bed at Scafell for a massage which was most needed. One family we met in the campsite before I started offered their house for me to sleep in on the first night - amazing generosity for complete strangers!'


  • Over the trip, which he's called Three Cubed (ie. three peaks, three modes of travel), Alistair was raising money for the Macmillan Unit at Calderdale Royal Hospital, Macmillan Cancer Support and The Haven. He has raised £4840 so far, and the page is still open for donations here


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