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It was a long old haul, but I made it! I’m now aboard the special train taking all the Railway Children staff and volunteers on their 3 peaks adventure. I caught up with them at Bangor (North Wales) where the train collected all the hikers after climbing Snowdon. We’re now heading for Ravenglass on the Cumbrian coast where we should arrive at 0900. Right now I’m going to grab some sleep but I’ll blog and post pictures throughout the day.

8.01am.

The train’s burst into life now. People grabbed what little sleep they could, with bodies in sleeping bags draped all through the coaches. Whilst the walkers slept, the crew toiled, preparing a cooked breakfast and hundreds of packed lunches.

There’s something special about being served breakfast at your seat on a train (especially when you’ve been up and down a mountain!). Here’s a sample…

In less than an hour we’ll reach Ravenglass so the teams are busy packing the kit they’ll need for tackling Scafell. Wandering through the train i’ve bumped into several friends from our ‘Ride India’ adventure in March – only re-branded for our latest jaunt!

Fortunately, the storm that hit the UK in the past 24 hours has passed. The sun’s not exactly cracking the flags, but conditions are looking good…

9.00.

Walkers have detrained at Ravenglass and transferred to the narrow gauge ‘L’al Ratty’

Now we’re on our way to Dalegarth..

12:13

I rushed ahead to climb up to my perch on Scafell where I can get the best shots of the teams hiking up the mountain. I only just made it before the first team arrived and steamed past me. My excuse it that I’m carrying camera bag that weighs 14kg – and they’re not! Here’s where I am now.

This is what I was waiting for…

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20:47.

We’re on the move again and heading for Fort William. All teams made it up atop Scafell although there was some attrition. Each team was given the name of a band as their call-sign. I’ve never known so many groups split up since the 1970’s!

There’s been a few minor injuries, although I think the bigger issue has been people underestimating the level of fitness required to do this event. A few weeks walking miles on the flat really isn’t going to prepare you for fell-walking – never mind the UK’s three highest peaks!

After descending Scafell we had a two-hour layover in Ravenglass to allow time for our train to be serviced and our loco (68016) to be replaced by a pair of Class 57s top and tailing us (312 leading and 305 trailing).

On departure our weary travellers were served an excellent repast which had been prepared by the volunteer train crew.

To be honest, most people waned after that. Some sought out the services of the on-board Doctor or ministrations of the physiotherapists. Others just flaked out. It’s 21.34 now and most of us are about to follow as we’ve an 04:30 start in the morning.

Saturday 05:20

All the teams are on Ben Nevis now.

We were given an alarm call at 03:30 when the crew brought round croissants, orange juice and hot drinks as an aperitif for the main course…

– bacon rolls! (A veggie option was available).

Folk performed what ablutions they could (all I can say is whoever invented ‘wet ones’ deserves a medal) before getting their gear together and checking they had the right kit to see them safe on the mountain if the weather changed suddenly.

At 04:30 the train arrived at Fort William and after grabbing snacks off the trollies we streamed on to several coaches which ferried us to the start.

After registering their start time with control, a final radio check and they were off!

Now all the rest of us have to do is set up the finish line and wait for them to return.

The only problem is that base camp is ‘midge central’ this year! The wee bitey things are out in force this year, so many of the staff are wearing mosquito nets that make the place look like a Taliban training camp!

Sunday 17th.

Yesterday I ran out of both time and phone reception to finish updating this blog, so I’m ending it not with words, but pictures.

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It’s 05:10 and the last teams are setting off up Ben Nevis.

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At 09.00 the first team crossed the finishing line. They’re one of the 6 teams from headline sponsor Stadler, who had entered the challenge for the first time (and did extremely well!)

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Scotrail MD Alex Hynes chatting with event staff at the Ben Nevis base. Alex joined us on the train to congratulate the teams and help hand out medals .

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Some of the volunteer traincrew who keep the challenge running (year after year). Whilst the teams rest these are the people who’re busy preparing and serving food and drink or servicing the train.

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Eoin Brunton serves weary walkers with a meal of chicken in mascarpone sauce on the train home. The scenery on this stretch of the line from Fort William is stunning, but window gazing wasn’t on most people’s minds!

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Alex Hynes presented the teams with their medals on the train home.

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Posing with the Railway Children team and some of the volunteers who come back and help year after year. It’s always a pleasure to join this band, so roll on 2019! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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