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Well that didn’t exactly go to plan! In contrast to last year when our train arrived late, we were 45 minutes early this morning! This would have been ideal in normal circumstances but ‘normal’ isn’t a word you associate with ‘3 peaks by rail’ – but challenge certainly is!

The challenge this year was the weather which is awful. We arrived in driving rain with the trees around the railway station looking like they were being hit by a tornado. The buses that were due to take us to Ben Nevis weren’t arriving until 04:00 so people had plenty of time to dig out and slip into their wet weather gear – all of it!

Global Challenge, the event guides and safety team had been poring over the forecasts and decided that there was no way teams were going to be able to reach the summit safely, so a plan B was hatched. When the buses disgorged us all at the mountain scratch teams of 12 people escorted by a guide would be taken onto the mountain and allowed to ascend as far as Red Burn, where they’d be turned back.

Conditions at the base were so bad we decided there was no point in setting up our usual banners and finish line as we’d more than likely see them blown away before people came back. Instead, we’d brought the headboards off the train for teams to pose with on their return. At least the weight of them might stop people being blown away! Whilst we waited we sheltered from the storm in a bus for a few hours and kept an eye out for people who’d turned back due to injuries or the conditions.

When we had a bus full we took them back to Fort William just after 07:00 when the town’s cafe’s had begun to open. Having dropped off the first batch we returned with coffee’s only to find the next bus was already full of teams off the mountain which put the plans of Adam (the video cameraman) and I to get shots of people with the headboards. It wouldn’t have been fair to have them hang around as they were too tired and wet.

So, here we are back in Fort Bill, sheltering in cafe’s or Wetherspoons, waiting until this afternoon when the train arrives back at the station. People’s morale’s improving now they’re in the warm and dry and out of the wind. Some are discussing their ascent and descent with one word being repeated – ‘grim’…

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