While Storm Callum was busy lashing the UK over the weekend, one of our Commercial Development Managers braved the elements and went out for a bracing countryside stroll.
Accompanied by 13 friends, Craig Dean and his team set out to cover a 60 mile circuit of the undulous terrain of the Peak District in under 30 hours.
With supplies packed, the group gathered on the remote Pin Dale Road in Hope Valley early on Saturday morning. The Derbyshire dawn was still waiting to enliven the elegant slopes of Mam Tor away to their right, but at 6:30am they headed out clockwise for an adventure never to be forgotten.
Rain is almost to be expected in this part of the world, but when you combine it with a swooping wind and a peculiarly humid day for the time of year, it made conditions exceptionally tough.
Still, the Peak District draws in millions of visitors each year for its stunning views, and Craig and his companions had plenty of time to admire the sights. From an early encounter with the unforgiving incline of Winnats Pass to a muddy clamber towards Torrside Reservoir, the scenery helped the eyes but hindered the feet.
In this soggy weather, one outcome was inevitable: blisters all around.
“Irrespective of wearing waterproof boots,” Craig tells us, ”the water was still dripping down into them. At times when we had to walk through streams and marshland, so the water would just flood in, causing blisters to soften and skin come off.
“We did have six checkpoints where people could refuel, change footwear, reapply Vaseline and treat any burst blisters. But we didn’t sleep; part of the whole idea which made it so difficult was that it would have to be a true endurance challenge.”
When bodies are pushed to their extreme, there will usually be casualties in a large group. This was no exception, with 8 of the participants being forced to reluctantly withdraw due to injuries picked up along the way.
Craig is no stranger to this kind of undertaking.
An ex-serviceman, he has helped raise thousands of pounds on previous expeditions, including cycling from London to Paris in just three days for children’s charity, Action Medical. Indeed, last year, he and a group of pals ran up and down Mount Snowdon in under four hours ‘for fun’.
As night drew in, it would be an enormous feat to successfully orienteer their way through a part of the National Park variously, and accurately, called the High Peak or the Dark Peak. The narrow paths over the aptly named Bleaklow are tricky enough to follow in full sunlight, but become a lifeline during darkness, with the ground becoming much more rugged the further you stray from them.
Keeping morale up against the hostile conditions was always going to be a priority, and while there were difficult moments, the group pressed on under a moonless sky.
Eventually, the long night drew to close, and the finishing line between the villages of Tideswell and Eyam soon became a reality. After 27 long hours and 32 exhausting minutes, they made it.
“The best moment was crossing that finishing line, knowing we had finally completed the challenge” Craig continues. “I was so proud that we managed to navigate through such difficult terrain over night, and what’s more, we did it with two and a half hours to spare.
“It wasn’t originally about raising money, though, it was about us being bonkers and pushing ourselves, as me and Choggy (who the challenge was named after) are both ex-Army. We did decide to go down the sponsorship route in the end, and our chosen charity this time is Once, We Were Soldiers.
“It helps veterans who need – and deserve – a little extra support once they leave the forces. More than 10% of all homeless people are ex-squaddies, and we are delighted to play our part in raising some much-needed funds.”
The team managed to generate more than £1500 in donations, and it goes without saying that we are incredibly proud of Craig’s efforts, and look forward to supporting him on his next endeavour. Speaking of which…
“We started talking about next year’s adventure during this one.” Craig says excitedly, “We’re doing the Welsh 3000 next June.
“Basically, it starts from 7am at the top of Mount Snowdon, so you sleep at the top of the mountain before the event. We then have to reach the peak of all 15 Welsh mountains that stand over 3000ft within the space of 24 hours, without using any form of transport.
“To give you an idea of how tough this challenge is, Mount Everest is 29,028.9ft high. Our challenge equates to us climbing 45,000ft in 24 hours.”