What’s all the fuss about climbing three small mountains in under 24 hours? Yours truly sets out to investigate.
It starts at 7am with a 40 minute train ride to Gatwick. After a short flight we arrive in Glasgow decked out in our Snow+Rock gear, and find our mountain guide waiting at the agreed pickup location. We’re going to be skipping sleep and climbing mountains for a full day. We’re rearing to go.
The clock starts at Ben Nevis. It’s sunny at the bottom and snowing at the top, and there’s mist, rain and sleet in between, in whichever order. We lose interest in photos about halfway up, then ski jackets come out of backpacks. It’s an August afternoon. We cross a field of hard packed snow and ice, climb up a little higher, and we’ve reached the summit. Or so our guide tells us; we can’t see anything through the thick cloud.
It’s a six hour drive to Scafell Pike, we reach it after midnight. At about a third of the way up there’s a knee deep stream, which we traverse before continuing the long haul on what is known as “the staircase”. Fuck the staircase. I’m tired, I’m freezing, my socks are wet, the mountain’s upper slopes are covered with loose scree, and it’s blowing a gale. In torchlight we make out the summit marker and stumble towards it like newbie zombies on their first walkabout. The marker provides a little shelter from the wind, we huddle together behind it and try not to whimper. But we have to move, the clock is ticking.
I nap on the way to Snowdon, it’s a much needed boost. The path begins on a gentle incline, then, as we approach the plateau, the terrain turns steep and rocky. My knees have formed a union and are threatening a strike. Finally we reach the top, take a photo on the summit, begin the descent. The timer stops when we return to the carpark: 24 hours and 27 minutes. It’s a fail.
Why couldn’t we make it back in time? The mountains aren’t that tall, the trails aren’t that difficult, even in bad weather. Climbing either of the three peaks is not that hard. The hard part is having to do all three in succession, tired, cold and bored (let’s face it, grass and rocks and trees and grass and rocks begin to look all the same after a while).
A quest for FI is in many ways similar to the three peaks challenge. Anyone can save money. The challenge is keeping it up month after month for years whilst dealing with life’s minor frustrations of wet feet, cold hands, achy knees and wondering why the hell I’m doing this to myself when most other people are warm at home sitting on a sofa in front of a telly eating Doritos. I like Doritos. Then there’s the weather factor: market adjustments, recessions. They might not happen from the outset, but it’s a question of when, not if.
Mind-over-matter only works for so long. Reading other people’s blogs, like the one that Monevator guy writes, certainly helps with staying focused. But what’s helped me the most so far was something LAFI once said about changing the mindset from “I’m saving money” to “I’m spending money on my future financial independence”. I’ve tried it. It works.
So I’m not trudging up some stupid mountain in the dark at 3am on a Sunday in a gale-force wind. I’m walking towards my sweet, sweet pack of guilt-free Doritos, which I shall wash down with sauv blanc as I’m showing my friends photos from the trip. It will be worth it.