One year ago I was living the dream in Arequipa surrounded by a family of HOOPsters, never ending sunshine, and stunning volcanoes. I would do anything to have a taste of HOOP life again, so back in April I decided to take on the famed UK ‘3 Peaks Challenge’ with a team of seven other ex-volunteers. The challenge reunited old HOOPsters from all over Europe and the US, to raise money for the organisation we love so dearly.
If you aren’t from the UK it’s unlikely you’ve heard of the 3 peaks challenge. The aim is to climb the highest peak in England, the highest in Scotland, and the highest in Wales, and travel between the three countries all in just 24 hours! That makes a total walking distance of 37km, driving distance of 744km, and an ascent of 3064m! In addition, we decided to hula hoop on top of each peak in true HOOP style.
Whilst in Peru I can proudly say I climbed Pichu Pichu volcano and made it almost all the way up Misti volcano before a snowstorm closed in and we had to turn back. I remember saying to a fellow teammate when deciding we would tackle the 3 Peaks “if we can climb Arequipa’s volcanoes, three British hills will be easy peasy.” In hindsight, I had massively underestimated our three British mountains.
Peak 1: Ben Nevis, Scotland
At 4.55am on Easter Saturday, after less than 5 hours sleep in our hostel, we got up, forced instant porridge, bananas, and coffee into our bodies, and set of walking up Ben Nevis. Part way up the mountain path my body started to protest from the short night, lack of digestion time, and fast pace so early in the morning. I was hit with waves of nausea and a serious case of jelly legs! I was so angry with my body for complaining so early in the challenge and stuffed myself with water and mars bars to give myself energy for the trek. We carried on our mission to the top. As we had travelled up to Scotland the previous day our teammate Beth managed to give our team a shout out on BBC radio and mentioned we would be hula hooping for HOOP on top of each peak. As we walked other hikers recognised us from the radio by our tell-tale hula hoops which we carried up the mountains with us, and they wished us luck on the challenge. Feeling famous, we reached the top of Ben Nevis, which was beautifully snow-capped. From the highest point in the UK we hula hooped together over the British Isles. One down, two to go!
Peak 2: Scafell Pike, England
We travelled in our team minibus down from Scotland into England. At 7.30pm, a little behind time mainly due to traffic, we arrived and started climbing Scafell Pike. By this point a previous ankle injury of mine had resurfaced and after a heated internal debate between my head and my heart, I unfortunately had to turn back and wait in the minibus for the rest of the team to complete this peak without me. Here I briefly found some telephone signal with which I managed to check HOOP’s social media and our giving page. I was so overwhelmed by the messages of support and the many donations we had received it picked my mood right up again! The team returned 11.30pm with tales of the gruelling climb under the moonlight, and we set off for Wales.
Peak 3: Mount Snowdon, Wales
A few hours later, with very little sleep en route, we arrived at Mount Snowdon in Wales. Despite my ankle injury I knew I had to finish with the team. We had lost a little more time on the journey and could see by this point it was very unlikely we would beat the 24-hour clock. Between us we were experiencing many sore muscles, knees, ankles, scraping blisters, and extreme tiredness as it had been two days since a decent night’s sleep. We slogged up the path to our third and final peak. Dragging my left leg up Snowdon has to have been one of my biggest tests in perseverance! Finally we made it to the peak and stood in the Easter morning sunshine hula hooping over the beautiful Welsh countryside. Without stopping for long as we still had time against us, we headed back down the rocky path as fast as our very wobbly legs could manage and stopped the clock. Finished! We hadn’t quite made it within 24 hours but it was all totally worth it when we checked our giving page and saw the incredible continuing generosity of all who supported us.
A huge thank you goes out to everyone who has supported us! We smashed our target of £3000 and raised a total of £4535 (about $6000)! Without everyone who sponsored us we could not have done this, so thank you everybody – you are the real heroes of this challenge!
A special mention must also go out to Tom and Michael for organising the challenge, to Martin for driving us several hundred miles on his birthday, and always having hot drinks and snacks ready when we needed them most, and to Anita for providing us with all the calories we needed including the world’s best flapjack!
Written by Emily Rowe, former volunteer