Yates Hits The Heights In The Three Peaks Challenge

Mark Yates reports:

16/07/17: After 1000 miles around three countries, scaling three peaks and playing three games of Fives the challenge is finally complete.

A very wet Thursday evening witnessed the start of the challenge, with the official “Balls up” (the technical term for the start of a Fives match) at Fettes College, Edinburgh. Fettes College has more than a passing resemblance to Hogwarts, but rather than chasing a Snitch, it was a Fives ball that seemed to elude me for much of the game of Rugby Fives. The Caledonian Club play every Thursday evening with players drawn from the former pupils of the four Edinburgh schools with Rugby Fives courts. I must say thank you to Mike Kemp for tolerating me as his partner, and to Sandy Drennan and John Sellar for showing me the subtleties of the dark arts of Rugby Fives.

The trip to Fort William via Glencoe was stunning (and long); with the rain clearing and the sun setting, the beauty of the Scottish Highlands was bathed in warm light. It quickly became apparent that I had massively misjudged the distances involved in completing the Three Peaks Fives Challenge. Thus an early start and a rapid ‘bagging’ of Ben Nevis would be necessary if we were to make the 5 hour trip down to St Bees for the Friday evening Fives session. With backpack on and raincoat at the ready we were on our way up Ben Nevis at 7am on Friday morning. The pace was kept relatively progressive as we headed to the summit, shrouded in cloud. A quick brew at the top amongst the ruins of the observatory and back down to the car park for 12 noon and we were back on the road again.

St Bees has very fond memories from my school days, with the annual trip to Cumbria a highlight of the fixture list. We hit town at 6.30 pm, giving enough time for a much needed shower and change into Fives kit. A merry bunch had assembled at the St Bees School Fives courts; a mix of Old St Belghians, new staff members, their friends and families. The re-opening of St Bees School with the support of Lawrence Gribble, former pupil, and the team at Full Circle Education Group, has certainly set the town abuzz. The local Member of Parliament, Trudy Harrison, even came along to make sure her husband, Keith, enjoyed his first game of Fives. By 9.00pm it was time to adjourn to the bar at the Manor Hotel to review and plan the rise and rise of Fives as St Bees for the future. I would heartily recommend a Fives tour to St Bees: there are three Fives courts, a nine-hole golf course, good accommodation and access to the beauty of the West Lakes.

Saturday morning brought sore legs and an opportunity to witness the British & Irish Lions 2nd Test in New Zealand. We heard the Lions secure victory via crackly MW radio as we parked at Wasdale Head. Ironically we had parked next to Jane and Adrian Peckitt (OSB), who fresh from the previous evenings Fives were also off into the hills. The sun shone as we walked up Scafell Pike via the corridor route to join the masses at the summit, before a rapid decent down the ‘motorway’ to complete the job in 4 hours. With the Staff v Old Boys cricket match taking place at Rydal Penrhos School on Saturday afternoon, we had a narrow time frame to make it to Colwyn Bay, before Mike Leach and the Sports Staff disappeared for their end-of-term shindig.

Colwyn Bay came into view at 6pm and the final Fives match of the tour was underway by 6.20pm. Rydal Penrhos have had Stephen Thatcher as the GAP year coach and he bravely agreed to partner me against Team Sissons. Jack and Will Sissons are both capable left-handers; fortunately the afternoon’s cricket had been taxing enough to allow me to secure my first win of the trip. We managed to have everyone away to their social engagements in good time before heading along the coast to Conwy for supper. Sadly, the famous (and delicious) Conwy Mussels were out of season and we had to settle for fish and chips.
Sunday morning, the last leg of the Challenge and a sunny start in Llanberis saw our numbers swell to include old school friend, Dean Whittaker and family, along with tour stalwarts Ian Lock and Robbie Beak. I have been very fortunate to have great support from my friends and family throughout the trip. My son, Jack, joined us for the walk up Snowdon; he was keen to raise funds for his Cub pack. The beautiful weather had brought many others out to enjoy the view from the top of Wales, before returning to Llanberis for a celebratory ice cream.

The Three Peaks Fives Challenge has been a tiring but fulfilling and enjoyable experience. The objective had been to raise funds for the Midland Air Ambulance Trust and the Birmingham Children’s Hospital, and thanks to the kind donations of many supporters we have now seen the total top £1,500 and counting.  If you would like to make a contribution, please visit http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/MarkWilliamYates

A huge thank you to all those who have donated and supported the Three Peaks Fives Challenge

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