Charity 3 Peaks Challenge: Sometimes, you just have to ask yourself “Why?”

English Lakes Hotels Charity 3 Peaks Challenge

N10150118264585221_1605The second guest blog post from Tim Bell (General Manager of Lancaster House Hotel) and his team as they prepare for the ultimate British Mountain Challenge – Ben Nevis, Sca Fell Pike & Snowdon in 24 hours in aid of English Lakes Hotels sponsored charities Open Arms International and the Primrose House Trust. Follow the teams progress here and on Facebook with further information on how to donate to the charities to follow soon.

Saturday night, and it's the aftermath of another walk. This one felt a
little different though to last week's disorientating snow-scramble up
Helvellyn. Sure, it was fun, scenic, peaceful – all the usual stuff I look for
in a good Lakeland Trek. But this one was……well……erm……kinda…'s
hard to put my finger on it. Oh, I've got it! It was "5 HOURS OF FEMUR-BENDING,

DSC00034 But do you know what? Now that my body has been submerged for 1 hour in a
deep bath consisting of 5% water and 95% radox, and my heart-rate no longer
sounds like the kind of frantic drum beats that can often be heard bellowing
from those Vauxhall Corsa's dressed up in Halford's accessories, I can still
look back on today's experience and pigeon-hole it into the "Yeh, that was a
good day" box. I like that box, and I think I need to get a bigger one.

So, before I go off on a random tangent and start waffling about today's
walk and the plight of the ozone layer, (and my colleagues and friends will tell
you that I REALLY can waffle! In fact, I waffle so much, I come with choice of 2
toppings), I guess I must address the question posed in the title of this

Well, I'll start with the physical side-effects first, and most of them, I
do warn you now, are not pretty! First and foremost, it's the pain! Starting in
your lungs, your ever-increasing pulse seems to accelerate wave after wave of
muscle-stretching anguish to every fibre and nerve-ending in your body. Granted,
I'm sure this doesn't happen to everyone, especially those "zero-fat" lunatics
who actually run up mountains for fun, but I think I represent the average
person here. I like a beer or two, enjoy a slab of red-meat when presented with
the opportunity. But the thought of spending my life looking like the character
from the pepparani adverts just to avoid mountain-induced pain isn't tempting!
And I'd probably be as angry as pepparani-guy if I ate the diet these guys
probably have to eat to stay that fit, and that thin! Leaves and moss probably!

The aches and pains can stay with you for days, the blisters even longer!
And for anyone thinking there's an ounce of glamour in this pastime, forget it!
You sweat….a lot! The journey upwards is a constant battle with the
perspiration ducts. You start off with 4 layers because you've checked the
weather forecast and it looks a little ropey. And then you start the
ascent…..and then you turn into an onion! Before you know it, you're peeling
off every sweat-drenched layer until you realise that you're actually walking in
your Damart thermal underwear, and let's face it, it's no Ann Summers is it? You
reach the summit, it's flippin freezing, so you put all the creased clothes that
have been crammed in to your woefully small rucksack back on again, along with
the obligatory woolly hat. And that hat will truly re-shape even the most rigid,
wire-like of hair do's. I'm fortunate not to have a well-stocked barnet, but I
have seen hair-styles on those mountains that could only be likened to the
aftermath of a Bonfire…….after the Fire Brigade have emptied 1500 litres of
water on it!

As for the call of mother nature, well, I think you can use your own
imagination there.

So, you're in agony. Your hair looks like a war-zone, you've tinted the
snow yellow in front of your sister, and you now have to put the washing machine
on before a rainbow forms above your laundry pile. So, I ask myself

Well, let's turn to the chemical argument, and by this I mean let's venture
into your frozen ear and dig deep into the grey matter. Here I'm glad to say, it
all starts getting a whole lot better. Let's talk neurotransmitters. Serotonin
is released with the elation and happiness of accomplishing a mountain peak. Not
just once, but probably every time you recant the story of how good it felt to
stand at the summit and gaze upon that fantastic view. No doubt the great
outdoors and 6 hours of sun exposure will produce melatonin which helps keep the
happy levels above any "danger levels" and avoid those winter "blues". And then
there's endorphins which are released when actually doing exercise. Again,
bringing about a natural "high" and a feeling of elation. In short, we're
starting to feel good.

So, you look like a dinner that the dog turned its nose up to, but hey,
you're happy! And that happiness stays so much longer than the aching muscles,
blisters and the sweaty/mossy aroma on your Berghaus fleece. Actually, that last
part is not true, so just deal with it and buy a can of lynx.

And then there's the "experience", and here I could waffle on for ever and
even add a third or fourth flavour to my toppings menu. Experiences evoke
memories, and they stay with you forever, and no bio-detergent is ever going to
shift them! The changing scenery, the skies, the weather – they all add to the
richness of the outing and gives you plenty of waffle-fodder for years to come.
It can be a hugely sociable experience, spending hours with a good friend or
family member with no interruptions so one can talk until your hearts content.
Today for instance we covered relationships, favourite foods and even the funny
side of flatulence. And that's quite a subject! You occasionally come across
other walkers, and what a smashing bunch of people they all are! Always up for a
chat, and happy to share the tales of the mountain, past and present. After all,
they are here for the same reasons you are. However, every now and again you
will come across a large group of walkers, all of them keenly strolling their
way across the baron, steep fellsides, except for the one person who's 60ft
behind them and by the look on their face (which can only be likened to a
clenched fist), one can tell that they would rather be gorging on a Bic Mac and
watching the Hollyoaks Omnibus on this fine Sunday morning. That person clearly
isn't enjoying the experience, and probably volunteered themselves for something
that sounded like a fun stroll in the park. But I'm sure they will still get the
"chemical" thing, and I bet they will be back for more.

But you don't even have to walk with someone to get these benefits. Many
people, myself included will take a solitary stroll, deliberately choosing walks
where I know I won't bump into dozens of fellow ramblers. Sometimes, you just
need a little "me" time, a chance to think and digest the worries of the world
and put life back into clear perspective. It's not uncommon to meet perhaps just
1 or 2 people over a 6-hour stroll over certain Lakeland peaks. And who said the
Lake District was congested?

I think I'm waffling now, but hopefully you get the picture. In short, it's
exercise, but in magical surroundings and who wants to hear about your 90-minute
treadmill work out?

So, I guess I should briefly cover today's walk for the benefit of our
anonymous solitary reader who wants to know. Well, today's route was, on paper,
a medium/hard walk taking in 4 peaks along the long Helvellyn range. However,
the Ordnance Survey didn't recognise the official route up to Calfhow Pike, and
I don't blame them. It was a full-on slog, with more silent swearing than I've
probably ever done before. I thought the west flank of Kirk Fell was tough, but
this was in a whole new ball park. Throw in some ice, constantly changing
temperatures and the knowledge that this ascent is only taking you to the lowest
of today's summits, and you've got yourself a classic ridge walk – a bucket load
of pain to get to the ridge plateau, then mile after mile of gentler, undulating
slopes which swallow up the "Wainwrights" effortlessly. Superb!

On a closing note, I see we're up to 81 members in our facebook group now
which is fantastic! I'm sure you've all got friends who would like to support
our group and its causes so please invite as many people as you can. We're
relying on you.

The whole group is meeting up soon to finalise details and really get this
thing in to top gear. We'll have our link up soon and also full
details on the fantastic competition where all people who donate get the chance
to guess the exact time it will take us to do the challenge, and possibly win a
superb prize!

Thank you for reading, thank you for supporting and let's all make a
difference and raise money for our great charities Open Arms International & Primrose House Trust.

The 3-peakers

Charity 3 Peaks Challenge: It’s got to start somewhere!

English Lakes Hotels Charity 3 Peaks Challenge

N10150118264585221_1605The first of many guest blog posts from Tim Bell (General Manager of Lancaster House Hotel) and his team as they prepare for the ultimate British Mountain Challenge – Ben Nevis, Sca Fell Pike & Snowdon in 24 hours in aid of English Lakes Hotels sponsored charities Open Arms International and the Primrose House Trust. Follow the teams progress here and on Facebook with further information on how to donate to the charities to follow soon.

So, it's the witching hour, March
3rd 2010 and yesterday I created a Facebook page for our 24-hour 3-peaks Charity
Challenge. The initial over-excitable idea once flirted over a cup of tea with
colleagues at work is now really starting to take serious momentum. Time to wake
up and smell the Bovril Tim!

Blog 1, and I guess this first encounter
should really tell you, the blog-reader (is there a "proper" term for them? If
so, then please let me know because I really need to be kept on the straight and
narrow with this type of thing!) where this whole crazy idea started and where
it initially intended to go.

DSCF2876 Bit of background first I guess. I'm
Cumbrian born and bred, and like so many of us, I never truly really appreciated
what was on my doorstep. Sure, we spent family days in the Lakes when I was
young; Inflatable "Woolworths" dinghy's on the shores of Ullswater, my Uncle Ian
(and his set of small, black & white books about the Lake District, but more
of that later) lifting me effortlessly on to his shoulder's as we rambled though
Kentmere. Then there was camping with scouts in the cold, dense forests of
Lowther, and of course the compulsory school geology field-trips into deepest
Lakeland to see how Continental drift and Igneous intrusions had forged this
magnificent landscape. (zzzzzzzzz – How on earth did I remember

Did I appreciate it back then? Well, maybe I did, but only as much
as a kid or a teenager could ever expect to. Hey, my time was dedicated to BMX
bikes, accumulating a music collection to annoy my parents, and staring
endlessly at a poster of the famous page-3 girl, Maria Whittaker on my bedroom
wall. But times moved on, and so did my career and years spent moving from
county to county, from Berkshire to Perthshire, and several places in

But in winter 2003, I moved back to the North-west, to northern
Lancashire, and for me, as close to my original home as I would probably like to
be. I was nearer to my family, and my good friends in Manchester, and of course
the county of my birth, and the beautiful district it holds so proudly in its
boundary, like an artist
clutching their definitive masterpiece.

During the years and my various
career moves, the Lake District had grown in to something different in my mind,
something to be proud of and brag about to colleagues, something familiar and
yet mysterious. And here I was, back on its doorstep, and eager to forge a new
relationship with it, minus the woggles, text books and acne of

The first 2 or 3 years were spent
re-discovering the lakes, mainly from behind a steering wheel I must confess
though! And then one september afternoon in 2007 whilst camping at Parkfoot on
the shores of Ullswater, I convinced Sarah Garton that we should take a casual
stroll up one of those ominously beautiful peaks. Armed with nothing but a
bottle of Evian and a Twix Bar (which were consumed within about 30 minutes), we
headed up the Glenridding ascent of Helvellyn. No stepping stones here then. Sod
the "Helm Crags" and "Haystacks", let's go for a full on attempt of Lakeland's
most notorious summit. Perhaps Wainwright was spot on when he said of this
mountain – "….it is the objective and ambition of the tourist who does not
normally climb". I think if the great man knew what "LOL" meant, he would've
probably slipped this annoying abbreviation in to his pictorial guides as a sly
dig at every man or woman who felt the pain this under-estimated mountain can
bring to the novice, wet-eared walker.

I'm not going to bore you with the
gory details, but one can only describe that experience as an assault on every
sense my body feels! "Shock and Awe" hardly seems strong enough in this
instance. But this was a defining moment nonetheless, and it told me, in a
language as blunt as the great Cumbrian dialect itself, that :- a) I love this
place, and b) Thou's not in grand fettle Tim!

Two and bit years have now past
since that sweat-drenched, lung-stretching, muscle-breaking, but more
importantly – life changing day! Gone are the sleeveless Nike shirts, holiday
shorts and market-leading chocolate bars. They have been replaced by Berghaus
fleeces, Ronhill thermal layers, Camelbak ruck-sacs and Bananas. My love for the
Lakeland mountains is serious, and to truly appreciate them, my attire had to
step up to the mark too!

So when English Lakes Hotels
announced it's commitment to Open Arms International at the same time I joined the board of
trustees for Primrose House the answer to that ever-burning question –
"How can I do my bit to help?" became as clear as a mountain-top view on a
cloudless day! I've got to do the 3 peaks!

My sister had successfully done the
challenge the previous year, but somehow I never felt I could rise to that kind
of challenge. After all, she's been casually trotting up Sca Fell Pike and
various other "Top 10" mountains for several years now! But my love of this
pastime, combined with the desire to make a difference for those less fortunate
than myself, led me to make a commitment. And now in my 30's, I really am
conscious of my "101 things to do before I die", and this one ranks right up
there with the best of them! And let's face it, who's gonna trust me with a
Bugatti Veyron? Let's get realistic here!

So, here we are in March 2010, 3
months before the big "off", and we have now assembled a small but highly
dedicated clan of 6 volunteers willing to give up hours, neigh, day after day of
their precious free time to train hard, prepare, and actually "do" Britain's
biggest mountain challenge.

As I sit here now, I feel a
multitude of emotions about the whole thing. I'm excited sure! But I'm also
nervous and apprehensive. Dazed and confused, Motivated, but melancholy. Is this
the usual cocktail of feelings a "3-peaker" experiences? Maybe, maybe not. But
we're going to do it, and do it properly. We're going to raise money for two
great causes. I'm in no doubt that despite how much training we do between now
and June, we're going to go way beyond any physical boundaries we may have
previously set as our tolerable limit. I'm sure there will be sweat, tears and
blood, but hey, the latter doesn't bother me on the basis we have one of
Britain's best paramedics in tow.

So, I'm conscious that this first
blog has very much been "my story", but this whole thing isn't about me. It's
about a group of volunteers, who have made a commitment to raise money for two
great charities, doing something they love! Well, saying that, you'd find that
statement hard to believe if you heard the foul language that can emit from
one's mouth when tackling a particularly steep and frustrating mountain path. I
get the buzz from reaching the summit, others in the group get there's from the
adrenaline-fuelled rush of stretching one's physical limit. We're all different,
we do different things, in different ways, in different places. But we are bound
by our charitable goals and a love of the Lakeland mountains.

So, if you're still reading this,
"Congratulations!" You're either our biggest fan, or more probably, you've got
bugger all else to do and "Corry" isn't on tonight. Stay tuned reader!