DOCOsoft’s Kim-Anh Nguyen completes the National Three Peaks Challenge

DOCOsoft people like nothing better than a challenge. London-based Project Manager Kim-Anh Nguyen is certainly no exception. Over the weekend of 11-12 June, she and eight friends battled high winds and torrential rain to complete the famous Three Peaks Challenge.

It all started last year, when one of Kim’s friends suggested they climb Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon back-to-back to mark the fact they would all be turning 30 over the course of the next 12 months. Three Peaks for Three Decades seemed a fitting way to commemorate that milestone.

Having joined a gym to work on stamina and general fitness and completed some training walks near London and along England’s South Coast, Kim found herself taking a Friday-afternoon train from London up to Glasgow, where the group stayed overnight, before clambering into a specially chartered minibus on Saturday morning to head for Ben Nevis base camp.

To say the weather conditions were unfavourable would be an understatement. Faced with heavy rain, high winds, and poor visibility, Kim and her friends opted for an earlier set-off time of 3.30pm rather than 5pm as they’d originally planned. So, after loading up on carbs and liquids at the base-camp cafe, they set out up the mountain.

Kim quickly realised that watching breezy YouTube footage of carefree ramblers strolling up sunlit slopes with views as far as the eye can see had created a false expectation compared with the distinctly grim reality they encountered that day. As they passed other groups coming back down the mountain, they learned that while some had reached the summit, others had admitted defeat and turned back.

Undaunted, they climbed onwards, the wind whipping raindrops against any exposed skin like tiny stinging stones. The unrelenting ice-cold downpour soaked right through Kim’s gloves – to the point where keeping them on only made her hands colder. When at last they reached the summit of Scotland’s highest mountain, at over 1300m, fog obliterated what should have been spectacular views, snow lay on the ground, and the wind blew fiercer than ever. A very brief pause for photos, then back down the mountain, still cold and wet – but buoyed by a sense of achievement and the prospect of warm dry clothes back at the minibus.

Six and a quarter hours after setting out, Kim and her friends arrived back at the foot of the mountain at around 9.45pm, with midge bites in profusion as a less-than-welcome souvenir from Ben Nevis. En route to the Lake District and Scafell Pike, they stopped at a service station for a much-needed comfort break and a failed attempt at drying some of their clothes on the hand dryers.

By the time they started up Scafell Pike at 5am, the weather was starting to ease off, still raining – but nothing compared to the conditions on Ben Nevis. The ascent to its summit, almost 1km above sea level, went much more smoothly, taking just four hours. By 9am, after another change into fresh dry clothing, the increasingly confident team were on their way to Snowdon, or Yr Wyddfa, as it is known in Wales.

As they began their final ascent at 2.30pm, Kim and her fellow climbers were at last rewarded with some fine weather. From the mountain’s 1085m peak, they enjoyed what is reputed to be the finest view from any mountain on the island of Great Britain, stretching over more than 20 counties and taking in England, Scotland, Ireland, the Isle of Man, and, more obviously, Wales. Sped on by the need to catch the last train back to London, they completed their final ascent and descent inside four hours.

Tired but happy, they were dropped off at Chester Station at around 8.30pm, where they caught a train to Crewe to connect with a direct train to London. The inevitable weekend staffing issues meant a second unplanned change at Rugby, before finally arriving back at London’s Euston Station around 12.30am. Back home, Kim enjoyed a hot shower and, having been deprived of hot food for 36 hours, a rapidly devoured 2am delivery pizza, before sinking quickly into a few hours’ deep and well-deserved sleep.

The low point, Kim says, was the arduous ascent of Ben Nevis with the weather seemingly against them, and a nagging sense of maybe having bitten off more than they could chew. The high was reaching the summit of Snowdon and the overwhelming sense of shared achievement, heightened by fair weather and spectacular views.

The main lesson to take away, Kim says, was the importance of preparation, both in terms of fitness and mental resilience and practical matters like having the right equipment and packing three full changes of clothing. That and having the right people around you. ‘We all had our down moments at various points throughout the challenge,’ she says, ‘but we were able to lift each other up, motivate one another, and stay strong as a team.’

Was it worth it? Absolutely, Kim affirms: ‘I would really recommend it to anyone. It was a fantastic experience to share, and we all came away with a huge sense of achievement despite some truly challenging conditions along the way.’

All of us at DOCOsoft would like to join in saying ‘Congratulations, Kim! We look forward to hearing about more of your adventures in future – and those of other DOCOsoft people inspired by your example to take up extracurricular challenges!’