Spencer Group's Magnificent Eight Climb the Highest Peaks for Charity

Eight employees of Spencer Group successfully completed the Three Peaks Challenge by Rail on the 20th June – raising a fantastic amount of £10,503,28. The challenge, which is to raise funds for Railway Children, involves climbing the three highest mountains in the UK – Wales: Snowden, England: Scafell Pike, Ben Nevis: Scotland.

This gruelling 3-day challenge is organised by the Railway Children, a charity that provides protection and opportunities for homeless children that have nowhere else to go and nobody to turn to.

Spencer entered two teams, named by the challenge organisers, Daffy Duck (DD) and Charlie Brown (CB). In team Daffy Duck were: David Mcloughlin, non-executive Director; Wayne Gammon, Construction Manager; Dan Sach, Construction Apprentice and Liz Cooper, a former Spencer Planner. Charlie Brown consisted of: Rich Caley, Design Engineer; Mark Padley, Design Engineer; John Kendall, Project Manager and Jamie Hartley, Construction Apprentice.

Spencer Group's Three Peaks by Rail TeamSpencer Group’s team, from left to right: John Kendall, Mark Padley, Dan Sach, Jamie Hartley, Liz Cooper, David Mcloughlin, Wayne Gammon, Richard Caley.


Mount Snowdon

On Thursday 18th June 2015, Spencer’s teams were picked up at 19:15, by train, from Crewe to Bangor station and then boarded a coach to arrive at Pen-y-Pass car park, ready to climb Mount Snowdon, at around 22:00.

Mount Snowdon has a total ascent of 725m. The 6km path up Snowdon is apparently not that difficult during the day, however, Spencer’s team had to walk this at night, meaning head torches were a necessity for them to reach the summit safely.

Morale was high at this point as both teams were eager to get their challenge underway, as Dan Sach, Spencer Construction Apprentice explains: “After 3 hours of travelling, we all just wanted to get going and start the trek up Snowdon. About an hour into the walk, daylight was sparse so we had to turn on our torches but this only added to the excitement for me, although it did mean we had to be extra cautious to not put a foot wrong.”


Scafell Pike

Team Spencer were at the finish line, back at the base of Snowdon, at 03:47. Tired and ready for a well-earned sleep, the team took to the aisles, luggage compartments and seating areas, spreading out as much as possible to try get some sleep while the other teams finished.

The teams were woken from their very limited and uncomfortable sleep at 08:00 and were aptly served a full English breakfast before departing the train at Ravenglass Station. Their next challenge was climbing England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike.

Scafell Pike is the smallest of the three mountains but with a 6km hike to reach the base of the mountain and a trail full of cliffs and rock fragments, it is just as formidable as the others.

Up until this point, all eight members had stuck together but still aching from the night climb in Wales and the initial walk. This was proving to be a tougher proposition for some of the team members and a decision was made to split into two clear parties partway through this challenge. Team DD took the lead with CB not too far behind.

The conditions deteriorated towards the top but neither team were beaten, with Daffy Duck returning to base in a time of 3 hours, 25 minutes and Charlie Brown an hour after.

John Kendall, Spencer Project Manager explains: “We were all exhausted for Scafell Pike and the 6km walk just to get to Brackenclose, at the base of the mountain was enough for some teams to turn back – but not ours.

“The climb up Scafell Pike was very steep and really tested the team. As we ascended, morale descended but in true Spencer fashion, we supported each other, got a few chants going in an attempt to pick spirits up and successfully conquered the peak. WE ARE CHARLIE BROWN, I SAID WE ARE CHARLIE BROWN!”


Ben Nevis

The teams were woken at 03:00 on Saturday morning in Fort William, Scotland and after fuelling up with the necessities – a bacon butty and a hot drink – the team trudged off down the platform towards the coaches that would take them to where the final part of their challenge was to start – Ben Nevis.

The final challenge began at 04:45. Team DD wasted no time and quickly disappeared into the distance, as Charlie Brown paced themselves. Ben Nevis’s route to the summit zigzags the broad west slopes to the exposed summit plateau which consists of a rocky path over steep boulder fields.

With a little help from John Kendall’s Mint Cake and Mark Padley’s Chupa Chups, Charlie Brown reached the summit at 08:45, crossing paths with Daffy Duck as they headed back to the paradise of Fort William Station.

Despite the sun trying its hardest to break through the clouds, visibility was poor and the air was cold at the summit, so once at the top, both teams made a quick turn around and headed back down. What nobody accounted for, however, was that on the way down, another charity challenge was just starting on Ben Nevis that day and descending the mountain was made much more difficult, as they had to battle passed the constant stream of traffic.

DD’s pace meant they only encountered the extra charity challengers at the final third of their descent. Charlie Brown wasn’t so lucky, encountering them at around 1200m up on the 1344m mountain, all the way to the bottom. Charlie Brown successfully returned back to the station at around 12:00, 1 hour and 40minutes after Daffy Duck.

Richard Caley, Spencer Design Engineer, said: “Climbing 1325m up Ben Nevis was a struggle and then battling against the other charity group on the way down didn’t help matters. To top it off, we got back to the station and discovered that team DD has the chance to get showered while they were waiting for the other teams to finish. We, unfortunately, did not have this luxury and had to resort to the next best thing – wet wipes!”

With the challenge complete, both teams could now sit back and relax with a few beverages from the train’s bar and enjoy the scenic surroundings of the Scottish hills and lochs.

The time taken to climb and descend both mountains were:

Team DD – 14:58:18
Team CB – 17:08:31