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5th March 2010

Quentin, Phil & Kate's Three Peaks Challenge Diary

Disabled Army Hero Phil Packer and the BBC's Kate Silverton Climb Three Peaks for Sport Relief Charity

The Challenge: To climb the Three Peaks (Ben Nevis, Scaffell Pike and Snowdon) in 72 hrs.

The Team: Phil Packer (Extraordinary man)
Kate Singleton (TV Presenter)
Andy Kirkpatrick (Top Climber & Author)
James Wood (Racing Driver)
Alistair Humpherys (Extreme Adventurer and Author)
Martyn Bird (Ultra Marathon Man)
Danfung Dennis (Freelance Journalist)
Peter Small ( BBC TV Camera Man)
Sir Clive Woodward (Snowdon only)
Sir Steve Redgrave (Snowdon only)
Quentin Hylands (Driver)
Mickey Hylands (Driver's right-hand woman)


Concorde Cruiser 890L Motorhome on MAN TGL 8.210 Chassis (Supplied by Southdowns Motor caravans and driven by Quentin Hylands)
Range Rover Sport (Supplied by Land Rover and driven by James Wood)

Wednesday 3 March

8.00 pm - We arrive at Phil Packer's flat, where we are met by Phil's good friend and ultra-marathon competitor Martyn Bird. After a couple of much-appreciated welcome drinks, we spend the night 'wild camping' in the Concorde Cruiser in Westminster. After all, a 5-star pad calls for a 5 star address!


Thursday 4 March

7.30 am - We leave for the BBC as Phil and Kate Silverton are appearing on the breakfast news. Kate does a quick change and joins us for the journey to Scotland. We drive in convoy with the BRIT (British Inspiration Trust) Range Rover driven by race driver and friend of Phil, James Wood, accompanied by freelance journalist Danfung Dennis (Dan).

10.00 pm - After several 'quick' refuelling stops, we reach the Ben Nevis Inn, where we are due to spend the night in the car park. The customers in the bar are very excited to see our little party of celebs arrive, not least two young men who have travelled up from Cornwall to climb the mountain and now find themselves face to face with their hero………no, not Phil…………..or Kate…………but extreme adventurer and author Al Humphreys. The last member of the team, top climber and author Andy Kirkpatrick joins us at the inn, where Martyn books beds for some of the party. Kate, Phil, my wife Mickey and I share the Concorde.

Friday 5 March

5.30 am - Things start to stir and the whole party, now six in number, reluctantly appear from their beds and prepare for the first ascent.

6.50 am - Quiet time at last! The team have now set off to conquer Ben Nevis. Everyone is in good spirits and looking forward to the challenge.

8.30 am - A knock at the door of the Cruiser and a man who introduces himself as Peter Small (camera man for BBC) asks if we know the whereabouts of the Phil Packer/Kate Singleton party. They had set off ahead of schedule and had forgotten that they had arranged to meet Peter at 8.00 am. Peter collects his equipment from the car and sets off to catch up with the climbers.
Mickey and I set off to Fort William for fuel and supplies, ready for tonight's trip to Scaffell Pike.

8.00 pm - Peter Small returns soaking wet and keeping tight lipped about the team's progress- the rest of the party are about 1 ½ hrs behind him.

10.00 pm - We see the lights of our party appear across the snow covered fields. When they get to the Concorde dripping wet and very cold, we can see the disappointment on their faces. On the way up the weather had taken its toll. The softening snow allowed the climbers to break through into concealed streams, making them even wetter than they were from the constant rain. About 100 metres from the summit Andy called off the climb as the conditions had become too dangerous, Phil of course wanted to press on but when such a respected and experienced mountaineer as Andy says it is too dangerous it would be foolish not to turn back. Back at the Concorde Phil is understandably gutted at not completing the ascent but what he has achieved was nothing short of remarkable when you consider he was on the mountain for 15 hours in grim conditions and returned to camp unaided and safe - something a lot of fully fit people could not manage.

Mickey makes copious quantities of tea and coffee and passes around the doughnuts we bought earlier in the day, while the team shed wet clothes and try to warm up. We are fascinated to watch Peter editing the video he had shot during the day and preparing a news clip that he uploads to the BBC direct from the dining table in the motorhome. It is difficult to believe that the first time I was involved with a TV crew in 1967 they came along in a big green van the size of the Cruiser to do what Peter is now doing on a laptop!

11.30 pm - Fed watered and - sort of - dried out we set off for the overnight drive to Wasdale in the Lake District. We cover the first 240 miles without incident and were on course to arrive at Wasdale early, but then I make a right turn into a narrow road crossing the river Derwent only to find that the road is closed and some helpful person has thrown the 'Road Closed' sign into a ditch! After backing out of trouble and taking a detour through the narrow streets of a tiny village we are finally back en route. Am I glad that it is 5.00 am not 5.00 pm!


Saturday 6 March

7.00 am - After stopping on the roadside for Kate to do a live interview, we pull into the Wasdale Head Car Park. No one could say this crew aren't committed: putting the difficulties of the previous day behind them, they are getting dressed for the next climb before I can bring the Cruiser to a standstill.

3.00 pm - The team are on their way up Scaffell Pike and after a few hours sleep I am woken by a knock at the door. It is James, who has been despatched to collect a computer and take it to the local pub to send out some pictures to the newspapers via the pub wi-fi as we can't get a signal. I can't get back to sleep so Mickey and I enjoy lunch while looking out across Wastwater one way and up to the snowfield on Scaffell Pike the other and wondering how the others are progressing.

There has been a big change in the weather since we moved to Wasdale for the ascent of Scaffell Pike. It is bright, with some high cloud and it is dry! The climbers have been joined by Chris from Burghaus and the party, now seven strong again (Andy has not been able to stay for the whole challenge), set out determined to complete the climb.

Just as the sun starts to set I am amazed by the transformation that quickly comes over the mountains, as the trees turn a deep copper colour. Despite feeling tired I have to capture the scene on camera..

7.00 pm - Kate and Chris return to the motorhome alone. They took an easier but longer route down and get back earlier than the other five from the team's successful conquest of Scaffell Pike.

9.00pm - The four remaining climbers still haven't returned so Chris and I decide to go out to look for them. We soon spot their head torches coming down alongside a stream. I go back to the car park to get the Land Rover to give Phil a lift back the last few hundred metres but he's having none of it! In true Phil Packer style he wants to complete every last inch of the course even though it has taken him more than 13 hours.

Over tea and biscuits, photographs of the day's events are trawled through. Then it's time for dinner, a quick shower and back on the road. The route out of Cumbria takes us more than 20 miles across the moorland in the dead of night, dodging the sleeping sheep that have gathered around gates and verges. Now for the final challenge - Mount Snowdon.


Sunday 7 March

05.30 am - We arrive at Penn Y Pass car park on the slopes of Snowdon. As I park the Concorde, there isn't the usual rush to get ready. In fact there is no sound from the back at all. I sit and ponder my new surroundings for a while and promptly fall asleep myself.

06.30 am - Martyn knocks on the partition door and asks if I know where there is a telephone landline as Kate has to arrange her broadcast on Radio5Live and there is no signal on the mobiles! Having looked around the immediate area and not finding a telephone I drive the Concorde down to a small hotel that I had seen on the way up the mountain. The hotel is floodlit and I am sure it will be open but in spite of all the cars parked outside and a board advertising 'cream teas', when Al jumps out to look for a telephone, he finds the hotel locked up. By the appearance of the locks, it has been that wayfor a long time.

07.00 am - Plan 'B'! I turn the Cruiser around and set off for Llanberis where Kate knows she will find some of her colleagues. This is a really fun eight mile drive, as the road is totally deserted and we can use the use the whole carriageway on the winding little road without having to hug the rocky walls. On such a beautiful sunny morning with a clear view of the mountains laid out though the windscreen this is a drive I will remember. Al rides in the front with me and I can't believe how excited he is, not only at the view from the cab, but - in spite of having climbed Snowdon five times before - it is clear that this is the first time he has been able to see the mountain from the valley.

We arrive in Llanberis just as the famous Pete's Eats café in the High Street is opening and find that the BBC 5Live crew have reserved a part of the café for Kate's live broadcast. Very welcome cups of tea and coffee are served as the BBC people set up their studio. We have time for a hearty breakfast before Kate sits down and introduces her guests to listeners all over the world - from a café table where countless thousands have filled their bellies over the years, before leaving to conquer a mountain or two.

Heads turn in the café as the 'knights' arrive. Sir Clive Woodward and Sir Steve Redgrave are here to join Kate and Phil on the climb up Snowdon and there is a very special treat for Kate as her fiancé Mike arrives. There is another surprise for Phil and Kate when a group of climbers who had met and chatted with Phil and the 'Knights' in Pete's Eats present Kate with a wad of cash that they have collected as a donation to Sport Relief.

It has been decided at the breakfast meeting that because of the enormous strain Phil in particular has put on his body in the past two days - and the fact that the departure time had been put back by the detour to the café - that the team will spend the night on the mountain, rather than risk a descent in the dark. Al, Dan and Martyn have acquired some tents and additional equipment which will enable them to safely sleep out in weather which is predicted to fall as low as minus 12˚C. Seeing the team in a car park preparing their equipment with four famous faces in tow causes a great deal of interest on a sunny Sunday morning in Llanberis as there are so many visitors and walkers about.

12.00 midday - We leave Llanberris and return to Penn Y Pass car park which by this time is packed with walkers, climbers and their cars. We unload and watch the party set off before returning to Llanberris once again, for the afternoon, then back up to Penn Y Pass to meet James who has accompanied the Knights back down and Peter who continued to film at the overnight camp before coming down to get a decent night's sleep in the comfort of the Concorde, rather than the front seat of the Land Rover where he has spent the past two nights.

Monday 8 March

09.30a.m - Another fabulous day today and we are parked where we spent the night in Penn Y Pass Car Park with only James and Peter on board. I bet we had a better sleep than the team who spent the night on the mountain! The team are now on their way up Snowdon and I am sitting in the Concorde alongside LLyn Padam at Llanberis at the foot of the Snowdon peaks. It is a gloriously clear sunny day and the views are amazing.

4.00pm - We are not expecting the climbers to return until around 6.00 p.m. so we are surprised when James turns up and tells us that the others are only 10 minutes away. I thought we might have a bit of a celebration at the motorhome but the climbers have other ideas. Phil is keen to buy dinner at Pete's Eats and Kate wants to submit her report for BBC Breakfast. Pete's Eats did it for me, we were packed and gone in minutes!

Down at the café everyone is on a high with the challenge successfully completed: any doubts about its validity are quickly dispelled by an email from one of the mountain rescue teams which praises the team for taking the advice of Andy Kirkpatrick and turning back 100 meters short of the summit of Ben Nevis. The real bravery was in turning back without risking the lives of climbers and rescuers when conditions turned nasty, rather than blindly pressing on for the sake of foolish pride.

8.00pm - We leave Llanberis for the drive to London, with Peter still filming, first the inside of the Concorde and then switching to the Land Rover to film the Concorde on the move at night. While we are all elated at the weekend's achievements, it is sad to think that we will soon all be going our separate ways. Having started the challenge as individuals who, in most cases, had never met one another, we have very quickly formed a team who feel at ease with one another and are able to deal with the task in hand.

Tuesday 9 March

04.00 am - After dropping Phil off at his apartment in London, we drive to Portsmouth.

2.00 pm - Home at last!

Major Phil Packer's enthusiasm for life and his determination to play the hand that life has dealt him as all aces, is what has inspired me to write this diary - something I have never done before. I hope that some of this enthusiasm will rub off on the young people he is trying to help with his BRIT (British Inspiration Trust) charity.