Somehow I made it down to breakfast the next morning, although my thighs were on fire and from the waist down I felt like a combination of John Wayne and Arnold Schwarzenegger. And then the journey home in the minibus went by in a blur. I braved the strange looks again on the tube as I crossed London. And the day after, it was back to work, and the business of collecting the money and wheedling match-funding out of the company began. As did a round of promotional work to publicise what we’d done within the company. We played down the fact that strictly we hadn’t achieved the challenge within 24 hours. I also had to brave my colleagues laughter with my new haircut, and a new nickname of Dr Evil stuck for some time.
Gradually, the physical horror of the challenge faded into memory and as I assembled the photos from everyone, more permanent memories began to form. Ok, that descent from Scafell Pike was horrible and painfully slow. My feet were killing me and my knees were being slowly jarred with each step downwards. And I was angry that as a team we’d let Rik continue after Ben Nevis. I also didn’t like the rest of the team merrily skipping down the mountain while I effectively killed my chances of completing the challenge by slogging it down with Rik. But I didn’t hold the grudge, although I’m going to be very careful about walking with people who are much fitter and faster, or for that matter much less fitter and much slower than me.
But despite all of that, the slow descent to Seathwaite Farm gave me time to take in more of the scenery than I would have done if I’d been going at the pace of everyone else. And still in my head was the image of the low wisps of cloud in Borrowdale, above which you could just see Skiddaw. As well as the 360 degree panorama from the top of Scafell Pike itself. These views meant something and surely they were worth a bit of hard physical toil. I just needed to avoid making it unnecessarily painful.
I vowed there and then that I’d never do another charity challenge like this, but with the same breath I vowed that I would return to the mountains. From now on quality of walking came first, and philanthropy second. And anyway, I now had all this new kit, so I needed to get my money’s worth in use out of it.