Ben Nevis & Snowdon in 48 hours self-drive

In 2013, a friend of mine, Barry, who had founded The Suffering Race asked for me to join a 3 peaks expedition. There was just one snag; I would have to drive myself between the peaks.

Obviously, I agreed.

Barry was a glutton for dishing out and receiving pain. The Suffering was considered one of the toughest races in the United Kingdom. He had purposefully made the distance 30% longer than published, added more obstacles, imposed more punishment and generally made life miserable for entrants.

They all loved it. At the end of the race you had run through the local rugby team who were waiting.

Barry and his business partner also had a side hustle organising small tours and events around the United Kingdom. Trips to the Peak District and that sort of thing. I was at a loss one weekend and Barry asked if I wanted to do the 3 Peaks. No charge, just come along as a Team Medic and bit of support he said.

Sure I said, I’ll go.

There was just one problem, the bus was leaving on Friday morning to go to Scafell Pike in the Lake District and I had a business meeting I could not get out of. If you don’t know the 3 peaks then you normally take a bus to the highest peak in England, Scafell Pike (978m), climb it, get back on the bus where you nap/eat and it takes you to Ben Nevis (1345m), the highest peak in Scotland. You climb that, and return to the bus where you eat and sleep and the coach driver takes you overnight to Wales where you wake, breakfast and climb Snowdon (1085m). You return to the bus and are driven home. The hardest part of the trip is telling your legs to keep walking up and preventing cramp.

Bus leaves on Friday Barry repeated.

No worries, I said confidently. I will just drive to Ben Nevis, climb it with you, then drive to Snowdon and climb that with you as well and drive home.

In 2 days? Barry asked.

In 2 days I nodded.

That is 1000 miles of driving. Nearly no sleep. It is 9 hours to Nevis, then you need to summit it, get back in your car, drive another 8 hours to Snowdon, summit that, then drive the 4 hours home.


Famous last words.


  • Friday 1500: Leave Corby in 1998 BMW 5 Series (Silver) with questionable reliability
  • Friday 2245: Arrive in Fort William, Scotland
  • Sleep
  • Saturday: Ascend Ben Nevis via the Mountain Track
  • Saturday 1800: Leave Fort William and drive to Llanberis, Snowdonia
  • Saturday 0100: Stop at Preston, sleep in the car for a few hours
  • Sunday 0500: Arrive Llanberis
  • Ascend Snowdon via the Llanberis Path
  • Drive back to Corby for Sunday night

Total Miles


The Story

It was closing time on Friday night when I stumbled into the hotel in Fort William. The restaurant was just finishing for the night, nothing more would be served. The crowd of 22 hikers let up a cheer when I walked in.

You made it!

Barry handed me a plate of still-warm food. Well done. You must be shattered.

Not as shattered as you. How was Scafell?

He confirmed that there were no injuries but some of the party had mixed abilities, from the very fit to the unfit. His business partner was consistently stringing the group out and leading the fitter members at a higher pace. I chewed my food and mulled it over.

Tomorrow is another day. Ben Nevis.

It was nearly 11pm, I had driven from Corby, Northamptonshire, over a mist-covered Rannock Moor and through the majestic Glen Coe to get here but for the most part it was scenes like this for 9 hours.

That morning we set off at a manageable pace, me with my trusty laptop bag, some water and a first aid kit and a Go Pro Hero 3.

The Mountain Track to the top of Ben Nevis was formerly named the Tourist Track but it led to a negative image so it was renamed the Mountain Track to give new hikers a sense of the challenge, prior to either of these you might still hear locals call it the pony track.

The track climbs steeply via several small zig-zags to the saddle by Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe (known as the halfway lochan) at 570m, then ascends the remaining 700 metres up the stony west flank of Ben Nevis in a series of larger, but less steep, zig-zags that criss-cross the face of the mountain’s western side.

On the way I definitely felt some cramping in the quads and had to rest as the group pushed on but 30 minutes later I had caught them up and we approached the summit in near whiteout snow conditions.

I didn’t have long to dally at the summit though as the group were descending and would be getting onto a warm coach heading for Snowdon, which they would likely sleep most of the way.

I had to get back down to the car park and start the long drive of 412 miles to Snowdon.

I set off with the little remaining sunlight we had and reach Preston at approximately 1am whereby I had to pull over to sleep for a couple of hours. Waking up to the inky darkness of night I set off for North Wales and drove around aimlessly looking for the group’s hotel.

Eventually I managed to find it and rolled in just in time to grab a quick breakfast before we set off up Snowdon via the Llanberis Path to make it as accessible as possible for everyone.

At this point the grey, grizzled, overcast skies blowing in from the Western Atlantic decided to descend upon us with their full fury.

We made the summit in reasonable time but with a much ragged and widely dispersed group and began to descend as part of a smaller cadre of hikers and had reached the mid-way point of the ascent.

At this point, the leader, having had enough exposure, had quickly high-tailed it off the mountain in a stunning abdication of his duty hours before everyone else. The second in command, Barry Tavernier looked at me in shock realizing his business partner was now gone. His radio crackled to life. It was a young woman who was on the hike with her aging father. He had fallen and badly twisted his ankle and needed support.

Where was he we asked?

Near the summit.

With the weather deteriorating by the minute we hiked as quickly as we could back to the near-summit and took him by the arms. He could walk, just at a much reduced pace.

Over 4 hours later, longer than the ascent had taken us to be honest we finally rolled off the mountain and into the hotel for dinner. Barry and I let the ‘tour leader’ know what we thought of him and to his credit, I believe, Barry never worked with him again.

After grabbing a very quick dinner I hopped in my aging BMW and headed back to Corby.

From Friday afternoon to Sunday evening I had

  • Driven 1000 miles
  • Hiked 23 miles
  • Ascended and descended approximately 14,000 feet in total
  • Slept for 7 hours…maybe
  • Helped one grateful older man off the mountain

It was brilliant.