Paul Pargeter is Head of Best Practice at Dimensions, an organsation which supports people with learning disabilities and those experiencing autism.
Ok, so it’s an obvious and sentimental thing to say but you’re going to get it dished up on a plate right from the off: when a group of fourteen people climbed three mountains in one day they all discovered that together we really are better. Now, I know that it doesn’t always turn out that way, and that infighting and feuds have burdened many an adventure, but I’m pleased that I have experienced that moment. Seen it. Heard it. Felt it.
We’ll return to sentiment later on. After much packing and re-packing, checking for paperwork, picking up cars, waiting around and last minute visits to the loo – the usual stuff that only adds to the nerves when you are anticipating a big event – we found ourselves in Scotland looking at the glorious Ben Nevis coated in evening sunshine. The plan was that once we had been up and down Britain’s highest peak we were to travel on to the Lake District where we’d summit Scafell Pike then onto our final mountain in Wales, Mount Snowdon.
I’ll be honest; in physical terms I knew I’d just about get to the end (‘just about’ means crawling to the top of Snowdon like a wounded soldier, intermittently crying out for my Mother) but I didn’t know how we’d all get on and what that would mean for our individual and collective experience.
We set off in the dawn light at 4am, our fresh and able limbs simply bounding along. Anyone with any experience of doing something over a long period knows deep down that patience and pace are important considerations, but it is just so tempting to grab the moment, go that one step quicker and take off with the irresistible fuel-mix of adrenalin and excitement. But soon, after about an hour or two, the pace steadied and so did the group, it began to take shape, to form, and with the right collective tone everyone found their place.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not referring to a pecking order but rather a space for people to exercise their own strengths; try out their own expertise. It began to work, and safety and reassurance came via an unbroken collective voice that we all wanted the same thing: to do it and to do it together. In fact, even though we knew that the very clear purpose was to climb three peaks one after the other, the idea of ‘togetherness’ was not lost on anyone. Doing this as a team; each one of us spending time listening, supporting, doing, and receiving made us effective and was a goal reached in itself.
Top tips for others attempting this challenge come quite easily; you can go online and find out in a jiffy: wear sturdy footwear, breathable layers of clothing, rain coat, keep a steady pace, pack a first aid kit, take care to plan routes, and so on. There are some others though, although these do require more thought and effort – the rewards, though, are considerable. These are my favourites:
- Never (never!) hold back from laughing and good humour – this a fuel more powerful than any current energy gel on the market
- Spend time with others as well as yourself
- Take the opportunity to acknowledge some perspective
- Help and be prepared to be helped
- Get ready for the whole range of emotions (from you and others)
- When the time is right (i.e. not on the foothills of Ben Nevis) push and exhaust yourself. This can be exhilarating and, I accept, painful.
- Everyone is included. The drivers (especially the drivers), the climbers…all.
- Hug, pat and embrace everyone (though steer clear of mountain goats)
- Of course…lead by example
Oh and…we did it – all 26 miles and 9,800ft ascent of it.