From soldier to ITer to mountain climber

A career in IT offers few of the same challenges as being a soldier, so when army physical training instructor turned techie...

A career in IT offers few of the same challenges as being a soldier, so when army physical training instructor turned techie Charlie Quinn heard about the Vanco Three Peaks Challenge he saw it as a perfect opportunity to test his mettle, writes Nathalie Towner.

When Quinn left his post in the army and became a systems analyst at Telewest he had to adjust to a working day based on the cerebral rather than the corporal. But seeing a chance to use his former skills again, he has got a team together to take part in this year's challenge.

The Vanco Three Peaks Challenge is an annual event where teams of IT professionals attempt to climb the heights of Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Mount Snowden in 24 hours to raise money for charity.

In addition to Quinn, the Telewest team includes the company's corporate systems managing director and a number of support managers. "Everyone on the team is a manager apart from myself," says Quinn. "But I am managing them for this event."

Quinn says he would not describe himself as a mountaineer, but two years ago he succeeded in scaling the three peaks in 24 hours as part of a different challenge. "I was the only one to complete it on my team," he says, "It was more about competing as an individual, and buses were waiting at the bottom of each climb to take you to the next mountain."

In contrast, the Vanco challenge puts the emphasis on succeeding as a team.

"Last time I just had to follow the person in front. This time it will be about using the skills in the team, doing map and compass work and maintaining motivation," says Quinn.

On another one of Quinn's mountaineering exhibitions he had to use ice axes to help him advance, and two of his team had to drop out because of altitude sickness. However, this was when he was climbing the Popo Volcano outside Mexico City as part of the British forces based in Belize and he is unlikely to encounter anything so dramatic on the Vanco challenge.

Not that Quinn is expecting the forthcoming climb to be an easy ride. His army background has made him prepared for all eventualities. "You have to respect the mountains," he says. "It will be July, so hopefully the weather won't be too bad, but you do need to have the right equipment."

Preparation also includes making sure you are physically fit. "I would recommend six months' training," says Quinn. "Ideally, I would like to give it a year - it is like preparing for a marathon."

The Telewest team members come from different areas of the country, so organising team training has proven to be difficult. "Only a couple of us are in the same location, so we are having to prepare individually," explains Quinn.

They have tried to organise weekly runs on Fridays although, so far, it has been hard for everyone to make it because of work commitments. However, the team does intend to get together on a bank holiday before the event to do a day's training by climbing Snowdon.

Quinn is well aware that not all the participants in the Vanco challenge will have the same agenda, many will be more than satisfied just to complete the three peaks, regardless of the time it takes. "How much training you do depends on what you want to get out of it, whether you want to compete or complete. I would like to try and win," he says.

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