IT staff around the world head for the hills

The organisers of the Vanco Three Peaks Challenge have always been keen to promote the event's ability to bring IT staff...

The organisers of the Vanco Three Peaks Challenge have always been keen to promote the event's ability to bring IT staff together, but software company Acucorp has really taken this to heart, writes Nathalie Towner.

"We have got three people flying in from the US, one from France and one from Sweden," says team organiser Anu Laitila.

Acucorp's UK office only has 12 staff, some of whom were unable to make the climb, so support from the overseas divisions has been essential for getting a team together to compete in the annual event.

The international team will now join groups of IT professionals from throughout the UK to climb the three highest mountains in Britain - Ben Nevis, Mount Snowdon and Scafell Pike - in 24 hours to raise money for charity.

"We have actually got six different cultures represented as I am Finnish and one of my colleagues taking part is Indian," says Laitila. The one English participant will be in the support team, which means he will be driving the team between the mountains and looking after the climbers. "He is very English, he even does morris dancing," says Laitila.

But Morris-dancing back-up alone was never going to be enough to help them scale the peaks, so an intensive team exercise regime has been put in place to get the ITers ready for the ascent. Fortunately, because Acucorp entered a team the previous year, it already had an exercise plan set up.

With the team members scattered around the globe, implementing it has not been straightforward, but being in a different country is no excuse for not training.
"People call in and say how much exercise they have been doing and we track their progress on the company intranet," says Laitila.

"This year we have a very fit team because last year's event prompted four of us to join the same gym and we have been going a minimum of three times a week ever since."

The three US team members are also very motivated and have been climbing the mountains near San Diego, although Laitila points out that this will not have prepared them for the erratic UK weather conditions.

The other challenge the hikers face is to raise at least £5,000 per team for charity Children's Aid Direct.

Acucorp's US team members got the fund off to a good start by raising $400 (£275) from a cake sale. UK staff plan to swell the coffers by offering their customers, partners and suppliers exclusive advertising space on their Web site.

Another company that has risen to the Vanco Challenge is software specialist Coins, which is entering two teams. The firm is planning to send a corporate mail-out to clients to help its climbers reach their £5,000 target. But the teams' main priority so far has been getting into shape.

"I have lost a stone and a half since February," says Steve Allen one of Coins' team leaders. "We have been going down the gym two or three times a week."

Allen has been working out on the cardiovascular machines and putting the running machine on an incline to build up his leg muscles.

Of course, as a way of preparing for the challenge, nothing beats actually climbing mountains, so on 27 June the Coin teams will be climbing Snowdon.

Climbers from software developer NPA Solutions are already busy fundraising and are determined to get the money together. "We are a small company, so we are going round all our clients and we have also applied to Lichfield Council for a collecting tin," says NPA director Neil Armstrong.

Even the local pub is in on the act and has a small display area dedicated to the event with sponsorship forms and general information on Children's Aid Direct.
Everyone at the company is new to the challenge so they have been working out together to get into shape - and their training programme is certainly innovative. "On Mondays we have a team badminton evening," says Armstrong. "And of course we have all been going down the local pub regularly as well."

Find out more about the Vanco Challenge
This year's Vanco Challenge will be held over the weekend of 20-21 July. Entry is free but teams have to raise a minimum of £5,000 for the charity Children's Aid Direct. Each team needs to comprise seven hikers and at least two drivers/support people, who will transport the teams between the mountains and make sure the hikers all get fed and watered. For more information go to or call 0118-953 3238.

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