IT staff on a high

Antony Adshead reports from this year's Vanco Three Peaks Challenge

Antony Adshead reports from this year's Vanco Three Peaks Challenge

The IT teams competing in the 2002 Vanco Three Peaks Challenge achieved some of the best times in the event's history.

Fortunately, this year's entrants had only the mountains to do battle with. For the past two years the event had thrown bad weather in their way as they attempted to ascend the three highest peaks in Britain - Ben Nevis (1,344m), Scafell Pike (977m) and Snowdon (1,085m) - in under 24 hours.

Participants had to ensure they carried enough water as the afternoon sun beat down on the slopes of Snowdon. As a result of good weather on all three peaks many of the teams completed the challenge within 24 hours - a result usually only achieved by the most well-prepared.

The physical challenge consists of ascending the three peaks in about 14 hours (with 10 hours allowed for driving between the mountains), beginning at Ben Nevis and finishing at Snowdon. The total distance walked is 40km horizontally, with 3,000 metres of height gain.

Training for many began months before, with most opting for a mix of general fitness and mountain weekends.

Jeremy Soper, deputy IT director of NHBC, said, "We walked up each peak individually in the three months preceding the event, and team members have each been pursuing their own regimes of gym work, cycling and swimming.

"We put up a page on the company intranet so that the whole firm could follow our training and fundraising efforts - it was good for the company to be able to focus on it."

The 25 teams of IT professionals that completed the challenge raised the grand total of £160,000 for humanitarian organisation Care International.

The fundraising started long before the climb, with each team required to raise a minimum of £5,000. Getting the funds together needed creativity and not a little effort.

Andy Brown, PR manager at Vanco, said, "Besides getting sums from business partners, we did things like a pub crawl where we dressed as 'hiking vikings' and went around town with a bucket tapping up Friday night drinkers - we raised £400. We also had a football-shirt day at work where everyone wore their favourite team's top and donated £5.

"One of our best money raisers, though, was the directors' auction. This is where we get our directors to donate something and we auction it off. Donations included the loan of a Porsche for the weekend, a trip on a yacht and a crate of champagne."

Another challenge was getting the logistics organised. The teams have to travel several hundred miles between the mountains and be fed and watered. That is the job of the drivers/support team.

Linda Walford, driver for the CSB Steeple team, said, "It is not being a good driver that counts, it is what you do to support the team. We were very well-provisioned with vehicles - we had three, and we had space for the guys to sleep in them - and that really made a difference. We gave the team a good hot meal before Ben Nevis and then made sure they had a cooked meal when they came down from each mountain. We gave each of the climbers provision bags with fruit, cake, chocolate and replenished them for every hill."

"They say an army marches on its stomach, so we made sure our team had lots of good food. We even had one of our support team take the train up Snowdon to sort out coffee for the team when they reached the summit."

Not only do the teams get a great sense of achievement from the event and raise money for a good cause, there are real team-building benefits that carry back into the workplace. Colleagues from across departments or different levels of the organisation get to mix in a way that is simply not possible in an everyday working environment.

The team from technology company Acucorp had three team members fly in from its San Diego office. Marketing manager Anu Laitila said, "We did the challenge last year and the US office got really excited about doing it. It really works for us - team-building globally.

"It is a three-day event and you are just never with colleagues for that long normally. You get to talk about all sorts of things and get to know people. That puts a different light on things when you have to deal with people back at work."

The teams and their times
Old Mutual International
: 22hrs 42mins
University of Newcastle: 23hrs 13mins
Acucorp UK: 23hrs 17mins
NHBC: 23hrs 24mins
Cartesian: 23hrs 31mins
CSB Steeple: 23hrs 37mins
CSD: 23hrs 38mins
Umbro 1: 23hrs 40mins
Woolwich 1: 23hrs 43mins
NPA Solutions: 23hrs 43mins
Vanco: 23hrs 45mins
Woolwich 2: 23hrs 51mins
Umbro 2: 23hrs 55mins
Telewest Broadband: 24hrs 52mins
Barclays Bank: 24hrs 59mins
Willis Group: 25hrs 43mins
Pearson Technology: 25hrs 31mins
Amersham: 26hrs 50mins
Selfridges: 27hrs 12mins
Commensus: 27hrs 41mins
CSB 2: 27hrs 52mins
Lloyds TSB: 28hrs 02mins
EDS: 28hrs 05mins
CSB 1: 28hrs 32mins
Woolwich: 28hrs 44mins

Read more on IT jobs and recruitment