ITers reach the heights in Vanco Three Peaks Challenge

The Vanco Three Peaks Challenge sees teams of ITers climb the three highest peaks in Britain in 24 hours.

The Vanco Three Peaks Challenge sees teams of ITers climb the three highest peaks in Britain in 24 hours.

Roisin Woolnough, part of the Computer Weekly team in last year's event, reports on the ups and downs of scaling the heights

Climbing three mountains in 24 hours was never going to be easy. And for some hikers, it was too much. But, most of the IT professionals who did the Vanco Three Peaks Challenge last year managed to grit their teeth, ignore their aching muscles and make it over the finishing line. Some of them are even doing it again this year.

David Vornkahl, IT manager for Europe at Gap, is one of those who took the challenge. "It was an event that we've talked about for the better part of last year and we have signed up for the challenge again this year," he says. "A lot of excitement is being generated in anticipation."

The Vanco Three Peaks Challenge is the IT professionals' outdoor charity event, sponsored by network services provider Vanco. On 19-20 May this year, teams of seven eager hikers will attempt to climb the highest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales. The first is, of course, Scotland's Ben Nevis (4,406 ft), followed by Scafell Pike (3,210ft) in the Lake District and Snowdon (3,560ft) in Wales.

Ascending and descending the three mountains is only part of the challenge - the other part is the getting from one mountain to another and persuading legs to walk again after spending five hours in a minibus. "The second peak was the most difficult - getting to the mountain early in the morning after trying to sleep in a crowded coach and being exhausted from the first mountain," says Vornkahl.

The aim of the event - apart from the physical challenge for participants - is to raise money for Children's Aid Direct, an international charity that provides support for communities suffering from conflict, poverty and disaster. Each team has to raise a minimum of £5,000 in sponsorship. Last year, the 30 teams that entered managed to raise in excess of £160,000 between them.

Duncan Burd, team leader and computer programmer at information company Experian, took part last year. He says raising the money was one of the hardest parts of the whole event. "Sponsorship was hard because we decided to do the challenge late on and didn't have long enough to raise the money," he says.

Burd and his team embarked on a series of fund-raising events, including pitting the brains of team member Abigail Cast - who happens to be the number one Welsh female chess player - against anyone who was willing to take her on. "We had two tournaments," says Burd. "In the first, Abigail played 10 opponents at a time, and in the second she played 14. Each opponent paid £5 to play and the prize was £10 for a win. Only one person drew."

Last year was the first year that Computer Weekly, media sponsor of the Three Peaks Challenge, entered a team. The last team to set off, they reached the top of the first summit, Ben Nevis, just before midnight.

Ross Bentley, management editor at Computer Weekly, says it was an experience he is not likely to forget, "The top of Ben Nevis was covered in snow - it was fantastic. However, the highlight for me had to be seeing Scafell Pike at sunrise."

For most people, the highlight was actually finishing the event and knowing they had made it. "It was great for office-bound people like us journalists and IT professionals to do the challenge," says Bentley. "At times, we thought we wouldn't make it, but in the end it was a great achievement."

To register for the event or find out more information, go to or call 0118 9533 238

Donations to Children's Aid Direct can be made by calling 08701-203040

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