Field Notes From
Three Peaks Challenge

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From Author

T. R. Reid

Three Peaks Challenge On Assignment

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From Photographer

Joel Sartore

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs from T. R.
Reid (top) and Joel Sartore


Three Peaks Challenge

Field Notes From Author
T. R. Reid
Best Worst Quirkiest
    The day before the climb I was really worried that I wasn't going to finish and that I'd hold up the team. I also had this notion that if I didn't finish, I was going to let down all Americans and disgrace my home state, Colorado.
    Later that night my teammates and I went to a pub. I walked up to the bar with Kelvin, one of my buddies, who said to the bartender, "Give me a pint of courage." Meanwhile, I was thinking, This is great. A pint—or more like a gallon—of courage is exactly what I need. It turned out that Courage Ale is a very popular brand in Scotland, and every bar has it. With the way I'd been feeling, it definitely got my spirits up for the long trek ahead. 

    I live in Colorado and I think there's something in the water that makes us think we have to climb the highest peaks wherever we go. When I lived in Japan, my family and I climbed Mount Fuji. And when National Geographic sent me on assignment to Borneo, I climbed Mount Kinabalu. So by the time I got to Britain, I said, Doggone it! I'm going to climb the highest mountain in Britain.
    I started looking around and found this piddling little 4,408-foot (1,344-meter) mountain called Ben Nevis. That's nothing, I thought. My house in Colorado is higher than the top of that.  I sneered and laughed, but I was in for a surprise. I've climbed 14,000-foot (4,300-meter) mountains in Colorado, so I thought 4,408 feet would be easy. What I didn't think about was that unlike Colorado, in Britain you start hiking right at sea level, which makes for a much tougher, humbling climb.

    In addition to climbing mountains, Tom Perkins, the one-armed man in my story, is a serious long-distance cyclist. Well, I bike a lot too, so he invited me to ride from the northern tip of Scotland to the bottom of England, some 600 miles (1,000 kilometers). He wanted to do it in five days, but I had to pass because I didn't think I could do it. Sure enough, he and two other firefighters from the team did it. Now, those are some tough guys.

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