Climb Every Mountain

Members of the community-rail education team are used to long train rides, and lots of them. However, facing the UK’s tallest mountains at the end of the journeys was a completely new experience for Karen, Dave, Bessie and Emilie – officially known as Team Arlo.

On the 15th of June 2023, Karen Bennett (Education and Youth Engagement Advisor for The Community Rail Network), David Savage (Leader of Avanti’s Feel Good Field Trips), Bessie Matthews (Author of Arlo’s Adventures and Freightliner driver), and Emilie Dawson (Platform’s Learning Development Manager) joined 200 other members of the rail industry to take on the 3 Peaks by Rail challenge, raising money for The Railway Children Charity.

The team gathered at Crewe Station to prepare for their journey, getting signed in and into commemorative T shirts whilst listening to an incredible brass band. In an exciting surprise for all, and to celebrate the retirement of Katie Mason (who has run the event for the last 20 years), a steam train arrived to pull the train on the first part of its journey.

After photographs with the steam train, Team Arlo – named after their favourite rail-safety badger – boarded the train and got settled into their home for the next 2 days.

The first stop was Bangor station, where Team Arlo departed the train and were taken by coach to the bottom of Snowdon, Wales’s highest mountain. The climb started at 10pm; it was head-torches at the ready and off they went. The Pyg track has an ascent of 725 metres and is approximately 6km and so it was well after midnight when the team made it to the top. After a celebratory cereal bar, the team made their way back down, back on to the coach, and were on the train for a 4.30am departure from Bangor.

Some managed to catch a small amount of sleep, but the train was soon pulling into Ravenglass for mountain number 2; Scafell Pike, England’s highest. In a beautiful start to day 2, the teams boarded the Ravenglass and Eskdale steam railway, which took them closer to the mountain and then began the 6km walk, across hills, to get to the starting line at Brackenclose. This made things particularly challenging, especially given that is was past midday and nearly 30 degrees when Team Arlo started their climb. In hot and humid conditions, Karen and Dave managed to summit the 977 metres in time, getting the Arlo mascot to the top.

After a quick drink at the Ratty Arms, the team were back aboard the train for the journey to Scotland, and the biggest challenge of the event. Many attempted, and managed, to get a little bit of sleep on this journey, but – as the teams terminated the train and boarded coaches to the mountain – it was with an awareness that it was now Saturday morning, and nobody had slept properly since Wednesday night; daunting when you have the UK’s biggest mountain in front of you (literally).

The climb up Ben Nevis began at sea level, with 7.5km between start and summit, and 1325 metres of climbing.  There was little time for Team Arlo to stop and admire the views as they moved to reach the summit within the time window. As it was, with some time to spare, all four members made it to the top of Ben Nevis before midday. The team had been warned that it could be rainy, cold, and foggy at the top, but they were spoilt with sunshine, blue skies, and spectacular, clear views.

It was then a race against the clock to get back down the mountain and on to the train home in time. It was worth the rush; on the train home there was celebratory drinks, beautiful food, music, karaoke, a chance to chat, and a celebratory conga line down the length of the train.

Despite the physical and mental challenges faced over the two days, there was a unanimous agreement, from Team Arlo, that it was entirely worth it. The team raised over £4,000 and the event itself raised over £250,000.

Karen Bennett said, “It was a pleasure to form the first community-rail team with Dave, Emilie, and Bessie. We’ve grown a great friendship through planning and preparation and have gone through the challenging 3-day feat together, something that we will always share.”

Emilie Dawson said, “It was one of the hardest things I have ever done but I am so glad we did it. I was completely overwhelmed by people’s generosity in donating and time given to help me train, and I met some fabulous people whilst doing it. I am so grateful to Karen, Dave and Bessie for being such kind, supportive team-members – I would never have made it up without them!”

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