Updated: Jul 30, 2020
Over the past few weeks we’ve been able to venture further than we’ve been allowed to in months and it feels great.
It’s hard to know what the next chapter of the pandemic will bring but it's clear that people, me included, are increasingly craving nature and the outdoors so we were delighted to get our first physical event of the year up and running.
With our big, bold ambitions for 2020 thwarted early in the year we were forced back to the drawing board for some head scratching. Travel restrictions mean that we’ll need to keep our adventures close to home, at least in the short-term.
Thankfully, the UK is rich in wilderness and beautiful landscapes and is home to hundreds of hills and rivers and has a coastline stretching over 20,000 miles. You don’t have to travel too far to find a little spot of beauty away from suburbia and urban high-rises.
So after some good old fashioned map scribbling and adventure planning our first physical event was born - The Surrey Three Peaks (at night). I know what you’re thinking but yes there are peaks in Surrey. Granted they're not in the same league as the Yorkshire Dales, the Lake District, the Brecon Beacons or the Scottish Highlands, but these stunning hills are less than an hour from London making for a great doorstep adventure.
And when you throw overnight into the mix you create a truly unique and challenging trip. The darkness creates a whole new perspective on the world you’re moving through. We really wanted to create a trip that was a physical challenge but also one that was unique and memorable with great food, camaraderie and a stunning route.
And last Friday (24 July) it happened!
Eight people closed their laptops and swapped a Friday night of Netflix, takeaways and a cold beer for an overnight hike with the WildBase team.
Everyone was pumped and excited for the 10 hours ahead. After the obligatory photo and safety briefing, we promptly got moving at 8.30pm in search of the first of the three peaks. An undulating start certainly got the heart pumping as we hiked through woodland and beautiful British countryside. The group landed at the top of Leith Hill (294m) in time for sunset and a superb view across the Surrey Hills with the iconic Leith Hill Tower providing a suitable backdrop for a quick breather and kit adjustments (it was much warmer than anticipated).
As the sun dropped, it was time to descend from the second highest point in south-east England and make our way across to Holmbury Hill (261m). As we trekked along the Greensand Ridge the climb began to steepen (who said Surrey doesn’t have hills?) but the group’s energy didn’t wane, probably buoyed on by the novelty of hiking by moonlight in a beautiful part of the country at an eerie time of day. By the time we hit the summit darkness had reached us and we took the opportunity to refuel properly with a midnight feast of veggie curry and rice under the stars (who needs Deliveroo?).
Hydrated, fuelled and eager to crack on, we made our way down from Holmbury Hill and onwards along trails, narrow paths and through woodland navigating the varying terrain with care now that the black night was all around us. After a relatively quick section with everyone in good spirits we reached the next checkpoint before embarking on the longest stretch of the route.
At around 2am, minds and legs were tiring and conversation was slowing. It was dark, drizzle started to fall and the promise of a flattish section was probably a little bumpier than expected. The group worked well together and kept strong making good progress through the small hours of the night.
Box Hill at 224m was the third and final peak to conquer. After a steep and leg sapping climb to Salomons Memorial viewpoint the iconic hill didn’t disappoint. It was time to fire up the stove and get the breakfast butties going as we waited for sunrise.
The sun coming up, a bacon butty and a strong coffee does wonders for morale.
All that remained was to descend from Box Hill and make our way to the finish point. The final stretch was a breeze and the entire group successfully completed the Surrey Three Peaks in just over 10 hours. The total distance was just over 19 miles with ~800m of climb.
Well done to everyone who took part. Now go get some sleep :)
If you’re interested in taking part in the next Surrey Three Peaks you can register interest here.
A big thank you to Tom Pratten for expertly guiding the group and Tom Bennett for helping prepare the trip.
You might also like: our next event is a walk along Britain’s ‘most dangerous path’, The Broomway.