Academics hoping to reach the peak of achievement

Published on 01 July 2010
Source: Arthritis Today

Two challange participants

An 11-strong team of surgeons, rheumatologists, scientists and students, all of whom have a special interest in arthritis and are involved with Arthritis Research UK, are attempting the Three Peaks Challenge.

The idea of scaling Britain’s three highest mountain peaks in just 24 hours was the idea of Arthritis Research UK clinical research fellow in Oxford Dr Catherine Swales. Dr Swales then managed to recruit two leading researchers – Professor of Experimental Rheumatology at Queen Mary University Costantino Pitzalis, and Head of the University Department of Orthopaedics and Rheumatology at Oxford University Professor Andy Carr – who also happens to be an Arthritis Research UK trustee – and other academics in their respective departments.

Dr Swales explains: “I really wanted to do some fundraising for Arthritis Research UK this summer, but couldn’t decide what to do. I am involved in the research group PEAC – the Pathobiology of Early Arthritis Cohort– and my colleague Michele Bombardieri had joked about PEAC/peak some time ago….then one rainy day in the lab I thought back to PEAC/peak, three peaks! And that’s where this completely insane idea came from.

“Arthritis Research UK is involved in every level of patient care – whether through funding scientific research, clinical trials or offering patient education and support, so this is a chance for all of us to say ‘thank you’ and to give something back.”

While Dr Swales, the mother of two young children aged five and three, is pounding the streets of Oxford for up to 40k a week in preparation, eminent shoulder surgeon Professor Carr, who has successfully completed the Three Peaks Challenge before, is taking a slightly different approach.

“The first time I did the challenge was six years ago when I scraped in under the 24 hour deadline with 15 minutes to spare. I vowed never to do it again but have been persuaded to join in and support the cause of Arthritis Research UK,” he says. “I’m now in my sixth decade and suspect I have been invited to boost recruitment with the line: ‘look, if he can make it anyone can!’ ”

Professor Carr tries to keep fit by cycling to work every day and rowing on the Thames but sometimes stops for a rest “if the wind is too strong and stream too fast.”

The team plans to start the ascent of Ben Nevis early in the evening, finishing about five hours later, have a quick bite to eat –“probably a Pot Noodle” says Dr Swales – and head down to the Lake District in their minibus to start climbing Scafell Pike by 3am. Four hours later it will be time for another Pot Noodle before heading off to North Wales and up the tourist track to the summit of Snowdon, getting back down by 5pm for a welcome shower, hearty dinner – and blessed sleep. “It will be arduous – although none of the walks are technically difficult the combination of walking and sleeplessness will make it tough,” agrees Dr Swales. “However, Andy Carr is phenomenally fit – whatever he says to the contrary – and will set us a good pace.”

The team doesn’t have a target amount but hopes it will run into thousands of pounds.

Jacqui Manning, head of fundraising at Arthritis Research UK said:

"It’s wonderful that our researchers want to support the charity in this way and give something back. We really appreciate their efforts, and wish them all the best of luck.”



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