isabel three peaks

My name is Isabel and I was diagnosed with autism at the young age of five. This will be my second year trekking with Team Autism in the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge. I am very excited about participating in this event, knowing I am doing it for a good cause.

Trekking the Yorkshire 3 Peaks Challenge with the National Autistic Society was really fun last year. I met lots of nice people from all over the UK, including the events staff, who were very helpful.

Preparing for the challenge

I started preparing with training and fundraising four months before the event. My training included taking a trip to the Peak District every week or two for a practice hike.

As I live in Sheffield, the Peak District is a good location for me. I started with walks of around 10 miles then started to challenge myself, with 15-20 mile walks as the event drew closer. The longest training hike I did was 27 miles from Edale to Marsden, with a scenic route through Kinder Scout, Bleaklow and Black Hill.

I raised money through a JustGiving page which I advertised through work, social activities and autism groups around Sheffield. I also organised a fundraising day at work to help raise money and awareness of the cause.

On the day

The Yorkshire Dales is a lovely place with amazing scenery. There are views of the Lake District from the summit of Whernside (Yorkshire's highest point). With over 70 trekkers taking part last year, the event staff placed us in seven groups. Each group went at a pace that suited them.

We started off by having a meal together. Everyone was really friendly on route which made the whole day really fun. In each group, there was an events staff member and qualified mountain guide. The weather was 18 degrees with no heatwave or rain which made it perfect for hiking. I completed the 24.5 mile challenge in 10 hours and 25 minutes which started and finished in Horton-in Ribblesdale.

Why I’m trekking with Team Autism

Autism is a hidden disability and it is greatly misunderstood. I feel more awareness would make a difference. I was diagnosed with Asperger's aged five years old.
From my own experience, I know how difficult it is to live in a world feeling isolated and not understood. My teenage years were the most difficult. I was bullied a lot at school. I didn't find it easy to socialise or fit in and found the academic side of school very difficult. During school I always saw myself as university material. However, getting the support and encouragement to go wasn't an easy journey. I was often told I would not cope with the workload and living away from home.

Over time and despite everything, I have proven people wrong and I went to university where I achieved a 2:1 degree. I am now in a full-time job where I am also a union rep. As well as living on my own, I volunteer at music festivals and have travelled to Australia and Asia alone.

I am proud of what I achieved as only 16% of autistic adults in the UK are in full-time paid employment, and sadly only 32% are in some form of paid work. This figure has not changed in over a decade. I believe raising money for the National Autistic Society helps make a difference. I feel I would have never achieved full-time employment myself without the help and support I received over the years.

Taking part in this event and raising over £1000 has made me feel proud. It is my way of giving back and helping transform the lives of others on the spectrum.

My advice for 2020 trekkers

Be prepared for all weather conditions. Pack sun cream, waterproofs, warm jumpers and shorts. Even if it’s 20 degrees, it can still be cold at the top of the mountain. I would also recommend wearing a strong pair of waterproof walking boots, and if your boots are new, practise walking in them before the hike.

As this trek is a marathon distance of 24.5 miles with three hills accomplishing an ascent of 1,532m, a good level of fitness is recommended for this hike. I would advise practising some long walks and some 20 mile hikes. If you live or travel to any areas with hills, make use of them for practice as this route is very hilly.

On this trek you’ll take on the peaks of Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough. Route planning is optional but not really required as events staff and qualified mountain guides are on route to show you where to go. There is food and water provided between the peaks which are known as filling points.

Are you up for an uphill (and downhill) challenge?

Join us this May as we scale hill and dale, and help transform the lives of autistic people.

Sign up