TWO former soldiers swapped turkey for a tenacious trek by scaling the three highest mountains in the UK on Christmas Day.
Ex-physical training instructors Darren Slater, of Windermere, and Ewan Murdock, of Kendal, smashed their fundraising target of £2,000 by more than double to raise £4,600 for soldiers’ charity Help for Heroes.
Along with 22-year-old Josh Varty from Winster, they completed the Three Peaks Challenge, climbing 1,344 metre-high Ben Nevis, followed by 978 metres of Scafell Pike before finishing a 1,085-metre ascent of Snowdon in 20 hours, starting at 3pm on Christmas Eve.
The trio gave up Christmas Day with their understanding families to face howling winds and freezing temperatures to help their friends and colleagues in the army.
Ben Nevis presented an early test for the brave ex-servicemen.
After re-fuelling with a cup of tea in the back of a Discovery provided by Lakeland Land Rover for the challenge, the men were soon on their way to Scafell Pike, where they faced bad visibility.
But undeterred, the three men continued, even taking time to enjoy Snickers chocolate bars wrapped up as Christmas presents by driver Martin Dodgeson, before completing the final peak of Snowdon at around 9pm.
Mr Slater, who served in Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq, said: “It tested all of us but we were so happy to get down. We were all pretty much on a high.”
The marine engineer spent time away from family festivities as a mark to his friends who are serving in the army away from home at Christmas.
“It was a bit of a shock to the family because they obviously wanted us there for Christmas Day,” said Mr Slater.
“My fiancee’s brother has just got back from Afghanistan so she understands it’s close to our hearts.”
The support the men have received, both from local businesses and people who donated, proved invaluable and there is even talk of more fund-raising activities.
Mr Slater said surpassing their £2,000 target was ‘fantastic’.