GARY APLIN started a trend 13 years ago of going that extra distance to raise money for worthwhile causes.

A bike ride from The Senedd to St Mary’s School in Overton - the beneficiaries of his first cunning plan - kicked things off in 2008.

That was followed up 12 months later by a 50 mile canoe ride along the Llangollen Canal from Nantwich,over the world famous Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and finishing two days later in the Eisteddfod town.

The Leader: IN PEAK CONDITION: Jack Aplin, George Done and Jake Dodwell

All the money raised went to fund projects that pupils in Overton would buy into.

The children loved getting involved too, including Gary’s eldest son Jack.

So when cancer cruelly took Gary away from everyone who loved him in January, thoughts turned towards raising money in memory of the great man, who lived life to the full.

Jack, together with George Done and Jake Dodwell - the son of Andy, a stalwart of both the bike ride and canoe capers, picked the Three Peaks challenge as their charity challenge.

That’s the three highest mountains in mainland Great Britain - Ben Nevis in Scotland, Scafell Pike in England and Wales’ Snowdon.

The target was to complete it in 24 hours which for some of the doubting donators was hard to explain.

It will take you eight hours to drive to Scotland, they scoffed.

Originally the target was £5,000 but now they want it to hit the five-figure mark.

On reaching the top in Snowdon, proud Cardiff University student Jack said: “I don’t think enjoy is the right word but I felt a great sense of achievement after completing the three peak challenge in 24 hours.

“Our time of 23 hours 10 mins was hard work which saw us all have our moments struggling but we kept pushing and got each other through it.

“We became a strong little team as we racked up the miles and scrambled up the hills.

“Raising over seven grand is beyond my wildest dreams for StrongMen charity.

“I know my dad would have been so chuffed to see us do it and be even more happy we’ve raised so much money in his name.”

It took a while to reach our first stop-off point but a foot-tapping playlist and a Bangor-on-Dee races betting bonanza saw us beyond the border where a dive into Loch Lomond helped take the heat off for half an hour.

The clock would only start ticking the minute they walked over the bridge at the bottom of Ben Nevis.

Jack, Jake and George, backed up in the ‘fun bus’ by Andy, Richard Done and Nick Harrison, got through the toughest of tests before the adventure even got underway - six of us in a bunk-bedded hostel room in Kinlochleven.

Confident they’d nail it, the super six weren’t helped a screw that had planted itself in the front passenger tyre.

Fort William Tyre Centre sorted it out for £20. So after not much damage done in the back pocket department, we could push the boat out at the M and S Food Hall.

The pre-match meal obviously worked a treat as videos emerged of the trio reaching the summit of Scotland’s top peak just half an hour into the Lions v Springboks match.

They’d done part one in two and a half hours. Well ahead of schedule. The oldies produced a personal best too in their pacey walk from Fort William town centre to the Ben Nevis visitor centre.

Just one split boot and no blisters. Not a bad return as the bus headed off into some spectacular Scottish sunsets before appearing through through the gloom that was Scafell Pike.

Even the road trip to the mountainside was horrendous. But with hardly any shut-eye, the three intrepid explorers set off in the dark at three o’clock in the morning.

Four and a half hours later - and that included a wrong turn up England’s uninviting highest summit, they emerged ready for the leftover pasta they’d had a few hours earlier.

Onwards and upwards to Snowdon via an A55 that was a kind mistress as the clock tick-tocked closer the 24-hour mark.

The drivers did their bit, reaching the Pen y Pass car park, seven minutes later than the scheduled ETA.

But not even the trickier Pyg route to the highest point in Wales could stop the trio in their tracks.

They did it with 50 minutes to spare, and deservedly sipped prosecco to celebrate an amazing, record-breaking achievement.

The time may not have been enough to rip up the Guinness Book of Records but the money earned from donations was was of the highest ever received for StrongMen charity, who provide support to men suffering emotional and/or physical problems following bereavement.

That cash pot delighted Jake and George, who were already planning their next challenge on the bus home - the quickest time it would take to tackle a Chinese banquet!

“Wow!” said Jake. “What an experience to do the three peaks for charity in the name of the great Gary Aplin was an honour.

“I had the chance to do it with two lads that I would now call my brothers.

“We had our ups and downs from starting Ben Nevis and me getting really bad cramp to finally hitting the top of Snowdon and taking in the moment with the lads.”

The Leader: IN PEAK CONDITION: Jack Aplin, George Done and Jake Dodwell

And George, who lives just a stone’s throw away from Jake in Erbistock, near Wrexham, said: “This challenge was probably one of the hardest things I’ve done and I definitely underestimated it from the start.

“We all jokingly said it was ‘just a fat walk’ while others tried to tell us how hard it was going to be, we didn’t listen. It all hit me about half way up Ben Nevis when I thought there might be a chance we wouldn’t be able to complete it, or I wouldn’t complete it.

“Luckily I had Jake and Jack there with their motivational speeches and a few energy gels to get me back going again.

“The drive to Scafell wasn’t the most enjoyable or the easiest to get any rest on and I woke up in a car park in the dark at 3am very confused and disorientated. This probably contributed to us going the wrong way twice and forcing us to climb what felt like a 50 degree slope of wet slippy shale in the pitch black then scramble across boulders to the finish.

“By the time we got to Snowdon we we’re all very drained and tired and thought it would be a real effort to get up. We were wrong and smashed it in one hour and 50 minutes.

“It was also really great to be sitting at the top knowing we had done it to then see our families walking up to meet us at the summit to congratulate us and share a glass of prosecco.

“Hopefully we made Gazza proud - a feeling I wont forget!”

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