SCHOOL staff endured torrential rain, a 'terrifying' road crash and treacherous conditions to conquer three of the UK's highest peaks.

A team of eight colleagues from John Mason School in Abingdon have completed the Three Peaks Challenge, climbing Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon - the tallest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales.

Their sponsored expedition raised almost £3,500 for the Abingdon Bridge, which supports young adults, blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan, and Melanie’s Ward at Oxford Children's Hospital.

In a detailed written account of the expedition sent to parents, headteacher Sarah Brinkley - who was among those who took part - said it was an experience she will never forget.

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She said: "The peaks have taught us that we can do more than we ever imagined - we are stronger, more stubborn and braver than we thought.

"We can laugh harder than we thought possible when we have had less sleep than we thought bearable.

"That those that sponsored us had more faith in us than we had in ourselves – it was overwhelming but kept us going in the dark."

Their journey started with a 10-hour drive from the school to Fort William, and they had just an hour's sleep before tackling the first peak.

They had planned a midday start the following day but were told that, due to severe rain forecasts, they would have to bring it forward to 3am.

Mrs Brinkley said: "Like travellers on an early morning flight we snuck out of our hostel, stomachs churning, and all a little quiet.

"Within 45 minutes most of us were breathless and overwhelmed. I had assumed the toughest bit would be at the top, but on Ben Nevis the first quarter is treacherous and slippery, with steep inclines and uneven ground.

"The summit itself was cloud-locked, cold and frightening - there was no shelter from the biting rain and, as sleepless as we were, getting down and out of the wind was the priority."

The first climb and descent took five hours, and they then embarked on a six-hour drive to Scafell Pike.

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About two hours in, Mrs Brinkley said they awoke to the a 'loud bang and a shower of glass' as a coach, being driven on the wrong side of the road, hit their vehicle's wing mirror and shattered the driver's window.

She said: "We were all in shock with what could have been, then practicalities set in – get it fixed, clear the glass, take stock.

"It was genuinely terrifying, but five hours later we were back on our way."

They arrived at Scafell by evening and endured 50mph winds and soaking rain to reach the summit, leaving a trail of glow sticks to ensure they could find their way back down in the poor visibility.

One of the team members then slipped and broke her coccyx, and had to bow out of the challenge before the final climb.

Mrs Brinkley said Snowdon was busier and boasted an 'utterly beautiful landscape,' recalling how the group 'collapsed into a weepy hug' as they finished the final peak.

They took on the challenge on May 31 and June 1, and have thanked all who helped them to raise the money.