A father and son firefighting team from Hay-on-Wye have conquered Snowdon, Cadair Idris and Pen-y-Fan in under 24 hours.

Despite carrying approximately an extra 13 kilograms of weight each, Stephen Ratcliffe and his son Harry smashed the Welsh Three Peaks Challenge in just under 21 hours - including the travel time between the mountains.

On-call firefighters Stephen and Harry, who are both crew managers at Hay Fire Station, set off at around midday on Saturday, June 25, with their full fire kits- including their breathing apparatus.

When asked about how the found the challenge, 54-year-old Stephen said: “It was really, really good”.

The duo stood out with their luminous fire gear on the mountains as they were surrounded by tourists and walkers.

Stephen, who will have been part of the fire service for 35 years in November, said: “We were around other walkers going up and down the mountains and some of them were giving us donations as we were going up and down.”

The proud dad said that he works alongside his son Harry, who has been part of Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service for nine years, in “the building trade” when they’re not volunteering with the fire service.

Stephen said: “It was Harry’s decision to raise money for the Firefighters Charity. We’ve got three centres dotted around the country, and what the charity is about is helping injured firefighters and families to get back to work.

“They’ve got a recouperation centre as well, so if anyone has had a long illness or long injury they can go there and recover.”

Stephen and Harry with supporters on the final day at Pen y Fan
Stephen and Harry with supporters on the final day at Pen y Fan (Photo supplied by Stephen Ratcliffe)

Prior to the weekend, Stephen told The Brecon & Radnor Express when asked why it was important to them to raise money for the charity: “We’ve both used their centres in the past and it’s a fantastic facility and raising money for it is really important.

“It’s been really difficult [to fundraise] through Covid and everything, and we’re always looking to do something obscure or challenging to help raise money to help them.

“We’ve both used the facility and we know more people will for years to come. It’s self-funded so if people don’t donate, it closes and firefighters can’t get back to work.”

On their joint fundraising page, Harry also said prior to the event: “This is a great cause which we have both used, it’s a fantastic facility which we are really looking forward to raising money for. Your support and sponsorship will be much appreciated.”

Between the three Welsh mountains, Stephen and 28-year-old Harry walked a total distance of 17 miles (27.4 kilometres) with an ascent of 2,334 metres (7,657 feet).

The two men persevered through the long-distance, wind, showers and the sheer amount of time put into the challenge.

Stephen and Harry Ratcliffe
Stephen and Harry faced different weather conditions in the 21 hours (Photo supplied by Stephen Ratcliffe)

Stephen said: “It was a challenge - the breathing apparatus was quite heavy towards the end. It’s quite challenging anyway, but considering what we were wearing and carrying it was that bit more challenging again.

“I’d say Cadair Idris was the hardest because it’s steep and because of the terrain.”

Fortunately, the weather was dry for Stephen and Harry when they finished the challenge at Pen y Fan on Sunday morning.

Throughout the challenge, Stephen and Harry were accompanied by supporters determined to help them beat the peaks.

Christopher Watkins climbed all three of the peaks to assist the two men and drove between the mountains.

Meanwhile, Brett Harvey climbed Snowdon and Cadair Idris with them, and Stephen’s younger brother Gareth Ratcliffe, who is also the chairman of Powys County Council, joined them for Cadair Idris.

The small support group helped to carry supplies up the mountain for Stephen and Harry, including water and food. Stephen described the support from the group as “really good”.

On the final day, Stephen’s other son Alfie - Harry’s brother -joined them for the ascent up Pen y Fan along with a next-door neighbour and her friend.

Following the challenge, Stephen said they celebrated the incredible achievement by “going to bed”.

Stephen said: “We finished at Pen y Fan at 9 o’clock on Sunday morning. We stayed down the bottom of the hill for a little while because we had friends who started walking with us so we waited for them to come down.

“We then we came home and unpacked the car, had a good long soak in the bath and went to bed.”

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Harry and Stephen on the top of Pen y Fan with their charity banner

Stephen’s wife Teresa, was unable to join her husband and son to climb the tallest mountain the Brecon Beacons although she did stay at the bottom to help collect money as they were climbing.

The father and son have already smashed their £1,000 online target, which they set before the event, as they’ve raised around £1,600 at the time of writing - of which £1,255 is on their JustGiving page.

Stephen said: “The fundraising has gone really well. We’re up to about £1,600 at the moment and there’s still a bit more coming in - we’re really, really pleased with it.”

The two firefighters have become popular in Hay and on social media over the weekend as they’ve shared their experiences on the mountains.

They took two photos at each mountain - one at the base and one at the top, always with their banner for the Firefighters Charity.

Speaking about the support from the community around the event, Stephen said: “It’s been really good. I went up for a walk around town today [Monday] and two or three people gave me their sponsorship and said they’d seen us on social media.

“Social media’s been brilliant as well, we’ve had a lot of comments and a lot of views on some of the videos.”

The Fire Fighters Charity offers specialist, lifelong support for members of the UK fire services community, empowering individuals to achieve mental, physical and social wellbeing throughout their lives.

However, it also relies on donations from the fire and rescue community along with the general public to meet the £10 million cost of operating its centres and community-based services which support more than 55,000 members of the UK’s fire and rescue services and their dependents, as well as the retired fire services community.