Two trips across the border, two attempts at the Welsh 3000s and how two injuries happened to find common cause with a hammer called rhyolite… a coffin lid closing firmly on our ignominious failure. Bah.
Not that it mattered to me, these were training weekends and when viewed as such – let’s just say, I’m a happy mann. The legs are stronger, there’s no niggles today and I’ve learnt a huge amount in regards to nutrition for recovery and fuelling for the Ultra itself. For Chiz and Tim, I’m disappointed of course, their frustration at not finishing was obvious to see and I guess tinged with feeling like they’d let me down. 12 peaks the first time and 7 peaks yesterday, the first with a bivy on the platform of Snowdon station and the last with a scramble up to the summit of Crib Goch in the mist ridden dark. Very different routes were taken before we got onto the Glyders.
The drive to Wales was horrific. Leaving work near Buckingham, I was later than I’d hoped and mistakenly thought the M40 would save me some time, but no. It then got worse. There was a jumper on the M54 – when someone else has felt so low that they’re prepared to end their life – my weekend in Wales was put into perspective. Heartbreaking for all concerned. I drove silently along the A5, with the CD player off and a deep sense of reflection, it’s been a tough few years for my family and the events earlier had brought everything back. It always saddens me that we seem to have the ability to put such dark incidents quickly away in a far corner of our mind, I’m no exception mind and life carries on but a few hours later. A quick pint in The Vanyol Arms and we made our way to the summit of Snowdon via Clogwyn station. Cold, cold, cold. A wet sleeping bag due to a leaking water bottle and temperatures below zero meant that sleep was hard to come by, my feet were numb. Very alpinesque.
Chiz heard voices at 5.30am, 3 Peaks finishers, and we headed off not long after below clear skies and under the cosh of a bitter breeze, one that wouldn’t leave us all day. It was glorious crossing Crib Goch in the breaking sunlight, heading towards the red and orange tinted shades of dawn. Neither of us had bagged the north ridge before, it’s not unlike the main ridge and we traversed diagonally down the screes below, looking for a route across to Main Wall and the path that would take us down to the pass. Bivy kit was left in the car and the beast that is Elidir Fawr loomed above us. The Glyders were uneventful as such. I had a bad half hour of so when heading up the screes of Glyder Fawr but that’s to be expected on a mission like the Welsh 3s. Chiz was pacier downhill that me, I could shift uphill quicker but we kept a rhythm we were both happy with. I say uneventful, it seemed so at the time even tho I tweaked the left achilles coming down the side of Bristly Ridge and Chiz tweaked his knee descending the west face of Tryfan. That last incident would cost us dearly later that evening. I cooked up some instant dried pasta near Ogwen and the slog that is Pen Yr Ole Wen played with our heads as is it’s way as we ascended at a slow pace. Sitting on Llewellyn, with the end in sight but an hour or so away, Chiz called it a day. His knee was not playing ball and if we finished all fifteen peaks, there was still the matter of returning to Ogwen to pick up my motor.
There’s always a bright side – we’d make the pub easily and a Stella or two would be mine. It was a painful hobble down to Ffynnon Llugwy for a gutted partner and I left Chiz not long after, I could retrieve the motor and pick him up, a brisk nordic walk bringing me quickly to the Berlingo and a waiting protein shake – it was needed.
An easy drive, three hours sleep and a 2.30am alarm that summoned an early rise… it couldn’t have been any different to last weekend. I love it in the hills when it’s dark, it seems a bit naughty and illicit, like sneaking out of your parents’ in the early hours as a kid. Aye, I was happy. Tim hadn’t ‘done’ mountains for a while but is a personal trainer and a member of the crack adventure race team that battered Carron Crag into submission a few weeks ago (or not) and as such, I didn’t have to concern myself with his fitness and could concentrate on my training and setting a time I would be proud off. Somewhere on the climb upwards, he managed to damage the knuckle of his big toe and failure was always but a footstep away after that. Grrr.
It was Tim’s first crossing of Crib Goch, sadly it was enshrined in cloud and whipped by whirling winds. As with the first attempt, the breeze was accompanied by freezing temperatures, rhimed up rock glistened in our eyesight and pretty is the word I’d have to use. The walk up to the trig point on Snowdon proved the point, care had to be taken to avoid a slip and we moved on swiftly, wasting no time as we ran down the railway tracks to Clogwyn Station. Now I know you’re not supposed to go anywhere near train tracks BUT it was five in the morning, there would be no trains and the track’s not electrified. With the icy conditions, it would be immensely safer than the path… go on, break those conventions. Everyone wants to be a lovable rogue don’t they? At Clogwyn Station we broke from the path/track and headed straight down to the pass. There’s a path there these days and soon we were on our first big climb of the day. Once again Elidir Fawr flexed it’s muscles and gave Tim a slap or two, I could sense his frustration at not being able to nail the climb in the style he wanted but there’s ‘fit’ and there’s ‘hill fit’. It was something we’d talk about again over the weekend, there’s no doubting Tim would whup my ass at most fitness challenges but he’s not been in the mountains doing big days and big ascents for eighteen months or so. He shouldn’t have been hard on himself. It was the quickest I’d made it to that particular summit, four hours dead, and I was starting to dream of making last orders at the Tyn Y Coed.
The mist decended on Glyder Fawr – I’d forgotten a compass, so we made do with Tim’s wrist watch. You have to love modern technology sometimes and shortly after we found ourselves not far from the cantilever stone. Both of us complaining we needed food, we attempted to blag a woman’s packed lunch to no avail and quickly started the descent of the Bristly Ridge screes. Anyone who’s spent time with me in the hills will know that I’m slow descending, bad knees and poor footwork combine to halt any gains I make uphill. Today, it was Tim’s turn to lag behind and once down at the col, he pulled the plug. Toe was way to painful and that was that. Seven summits in seven hours. Not the seven summits, that would need bionic legs and a plane or two. He did well to get that far and his groans this morning as he walked down to the Bryn Glo car park proclaimed his battered toe.
I’m home already, resplendent in an ache free body, even the tweaked achilles feels good as I write this. Next weekend it’s George’s turn, the Welsh 3000s once again and I sincerely hope I don’t break him too! Two woeful and wonderful weekends that included a couple of cracking breakfasts at the Moel Siabod cafe on the A5. Way better than Pete’s Eats or the Pinnacle Cafe, I’ve tasted more than a few fry-ups and I’m happy to nail my colours to the mast. Recommended.