I have to tell you, this view was a very welcome sight last weekend; as the final mountain of our National Three Peaks Challenge, Snowdon was a much harder walk than I have normally found it! In general, I would say it was a weekend in which very little went according to plan: we had a minibus limited to 62 mph, traffic issues, road closures and mechanical problems just on the way up to Fort William. This all meant we arrived at our accommodation some time after 1 o’clock in the morning (when you consider we had an 8 o’clock booking at the Ben Nevis Hotel for a pre-challenge carb-loading session, you can see how not to plan this was), not ideal ahead of at least 24 hours actually doing the challenge. The result were some very hurried phonecalls and preparations in the morning (that session in the Ben Nevis was supposed to be used for making last minute plans), although miraculously we still managed to get to the start line just 30mins behind schedule. We then had to contend with 130 Celtic supporters celebrating 125 years of the Celtic Foundation, plus a multitude of other three-peakers and everyday walkers. At times the footpaths became very congested, and more than once we ended up taking silly routes off-piste to avoid the crowds in an effort to stay ahead of time (at one point we had nearly an hour in hand over our predicted pace). In the end, we shaved around 20 minutes off the 5 hours 51 I had forecast. That would be the last time we were ahead…
En route to Sca Fell the winding Scottish roads took their toll, and travel sickness hit, followed by yet another road closure, which combined with our limited bus to see us arriving at Wasdale at around midnight -an hour and a half late! So, when everybody else was heading down, we were going the other way -actually that was quite useful for a while, with a line of lights making their way down towards us, showing the way. In the small hours of the morning however, that line of lights ran out, and we were left in the dark on our own on the mountain with deteriorating visibility -the cloud was down and only getting thicker. By the time we reached the Hollow Stones, we were feeling our way, looking for grass on the ground in front of us, trying to spot the cairns, and variations in the colour of the rock. I’m a little ashamed to say we were also counting on my GPS to be sure we were on track, something I hope I never have to do again, but the fact was, navigation was nigh-on impossible otherwise. I am pleased to say we did make it to the top though, when others were turned back. On our way down visibility improved and we could see where we should have gone, and we hadn’t been far off. As dawn approached we started to see a few fellow three-peakers, some of whom were placing glow-sticks, à la Hansel & Gretel to help them find their way back, which certainly helped us (a good tip for other would-be challengers). End result: Sca Fell Pike completed in 5 hours 5 minutes (an hour and a half overdue). You’ll notice we were now 3 hours late :(, and beginning to feel the effects of being up through the night.
On the journey down, more travel sickness, this time yours truly, and we eventually got to Pen-y-pass on Snowdon at around 12:30. The walking is then a bit of a blur, just a steady trudge up the Pyg track, a short break and then descent down the Llanberis, finishing back at the road just over 4 hours 30 later (just a smidgeon overdue). So, in total we spent 15 hours 15 minutes walking, and the travel time in between becomes irrelevant, taking the average ~11 hour time and claiming mitigating circumstances, making it a 26 hour challenge for us, rather than the 24. Still very proud of what we managed -I certainly won’t forget the way we pulled together on Sca Fell Pike (or the stupidity of trying to get there in those conditions!), or the feeling of getting back to the bus having finished all three mountains.I have to say the camaraderie of three-peakers was a revelation -especially in the middle of the night- so that by the summit of Snowdon we were recognising other challengers, and encouraging each other on. I did wonder how many managed the 24 hour target, certainly several groups seemed faster than us, but weren’t far off at key points. Anyway, I hope they got what they wanted.
For those that read this and are concerned, we tried as much as possible to limit our impact on the local population, although our timing can’t have helped. We did bring our own water for the whole trip, took all of our rubbish away with us, respected the facilities on site and endeavoured to keep the noise down, although parking was an issue and I don’t think that could be helped (besides not doing it at all). I will say I don’t plan to do it again (at least not right now!).
This has been a bit of an unusual blog entry for, me, but I hope you enjoyed it, please have a look at my others to find out what I normally write about.
This one is panoramic, print at 12″x5″ or 20″x8″ for best results.
All images © Stephen Tyrrell, Mountains, Wild Places & Water, 2013. All rights reserved.