3 Peaks Paul

Snowdon (Wales), Scafell Pike (England), Ben Nevis (Scotland).... 24 hours. Eek!

Saturday, 6 February 2010


Following the 3 peaks last year, I found its actually quite difficult to find people to go hiking with. So, I've written this site, to help. It allows people to register themselves, and find new hiking buddies.

Take a look, www.walkmate.co.uk


Monday, 20 July 2009

The 3 Peaks Challenge

--- oops! I'd written then before, just didn't publish. I went for a walk today, and it just got me thinking.. anyway...

Well, to cut a very long story short, we did all 3 peaks, but missed the 24 hour target. This will probably be my last post here now, it's been quite a journey getting here, all the training running, all the walking up enormous mountains, collegues turning to friends. It's been a hell of a ride, and I'm pleased I did it.

Team members, of Team A:

  • Toby

  • Dave R

  • Dave H

  • Neil

  • Ian

  • John S

  • Jon A

  • Susan

  • Matt

  • Paul (myself)
The journey to Snowdon
After packing all my bits and pieces on the Thursday night, I set my alarm for 3:45, to give me plenty of time to get to work where everyone was congregating. They laid on coffee and bacon sandwiches for everyone, which was a fantastic start to the day! Everyone unloaded their various bits of equipment from their cars, all looking brand new and never used, and took it to the bus. Unfortunately, when we opened the doors, we knew it was going to be tight, given the sheer amount of equipment, clothes and water we'd all taken. You'd think we were going away for 2 weeks, not 2 nights. Incredibly we managed to get everything on the bus, although it was incredibly cramped!

It took 5 hours to drive to Snowdon from Peterborough, but the end of the journey, Lucy, one of the drivers had put some tunes on her ipod to cheer us all up, including "aint no mountain high enough" and "these boots are made for walkin'" Got a bit of a laugh, although I think so many of us were focussed on the task ahead of us, so it probably didn't get the full appreciation it deserved.

We eventually arrived at Pen-y-pass on Snowdon. The weather was appalling. We got out the bus and immediately the first thing everyone did was dug into their bags, and put on their waterproofs, and hats, gloves. It was torrential rain, and blowing a gale. Several people arrived at Pen-y-pass and turned around and left, thinking "no way!". But not us, we carried on. Before we set out for the walk, we lost a lot of time faffing around with gear, having our photos taken, meeting the guides, and generally just sorting our selves out. But eventually got underway.

We were supposed to be taking the Miners Track up Snowdon, which I had done many many times before, but this time around, the guide prefered the Pyg track, so we took that instead. There was nothing too strenuous about the walk, although we were all soaked through. I was clenching my fist inside my gloves just to try and ring out the water from them. We quickly caught up the team that left Pen-y-fan ahead of us, although infuriatingly our guide forced us to wait back, for them to get ahead, this happened a few times until someone in our group suggested we needed to get past them, because we needed to make time. So in the end we took them on a corner and quickly slid past. The rain was still absolutely pounding down on us, and despite our waterproof, we were pretty much all soaked through. My phone and camera was in my pocket, so before they got damaged, I put them in a bag and put that in the middle of my rucksack (it didnt work, both are now drying out in the airing cupboard!)

We stopped on the zigzags to take on a couple of sandwiches, and get some more energy in us before the ascent of the zig zags, and then the final run to the top. After getting up the zig zags, we got onto the top where we were just battered by the strongest wind we've ever experienced. A couple of us waited at the top for the rest to catch up, literally holding onto the huge marker rock so we didn't get blown away, or waste a lot of energy trying to stay upright. Everyone got onto the ridge, and our guide was less than happy about going to the top in the onslaught of wind and rain we were experiencing. Another group coming down from the top suggested we simply turn back. But when we were only 10 mins from the top on our first peak, there was just no way. So we made our last run to the top in the absolutely horrible conditions. Imagine the worst rain you've ever seen, now run at it at 70mph, it feels like shards of glass hitting you, so it was a case of keeping our heads down and letting our waterproofs take the beating.

We got to the top, and no one was particularly keen about going up the final set of steps onto the summit trig point, until 1 person did, then were all there. I literally had to crouch so I didnt lose my footing from the wind. Other people had the same problem - it didnt feel at all safe, so we get to the top, and got off as soon as we could, with as little fuss as possible, no stopping for food, pictures or water, just up and down.

We made our way back to the entrance to the zig zags and worked our way down, generally happy with our progress, despite the absolutely horrific conditions we were facing. The paths were now just streams running with water an inch deep, the water on small waterfalls never made it to the floor, because it was being blown away before it could land. Although we were all soaked, we all were absolutely loving it. I don't think it was lost on anyone doing it that day that we were making memories. The guide was trying to keep us all together, though in the end, a couple of us went off ahead back to the mini-bus so we could get a head start in getting dry, so we didn't need to hang around for too long. Back at the bus, we were told "the B team is only 10 minutes ahead of you, if you go now, you'll catch up". Bugger that! We wanted to dry off before having a run up to the next peak. I got my things and went to the gents at Pen-y-pass. The front few of us all marched in there, and grabbed a cubicle. It seemed many before us had the same idea, and there was about an inch of water on the floor. Within about 30 seconds, my fresh new clothes were also soaked, having been dipped. I only took one pair of walking trousers, and quite a few shorts. I thought, July, I'd wear my longs on trip, and on the peak in the dark, then shorts for the rest of it. My only pair of long trousers were now absolutely soaking. So I had my shorts on for the next peak - Scafell Pike.

Scafell Pike

The trip to Scafell was quite long, especially in a mini bus that was limited to 60. We were probably running a little bit behind, because everyone needed to sort themselves out before leaving Snowdon. The trip there Lucy was running a drying service on the mini bus, that is, taking peoples damp clothes, and putting them infront of the heater for until they were dry. This was absolutely invaluable! Although picture the seen, a bunch of sweaty, wet, blokes, crammed into the worlds smallest mini-bus. More uncomfortable than you can imagine. Unfortunately, my main bag with all my food in it was right at the bottom of the pile. There was absolutely no way I could get to it. I knew i needed to take on some carbs a couple of hours before we got there. No such luck. We eventually came off the M6 from Snowdon, and into the Lake District. To our left, there was a tremendous view of the most almight storm. Dark, grey, seriously forbidden clouds were coming our way. Perfect. We eventually took a pitstop, in a layby. Again, picture the scene... a bunch of 9 or 10 blokes spilling out of a minibus, lining up against the hedge, and spent about 10 minutes pissing from all the fluid we'd been taking on. I took the opportunity to get my food out my bag, also to check on my phone and camera. These had gone up Snowdon with me, and had both got ruined by water, so I thought turning them off and leaving them would make them fine, so I left my phone with lucy to put infront of the heater while we were off walking. Eventually we all boarded the bus again, and were into the last 30 minutes up to Wasdale Head, where we were starting our walk up Lingmell Gill up to the summit of Scafell Pike.

We got to Scafell Pike, and were supposed to meet up with the guide on the green, we got there... but he wasn't!! absolute and unmitigated disaster. We were wasting so much time. In the end, behind another 45 minutes, we got ourselves a new guide (we stole from another group behind us, as it goes) and we were on our way. This guide, Mike, was keen for us to try and make up the time we'd lost, or at least some of it. We were always expecting to do some of Scafell Pike in the dark, but we expected that to be the latter part of the descent, as it goes, we were working our way up Brown tongue, and it was already getting dark. So we had to all put on our head torches and stay together. I was entirely expecting we'd be taking the Brown Tongue, Hollow stones route up, the same way I had gone when doing my practice walk up the mountain, but we'd strayed off the main path, and were heading up toward Mickledore. I was not impressed, having seen pictures of this before, and decided to give a wide birth. Even so, we were behind, and needed to make it up if we were to hit the 24 hours.

Walking up to Mickledore, the sun way at its very last light, looking over towards Scafell crags, we could see another group snaking down the mountain with headtorches us. We immediately assumed this was the competitive 'B' team. Not impressed. At all. We'd spent so long farting around, they were on their way down, while we were still on our way up. The ground underfoot became quite boggy, with all the rain that had been coming down. Looking out to the mountain, the weather system we'd been watching had finally got to us, the wind picked up, and a biting chill came to the air as it did. We approached Mickledore, and my walking pole sunk into the bog, when I pulled it out, it over extended the telescoping part, so I tried to push it down on a rock, and rather than slide back in, it just bent my pole, so that was now useless. I tied my poles back to my backpack, and carried on. The terrain was becoming quite steep, so before we actually started the scramble up Mickledore, now completely dark, we all centered on Mike, who gave us some safety advice, told us that if we dislodged any debris, to shout "watch out below" to stop it smacking someone on the head and ruining their day.

The scramble up Mickedore was exhausting. Rather than than simply one foot in front of the other, we were having to hold onto ledges, pull ourselves up, having already climbed most of the mountain, and already having done Snowdon. I felt I had nothing left in my legs, they were just mush. But still, we had to go on. Eventually, we got onto the Mickledore ridge. The first thing that was apparent was how little you could see. The beam of the head torches would only usefully penetrate about 10ft into the fog, after that, you couldn't really see anything. We all got our breath back, had some sandwiches, put on our outer clothes. It was horrendously windy again, not quite like on Snowdon, but much much colder, it had a nip to it, my extremities were starting to feed cold, so on with the hats, gloves, coats, etc. My woolen gloves stayed on for about 30 seconds before they were back in my pack. They were still absolutely soaked from Snowdon. So they just made my hands cold and uncomfortable. After we'd had about 5 minutes there, we went for the final push to the summit of Scafell Pike.

We set off to the left, into the darkness, within a few minutes, the terrain changed from being boggy to nothing short of a lunar boulder field. We were climbing over boulders the size of couches and cars, with enormous cracked down them. I think we were all quitely concerned about breaking a leg. It had been raining earlier, so the rocks were slippery. We snaked up way slowly over the crown to towards the summit. Whenever our lines became too stretched, we'd have to shout "WOAAHHH!". But the wind was so strong your words were just carried away. It was actually a very lonely experience, seeing these lights ahead of you, mindlessly following them, absolutely no sense of perspective of where you are, just following the lights over the boulder fields. With the occassional person going "who are you?" not being able to make out shapes of faces in the fog, only talking to a light. For me, fatigue was really starting to set it, I was tired, hungry, wet, and was just running purely on willpower. My body had very little left to give. But I was ontop of a mountain, in the pitch black, with horrible terrain, howling, cold wind, and thick fog. I had no choice, I was carrying on. After what felt like an hour of going over the terrain, although I suspect it was much less. But it was now getting on for about midnight, we still hadn't reached the summit, and it wasn't lost on us that by this time, we should be well on ourway towards Ben Nevis. Eventually, the people at the front stopped, and we all centered on Mike. He looked a little unsure, and went off to look around for a couple of minutes. We sort of all stood there, all looking weary and tired, so I was pleased it was just me that the mountain and conditions were taking its toll on. We were all a little concerned about where and why Mike had gone, figuring he was lost, and we were pretty. I brief twinge of fear flooded over me, realising actually, how rubbish that would be. But alas, he returned, and we carried on. We got to the cairn on Scafell Pike. I shocked, I'd been there not 3 weeks before, during the day, and it look nothing like it. All you could make out of it was a few of its rocks, we sheltered behind it, to get ourselves out of the howling wind. A few minutes, and no photos were spent on top. So many of us exchanging "Oh my god!!! I didn't expect this!!" looks.

A few of us weren't keen to go down Mickledore, given the conditions, and preferred to go down the standard hollowstone/brown tongue way. Mike seemed in favour of going back down Mickledore. One bright spark of the group said "it's up to you Mike, do what's right". There was some merit to be had there. So we were going down Mickledore. Mike did actually explain his reasoning; the Mickledore side of mountain provided shelter on the way down, so once we were off the crown of the hill, we'd be out of the wind and cold again. Made sense. But I still had a feeling of trepidation, going back over the boulder field, it was hard enough getting there, getting back across it was just daunting. There was still no let up in the wind, only now it was blasting us in the face, so your words were even more meaningless than they were on the way up. We headed across the boulder, the person in front of me slipped, I lept forward to try and catch him, but he was already down, I think he hurt his back a bit, but carried on anyway. He was a bit unsteady on his feet after. After a bit of shouting, I realised he said he didn't have any food left, I gave him some Starmix to try and give him some glucose to get him off the hill. As we carried on, we eventually saw another party of people, well, moving head torches. Mike went over to check they were OK, as they seemed to just be going in circles. As it turned out, they were the 'B' team whose guide had got them lost. We thought they were off the mountain over an hour before. As it turns out, they'd been stuck up there for the last 45minutes, feeling quite scared and pissed off. Mike set them on the right path and direction again, and we were on our way.

After a couple of false decents down Mickledore, all the cuts in the crags look the same, we found the right one. Well, Mike did, we followed. It was much easier getting down! Actually, quite fun, just slipping on your feet and sliding down. We joined up with the main Brown Tongue path, and finally I could feel the adrenalin start to clear from my system. I knew where I was, I knew where I was going, and felt I had some control again. We walked back down the path, spirits much lifted, in fact on a bit of a high. We were all really proud of ourselves, we'd all handled ourselves perfectly, even in horrendous conditions, we'd all kept ourheads, not paniced, and just carried on. More importantly, it brought the team together. It was an emotional roller coaster. Everyone would help everyone, everything was shared, there was no being proud, or snotty or anything. To me, everyone shone on that mountain.

After getting down off Scafell Pike, we all got back to the bus. I got back, and when I came to take off my waterproof trousers over my shorts, pain just shot through me. My lefts were rubbed raw where the wet material was rubbing against me, and being soacking wet for the last however many hours. My thighs had no skin left on them at all, there were literally just 2 slabs of meat. The pain was excrutiating. We all got back on the bus, all very tired, I think most of us pretty much just passed out in our seats for the next couple of hours. My phone was still broken, so all the people I wanted to talk to at the time, I couldn't. But then I fell asleep and I don't remember leaving the Lake District at all.

Ben Nevis

I woke up when we were pulling into the Gretna Service Station on the Scottish border. We all piled out the van, and headed into the services, carrying various bags of clothing to get changed for Ben Nevis. I got changed, but still only had shorts. I could barely walk with the pain, I was doubting how I could do Ben Nevis, and quitely thinking about excuses to not do it. At this point, I didn't really believe I was going to do it.

Walking like a penguin, I made my way back to the minibus. Reboarded, and within 10 minutes, I was asleep. Well not asleep, but in that state of mind where you're awake, but just shut everything out. I had my pasta container on my lap, and startled myself when my hand let go of the fork and it fell to the floor with a twang. We were just travelling up through the Glasgow region, the sun was just starting to rise, over the landscape and looked pretty gorgeous. I don't really remember the rest of the journey up, until we got to Fort William. We got ourselves lost, trying to find the place we were going to meet at. But got there in the end, at some pub down in the Glen Nevis valley. Excellent spot. I'd now convinced myself that I was going to walk up Ben Nevis, there was no way with all the training I'd done, suffered 2 horrendous mountains before, and the end was so close that I was going to do it. I would crawl up the bloody thing if I had to.

The guide, who had been waiting for us for hours, was absolutely itching to go. We weren't. We'd already accepted we'd missed our 24 hours, we had something like 3 hours left to get up and down Ben Nevis to complete on time. Not going to happen. We were all just taking our time, eating, refilling our bottles with water, sorting our kit out, etc. we'd been there for maybe half an hour, when the B team came. They were just arriving as we were setting off. the c team were no where to be seen. We set off up the mountain. I had absolutely no idea what to expect from this one. In both the other mountains, I'd done before, so I knew what to expect, where were were, how close to the end we were. Ben Nevis, I'd never even looked at it on a map. So it was all just a huge unknown. My thighs were now bleeding, i could occassionally feel the blood run down my leg. We carried on up the side of the hill, I had no idea where I was, or where the summit was, although there was a lot of speculation and discussion, but only the guide knew, and he was at the back helping the ones who were falling behind, myself and Dave H were taking point, and just walking away.

I could feel myself tiring a lot faster than I would normally, I was needing to drink a lot more than I should've for the energy I was using. The path was long, but by no means steep, but the pace was absolutely stuffing me. I was slightly embarrassed when people walking down were looking at me, so tired, having really only just started (at the time I thought we couldn't have much further). I wanted to just tell them that we'd already done 2 mountains, before in the worst imaginable conditions. I could feel myself becoming quite irritable. We all converged on a point again, having been walking for about an hour or so, but it felt like much longer, and once more stopped for a rest and a drink. Someone asked the guide if we were nearly there, he was like "urrrr, no!". I thought he was kidding, but he GPS said we were 1500ft high. Ben Nevis stands at over 4,000ft. We still had a way to go. He pointed across the valley, a path ran around the side , and there was a small waterfall. He told us that was the half way mark. We all looked at each other as if to say "ok, we're screwed!". We carried on anyway, keeping our eyes locked on this waterfall.

Eventually it came, and drunk the water, having been told it was more than safe to drink. It was the nicest water I've had in my life. Ice cold, crystal clear, and tasted great. It lifted the spirits, and we soldiered on, knowing we were into the last 50% of our final mountain. A lot of restoration work was being done on the paths, and we pittied the workmen who where on their hands and knees laying slabs. although the was a small tractor type thing. The thought of stealing it and driving up crossed my mind :) After another few minutes, a felt a small twinge in my ankle. We were just going up the first zig zag that takes us up to the summit, I carried on for another 10 minutes or so, when I really started to notice it wasn't right, each time I put weight on it, it became quite painful. I had a couple of Iboprofen from one of the other guys to help it a bit. 20minutes later, it was unbelievably painful. Like each step someone was driving a red hot poker in.

Ian, who I was walking with now, stopped some lass walking down, and asked how far there was left to the top, without hesitation, she replied "at least an hour". I was like "IAN!!!!", he said "Paul, I am so sorry!!!". We laughed about it, both of our hopes dashed that we were approaching the summit. the mixure of my thighs and now ankle were making walking near on impossible. The pain was unbearable. But. I was only an hour from the top, and there was no way I was going to stop. I'd favour my hurting ankle walking on the side of my foot, which seemed to help. Although wasn't very fast.

It took after ounce of concentration I had to focus on just putting on leg infront of the other. I was 100% focussed on the next 10 or 15ft ahead of me. After what seemed like an enternity, we got to the orientation stone that guides you onto the top of Ben Nevis. I was pretty much at the back of the group now, a couple of other people has injuries too, so we stayed back, then a couple of the uninjured ones stayed back too (thanks Dave R and Jon!).

We headed out across the crown on Ben Nevis, we'd walked up into cloud, so the visibility was a bit naff, although none of us were phased one bit by it, given what we'd dealt with in the last 24 hours. A big ridge of snow (July!!) had formed, and so we needed to get up that. None of us had crampons on the like, so we just had to make do. This absolutely finished off my ancle, now it just hurt all the time, not only when I put pressure on it. I limped over the rest of the hill to the summit and observertory. It was hard going. We all met up, shook hands, said our well dones, etc. Walked up to the top of the summit point, and had our photo taken, I look like a drowned rat in it, so I'm not going to put it up here ;)

The walk down was much better, for some reason going down didn't cause the havoc on my ankle going down did. A couple of uninterested ours later, where our teams had already split up and separated, I got to the bottom, the support party were there clapping as I walked through the gates to the pub. Pint of ice cold carling put in my hand, and for me, the three peaks was over. As other teams and people came back we, all met them at the gates with an applause and drink.

As an experience, it was absolutely amazing. The people I were with were amazing, everyone got along, helped each other during their darkest moments. We all learnt something new about ourselves, for me, I impressed myself for keeping my cool on Scafell Pike, still having the mental awareness to be mindful of others, rather than go into an "I'm alright jack" state. Also, I think doing Ben Nevis was a huge personal acheivement, I so easily could've said "actually, no, I'll sit this one out lads" and no one would've though less of me for it. Yet something made me carry on and do it. I pushed myself to the absolute limits, and stayed on the edge of my limits for 24 hours. I'm proud of it, even though we missed the 24 hours target.

The organisers admitted that it was the worst conditions they'd ever done it in, and our guide was fairly close on a couple of occassions to calling it off. I'll have another go next year I think. To anyone thinking of doing the Three Peaks, do it. It's a great experience.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

This is the last weekend...

Well, this time next week it will all be done and over with. ArgggHH

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Scafell Pike

Me on Scafell Pike summit. With Mysti too.

Since I'm off work this week, I decided to take on Scafell Pike from Wasdale, the same way that we're going up for the 3 peaks. Wasdale is the most direct route to the summit, but also one of the most difficult.

On Monday afternoon, I packed up my camping bits and put Mysti into the car, and drove upto the Lake Distict. We went to the camping site next to the pub (convinient!) in Wasdale Head. After about a 3.5 hour drive, we arrived. Put the tent up, and sorted everything out. Then I took Mysti for a walk towards the Lingmell Gill, the valley that leads up to Scafell Pike. I had no intention of walking up it, but wanted to get a feel for the lie of the land, so I could visualise the map better in case the weather got bad the next day when I was actually going to climb it.

I started the walk, and got to the point where I wanted to go, when the heavens opened. I was about 30 minutes from my tent, and because I wasn't doing a climb, I didn't have my waterproofs, so I got absolutely soaked. Typically, as soon as I got back, the it stopped raining, and became quite nice, so I dried off reasonably quickly. Since it looked like it would be a nice evening, I got myself a nice pint of Stella, which went down very nicely, so I had another 1 or 2 *cough*. Behind the pub there's a small stream, so I was throwing sticks in for Mysti, which for some reason she loves.

After a while, I was so bored, so took another walk down to the lake (Wast water, the deepest lake in England). Pretty much stayed out doing that until it was dark, then wondered back, lit a BBQ, and had some dinner, then went to bed.

Woke up first thing in the morning, at about 6. Looked outside the tent, and it looked like it was going to be a good day. So I started packing up my stuff (considering I was only there for an hour, I made a HUGE amount of mess). Cleared everything away by 07:30, just left the tent up, and would take that down later.

Put Mysti in the car, and drove down to the starting point for Scafell Pike, I could've walked, but figured I'd be greatful for the car on the way back.

I started the walk at about 8am, across the valley floor, which involved crossing a small stream, which Mysti was getting very excited about. The walk soon started to involve some climbing, and after about 5 minutes I could already feel my body having to work hard. Behind me was another guy, also looking like he was on his own. The path followed Lingmell Gill up, and it was shocking how much height we were gaining so quickly. I stopped for a quick drink, and the guy behind me caught up, we actually got talking, and introduced ourselves (he was Steve). We would walk up the rest of the mountain together.

The path crossed over the stream, and the incline quickly became quite uncomfortable. Sweat began pouring off my head, and my legs were on fire. I was absolutely knackered, and only about 1/3 of the way up. The path continued on, until it eventually forked into to 2. The right path went up to Mickledore (which is for the preserve of the crazy mad suicidal people), and the route I was taking, over the Hollow Stones. Steve and I carried on walking up, with the crags ahead of us looking much closer, and much bigger. Behind us we were rewarded with an amazing view of Wast water. Although we were quite disheartened because all the other hills around us still beared down upon us.

As we gained more height, the summit of Lingmell to our left came in view, which was quite satisfying for me, but to our right Sca fell (not to be confused with Scafell Pike) was still towering way above.

The path over the Hollow Stones was quite precarious at times, nearly breaking my ankle of at least 5 separate occassions! It eventually went nice and smooth again, so less ankle breaking opportunities. The path went around the back of "Pikes crags", at which point it turned into a debris field of boulders and scree. Was hard going on the feet, but otherwise not so bad. Even though it got reasonably steep at times. Even though we were very tired, it wasn't so bad because we always had the top more or less in view (at least what we thought was the top!). So we kept going. I finally, and enevitably lost my footing, and slipped over. My walking poles shot off in both directions as I grappled to stay up right, before falling onto my left knee, just got a small graze, so wasn't too bad.

Eventually, the cairn we'd been looking at for was there, when we saw the actual top a couple of hundred yards away. So we walked over to that. There was a couple already at the top, although they cleared off not long after we got there. After a quick break for sandwiches and drinks and photos, we headed back off down.

More people were coming up now, so we ended up answering a load of questions going down "what's the view like?" "How far is it?", etc. The walk down felt hard too, the constant pounding on tired legs quickly became quite uncomfortable.

I fell over a few more times on the way down, one particularly nasty one when I cut my knee quite badly. Eventually arrived at the bottom, just as the sun was coming out, so we pittied the people walking up in the burning hot sunshine, we struggled enough in the coolness of the morning. The whole thing, all said took about 4hours, up and down, with a few minutes on the top. This is well within the time needed for the 3 peaks, so I felt good about that.

Steve and I went for a quick pint down the pub, before we shook hands and left.

I packed up the rest of my things, and drove back. In the 4 hours or so that it took me to get back, I felt fresh enough to go and do it again.

Sunday, 21 June 2009


We walked up Pen-y-Fan on Saturday 20th (I know, it's taken me ages to write this!).

A group of us from work went, all of which are doing the 3 peaks on the 17th.

The attendees:
Dave H (the guy who organised it)
Dave R
Paul (Me)

Mark, Mike, Susan and Lorraine, I was meeting for the first time.

We were due to all meet up at at the Pont Ar Daf car park at 9:30, just down the road from the Storey Arms Outdoor Center. Despite Dave H writing an excellent document about the trip, I still managed to misread it, and went to the Storey Arms itself. I stayed there for 10 minutes, but didnt have any signal on my phone, and didn't see anyone I recognised. Happily, I printed out his document before I left, reread it, and went the quater of a mile down the road where I hooked up with the other members of the team. 10 minutes late, but for anyone who knows me, that's a fairly normal expectation.

The weather was cloudy, but dry, the wind wasn't too strong. Looking around, everyone was wearing long trousers, but I opted for shorts. I figured if it was cold I could just put my wind/rain proof bottoms on. Dave H, who is the most experienced of our group was wearing shorts, so I wasn't too bothered.

When we set off, the cloud was only a couple of hundred feet above us, so it was obvious at least some of our walk would be in poor visibility, although the weather was forecast to improve later in the morning.

The walk up to Corn Du, the first peak we were going to was very straightforward, except the fact we were almost immediately emmersed in thick cloud. Not particularly tiring, although I did manage to get through a lot of my water. When nearly at the top, we stopped to put on our jackets, gloves, hats, etc. The wind was absolutely howling and feeling a little cold. Once we were all sorted, we carried on for the last few minutes walk up to Corn Du. The views were entirely none existant, we could barely see the person in front.

We stopped for a little while on Corn Du for a bite to eat and a little rest after the walk up, although the walk itself was pretty tame. After a false start - we wandered off in the wrong direction because of the poor visibility - we made our way over to Pen-Y-Fan itself, which is just a short walk, and very short incline from Corn Du. After a quick photo shoot on the top of there, we then started to head off on the next leg. Once more, we took a wrong turn, and dropped about 300ft only to get out of cloud and realise we're not where we thought, so we had to walk back up again to the top of Pen-Y-Fan, then find the correct path down.

On the correct path, we continued our walk off the peak, down to some grass land at the bottom, then around on ourselves through the valley, and back up the otherside, rejoining us with Corn Du. At the top of this second ascent was a monument called "Tommy Jones oblisk", a memorial to a 5 yr old kid who lost his way and died in 1900.

From there, we high tailed it off the side, and back down to the Storey Arms, and back to our cars. A final group photo shoot. And home.

The walk all in was about 9 mile.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Snowdon... the pictures

I went up Snowdon last weekend, and took a few pictures, which I thought I'd post. This time, I took the Miners track up and down, since that's what we're doing on the 3 peaks.

On the A5 somewhere heading into Wales from Telford.

At Snowdon at the very beginning of the Miners path. A nice easy walk at this point. Mysti enjoying the smells of... I have no idea.

Looking down over the first mini-lake. There's actually people camping down there. Great idea!

The bigger lake, Llyn Llndaw.

Looking up from Miners Track up to Crib Goch.

Starting the first mini-climb, looking down towards Llyn Llydaw.

Getting a bit higher, still looking back towards Llyn Llydaw

Up.. up.. up.. heading towards Llyn

At Llyn Glaslyn, with Snowdon in the background. In cloud. As bloody usual.

Last part of the Miners track before the ascent upto the Pyg Trail. Mysti coming back to get me I think.

The slope that you have to climb up to reach the Pyg trail.

Ah yes. Found the cloud.

Does Mysti care? Oh no.

On the top, out of the wind. Mysti just taking it easy!

Cloud lifted a bit. Looking back towards Crib Goch.

Better view of Crib Goch here.

Just walked out of the bottom of the cloud, views starting to show. But had to get a move on because want to do it in a good time.

Looking down toward Llyn Glaslyn and in the distance Llyn Llydaw. Pyg trail and Miners track clearly visible.

Looking down from the ridge over the zig zags.

Just walking back down the zig zags. Some poor suckers coming up thinking they'd get a view (they won't).

Still heading down the zig zags. This is sooo much steeper than it looks by the way!

You guessed it... zig zags. Back earlier in the year, this was covered in snow, and I thought I was actually going to die by falling over this. Was slipppyyy!


Rejoined the Pyg trail now, walk a bit further along here and get down the side to join the Miners track.

On the path down the side to get to the Miners Track. Left the Pyg trail by now.

Lake Llydaw. Mysti desperate to go in the water. Me desperate to not let her because she needs to go in my car!

Looking towards Pen-y-pass, Mysti having got her own way... and having already dried off! (lucky it was warm!).

Well. This is probably my last walk up Snowdon now until the 3 peaks. Tomorrow it's Pen-Y-Fan down in the Breacons... then Sunday... actually I might go back to Snowdon. If it was good enough for Sir Edmund Hillary preparing for Everest, it's good enough for me!!

Thursday, 18 June 2009


Well, it's just a couple of days now until we go to walk up Pen-Y-Fan. One of the guys at work did a fantastic document planning our route, with all the GPS waypoints. I bought an iPhone the other week, so am looking forward to seeing how it goes as a GPS unit.

I've been reading a little about Pen-Y-Fan, and it looks reasonably straightforward as hills go. I've noticed on these posts I haven't really been doing much in the way of putting pictures on, so I'll definately be camera at the ready on Saturday.

I'm in 2 minds at the moment about whether or not the dog should come with me. My friend Nadine was going to come with me, and bring her dog, but she's had to cancel because she doesn't trust her fiance to get her the right wedding ring. Typical!

Anyway. Must dash. Will write more after the walk.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Snowdon... yet again

5 weeks to go...

Well, once more I hauled myself at Snowdon.

I decided to take the Miners track again, because it's the route we're doing on the 3 peaks. The 3 peaks gives us about 4 hours to get up and down Snowdon, before having to make haste to go onto Scafell Pike. Today I did it in 4 hrs 02mins, including a 15 minute lunch stop at the top.

To be fair, I found it pretty hard going because I was constantly pushing myself and keeping an eye on the time. That said, it's a couple of hours later now, and I'm completely recovered, so I think I would be OK to crack on up Scafell now. Which is good actually, because that is exactly what I'll be doing soon.

This is the first time I've done the Miners track since the first ascent up it. I had to chuckle. The path that I thought was 6 inches wide and covered in snow on that first time, is actually about 10ft wide. There was no chance realistically either me or Mysti were going to go for a tumble. Still. Better to be cautious!!

Well, next weekend we're doing Pen-y-Fan in the Brecon Beacons. This is a tgrip the other people at work doing the 3 peaks organised, but one of my friends, Nadine, is coming too, so it should be a bit of a laugh.

I'll write about that next week!

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Recent news

I have still been training for the three peaks; only not really done much in the way of significant mountain walking. The running is going well, which is my main form of training at the moment. Me and my colleague David who I've been doing my training with have been upping our speed and distance on our runs, so that's working reasonably well.

Now the weather is improviing, I'm completely intending to get out onto some mountains to get in some decent walks. I bought myself a new tent, and a stack of other gear, which should now mean I can go further afield to find hills to go up.

Since I'm doing this with my clients, they've been doing a whole load too, including a couple of trial walks, possibly doing Pen-y-fan in the Breacon beacons, something I've heard to be the stomping ground of the SAS selection hopefuls. I still have a way to go before I reach that level of fitness though ;)

Anyway. I thought I should update my blog!

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Another trip up Snowdon

Well, I mentioned yesterday I would walking up Snowdon again. I did this, but things didn't go quite to plan! The idea was we'd park up at Pen y Pass, a car park close to Snowdon, and pick up the Pyg trail or Miners track. My parents came along with their dogs, to do the easy part of the Miners track, and give the dogs a swim in the lakes.

When we got to Pen y Pass, at about 8:40, it was already full and we got turned away. They said there was a bus that ran every 30 minutes or so from other nearby carparks, but we couldn't take the dogs on. So a fat lot of good that was. I considered some logistical magic, park their car, all pile into mine, and I take everyone back to Pen y Pass, then go back and catch the park and ride service, but it all seemed like too much faffing around.

we drove down to Llanberis, the parents went off to do their own thing, and Mysti and I went off to walk up Snowdon, using the Llanberis track. This was the way I came down the previous time I went up Snowdon. It's a lot longer than the Miners track or the Pyg trail, but technically a lot easier, no scrambling, few cliffs, etc. So I parked up and started walking.

The first part of the walk was reasonably steep, enough to make me a little out of breath, this takes you up some roads, then pick up the Llanberis trail. Hoards of other people were doing the walk too. One group had already stopped for lunch (breakfast??) before they were barely 5 minutes into the walk. A group of 3 guys in front of me had been setting a comfortable pace, and I was happy to follow them, a 100 meters or so behind. The track weaves in up and down the face of the hills for the first mile or so, through various gates.

The quality of the track is good, all lined with rocks, this has the unfortunately effect of being very hard on the feet, even with strong walking boots, they were making every muscle in my feet work hard to keep my upright. Again, Mysti had no such problems!

After a little while, the track breaks out of the valley, and start getting some decent views. I was shocked to see a group of teens wearing trainers, jeans, miniskirts, and small bottle of water between them. I could totally see why the mountain rescue get annoyed! I expect one of those would later be stretchered off the mountain, or preferably thrown over the side.

I was still keeping pace with the guys ahead of me, the steepness of the track reduced to a very slight incline, which would have been a gentle walk apart from the harsh rocks underfoot. After a while, we came up to the Half way house, the group of guys I was staying behind had stopped for a drink and refreshments, I wanted to carry on so I marched past them. Another few hundreds meters beyond the half way house, the path took a turn to the left, and became reasonably steep, then leveled out a little for the station. Beyond that, was the main climb onto the top, which actually looked quite steep and forbidding. The cloud had started to come down, and the top of that was well out of view. I made the first climb up to the station, I think I must have done this too quickly I had to stop for 30 or 40 seconds to let my legs recover a little bit.

Coming to the top of that incline, the station was visible, and I considered stopping for some lunch, but instead I decided to wait until I was at the top instead. A guy was there taking photos, and we got chatting briefly. The track swung around to the right, away from the station (still shocked they run trains up this thing). It was actually uncomfortably steep, and I needed to be careful to keep my pace slow enough so I didn't burn myself out half way up, despite this, I had to take a few 20 second stops. After a while, I went into cloud, and got hit by a biting cold wind. Had to think about that group of teens, had a look behind me and they were nowhere to be seen, perhaps they reflected on how stupid they are and went back?

I stopped for a moment to get my jacket out of my backpack, instantly I couldn't feel the wind anymore. I'm so pleased I invested in a good quality jacket, put my hood down, and I was actually quite cosy, except for my hands, which we bright red with the wind bite. I remember from the last time I went up there that I shouldve taken gloves, I wish I had, but I completely forgot (this won't be a suprise to anyone who actually knows me!). So I put my hands inside the sleeves, and they did a pretty good job of warming them up.

Looking back down, a train had pulled up into the station. A stack of people got off the train and started walking up! I couldn't believe it!! Laz, cheating buggers. Again, a ridiculous number were completely unprepared, and I expected they would get either very cold, or be sitting at the station for the next however long before their return train, very cold and very bored. Some people amaze me.

At the top of the steep incline, it leveled off, but the visibility was awful. I had a picture of a couple coming the other way, no more than about 10 meters in front, and I can barely make them out. Just silhouttes (someone correct me if I spelt that wrong, I can't be bothered to look up the spelling!) in the cloud.

I just carried on walking and within about another 15 minutes, I could see the big marker stone for the Pyg trail and the zig zags that I came up my previous journey. I looked down but there was so much cloud I couldn't see if there was snow on the approach. I was interested because that's the route I really wanted to walk, but all the hoo har getting parked meant I didn't. Carried the track for the final walk to the top.

My body was really punishing me by this point for not having eaten anything, I was completely out of energy, and the last 5 minutes were an absolute mission, although I still felt quite cosy in my jacket, now with a scalf wrapped over my face. I eventually made it to the top, having willed my legs to carry on even though I just had no energy left, but it was time for some food anyway, I wasn't too worried. I stopped just short of the main cairn, and got my nodding churchill dog out of my pack, I took it up to the cairn, placed it on top, and took a couple of photos. Just for a laugh really, a few of the others up there had a bit of a chuckle, but of course there was one very moody girl up there who just thought it was daft! Fair one, but hey, I carried it up there.

The visibility up there was even worse than last time, and the wind was just howling. I went to the other side of the cairn to get out of the wind, and people were already spread out across the face munching on their lunch. Some clever sods brought up flasks of coffee. I'm so going to do that next time, that was a great idea. I found an empty spot, and got the dog bowl out of my pack. I only had a bit of water left, so I started pouring it into the bowl for Mysti, she was already into it even as I was pouring. She was so thirsty! I felt quite bad. She ended up drinking all the water we had left, but to be honest, I figured if we needed more I could buy some on the way down from the half way house. Last time I went up there, I took too much water, this time I clearly took too little, that and the pouch I had with a tube to drink it from didn't seal well, so I think I was dripping itall the way up. Next time I'll take more. We had lunch, although Mysti was more interested in my sandwiches than her dog food, so she helped me out eating them. With some food down me, as well as some Kendal mint cake to get my energy up again, I felt raring to get back. So we left and started to walk down.

The way down as pretty uneventful, but by the time I got to the bottom, my feet were agony. I think where they sweated (sorry ladies, attractive, I know!) they were causing blisters, so my big toes we just on fire. Next time I'll take extra socks so I can change them when they start to get too bad. Alternatively, I'll take a spare set of feet.... anyone know where I can buy some?

Eventually got to my car, and just drove home. Was quite tempted with having another pint, but managaed to resist this time!!

I didn't take so many pictures this time round, but I'll post what I have tomorrow.

So, until next time...!

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Snowdon again tomorrow

Well, during the last couple of weeks, I've steered clear of the hills, and really just been doing running. My friend at work started running again this week, so I have a running buddy again, which makes things a lot easier. He tends to have a more sensible pace than me, when I'm on my own I burn myself out quite quickly, so this is good to get the time up.

Tomorrow breaks away from that, and I'm heading back up to Snowdonia to have a bash at Snowdon again. The weather tomorrow looks great according to the met office's site. Nice visibility, only 15/20 mph winds, reasonable temps, low rain risk, so it's pretty much perfect I hope. I've read there's still some snow at the top of the Pyg trail, but I'll deal with that.

So, tomorrow me and Mysti will be heading back there. Even better, my parents are going too, although they're going to stop at the head of the valley and let the dogs have a swim. So should be a nice day!

Will give an update when I'm back.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Just running

Well, I didn't actually go anywhere this weekend, instead I opted for some (more) time on the treadmill. I had intended to go to Snowdon, but when I saw the weather on the met office, they have gale force wind warnings out for it. I didn't fancy getting blown away to be honest.

On another note, another colleague at work has decided he's going to do the 3 peaks challenge as well. Also, I signed up to this website where you post sort of classifieds for hillwalking partners, and have had a couple of responses for that. I'm thinking, well, hoping, that my days of walking alone are coming to an end. To be honest, I'm not entirely comfortable doing that.

Today I bought myself some more stuff that they say is needed for the three peaks, head touches, etc. I'm still deciding whether or not I should buy walking poles or not. They're not hugely expensive, only about £20 each, so I might just go for it.

Also my friend Ali has suggested she might be up for a bit of camping sometime, little does she know she'll also be dragged up the side of some bloody enormous mountains!!! (Sorry Ali, only kidding!! Honest ;)

So that's it really, a complete washout weekend!! But I got some runs in at least!

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Next walk

I'm thinking ahead now to my next walk. I really want to head up to the Lake District to do some of the walks up there. My friend at work who is a keen hiker has shown me some walks that look gorgeous. My aim really is to walk each of the 3 peaks on their own, then maybe do the 2 nearby peaks on the same day, Snowdon and Scafell Pike, but I'm just not fit enough for that yet.

So, this weekend. Where shall I go, what shall I do?

Snowdon, again
I'm half tempted to return to Snowdon. It's simple to get to and was a very enjoyable day. I think last time I did it in about 2.5 hours from Pen-y-pass, which is respectable. However the literature for the 3 peaks suggest they need to do it in about 2. I think I couldve actually done it faster, I took my time a bit in the early stages. I think with a little effort, I could get it down to 2 hours. I'm slightly concerned that the snow will still be there from my previous trip though, and honestly that unnerved me quite a lot. I'll keep an eye on the weather again.

Scafell Pike
I'm actually very tempted to have a bash at Scafell Pike this weekend. From Telford, the Lake District is a fair old trek - something like 4 hours to Wasdale where I would set off from. I could of course take a tent and just camp there Saturday night, walking on Sunday or get a B&B. Definately worth consideration. I don't know how appropriate this one is for Mysti though, so she may need to sit this one out.

In Telford, we have a hill called the Wrekin, this is actually quite small, only about 1,200ft (as opposed to Snowdon which is well over 3000ft). I could just climb this a number of times, but to be honest, it's a little tame. Funnily enough, it used to kill me going up there, I would have to stop at least twice to get to the summit. Now I do it without getting out of breath!

Long Mynd
Also reasonably close is a place called the Long Mynd near Church Stretton. This is a nice hill of sorts, but again, I don't think it will necessarily do what I need.

Just a really long walk
I'm also considering just doing a really long road walk rather than a full on climb. I'm not sure if there is much merit in doing this though, since I expect my running will give me all the benefits for that.

Plane Wrecks
I have a book of plane wrecks in the highlands of the UK. In Northumberland I've visited quite a few of the sites. But there is also a raft of them in Wales. My concern though is that these places tend to be off the beaten track. Since I seem to be walking alone, I think I would prefer to stay to more well used places, like Snowdon.

So really I'm not sure what I want to do yet, but I definately want to do something challenging. Nothing seems to compare to Snowdon though!

Monday, 16 March 2009

Snowdon... the pictures

Well here are my pictures from yesterday. They were taken with my phone, so sorry for the poor quality. I couldn't find my digital camera!

On the road...
When I saw Snowdon in the distance, I had to pull over and take a picture.

After 2 hours in the car, Mysti was up for a bit of running. This is the Miners track, a nicely graveled surface and practically no slope.

Moutains in cloud
A breath taking view I had to take a picture of. At this point, I still didn't actually believe I'd go up, so I was happy to admire its beauty from afar. That said, most of it is under cloud.

In the distance
Just went around a corner, and Snowdon showed itself again, but still a way off in the distance. Starting to be able to see some of the snow on top.

Just about to cross the first lake, there's a convenient causeway so you don't have to paddle. Not that Mysti would have minded that! The path hugs this lake around the point, and then starts to climb a little.

I didn't take a picture, but I'm now well above the first lake, which is down to my left. At this point I can't really take my eyes off Snowdon, still wondering if I'd have a go or not!

At the second land. This picture really doesn't do Snowdon justice. At this point - it is absolutely enormous. The next pictures don't really give it perspective either. Don't believe me? Come with me next time!!

First climb
The lake below is where I took the previous picture from. This picture shows the scree slope that we had to scramble up. Mysti of course made didn't have any problems - apart from one slide which was actually really quite funny!

Snowdon with cloud coming down
Now on the Pyg trail after the scramble up from the Miners track, Snowdon looking very close, and the summit, which still high above me, looking beatable. I'd decided now I was going to go for it.

Lakes below
The lakes below are now a distant memory, while my ascent up to the summit gets under way. This is still following the Pyg track, well before getting close to the zig zags.

Summit still some way off
The summit, still poking into cloud, it looks close, but I was still painfully aware there was still a lot of 'up' left. By this point, my legs were starting to tire after walking for about 2 hours on rough and steep ground.

Into cloud
Now I was up with the clouds. The most bizarre thing here, I could hear seagulls! What the bloody hell were they doing at 3,000 feet? This was taken on the last bend before I started up the zig zags. I didn't take any pictures of that, because, frankly, I was terrified! The track became deep with snow and ice. Pictures were the last thing going through my mind! The wind here was horrific too.

The summit
Having left the zig zags alive, I took a left, and carried on walking up to the summit. The summit appeared out of the thick cloud, against a back drop of, errr, more cloud. The structure on top is the trig point mounted on a cairn.

A plaque on the trig point
Just had to take a picture... not sure why. I didn't actually stop to admire this, I was still pretty keen to get out of the cloud.

Mysti - the highest dog in Wales (and England!)
Mysti with absolutely no idea she's now quite literally top dog!

Below the cloud line
Broke out of cloud and could start to enjoy some of the scenery.

Mysti, again
Mysti just looking cute really.

Looking back towards the summit
Just thought I'd take another picture to remind myself how rubbish the weather was!

Zig zags
Looking down over the zig zags I came up Very steep, and the paths themselves are covered in snow. Look how steep the slopes are if you slipped. Ouch! This was the clincher for me, I was going down another way!

Better weather
Once I'd lost the height off the mountain, I was back into nice weather and blue skies and a fantastic view to boot.

Llanberis after a cheeky pint
After a well earned pint in Llanberis, I caught a taxi back to my car. Because I'd taken a safer route back down the hill, I was about 6 miles from where I intended to be, and couldn't really be bothered to walk up the road.