It is the best part of 3 years since Fraser first sowed the seeds into my head of completing this Challenge & last week I finally re-paid the favour I’ve owed him for over 2 years now. The history behind it is basically this:-
The idea of attempting this Challenge had been fermenting in Fraser’s mind for many years so in Winter 2010/11 he circled an e-mail to a wide selection of friends to tout interest for a group assault on it for Summer 2011. There were several expressions of interest including from Myself but as the first training days were pencilled in for March slowly the interest dwindled to just the two of us. Some long recce & training days were to follow as we tried to finalise our plans & we eventually decided upon the more un-usual variant of Crib Goch first to get it out of the way & descend the Snowdon massif from Llechog Ridge, slightly longer it may be but it suited us just fine. As D Day approached in May, a friend of mine called Rich became interested too & he then roped in his mates Ed & Dave. I was nieve enough to think this bolstering of numbers was a bonus & we all met up in darkness at Pen y Pass. Slowly as a beautiful dawn rose on us my mistake began to dawn on me, we were moving too slowly, by the time we reached our 3rd summit, Snowdon, I realised that my attempt on the 3,000’s was doomed to fail if I didn’t do something drastic. Here I guiltily decided to ask Fraser that favour, allowing me to go on ahead alone whilst he stayed with the others to guide them over our route. This was a sacrifice by Fraser that doomed any chance he had, I knew this at the time & can only justify the request based on the level of training I had put in. I went on to achieve my goal, Fraser failed but to his total credit it didn’t ruin our friendship & I have been trying to repay the favour ever since.
I won’t bore you with too many details between May 2011 & last week but in short 2012 involved new training days but as time passed the best I could do was to devise a plan to help Fraser achieve this magnificent Challenge & hope we could implement it the following year.
Well that’s the history onto the here & now:-
Upon returning from our successful trip to the Alps in July the 3,000’s again began to loom upon our horizons. To clarify the Challenge it is to climb the 15 Welsh Peaks that exceed 3,000 feet within 24 Hours, this covers approximately 35 miles (inc. the walk in & out) & climbs over 12,000 feet in the process. The majority of those attempting it inevitably fail, those who succeed tend to average 16/18 Hours. Fraser is fit but the ankle injury he suffered in a car accident a few years ago slow his descents as he tires so we have become faced with the reality of either a lot of night time walking or a plan based on thinking outside of the box. So outside of the box it would be.
My plan was start later, sleep en-route & then on ‘fresher’ legs knock out the Carneddau section the next morning before the clock reached the 24 hour deadline. So instead of a pre-dawn start we were dropped off at Pen y Pass by Dorina at 08:00, to Fraser’s surprise I reigned in his eagerness to set off & said we are having a coffee first because I don’t want to reach Crib Goch summit until 10:00 (the clock starts on the first summit & stops on the 15th). We set off at 08:30 & reached Crib Goch at 09:53 where we waited to round off our start time to 09:55. The challenge was now on. I had set target times for each summit but in reality providing we got off Tryfan with time for me to set up my tent, preferably in daylight (Fraser’s tent was already in situ.), Day 1’s times were not critical, they would simply help us agree a start time for Day 2. Passing over Snowdon we were minutes ahead of schedule but then began to lose time over Elider fawr (most people agree that this is the hardest climb of the challenge, we certainly do) & Y Garn. From here-on we did pretty well over the remainder of the Glyderau Section & descended from Tryfan to reach our camp site at 20:10 just 1 Hour behind schedule to be met by our friend the photographer John Rowell. As I pitched my tent with rain setting in our ‘wild’ camp was made a little less wild as Dorina drew up & we headed for the Café for a well earned Lasagne & beverages before John dropped us back to the tents. 3/4 Hours sleep later the phone Alarms rang & at 04:30 (having amended it from 05:00) we set off in wind & rain under the beam of Head Torches (think my ‘running’ one made an impression on Fraser & possibly Search & Rescue too)!
The weather for the next 3 hours was dreadful but we were in this thing up to our necks so forward was the only option. I put on a spurt between Daffyd & Yr Elen as the clock’s ticking began to concern me, surely we weren’t going to fail after so much planning & effort? By Llewelyn my nerves began to subside & by Foel Graich I knew Fraser had it in the bag. Foel Fras, the 15th summit, was reached in driving wind at 09:30, we’d done it with 25 minutes to spare using a mixture of fitness, determination & grey matter, a favour had finally been re-paid & the smile on Fraser’s face made all the pain worthwhile. Pain? you mean I didn’t mention that before, well you did ask:-
Thursday evening before setting off on the challenge I stupidly fell in the garden & gave my ankle an almighty whack. As I tried to rise to my feet I knew I had a problem & thought our attempt was over before it had even begun. A night’s sleep didn’t see any improvement, Dorina & Gaby couldn’t believe I’d go ahead with the attempt but with Fraser having camped overnight in readiness how could I let him down despite the ankle being too sore to even touch. Thankfully it loosened up on Day 1 & only induced spasmodic winces, I think Fraser knew it was hurting because all (thankfully few) enquiries he made ‘does it hurt’ were responded to with an unusually abrupt YES! Lasagne was eaten with one foot & a ballooned ankle in an ice bucket. Until the spurt over to Yr Elen it held up O.K. on Day 2 but as soon as we reached the more level path the pain crescendo began to rise, the modest ‘summit’ of Carnedd Uchaf almost had me in tears but thankfully on the walk out the pain eased again & we could both enjoy such a fine effort & great friendship once again.
For me I have now done the 3,000’s in 3 very different ways, walking, fell run & grey matter hobble, what next, I think Fell Run to try & beat the 8 Hours 40 Minutes (I think) of my friend Kean Rowlands who called into the café the next day & made me quite envious with a training run up Moel Siabod I was in no shape to join him. Wait until the Peris Horseshoe in September Kean is all I can say!
For Fraser, great achievement for a 63 year old & a big monkey of your back, it has been a pleasure to repay the favour at long last, well done.