Mountain Talk

Mountain Talk
Summer Opening Hours are Coming to a Close – Posted 22-08-17

Just a quick reminder that from Bank Holiday Monday onwards we will be closing at 6:00 pm with the exception of Saturday’s where we will remain open until 8:00 pm.

We hope you have found time to enjoy our extended summer opening hours at some point this season.

Paul’s Blog – Pik Lenin – Part 2 – Posted 18-08-17

The third part – After returning to ABC we spent 3 nights there using the middle evening to comprehensively review our individual acclimatisation, how we should divide into teams & what each teams strategy was going to be in order to maximise our chances of summitting. Kyle was able through his gadget to give us a 5 day weather forecast (these were less than totally reliable but did seem to give a good basis to think that it may well play ball with our preferred plans). We agreed to divide into two teams, mine consisted of Troels & Georgio, with all 3 of us having been to camp 3 & been on the summit of Razdelnaya & two of us having spent a night above 6,000 metres our team was better acclimatised. Based on this the agreement was that the other team would re-ascend first spend a night at Camp 2, then a night at Camp 3 before descending to ABC to make an actual summit attempt later. We on the other-hand would set off a day later ascend to Camp 2 for one night then to Camp 3 the next day & then a push for the summit the day after, we all went to bed feeling finally things were coming together as we reached the crux of the expedition.

Georgio, Troels & I set off early on Sunday 30th July joined by Dave who having arrived on the Wednesday was on his own acclimatisation schedule but like us needed the security of a rope through the crevasse field which by now was becoming increasingly unstable. We roped as two pairs with Dave setting a good pace with Georgio & Myself & Troels following, the weather was less kind as snow swept into our faces on the lower slopes only to be replaced by spindrift higher up. At least Camp 2 wasn’t going to scorch us today. We again reached Camp 2 after some 5 hours only to find it inhabited by both our other team as well as a Swiss/French team who were also inhabiting our ITMC tents. I won’t beat about the bush, a few direct discussions followed, options were considered but our team stuck to our guns & plans, this was our agreed summit push & took the priority it deserved.

The rest of Sunday was dominated by a German climber who fell 20 feet into a crevasse whilst in our supposedly safe Camp, in fact Camp 2 had always been a bit of a shithole, now it was one that was literally opening up into a very dangerous shithole. The poor German did well to prussik himself out but then the delayed shock & injuries took over & 3 hours later he was on a man made stretcher being pulled off the mountain by a porter & 7 of his fellow teammates, their descent ended in the dark at ABC some 6 hours or so later, he was helicoptered out from there the next morning having been diagnosed with spinal fractures. Sadly this wasn’t the only incident where the mountain flexed it’s muscles, a week before a Russian who had slept in our Mess Tent the day we arrived in ABC died of altitude sickness near the summit having tried a 5 day ascent to replicate his own achievement 30 years earlier. An Iranian died on the knife section of the summit ridge the day before our own summit bid was due, a woman who bivvied at 7,000 metres presumably having failed to turn around at a reasonable time suffered serious frostbite & had to be rescued (no helicopters fly above ABC so that’s a big rescue operation by other non-rescue mountaineer’s) & another Iranian guy seen forcing himself onto Camp 3 when clearly he needed to turn around passed me & Troel’s on our first climb to Camp 3. When we saw him he was bound in a stretcher & being lowered back to Camp 2, at least his head was moving.

Monday dawned the weather window had arrived, under clear skies we set off at approx. 9:00 am, now all wearing Green (by chance), our Green Team ascended well, in just 3 hours I walked into Camp 3 to soon be followed by Georgio & Troel’s, what a difference a week had made, we were all going well. We were joined by the Skiing team who had by now decided not to make a direct ascent of the North face, snow conditions being well & truly against them, they would aim to join with us & then two of them would make an easier ski descent via our ascent route whilst Kyle would abandon his ski’s & come up & down with us. So that was it 6 of us would leave early tomorrow & together. The rest of a long day in Camp 3 was spent melting snow, drinking what we could & eating surprisingly pleasant dehydrated expedition food. Earlier in the day I had suddenly realised that tomorrow would be the 1st of August the third anniversary of Ian’s death, that realisation did not sit well at all. However I slept well, the wind began to blow, just after two Georgio asked ‘Paul, are we going for it’, the reply was yes & no further questions were asked.

Just after 3:00 we set off with a few headtorches up ahead, our group was not quite on our own. The push starts with an annoying 100 metre descent to a Cull before a big 400 metre climb to Camp 4 (rarely used these days). This climb is tough our pace was slow & it felt hard despite my bag now being only half the weight I’d been carrying on previous days. With one inner mitt on my right hand & a big outer mitt on my left hand this was no time to discover that I couldn’t grip my ice axe with my outer mitt securely thereby making the axe useless. Stop, outer mitt back in bag, inner mitt on, that’s better, but what would I do on Cho Oyu drifted through my mind. Two thirds up the climb Ernst stopped, un-beknown to me both he & Rob had contracted the shits (probably in Camp 2), less than 3 hours in & they were both out of the climb, we were down to four (high mountains, shits & safety are not good bedfellows when hydration is a matter of necessity).

Kyle continued to lead, we reached Camp 4 after 3 hours & took our first break near a solitary tent (Camp 3 had 30 or so tents so really is the main base these days prior to a summit push). The going from here became easier with a mixture of level or gently ascending ground, the sunrise became magnificent lighting the peaks all around with breathtaking views particularly to the South into Tajikistan where 5,000 & 6,000 metre peaks go on for ever to the distant horizon, our photographic stops almost distracted us from what lay ahead, ‘the Knife’ loomed ever steeper, ‘get over that Paul & the summit is not far’.

The knife is in fact a gully albeit a pretty steep one (probably 40 degrees) it has the summit days sole fixed rope but in truth it’s not needed going up, as you approach the knife the ground noticeably steepens before you reach it, this was our excuse to rest which we & another couple of groups of two did also. Then Georgio led off (the first time Kyle hadn’t led), I followed & my day changed from here-on. Having felt heavy until now I suddenly felt un-leashed, this was going to be hard, that’s what I do isn’t it, so go on get it done. Georgio called me through, I was on the Knife, I was up it, I was off. Some ten minutes above the Knife having gone past a solo guy & catching another resting at a cull I let the adrenaline subside & waited, Georgio & Troels’ joined me, the solo guy I’d passed informed of the route (someone in his group had summitted the day before) ‘we climb, we cross a wide plateau, we climb, 3 hours we get to the summit’, the Knife was not the gateway to the summit I’d been dreaming of. But the weather was good, we were feeling good, we set off together but tackled it alone from here, it was quite simply an invigorating experience of isolation on a very big mountain. My pace was now set, steep sections 70 paces, stop for rest, easier sections multiples of 70 paces i.e. 140/210/350 & rest, less than 2 hours later I passed Kai (a very friendly Australian who we’d befriended in the lower camps) coming past the other way ‘Paul, if I’d known I’d have waited for you’, he’d been the first to summit that day & literally turned around walked back up hill 10 metres to point to the summit cairn, I was 10 minutes away, Kai & I hugged, clicked the camera’s ‘see you later’.

At just before 10:00 am I reached the summit, touched the scalp of Lenin’s bust & cheered myself at what I was seeing & had achieved. Down Jacket came back on, as did big Mitts, Buffs & Jelly Babies were gobbled as I waited for the others. Some 30 minutes later I stirred from an increasing slumber ‘no good Paul, cold, must move’ I left the summit alone as I’d found it. Roughly where I’d met Kai I met Georgio & gave him the same good news Kai had given me, next was Troel’s, followed by 6 other climbers we’d passed on the way & then Kyle too, for such a busy mountain that was are summit day (11 climbers, this was no Snowdon or Everest we could all enjoy our achievement in relative isolation). My descent felt as glorious as the last 2 hours or so of my ascent, with Kai stashing ski’s there was no catching him so I remained alone, took it steady, tied to the rope on the descent of the Knife & negotiated myself onto the safest central line on the long descent from Camp 4. Frequently my mind considered ‘go here Paul & no one will have a clue what’s happened to you’ but despite this I felt calm & in control (I genuinely felt this ‘solo’ was a big step up in my game) but there was still one final battle – the 100 metre climb back up to Camp 3, after 10 hours that’s not to be looked forward to. I stopped at it’s base, drank, ‘it’s not going to go away, get on with it’. 70 paces, don’t stop, 140 paces, don’t stop, 350 paces, don’t stop, 1050 paces, haven’t stopped, I’m in Camp 3, f…… good effort!! It was by now 1:30 pm, 7 hours up 3 hours down, felt a much bigger day than that!

Kai was asleep in his tent, so the celebrations would have to wait, I too fell asleep & missed Georgio & Troels’ return at some time between 3:00 & 4:00 but had awoken to greet Kyle who came in shortly after 5:00, our party of four were all safe. A bad night’s sleep followed, Kyle descended early with a bad cough, I almost feinted at the start of my descent which Georgio spotted & gave me a sugar releasing Twix, then duly recovered I did a slight diversion above Camp 2 to tag another couple of sub-peaks before walking back into the now horrible stench of the Camp. From here we roped up, the route through the crevasses was by now un-recognisable, once past the major difficulties my inability to re-hydrate the night before caught up with me, from the back of the rope I shouted ‘guys I need to stop’ to roars of laughter Georgio & Kyle yelled ‘I never thought I’d hear Paul ask to stop’ well I did & I needed to!

I’m going to gloss over the 4th & final part, it was basically several days spent in ABC waiting for our other group to return from their summit bid whilst some of our party made early returns to civilisation. They weren’t to make it firstly weather & then events early on their summit day worked against them but a sensible decision made sure they all got back down safely. For me these days felt a bit anti-climatical but I’m glad I stayed on, got to know Dave well & enjoyed Beer in his & Troel’s company. Sun-bathing, reading & a couple of relatively safe ridge excursions on my own helped to past the time but I was itching to get back to Dorina & a normality which I have yet to find.

On the summit day itself I had for some ‘clear’ reason kicked Cho Oyu into touch but now back Cho Oyu has been googled, 1:1 Sherpa, do I need to pay for that, probably not, Tim has been e-mailed, the wheels to one more high challenge before I seek ‘retirement’ in the Alps & ‘lesser altitude’ might just have begun to turn.

Too many people to thank but everyone at ITMC for some good friendly support throughout & a genuine look of pleasure at our achievements felt great, the certificates you gave us on the morning we left BC for the last time were a lovely icing on the cake. Georg & Simona for logistics of getting me to & from Manchester & of course the members of our group who made the relative discomfort much easier to handle, to name but two would seem un-fair but: Georgio for passing me his half litre of tea on summit day rather than disposing it when my own water bottles had frozen solid & Kyle for a good & knowledgeable tent partner. Last & never least Dorina, occasionally we were able to text or even speak but I have never missed you so much, told the guys, if you kissed my beard it meant you still loved me & of course you kissed it before making me run for the razor!

Paul’s Blog – Pik Lenin -Part 1 – Posted 18-08-17

In drafting this I’ve decided to blog in two parts simply because the length needed to cover 27 days in my usual plodding way can possibly create suicidal tendencies in those attempting to keep at it.

Can I really have been back for more than a week already, well I have but from a functioning point of view it probably is a reality of no more than 2 or 3 days at best. Dorina knows me too well & hasn’t expected anything better but we were both a bit surprised by my being hit for six for most of Wednesday by my ulcer deciding to remind me that it doesn’t like unpredictable eating habits, behave Paul you should know better!

So here I am 100% not back to reality but feeling I need to make sense of Pik Lenin & everything he (or is that she) had in store for me, so here goes.

The expedition was a 27 day affair starting on 15th July & ending (hopefully) on 10th August. It was organised through members of the Austrian Alpine Club & Alpine Club & consisted of 12 members, 8 from the U.K., & one each from The Netherlands, Denmark, Canada & The Lebanon. 11 Males & one Female. I deemed that it was to be an un-led expedition where we would clearly need to form an effective group with teams, we would be supported by the ITMC a member of Kyrgzstan’s own Alpine Club for travel logistics, BC & ABC cooking & tents as well as tents up to Camps 2, 3 & 4. Some of us also paid for Porter support to the higher camps too.

I had not paid for the Porter support above ABC but generally found ITMC’s staff helpful & friendly throughout although our BC experience was considerably better on the way back out than on the way in, simply a change of cook made it all click so much better. If a complaint could be made it was that ITMC seemed to have in-sufficient porters for the higher camps, the ones they had worked hard & carried heavy loads but logistically the shortage did cause problems for those not carrying all of their kit, again that said everyone got all of their kit back down so these problems were ultimately resolved in the end. The other logistical oversight we made as a group was the lack of suitable radio communications available to us, big mistake & lesson learned, I wouldn’t tackle this type of expedition again without at least one radio per two people.

Of course some people like to lead & this did become apparent during our first night in BC, I am often led but believe in consultation & not presumption so this for me did cause some problems in how I interacted with one member of the group as we seemed to be focusing in my opinion too much on training & not enough on the logistics of tackling the mountain. I am always happy to admit my skills lag behind my motivation but I had practised specific skills significantly before going out there & had not signed up to a Mountain Skills Course. Been there, done that & will hone those skills by asking for advice when I need it & building experience in reality thank you. Enough said, we can all have different views & be entitled to them.

Pik Lenin stands at 7,134 metres, that is 23,406 feet in old money which is a couple of thousand feet higher than I’ve been to before. This clearly meant it would be both a physical & altitude test for me despite it’s reputation as being a relatively un-technical climb. I’d booked it as a significant stepping stone to possibly tackling Cho Oyu next year. By going as part of the AAC’s expedition the costs were being kept low, my package was less than £1,500, pretty cheap for 4 weeks but with flights & the inevitable improved items of kit plus some Beer money for the post summit experience I would hazard my total expenditure was nearer £3,000, still not bad all things considered & off course I still have the kit & memories if not the Beers.

The climb itself was the experience I’d been hoping for, it contained those elements I was looking for as prep for Cho Oyu, group dynamics, days spent in ABC with only the challenge ahead to really focus on (un-like an Alpine trip where scenery & goals change daily). Acclimatisation plan to formulate & adjust as realities & climate dictate, the mental & physical challenges to be met as well as the mountaineering aspects where I would be un-guided for the first time in a higher range. Self supporting loads (except tent) to be carried to the higher camps to enable a summit bid with everything needed being in the right place, sleeping bag, down gear, food, cooker, jelly babies (well you get my drift). All of this together with a good deal of good company meant there were rarely dull moments despite the seeming monotony of it all if looking on from outside.

I could split the climb into four aspects, the first of these was acclimatising ‘off’ mountain. This consisted for me two nights in BC at 3,400 metres (split by a daytime climb to ABC where I accompanied our three ‘skiers’ Kyle, Rob & Ernst into their chosen higher resting place). This was followed by 6 nights at ABC at 4,400 metres, from here a couple of short acclimatisation wanders were beefed up by moraine ridge climb on day 4 to 4,460 metres & an ascent of Yukhin Peak on Day 5, at 5,075 this would be my shortlived 3rd highest peak of my life.

The second aspect of the climb was to actually get on the Mountain proper, Day 9 of the expedition saw us head off at 3:00 am in three groups of 3 (one expedition member (dave) was yet to arrive from the Alps & two were held back by the early altitude illness to one of a party) to head up to Camp 2. I led a rope up through a crevasse field for the first time & felt good doing so, a new box ticked. The climb to 5,340 metres took 5 hours & was followed by a day of blazing sun & heat, Troels our Danish member recorded an inside tent temperature of 52 degrees! Despite the heat I was feeling good & began to discuss a possible change of plan for the next day ‘we could camp at Camp 3 tomorrow & if we feel good could make an early attempt for the summit, do you fancy it Troels? He is also a runner so obviously said yes, I asked the Porter, Daniel, if there would be a tent at Camp 3, the strong Russian promised there would be. The next day saw five of us set of for Camp 3 under glorious skies & un-roped for the less dangerous slopes leading to Camp 3, two of us to camp, two to Ski back down (Kyle & Ernst) & Georgio for an acclimatisation walk before heading back down to Camp 3. The last 300 metres was seriously steep & we plodded up it slowly but after a little under 5 hours Camp 3 appeared on an exposed & windy knoll at 6,100 metres. There was time to bag the nearby summit of Razdelnaya, at 6,148 metres my new 3rd Highest Peak of my life before Troel’s & I said goodbye to the others & headed for the warmth of our tent. I had carried a bag of over 15Kgs up here with basically anything I lugged up to Camp 2 the day before which would be off use both in the tent & for a summit bid. It allowed us to cook & eat, gave me a good nights sleep but having not originally intending to push for the summit so early my big Down Jacket, Big Mitts & Down Booties were still far below in ABC (simply could not carry everything up in one bag or in one push). The alarm was set for 2:00 am but the wind had already sent us an alarm call, it picked up in the early evening & gave our tent a bit of a pummelling, in truth it wasn’t as strong as it tried to make out but with Troel’s showing concern & with me knowing key bits of kit were not going to be to hand it was an easy decision made at 2:10, we are going down & coming back another day.

Without breakfast, very cold feet, those Down Booties would be welcomed at Camp 3 a week later, we headed down just after sunrise, it was a good decision, a short rest at Camp 2 before we carried on towards ABC, Troel’s was to tire before we got back down through the Crevasse field, we had not been ready but we would soon be back in the safety of ABC having had a good night of acclimatisation at Camp 3 which would prove to stand us in good stead 6 days later.

So endeth Part 1, we came back for more later, will you?

Paul’s Blog – Posted 12/07/17

This’ll be the last you here from me for a while but hopefully no longer than that.

A few thank you’s are due so here goes:-

Firstly to all our customers & in particular to anyone who visited us on Sunday 9th July when we were more or less full from the moment we opened until early evening, you all seemed to wait patiently understanding we were doing our best & working our socks off. We are not quite sure why this particular Sunday was easily our second busiest day ever but if the trend continues there is only one piece of advice I can give. If you are planning to visit us before you head for the hills get here early & with time to spare & use the time before the food comes out to prepare, chat & relax, the hills will wait for a good breakfast to be had.

Secondly to Dorina in particular as well as Gaby, Ady, Nick, Simona, Titi & Rebecca in advance for what they are about to experience in the 4 weeks of my forthcoming trip to Kyrgyzstan, this is extended in turn to John & Marion for their continued support during our busy weekends. I do feel an element of genuine guilt but life has to be lived & I am sure your time will come when you need it most.

Finally to my ex, it was her abuse of my mental state that led me to Cader Idris & so much more that has followed, like me I actually do hope you have found a better place too, life is simply too short not to. My lesson has been clear, it has been learned, I simply want to spread that word, if you are not happy never fear change, embrace it!

Whilst I’m away please don’t forget that we have our next Open MIC Night on 29th July & that throughout July & August we are open from 7:30 am to 8:00 pm (last hot food orders at 7:30 pm) 7 days a week.

Well that’s it, I’m nearly packed & looking forward to two days with Dorina before I go & get rid of some of this nervous energy that’s gurgling inside me, have a great summer, Paul.

Paul’s Blog – Posted 05/07/17

My hectic June has now come & gone, I have survived it in one piece feeling physically pretty good & mentally very pleased with how it went. July started with one more obstacle to overcome, the Moel Siabod Fell Race, before I could finally focus my mind on probably my toughest challenge for the year. I won’t go into the Siabod Race as you should soon be able to see both the results & race report on the WFRA web-site, for those who cannot wait any longer for the results feel free to e-mail me at paul.hodges@hotmail.co.uk & I will send you a copy.

Now to that challenge, PIK Lenin in Kyrgystan, can it really be less than two weeks away having seemingly only recently been accepted as an Expedition team member back in late January, where have the weeks & months gone?

PIK Lenin stands on the border with Kyrgystan & Tajikistan in the Trans Alai Mountain Range, it is a hulk of a mountain topping out at 7,134 metres, not a particularly technical climb by high mountain standards but still 2,000′ higher than I’ve been before. Add to that the fact that this is not an organised trek but a self-organised expedition containing 12 members who mostly didn’t know each other a few months ago & the fact that I’ll need to carry my own supplies from Advance Base Camp onwards it is clearly a climb which introduces several new challenges to me.

Lasting 27 days we hope to be making our summit bid (weather & other factors permitting) after some 20 days of acclimatisation on 4th August. The acclimatisation includes 3 peaks the highest of which is only 12 metres lower than Island Peak, indeed our Camp 4 will be at circa 6,400 metres close to the height of Mera Peak the highest I’ve been thus far. To sleep at this height could be very difficult & that is before you factor in the nervous energy that will be pulsing through my veins.

Of course nothing can be taken for granted, will we find the journey to the mountain to be safe or is it bandit country, will I acclimatise, will we avoid avalanche & crevasse risks, will the weather play ball & will I be up to the task physically & mentally if these other hazards do not step in my way? Questions that can only be answered once I am out there, as they say only time can tell.

I have at least paid quite a lot of detail to my preparation despite other events seemingly getting in my way. I have taken time to meet up & practice with some of the other Expedition members. I have been practising Crevasse rescue techniques with & thanks to Tim Harrop. I have been gradually sourcing the extra kit I need, much more than my initial first thoughts. I have maintained & arguably improved fitness despite a seemingly mad schedule in June & have been adding to my aerobic fitness by continuing a regime of core exercises.

There is still a lot to do, test stove, test high calorie expedition food, pack, re-pack & pack again until the kit fits into the Camp criteria’s but whereas on Sunday I was tense (partly caused by the realisation that my flights were 3 days earlier than I thought, me and Airports…..) I am now feeling focused & more in control of the final lead-in. This state will no doubt fluctuate in the coming days but what an adventure lies ahead.

As ever the support of Dorina in particular allows me to follow my dreams & dessert a busy cafe, if you have to wait for your food during our busy summer periods be as patient as she is with me, it’s only a wait whilst you plan or reflect upon your enjoyment of Snowdonia, not that bad all in all is it.

Have a great summer whatever you’ve got planned.

Reach Out for Nepal Day 24th June 2017 – A full Round-up – Posted 28/06/17

So here we go and in no particular order here is a summary of what went on & what has been raised to date:-

Charlotte’s Wild Swims & Tim’s Mountain Bike Ride – £100
Sara Jackson’s in Cafe Yoga classes – £55
Trefoil Craft Sales (organized via Twiggy Price among others) – £291 (Includes Twiggy’s loose change pot)
Alexandra’s Balloons – £14
Siabod Rumdooddle Challenge Relay – £105
Quiz, Raffle, T. Shirt Sales & Games organized by Mike Lees – £245
Auction – £789 (Excludes two sales which go direct to CAN of £155) – thanks to everyone who donated an Auction item & to Mike Lees & his ‘glamorous assistant’ John.
Paul’s Siabod Everest Challenge – £1,479 (& rising)
Cylcing Sportif Sponsorship (organized by Ian Draisey) – £1,095 (& rising)
Fraser’s Sponsored Walk – £1,412 (& rising with several donations from around the world) – this total includes over £400 raised by Helen Doughty through her Just Giving page.
Gaby’s Dal Bhat Sales – £300 – it sold out, well there’s a surprise!

Monies raised prior to the Day – £2,200

This brings the current total raised for 2017 to an excellent £8,085. We are aiming for ROFN to raise £10,500 this year so please continue to reward all those who took part on Saturday (be they named above or not) by continuing to donate whatever you feel you can afford.

In addition we also raised through sales of CAN’s Nepalese memorabilia a further £438, this money will go into CAN’S general Charity Fund. Since Doug’s visit to the cafe last October we have sold a number of his signed prints totalling more than £2,000 (again these go into CAN’s general fund), this brings the combined total for ROFN & CAN to more than £10,500 for 2017.

It was a great day (in truth not always thoroughly enjoyable for me), I think everyone who was there & taking part can feel very proud at the effort we put in & the results that these efforts have achieved. If you weren’t there but have donated a big thank you from all of us for taking the time to do so, it is much appreciated.

Summer Opening Hours are almost here – Posted 27/06/17

We are pleased to confirm that this Sunday sees the start of our Summer Opening Hours from then until Sunday 27th August our evening closing times will be 8:00 pm 7 days a week with last orders for hot food by 7:30 pm, let’s hope the weather helps you make the most of Snowdonia before you call in for an early evening meal to re-fuel for the next day.

Moel Siabod Fell Race – Posted 27/06/17

Just a quick reminder that the race is this Saturday, for full details see our events, please park on the field opposite the café, there is a small charge of £2 for parking with proceeds going to the village funds.

Siabod Rumdoodle Challenge Report – Posted 27/06/17

This can be read in conjunction with my own blog on my Everest challenge but if you’d prefer to avoid that simply read below for the stats. on the Eryri Relay, I’ll add a few comments based on hearsay, my apologies if they do not fully represent the realities.

Firstly all times include any additional time lost in transition between runners whilst in the café so actual times are likely to be a bit lower than stated here. Anyone sub 1:12 beat my training pb so well done for emphasising my mediocrity!

Leg 1 – Becki Law – 1:40 – ran at my pace to keep us safe & help mark the tricky nav. sections higher up. All dne before jumping on a plane to France!
Leg 2 – Steve Jones – 1:40 – ran slow again to keep me company, a minute or two lost locating markers in appalling visibility.
Leg 3 – Brian Robbins – 1:47 – taking a new non-racing line to explore new aspects of Siabod, aka got lost & took me & Peter with him.
Leg 4 – Alwyn Oliver – 1:45 – Lost a minute waiting for me to join him before we navigated our way over the summit ridge & back again, then left me for dead on the descent.
Leg 5 – Peter Durkin – 1:25 – Peter stood in for a missing Phil at no notice having already accompanied me on my 3rd Leg. By standing in he’d kept the challenge attempt alive.
Leg 6 – Tim Watson – 1:03 – Actual running time was 1:01:59 which apparently is counted as a 1:01, Tim was seen by me ascending quickly & descending like a demon.
Leg 7 – Emily Wood & her Dog – 1:28 – Fastest Ladies of the day.
Leg 8 – Phil Roberts – 1:01 – Making up for being AWOL, passed me still running & kept on running all the way, how? Got lost trying to follow a new ‘Tim’ line on the descent, just what time would he have done without this error?
Leg 9 – Gethin – 1:04 – also to be rumoured as a 1:01 actual running time.
Leg 10 – James – 1:13 – Only met James last Wednesday, really appreciated you joining in James.
Leg 11 – Gethin – 1:12 – Conditions worsening on top again, new descent route, aka got lost. Still good time despite this.
Leg 12 – James – 1:25 – Another casualty of the got lost brigade.
Leg 13 – Phil Roberts – 1:01 again – Having also escorted me on one of my legs this was now his third leg & was prior to his yogurt shopping trip for me, so AWOLism now fully forgiven.
Leg 14 – Judith Leslie & Sheree – 2:02 – Thought I might catch them but when I saw them running down my goose was cooked.
Leg 15 – Ali Thomas – 1:50 – another new descent route aka got lost but great to turn up after already running in the Hebog race.
Leg 16 – Megan Hughes – 2:12 – given route advice by Steve after which she had no chance, got lost but had views of Llyn Mymbyr from new angles on something approaching the ‘Jungle’ Robbins line. Another who’d run Hebog earlier so great effort again.
Leg 17 – Ellie Salisbury & Elsie (supported by Maggie & Alwyn) – 1:48 – the last of the runners again having already run Hebog so another great effort.

So that was the story, 16 runners taking 24 Hours & 5 Minutes to summit Siabod 17 times, but just as in Rumdoodle this amazing climbing team just missed out on the summit of Rumdoodle, did it matter, not a jot, the collective smiles for taking part in a unique run on Siabod made it for them & all those watching their progress very worthwhile. Thank you all for taking the time to do something with a bit of a difference, next year……..

Siabod Everest Challenge Report – Version 2, The Inside Story

My thoughts as to what I went through before, during & after last Saturday are many & confused but I am hoping that putting pen to paper here will help me understand what I have gone through. As I begin to write this I have almost finished reading Steve Burkinshaw’s book about his epic Wainwright run but as yet I have not read his ‘Aftermath’ chapter & I am glad of that as I can’t be influenced by any of his post run thoughts. Of course my achievement bears no resemblance to his other than perhaps I too have pushed myself similarly to my own limits.

My nerves were on edge for the entire two weeks leading into the day itself (from my return from Keswick Mountain Festival on Monday 12th June), should I be running a marathon one week before, the knee hurts more after Keswick than it’s done for a while, what will it be like in Clag at the top of Siabod on my own, how am I going to pull the relay team together, there’s Auction prizes to procure, I haven’t seen Mike Lees since the election was called, is he still coming………….. the list of to do’s & can I do was weighing pretty heavily upon me but of course it was all of my making.

By Friday 16th with just one week to go I still had only one of the relay legs actually confirmed, Becki Law had un-believably committed to Leg 1 despite the fact she was booked on a flight to France the next day, what a star (she was the only star visible when we set off together one week later into the gloom). That said several others had verbally assured me they’d be turning up but how to fill those nighttime & pre-Hebog race slots?

Ali who’d supported last year’s run arrived to stay with Dorina & I because she was running the Trail Half Marathon whilst I’d be in the Marathon, we enjoyed the re-union but talk inevitably turned to race tactics with preservation for the week after being the key priority. For once I was almost sensible I set off in the Marathon slowly & by mile 8 was thinking this feels good. Then Peter, a cafe regular pulled alongside, we exchanged a few words, he ran on, the red mist descended & my pace inevitably increased until I was soon at full race pace in the hot midday sun. By luck more than judgement I came through the race with the knee feeling better & was even able to lead Ali on a recovery run around Capel the next day.

From my earlier blog you will know that for my knee these reduced concerns were a false dawn so I won’t repeat subsequent problems here.

Back to the relay things began to move forward, Brian committed to Leg 3, Steve to Leg 2, Alwyn to Leg 4, a combined age for the 3 legs off over 200 years, not bad guys, the old guard had stepped into the nighttime breach. They were followed by Tim committing to Leg 7, now I needed a Phil, no response to e-mail, called round, his van was there but he was not, another day gone by. Wednesday evening ‘Dorina can you dial Phil on your phone’, no answer, then he phones back, I throw myself on his mercy, ‘Legs 5 & 6 please, it means getting here by 3:00 am’ – ‘Yes O.K.’ my nerves abated, we could actually pull this off!

Then Gethin via Brian Robbins committed to two morning legs & the out of the Wood came Emily Wood to commit to Leg 8, suddenly from no where I had the first 10 legs covered, how did that happen, in truth quite a lot of hard work & some great responses to a man in need.

Sam at Bodhi needs a mention for returning confidence back into my mind regarding my own run, this came with quite a lot of pain as she probed & prodded to find pains all over my left leg (the right wasn’t much better), why didn’t I get this done one year ago, note to brain…..

Friday night came, ‘Dorina, John, Marion, do this, do that, do the bloody other’, then it came to pass, I could do no more, Becki arrived, the break in the weather didn’t, it was time to change, the challenge was upon us.

Collectively we then made a number of good decisions despite I am sure all of us being apprehensive, Becki & I agreed to stay together at my pace & let the later relay runners worry about picking up any lost time, this felt good we won’t be alone up there. We then marked the tricky bits on the way up, good call, it still took a lot of attention to get off the summit on the right line as the murk got worse. Steve & I again chose to stick together, Steve’s reassuring words near the summit that no one should be alone up here tonight summed things up perfectly, visibility was 20 feet at best. We found the 3rd marker but still circled it trying to be sure of the line, this wasn’t physical this was mental & we were concentrating hard. Peter joined me for Leg 3 so again I had company but Brian had set off alone, I was relieved to see his silhouette correcting course towards the trig point, we stuck together for the descent despite finding a new non-racing line & returned safely. Leg 4 I was alone but wanted to catch up with Alwyn if I could as Steve had said he’d had concerns (you were not alone Alwyn). Thankfully I saw his form just before the summit ridge ‘Alwyn’, he waited, we navigated together, the light (if it could be called that) began to emerge, finally I could relax.

From here on it all became increasingly surreal for me as my thoughts turned to both my physical state & just what still lay ahead of me. I had already fallen heavily near the end of Leg 1 taking a big impact to my right buttock, hand, elbow & shoulder, then on Leg 3 I fell 4 times the last of which was on the same rock as Leg 1 this time bruising my left buttock, what an idiot to even go near it. I could feel Peter thinking how the hell is he going to survive 13 of these but thankfully I survived these setbacks despite being rather embarrassed.

Descending Leg 4 I was surprised to see Peter setting off for relay Leg 5, this could mean only one thing, Phil was missing, back at the Cafe ‘Dorina, have you phoned Phil’ ‘yes there was no answer but Tim’s on his way’, leave it to them Paul they’ll sort it out. Phil would later show, run two quick relay legs, support me on a leg, nurse my feet, & procure yogurt from Betws, not a bad way to respond to an un-usual lapse.

I can’t remember many specifics of each climb & descent from here on but I do remember coming into the cafe after leg 5 & being encouraged by Emily’s beaming face before discussing 5 down but no matter how I look at it 8 to go looks bad. It was from here-on that I went into a metronome type of Zombie mode, I was in a stew, there was no way out, I went into myself & stayed there for most of the hours that followed.

Even today I have this new picture of Siabod entrenched into my mind, the mountain has taken a new form above the last style, it is always in gloom, it has grown, not into Everest but into a colossus that has to be tackled in parts, the last stream, the bottom of the variant path, the top of the variant path, the summit ridge, the traverse, the trig point, turn around, skirt the rocks, the 3 markers, the summit ridge, top of variant path, it went on & on & on, each time the distances seemed longer, my world had become surreal, the mountain was beating me physically but more importantly mentally.

Leg 8 was a particularly bad one but some how I recovered until Leg 11 came & I knew I was in serious trouble. Despite still being ahead of schedule my ascent time was tailing off, descents had already become a living hell with quads & feet screaming for level ground. I called Steve to my aid, he & Kean & probably everyone else could feel my pain, Kean’s words of respect meant an awful lot as tears were trying to force any remaining fluid out of me.

Despite Steve’s effort & Ellie shouting after Leg 12, ‘go on Paul, only one to go’ I had already announced to Steve that the 13th would be a reduced version, I had admitted defeat but with a compromise which I was still totally not looking forward to as the lower slopes of Siabod called me forward once again for one last effort. Dorina & Rebecca were my carers but despite their care I was feeling very much alone & fed up with my lot.

Through all of this the encouragement & cheers at the cafe were heard & appreciated but they couldn’t help me, I was receiving tremendous support but I was very inside myself with self pity at the way I had simply gradually fallen apart as the day had dragged on.

To have come through this in the way I did should be extremely rewarding but I have yet to see it totally this way, I feel traumatised but in a positive way if that makes any sense, but that is the only negative. As soon as I finished I sensed what collectively everyone who took part in the day, be it on the mountain or in the Cafe, had been part of something that felt very special. A community of people, a coming together & I was a part of it.

Life has many twists & turns, when I turned away from my old life in 2010 & headed for Cader Idris it was my new beginning, sometimes we just get a very lucky twist indeed.

Let it not be lost that the reason this blog exists is the Melamchi School & our attempts to support it, in this troubled world small gestures like ours can help make a difference & will.