So you thought you’d escaped did you? Well think again, here is the definitive account of what we went through last Saturday, apologies to no one other than Phil just in case I miss-represent what he experienced in any way.
With John & Marion arriving at the Cafe to join Dorina to cheer us on our way we set-off at sunrise, 04:51 to be precise, on our first summit bid. The pattern we set would be un-changed for the first 6 summits & was basically this:-
Run from Cafe to start of first forest track climb, speed walk this climb, run the level section & diagonal path until we reached the PyB path & then speed walk to the summit. Then run the whole way back down to the Cafe.
I had recced based on this approach to set target times which would allow me to check our pace, these were 24 minutes to the last single style, 38 minutes to the mountain double style, 55 minutes to the summit & 1 Hour 25 minutes back to the Cafe, this was to prove a very useful base for the rest of the day. There was a second part to the plan, do the first five summits at sub 1 Hour 30 Mins including breaks & then hold on to see if we could reach our ‘target’ of 10. Time seemed to favour this but the total stats if we were to achieve it would basically give us a mountain day double that of any I’d done before!!
Here is how each un-folded in brief (well increasingly less brief as you’ll see):-
Summit 1 – Completed in 1:28, maybe the wine on Friday evening was a bad idea, cretin! One minute rest.
Summit 2 – Completed in 1:22, a bit quick but now sober & feeling good, Phil is flying, might need to slow him down a bit. By now a small crowd in Cafe cheer us in. Three minutes rest.
Summit 3 – Completed in 1:25, exactly what the doctor ordered, just a 6 minutes break but I leave saying get me some Pasta & Tuna ready for after the 5th summit.
Summit 4 – Completed in 1:29, Phil still going strong but I begin to feel it on the climb so after reaching the summit I ask him to phone the cafe to bring that Pasta order forward. The descents are beginning to take their toll on our quads. Great cheer back at the Cafe, I shake my Father’s hand amid a loud cheer but in my tired state forget to wish him Happy Birthday! We take a longer 6 minute break but I really struggle to get the Pasta down. Liquid is going down aplenty with a litre or more at each rest from here-on but I am aware that I have had a bad one & there is a long way to go. Rest was a longer & needed 14 minutes.
Summit 5 – Completed in 1:30, marginally slower again but felt better & pleased at the gradual rate of decline. Again try to force the Pasta in at Kean’s insistance but it isn’t working for me. Rest another needed 16 minutes. Remember to wish my Father Happy Birthday.
Summit 6 – Completed in 1:31, marginally slower but very pleasing. This was our first with company, Sheena, Phil’s partner as well as Sara & her friend set out with us. Sara & friend were soon dropped (but great gesture) but Sheena stormed up as both her & Phil threatened to leave me in their wake. As Phil waited by the penultimate style I said ‘Phil, you go on if you want but I can’t keep this pace’ this was responded with camaraderie, Phil slowed a little & I hung on. As we met a beaming Alwyn Oliver by the top stream Sheena was flagging a little but recovered strongly as we all reached the summit together. Alwyn showed us the race descent line back to the double style but on our knackered quads we were to subsequently keep to the firmer ground on the path. We left Alwyn with him promising to be there on our next ascent. Back at the cafe I am not sure how I re-fuelled maybe again forced pasta, certainly a banana, all becoming a bit of a blur. Rest was 17 minutes.
Summit 7 – Completed in 1:37, slower but another one ticked off & more importantly another ‘fast’ descent out of the way as these were becoming very hard. Kean supported us well showing his Paddy experience with words of support & constant reminders of ‘drink boys drink’. He also loaned Phil a windproof & helped me put mine on & then off. Alwyn’s beaming face once again met us as we climbed the double styles. At the summit I had a great idea, maybe I would be able to digest Gaby’s Goulash, ‘Phil, phone the cafe please!’ Back at the cafe Goulash went down better but the meat didn’t so with Kean keenly looking on I ordered a second portion but without the meat.
Summit 8 – Completed in 1:44, again accompanied by Kean with Sheena coming along too. A deliberate slowing of pace hoping to manage our decline. Either on this summit or the one before Phil had still been talking off 11 or 12 but I said firmly ‘Phil my target is 10 if I make that it will be enough for me, I’ll stop at that!’ Once again Alwyn met us up by the stream this time hanging back to wait for Sheena who tired on the climb but went well on the descent. Kean again was great in support but as we entered the cafe to massive cheers I had only one thing on my mind, what was the time, was the 10th still on? I got a shock! Despite our splits still being easily good enough our needed rests had bitten heavily into our early gains & I immediately realised the 10th was in serious jeopardy, ‘Phil we need to be out of here in 10 minutes!’ Phil who had been in noticeably better shape than I at all our previous rests began to concern me, he didn’t seem to register with my concerns & appeared in no hurry, 15 minutes later he went to the toilet & I watched the watch for a further 5 minutes, this is not good. Rest lasted 24 minutes, too long but maybe a factor in what was to follow.
Summit 9 – Completed in 1:37, WOW that felt good1 We were now back on our own & had a serious talk agreeing that the next rest would be very short, drink, take fuel with us & eat on the final ascent. We also picked up the pace with good splits against our targeted ones compared to the previous summit. Phil paced most of the ascent & then I took the lead on a fast descent, this was very painful, I’m not sure how Phil’s legs were as he followed but my mind was saying this is the last fast descent, ignore the pain just go for it & get the 10th back under our control. Maggie Oliver had met us on the summit plateau (great effort considering she’d run the Foel Fras race earlier in the day) & waited for us back at the double style, I had foolishly forgotten to take my hydration bottle so was very thankful when she gave me her water bottle without any hesitation. Massive cheer arriving back at the Cafe, drank, remembered hydration bottle, picked up fruit & Gels (but forgot headtorches) then to everyone’s surprise off we set. Rest was 4 minutes, perfect!
Summit 10 – Reached in 1 Hour & 8 Minutes. Leaving the Cafe with John shouting ‘they are going for 10’ an enormous roar went up which almost pushed us out & onto the hill. Our slowest Cafe to summit time so far had been the eighth in 1:06, we had 1:16 to do this our last one. I said to Phil it’s done but still kept an anxious eye on our first two splits, we were slow but O.K. After the double style became a little worried with Phil’s pace so I unusually took the lead to press on before Phil re-took control just before the plateau. We had another concern, Gaby & Simona! The girls had passed us as we’d descended the ninth on their way to rendezvous with us at the summit for our 10th (my mate Chris had promised to double his £50 donation if we did 10 & they were there to meet us). As we failed to reel them in it was clear that the weather was worsening, they were up on the summit plateau in cloud, if they were lost we would have little time to find them, remember we’d forgotten our headtorches! Passing with the summit shelter over to our right Phil said ‘should we go & look for them in there’ my somewhat pramatic response being ‘if they are in there they ain’t going anywhere in this gale, let’s tick of the trig, bag the 10th & then get back to it’. We hit the trig at 9:38 pm, hugged like girls (man hug to Phil & I) before quickly nipping over to the shelter, relief there they were grinning broadly before giving us warming hugs.
The final descent – Gaby wanted a selfie with me at the trig as proof to Chris, but in a cold gale I simply said, we need to get down & out of this (Dorina had forgotten to give them my fleece & Windproof leggings which I’d knew I’d need on a slow late descent), I was getting cold & simply wanted off. The girls set the pace as two crocked boys followed, it seemed to take an age but eventually a shape in the increasing mirk came into view on the old forest track. Brian Robbins’ distinct voice was heard, he’d come up to guide us in, ‘there’s more people just behind me to see you home’. Sheena, her daughter & Phil’s Dad were at the next style & our merry swolen party made our final way to the Cafe chattering away in strung out pairs. As we approached the bridge Phil & I re-united, walked across the road arm in arm to a very welcome & warm reception in the Cafe car park. Dorina & I hugged, tears were welling before I was passed around & squeezed like a cabbage patch doll. It is very hard to describe just exactly what emotions passed through me during the minutes that followed, elation, relief, dis-belief, gratitude, appreciation, pride all of these & more. What I do re-call is sitting down next to Kean, taking my first swig of beer, feeling feint, lying down before Dorina guided me to a warm shower to begin a long, long recovery.
On a schedule of 16 Hours & 55 Minutes, 64 miles & 23,000′ later we had done the ten with just 8 minutes to spare, a day to cherish & remember forever, thank you to everyone who supported us but most of all, thank you Phil, I simply could not have done that without you!!
A few days later John e-mailed me a copy of a diarised e-mail from a pupil at the Melamchi Ghyang school of the Earthquake & aftermath, the pain I’d suffered put truly into context, it had all been very, very worthwhile!