Monday, 20 June 2011

Welsh 3000's (The 14 Peaks) Challenge

Who was it that said Yes we must do this. We had been walking up Snowdon for the last couple of hours in the pouring rain. It was nearing 10pm and the summit was a long way off and we were not enthused about getting there in this weather.
'Over there' Stu pointed. He was one of the ones who had said Yes to the trip along with Jake. We had driven up earlier from hampshire in the hopes of biviing on top of Snowdon to start our challenge.
The Welsh 3000ers or The 14 (or 15) Peaks Challenge is to summit all the 3000 ft mountains in Wales. Something not to be underestimated and although i had been thinking on doing this for a couple of months, both Stu and Jake had less than a months notice to get some training in. But both were keen - they both said Yes when the weather looked bleak and Stu had had the experience of doing this a couple of years back and so knew what he was letting himself in for.
There was a disused old miners building. No roof but the walls would give us shelter from this driving wind and rain. No sooner had we set the tent off and removed all our wet gear and snuggled into our dry bags did it seem that we were awaken at 4am to put the tent away and slip our wet cold gear back on, the socks were a highlight for me.
In gloomy and uninspiring conditions we were off to the summit of Snowdon (Peak 1 3560ft).

Time 5.30am our adventure had started with a burst of pace down to the saddle and up to Garnedd Ugain (P2 3495ft). Moving carefully on the sharp ridge line with steep drops on either side going was slow and precarious due to the trying nature in this wet and windy atmosphere. Passing the last peak in the Snowdon range, Crib Goch (P3 3027ft)we headed down the unfamiliar ridge trying to guess where to drop off in this zero visibility. Coming down a fun steep scree slope a clearing in the clouds did confirm we were heading in the right(ish) direction. I had been up Cwm

Glas before and so rather than risking taking a direct route down the mountain and risk getting stuck on a cliff face we took a slight detour where i knew there was a path down. Finally at the roadside we stretched our legs with a run into Nant Peris accompanied with a short lived downpour.

Stage 1 Snowdon range 8kms 2hrs15mins Ascent 820ft Descent 4000ft :Breakfast 45mins

We had a van here where we were able to dump our large sacks for small sacks and exchange our wet cloths with dry cloths and enjoy a hot breakfast (well Stu had left his in the other drop bag so had to make do with a few spoonfuls of ours). This seemingly short break turned out to be 45mins (shows where time can be lost). But we were dry, rested and ready for the next section : The Glyders.
This starts with a grueling 2700ft of climbing to the top of Elidir Fawr (P4 3029ft). From the top and back amongst the clouds we enjoyed a run and a steady climb to Y Garn (P5 3107). On the descent Jake started to lag behind, unfortunately his knee had started to play up. The only options available up here were to head down devils kitchen to the road and call it a day or to take the pain and carry on. Difficult, especially when the next summit was starring at us nearly a 1000ft up. But carry on we did up the never ending steep scree slopes of Glyder Fawr (P6 3279ft). At the top we enjoyed a ham roll and with the weather threatening to break for the better we moved swiftly over to Glyder Fach (P7 3262ft) and took in the beautiful scenery on this pleasurable rock plateau.

Heading down to the tryfan saddle was an agonising thigh burning 850ft descent on a badly worn scree run. This hurt and Jake was looking non to pleased as we pushed him and scrambled up to the top of Tryfan (P8 3002ft). From here we decided to back track and head down the heather terrace rather than risk going down one of the numerous gullies on Tryfan and getting lost. A high possibility as we even couldn't even find the Heather terrace but descended down a boulder field to a path at the bottom. At least this was easy going to the road side at Ogwen and where we had stashed some gear the night before.

Stage 2 The Glyders 17kms 6hrs 20mins A:5750ft D:5150ft (Lunch 30mins)

After a 30minute well deserved rest we took on the imposing mountain of Pen yr Ole Wen. Happily Jake had decided to carry on although i am sure he had more than a few thoughts of calling it a day. Still, it was onwards and upwards. We had been on the go now for around 11hrs and had 2200feet of incline to the summit (P9 3209ft). Tough going but we were setting a good pace and the hills were not as painful an undertaking as the descents were. Once on top we knew that the worst was over it was just a

matter of peak bagging in the Carnedds. The views and weather were also inspiring. The sun was out and we could see all around from the Glyders to the Irish Sea and to our finish in the all too distant distance. A gentle up slope brought us to Carnedd Dafydd (P10 3424ft). Following the ridge line the dreaded realization that it was here that we had to cut away from the ridge and go nearly 2km out of our way just to tick another hill off Yr Elen (P11 3156ft). On returning back the weather again worsened and we were soon in a whiteout and at the mercy of the howling wind. The plateau of Carnedd Llewelyn felt very eerie in the clouds at one point we thought we had lost Jake to the natural elements until he popped out and we had bagged another (P12 3491ft). From here,

although visibility was nought, the going was straight forward and we also managed to put on a spurt on the moorland flats especially when the realisation that we were 13hrs in and with only a couple to go we had an opportunity of posting a good time. A little encouragement later we were atop of Foel Grach (P13 3202ft). In what seemed identical to the previous section we approached what is known as the fifteenth peak, we decided to tick it off as technically it is a 3000ft summit. Ganedd Uchaf (P15 3038ft). Moving swiftly on with one more to go. We pushed ourselves painfully on thegentle down and on reaching the saddle a stone wall went up towards the summit. Which side? We crossed over, mainly to hide ourselves from the wind and with the clock

ticking we all put in one last burst of energy. At the top we couldn't see the trig point. It must be here, we kept looking jumping up to peer on the other side of the wall. Eventually in the distance we could see the trig. typically it was on the other side so after crawling over the high wall we sprinted to the finish, Foel Fras (P14 3091ft) in a time of 14hours. Great effort Stu and Jake and we were all suitably chuffed on achieving this.

Stage 3 The Carnedds 15kms 4hrs08mins A:4250ft D:2250ft

The walk out took a further intense hour and a half taking in another summit and a long descent to further punish the weakening thigh muscles. Still the clouds had disappeared and views over the carnedds and over to Colwyn Bay and the wind farms were amazing. Dreamy thoughts of beers we soon dashed with the realization that our near perfectly planned days outing had hit a snag. Our van was not in the car park!! Where had we parked our van? As luck would have it this challenge is popular and so there was another couple of groups close at hand and after talking to one of them they kindly agreed to help us find our lost van - phew, drama over. At the car park we studied the map and found out that we had taken a small trail road further down the hill and so Stu got a much needed lift and before long we were all heading back to Nant Peris before closing time.

Total Stats :
14 Peaks in 14 hours travelling circa 40kms (Ascending circa 11,000ft and descending 12,500ft).

(Car to car 16.5hrs circa 50kms and over 15,000ft of ups and downs but not too many tantrums).