Snowy Snowdon via the backdoor

I’m starting to learn that if you don’t write up your adventures as soon as you’ve done them weeks and months can pass before you get around to it. I have a list of excuses as long as some of my challenges as to why I haven’t put fingers to keyboard, most of them very weak! So, no more procrastinating, I’m going to catch up and write up some of the things I’ve attempted in the past few months…..

A rare window of opportunity opened up over the Easter period ( I told you it has been a while since I last wrote one of these!) It afforded us a chance to head back to Wales and attempt a Summit of Snowdon via a route we had never taken. We also surmised that the chosen path would be less populated and therefore more enjoyable. Given that there was quite a covering of snow above 700mts we also knew there was an element of the unknown.

We parked in a quiet lay-by at the bottom of the valley  near Nant Gwynant. We took stock of our equipment and provisions for the day ahead, taking care to ensure everything went into the rucksacks.  The forecast was for strong winds but no rain. We could see that the visibility towards the summit would be limited. Bearing this in mind we packed extra clothing, extra food and water. I generally go overboard with the amount of kit I carry on trips like this and although it sounds cliched  I would always rather have too much than too little. This is what I carried in my 20 litre Osprey rucksack:

First aid kit (including painkillers, sun cream, energy gels and insect repellent)

Survival Blanket

Emergency shelter for 2

Compass

Map

Headtorch x 2

Spare clothing (waterproof jacket, trousers, hat and gloves) in separate dry sac.

Ice/snow over-boot grippers

Camera

Monocular

Leatherman multi-knife

Food (Sandwiches, flap-jack, apples) and most importantly a flask of coffee…..

Water, 2 litres

Mobile phone

Jelly Babies…

This is the minimum I would carry on a day in the mountains and can’t think of any item  I would leave behind. I am happy to carry the weight in the knowledge that I would;              (a) be prepared for most situations, in particular getting lost or dealing with an adverse change in the weather and (b) if I did need rescuing I wouldn’t be the idiot who had headed out in flip-flops with just a can of coke, a mars bar and only a vague idea of where I was going! With all these items duly packed we grabbed our poles (another item I wouldn’t now want to be without) and set off up the Watkin Path.IMG_0749

Named after Sir Edward Watkin, a Liberal MP and railway entrepreneur who retired to a chalet in Cwm Llan, this path snakes its way from the bottom of the valley to the very top of Snowdon.   The initial section is easy going, you meander through woods, passing lots of long-since abandoned relics of industry and mine workings. The path established in 1892 by Sir Watkin was the first designated footpath in Britain and was opened by 83 year old Prime Minister William Gladstone. On the day of the opening he had made his way some distance up the path to a large rock from where he delivered his address to some 2,000 onlookers.

IMG_0760

The only audience we could muster as we passed Gladstone Rock as it is now known were a couple of ragged looking sheep and noisy crow. I wasn’t moved to address them but as the temperature was dropping we were moved to continue up the path. Given that the trail starts at virtually sea-level it is regarded as one of the more difficult routes to the top of Snowdon. Being over 8 miles in distance and 1,015 mts in ascent it is little surprise that is graded as a hard mountain walk.
 

IMG_0767Continuing up the path the views become ever more impressive. At Bwlch Ciliau we followed the route to the left. From the ridge you can see right down into the basin of Snowdon horseshoe. At the bottom of the basin we could just make out LLyn Glaslyn Lake and the intersection of two of the more popular routes, the Miners and  the Pyg tracks.

IMG_0851      IMG_0850

IMG_0786It was at this point the weather began to change, the wind picked up, the temperature dropped and the visibility became limited. We also faced the added difficulty of snow underfoot. Fortunately, the snow was not deep and the path was still discernible. Pausing for a coffee and a snack we drew breath and marvelled at the landscape surrounding us. The shifting patterns in the snow were mesmerising and, the tantalising far-reaching views were quickly snatched away by passing clouds. The over whelming grandeur and magnificence of the mountains was making the effort all worthwhile. Apologies for sounding a little romantic about it but when you are in the moment you can be awed at the bleak beauty of it all; it must be why we make the effort to do it. Unless you have experienced it I would suppose it is difficult to understand but it moves me in a way that nothing else does. Crikey, I will be writing poetry next!

From this point the path rises steeply. When not covered in snow it can be loose and requires care, when covered it requires a different kind of attention. Taking the lead I took my time continually looking up the mountain to ensure we were on the correct path. There are cairns marking the way but in the limited visibility and the white conditions they were often tricky to spot. Helen followed using her poles to test the snow and to help steady herself on some of the trickier sections. We had brought some over-boot ice/snow grips but given the dryness of the snow and the steady nature of the ascent we felt they would be more of a hinderance than a help. We set our sights on the next cairn and continued to plod our way up the slope to the point where it joined the Rhyd Dhu path.

The view was limited due to the whiteness of the snow immediately beneath us and the cloud we found ourselves sitting in above and around us. Turning right towards the summit we were quite quickly aware of the presence of other walkers. During our entire ascent we had not seen another soul, suddenly near the summit we surrounded by a multitude of ascenders who had in the main come up via the more accessible Pyg Track.

IMG_0801

The train shed

Making our way up the ice covered steps to the summit proper we paused only briefly for a selfie before seeking some shelter in a quiet spot to eat our much needed lunch.

IMG_0803

Obligatory selfie!

Whilst enjoying our sandwiches we noted more and more people were making there way to the top. My desire for isolation and solitude overwhelmed me so we quickly packed up and made our way back down the path. Once again we headed towards the junction of the two paths,  this time continuing along the Rhyd Dhu path which whilst a little more circuitous was less steep and easier underfoot. As this is a more popular path the snow had been worn smooth and in some places we noted it was icy. We made the sensible decision to use the ice grips we had been carrying. It was with relief that we dropped out of the cloud line, the view which greeted us stopped us in our tracks.

IMG_0822

Dropping out of the cloud line.

Taking time to enjoy the view is something I have had to consciously discipline myself to do. All too often when engaged in physical exertions either on bike or foot I have been guilty of dropping my head and only concentrating on the 10 metres in front of me. With the beauty of Wales and the views to the coast, the sea and beyond laid out in front of us it was not a day to be rushed and we were determined to make the most of it.

 

 

 

IMG_0839

Heading down in the sunshine.

IMG_0871

Aaaah, tea.

Having removed our ice grips we continued down the trail which linked back up with the Watkin path. Re-tracing familiar ground enabled us to quicken our pace and before long we were back at the camper van. With kettle on, boots off and summit bagged we reflected on a great walk full of adventure which allowed us to stretch ourselves physically and stimulate our senses fully.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

World Record Everest climbing challenge for Raleigh International

“Come on Tim, you are a third of the way through you can do it. Oh no, sorry, i mean a quarter!” “Can you hurry up Tim we want to go to the pub” these were the kind of motivational comments that kept me going during my recent attempt to break the World Record for climbing the equivalent height of Everest on an indoor climbing wall! To be honest I could not have managed it without the help and support of friends and family. It was a cold wet dark December morning that greeted me at 5:30am on the 23rd December. I had not slept well during the night as nerves which so often do got the better of me. I had prepared as much as I could and knew that the only thing between me and the record was 13 hours of pain.

IMG_9251
Bring on the wall!!
I arrived at Clip’n’Climb in Ilkley with minutes to spare. This indoor climbing facility being the venue for my attempt. If I was going to break the record I would have to climb their 6m wall 1475 times in less than 13 hours and 20 minutes. Up until that morning the most I had done in one go was 150 in just over an hour and that had left me with blistered hands and cramps in my legs. This was going to be a suffer-fest!

At a couple of minutes past 6:00 with harness on i was ready to start. I had 2 independent time keepers and also cctv cameras directed upon me. I knew i had a sports therapist coming at 8:30 so i set this time as my first target. Photos taken, video ready it was a 3,2,1 countdown and on my way. Having previously endured 150 ascents in one hour I set this number as my first target. I surpassed it without difficulty after around 90 minutes. I felt strong and relaxed. However,I knew I would have to pace myself. It was around the 200 ascents mark that it first dawned on me how tough this was going to be. It is with gritted teeth and clenched hands that i re-count this from the comfort of my chair!

The pain and fatigue in my arms began to creep in when i hit the 300’s. I needed a break and so it was with great relief that I spotted Julianna the sports therapist setting up her table. She quickly assessed the situation and very professionally got on with what needed to be done. I ate whilst I was pummelled and looked on my phone at all the texts and e-mails that had been coming through from friends and family. With such overwhelming support and the clock continuously ticking I knew I had to leave Julianna’s therapeutic touch and get on with it.IMG_9471

“Once more unto the wall!” I am no Henry the V but i certainly felt like i was in a battle. During the next few hours I built up a rhythm and a pattern and the counter steadily clicked up. There were regular, welcome, interruptions from many well-wishers. The chance to catch my breath and have a quick chat with friends and strangers alike and to explain what I was was doing and why was good for my body and mind but not for my schedule.

It became apparent around the 800th ascent that I was slipping behind. Another hundred and I would reach the height of Basecamp. This was another key goal. This is where Cameron a young climber came to my aid. For the next 100 or so ascents he was willing and able to climb opposite me and help increase my pace. We were never going to get back to my schedule but from this point on I felt certain that I would beat the current record. Passing the 1000 mark was a genuine mental milestone. From this point I knew I could do it (or could I….)

A good friend Mick, with whom i had recently traversed the Cuillan ridge, was Mr Motivator and statistician for the day . He kept me informed of my schedule and wrote down how many i would have to complete in each hour to keep on track.

 

Unfortunately, my hands were falling to pieces.FullSizeRender

I knew from previous training climbs that this would potentially be my biggest problem of the day. I am not a regular climber so i haven’t developed the callouses that are so vital to gnarly rock monkeys. I had tried wearing gloves but they were too hot and I sweated too much in them. I was recommended to try tape, this worked, without it I could not have continued. Throughout the day as I felt blisters beginning to develop I would wrap 2 inch strips around the affected digits. This continued until my hands looked like those of an Egyptian mummy! During the challenge I had to continually wrap and unwrap the tape as it became worn through and the pain seared through my fingers. The swelling and pain in my forearms also became a challenge and as I pushed on to the 1200 level I was having to pause every 50 or so ascents to have my arms rubbed and stretched. My hands were like claws now and were very swollen. With the crowd of onlookers building and with only 100 to go it was with a renewed sense of purpose that I cracked on.IMG_1774

Finishing the final 50 ascents was a mixture of pure pain, relief and elation. For the previous 4-5 hours my entire body had been shouting at me to just stop. It was only sheer will power that kept me going. This can almost be as tiring as the physical effort. To summon up the mental resolve to achieve each assent I felt I had to dig deeper than I had ever done before. I locked out the pain, took on board the increasing chorus of encouraging shouts and went for the final 10.

FullSizeRender 2

Fantastic Everest cake!

The time was good, the record (unofficialy) was in the bag, it was just a question of finishing now. The atmosphere was fantastic, everyone who had helped on the day, friends and family all gathered to count me down and see me home. I had nearly made it to the summit of Everest! (Throughout the day people had given their time to collect donations for Raleigh International’s efforts in helping re-build Nepal after the devastating Earthquake. We managed to raise around £1,000 on the day!)

The final ascent was met with rapturous cheers and an overwhelming sense of relief. The champagne was un-corked and half it’s contents sprayed over me. I had done it. 1480 ascents in 12hours 48minutes and 34 seconds. A new World Record (unofficial, to be ratified) A huge thank you to Clip’nClimb Ilkley and all those who supported me on the day. Bring on the next challenge…..FullSizeRender 3

Please click here for donations and more information