Very pleased to say that the second challenge of the EPIC7 series was a huge success. We’re on a roll with 5 still to go! In doing so I realised I was probably the youngest person ever to complete the Welsh 3000’s- i.e. walking the 14 highest peaks in Wales all over 3000ft unsupported and solo in one day. For the logical and self-respectful amongst us, it’s a team event or completed over 3 days.
So as I recover blissfully on my laptop with a large mug of coffee and the occasional hobble to the fridge for a protein-filled snack to reinstate my adrenalin reserves, I wanted to let you know how it all went. I was blown away by the encouragement I had yesterday on social media especially. At last people are really grabbing the EPIC7 concept and the cause. Hope it continues to grow.
Stayed at the newly refurbished Pen-y-Pass Youth Hostel and very much enjoyed it. Comfortable facilities in tune with the mountain environment, helpful staff and great food. Spent the evening studying maps nervously and trying to prepare for what lay ahead. Thanks very much to Simon who let me borrow his 1:25,000 map- my 1:50,000 probably wouldn’t have done the job-my first planning error.
I had a private room to myself so not to disturb anyone. It was feeling very much like an expedition summit night, except the hostel was a damn sight warmer and more comfortable. I finally got to bed about 10pm yet couldn’t sleep for an hour. Lucid dreams- like the ones you get on expeditions at altitude- followed. At 2am came the alarm. Damnit. This was it, as I crawled into my Craghoppers trekking gear. The hostel had a well equipped self-catering kitchen where I crept in for Porridge with banana and a coffee. A nice change from a Primus stove and dehydrated breakfast rich in E numbers…
My ‘packed lunch’ was as follows:
- 2 Houmous sandwiches on wholemeal bread
- 1 Peanut Butter sandwich on wholemeal bread
- 2 Fruit Scones
- 1 Peanut Chocolate Tracker Bar
- 4 Isotonic Energels
- 1 tub homemade Flapjack with Raisins, Cherries… and Peanut Butter (yes, I love the stuff!)
- 3 Cereal Biscuits
- 1 bite-sized slice of Madeira Cake
- 1.5 litres of water for the Snowdon section
3am I left the hostel by headtorch towards Snowdon. Not a soul in sight. Reached the summit before 5am at a leisurely pace, the dawn light creeping in down to the opulent blue of Glaslyn. But then into the thick of it – driving rain, damp air, a chilly breeze and just metres of visibility. Touching the summit cairn- the official 3000s timer had started. In my 9 summits of Snowdon, this was the first time with nobody around. I raced down to Garnedd Ugain, summitting about 15 minutes later. 2 down… 13 to go.
Crib Goch was one of the blackspots. I knew this would slow me down and wasn’t the place to be in a hurry. Thankfully the cloud lifted and the most amazing sunrise took it’s place. I had it all to myself as I carefully scrambled along the arete, watching my footing. I had to turn off down the North Ridge- somewhere I hadn’t been before. It wasn’t problematic at all, until I got to the bottom. God strewth. The next hour or so was killed by boggy, steep and horrible ground that really put me behind schedule… until I caught up with time by unintentionally sliding down the hillside on my backside. Navigation was extremely frustrating as it seemed whoever had listed a path here was undoubtedly the illustrator from the ‘Where’s Wally’ books…. It was a relief to get on road and crack on to Nant Peris.
Next up was Elidir Fawr. A deceivingly long upwards crawl. My heart-rate held at 150bpm as I tried to get up in good time, sweat and sun lotion forming a bitter concoction, blinding my eyes. I was fixated on my watch, worried about times i.e. whether I would finish on time. I was calculating paces, distances, miles and all sorts in my head and it wasn’t helping. I knew it wouldn’t make me go any faster, so I just pulled the watch off. My stress levels dropped considerably. Sir Ranulph Fiennes stated that worrying excessively about turn-around time was one of the factors in his failed Everest summit attempts. It was a habit I needed to break- whilst of course being aware for safety.
It was a longgg curved ridge onto Y Garn. Everything looked deceptively further away. Smooth paths helped me catch time considerably. I had to remind myself to look at how far I’d come, rather than where I had to go. From the summit of Y Garn I was expecting the Glyders to be a small task via a connected ridge. But to my own disappointment, looking Northwards I could see a BIG drop down to climb once again. I ferociously cursed the law of Physics- what goes up, should not have to go down again!
I filled my water bottle Bear Grylls-style from Llyn Y Cyn before a quick jaunt onto the the barren rocky plateau of the Glyders. First summiting Glyder Fawr, scrambling Castell Y Gwynt and bagging Glyder Fach. Where was the path besides Bristly Ridge? I studied my map then just decided to scramble straight down the ridge- adding more time on, considering some sections would be graded as a moderate rock climb…
The unmistakable peak of Tryfan lay ahead. No time to rest as I ate and drank on the go. I was at the summit in no time. The chap who kindly took my photo dared me to jump between the two summit rocks- known as ‘Adam and Eve’ but I politely refused. It would only prove to be a foolish end to my walk, considering my previous track record…
A steep path had me bouncing down stone steps and on the main road yet again. I still felt strong and confident with 20 miles in the legs. I’d been advised this was the critical point- the low ebb- when walkers come down tired off Tryfan and see the impending slog up Pen yr Ole Wen ahead. Many retire at this point. But I didn’t hesitate- always looking back at how far I’d come. I was at the summit in no time- again losing the elusive path. Straight up onto Carnedd Daffyd. 5 peaks to go. I knew the Carneddau section would be easier. Broad, undulating ridges with better paths and less height gain, no scrambling. My skinny legs didn’t seem to be tiring yet. I’d been listening to my iPhone regularly to keep me awake. Plodding gracefully up Carnedd Daffyd I found myself starting to flicker my eyelids sleepily- I’d been awake for 19 hours now. But I knew the worst was done with.
Just like opening your grandmothers’ knitted sweater at Christmas, I reached the summit to see that Carnedd Llewellyn was also a long way away. Gritting my teeth I just took my obligatory summit photo and chugged down the hillside. Through tiredness, or adrenalin, I found myself re-enacting Monty Python sketches to pass the time.
The summit of Llewellyn was an easy climb, which I then lost as I dropped East to summit Yr Elen- a striking little peak. I tried not to look how distant Foel Fras was. 3 peaks to go, my legs started to tire slightly but I kept finding extra cans of juice stashed in there to climb back up to Llewellyn. I’m afraid my Weetabix is a closely guarded recipe… but you can have it if you sponsor me 😉
From there it was a steep, fast descent on grassy paths. Not a soul in sight.
Foel Grach and Garnedd Uchaf were pretty insignificant blots on the landscape but so interesting to see the diversity of Snowdonia. A truly amazing place to be hillwalking. The final peak being Foel Fras. An uneventful stroll up to the summit and I touched the summit cairn at 20:29- giving a total time of 15 hours and 20 minutes from peak to peak. The sunset views from the Carneddau over the sea, with the Great Orme and Puffin Island in clear silhouette, were stunning and induced a smile. It’s not very often you start and finish a walk in the dark but I had to be careful not to lose concentration now. It ain’t over yet.
But it was time to get off the bloomin’ thing. My transport would be waiting for me at Aber at 9:30pm. So away went the map and everything else as I hurried down. Beautiful, tranquil scenery around me. Turned off the path at the col down to Llyn Anafon. From there was a 3 mile farmers track. And 30 mins until I was due to be picked up. I knew Mum would be alone in a desolate car park so I didn’t want to keep her waiting. Not only that, but every EPIC7 challenge has to end with an epic… right?
So, on mile 29, I began to run. I haven’t ran since December, but this would be the only way of getting down in time. The glowing red skies dissipated into darkness behind the hillside. Flocks of Sheep littered the path and also began to run ahead of me, as a pungent-smelling weary teenager hurtled down the hillside. With amicable coincidence, the next song on my iPod was ‘Trooper’ by Iron Maiden. Now we had.our very own cavalry march. Brilliant.
It was all nearly over and I was chuffed to bits, reciting the classic line from the Italian Job: ‘You were only supposed to blow tha bladdy doors off!’. I’d totally nailed this one, to my surprise. I put my headtorch to strobe and waved down to the car, collapsing onto the gate and thumping the air as I got there. Had I not been so weary and pale, it’d have been a perfect opportunity to recreate a horror film and leap onto the car windscreen or something… but mum would probably have driven off.
So… my total time was 18 hours 45 minutes. 32.15 miles walked. 15 peaks climbed. 12,323 ft of ascent (and down again, my knees would like to add), 5 litres water consumed and 5721 kcals burnt.
To be totally honest – I didn’t find it particularly physically tough. It was mentally tiring, but I didn’t find myself digging deep as much as I expected. I just drowned out negative thoughts with the usual techniques. Bearing in mind that this was a longer day than a typical Everest summit day, and with 7 months of training still to go till Everest 2015, I’m in a very positive position.
2 down… 5 to go. And they’re only going to get harder as I push my limits. Hope you’re looking forward to my next EPIC7 event- cycling unsupported from Chester to Chamonix at the end of August. Over 800 miles in 7 consecutive days. Because air travel is expensive nowadays!
Inspired? Please donate to help me support the Sherpas for Everest 2015. Visit www.justgiving.com/EPIC7 or simply text EPIC57 £(your amount) to 70070.
Thanks to Westgrove Group who’ve supported this EPIC7 journey so far and enabled it to become a reality by making me their Young Ambassador. Looking forward to achieving our goals together.