“How much further have we got Joe” Matt asked whilst struggling for breath after the battle up Tryfan.
“At least another 14km and then another 1000m of ascent up the next 7 mountains” Joe replied, struggling to make light of their current situation.
On the morning of our final challenge of the year it is fair to say we were all nervous, this was to be the toughest challenge of a busy year, which has seen the team complete an ultra-marathon dragging tyres, conquer 200 climbs in under 15 hours and complete two-thirds of a half iron-man!
The Welsh 3,000’s is one of the most daunting mountaineering prospects in the UK, with over 26 miles of running across 3000 metres of ascent and is a big challenge for anyone to walk in under 24 hours, but to attempt to run it in under nine hours… utter madness!
Setting off from Aber Falls car park at 9am; Joe, Chris, Ollie and Matt headed into the Carneddau to the true start of the challenge, the summit of Foel Fras. Traditionally, most teams spend the night before biviing out under the stars on the summit of the first peak, ensuring an early start on fresh legs, but we decided to add the first 4.5 miles and 700m of assent to the overall day, which seemed like a great idea in the comfort of Joe’s dining room on the Friday night!
Progress into the mountains was slow, with the team cutting a route through thick grass and, at times, scrabbling up 70 degree slopes of moss and grass, climbing on all fours to prevent sliding back down the slippery slopes. We all had demons in our head early on while going up these first mountains as it a small leg in grand scheme of things… and we weren’t even at the start line of the Welsh 3,000’s proper! However, after navigating up to the summit of Foel Fras in the mist, we soon reached the ridge of the Carneddau and the clouds lifted, where merciful the terrain eased and everything looked much more promising!
We made great progress over Foel Fras, Carnedd Llewelyn, Carnedd Dafydd and Pen Yr Ole Wen and started to head down into the Ogwen valley, lying at a mere 200 metres above sea level. Running down 800 metres is great fun, but for Joe and Matt, in the back of their minds they knew that an accent of Tryfan was literally looming large in the background. Reaching the car park the team were greeted by Ollie’s parents and Dave and Adrian. It was great to see them and they mentally psyched us up for the next section on the Glyder’s which was the hardest section to run.
After a quick pit stop to refill their water bottles and stock up on supplies, Matt and Joe soon set off for the next part in silence, both knowing what they were heading up, having led many groups up these mountains in the past. This, if anything, made it mentally harder for them as they knew exactly how high they had to go and precisely how much they had left to conquer. The demons soon started coming back, however they knew what to do and that was plodding up the mountains, one foot after the other.
It took Joe & Matt, around 40mins to scale the height of Tryfan and as quickly as they got up the mountain, there was to be no rest at the top as they headed down to start the ascent of Glyder Fach. The terrain was proving challenging & dangerous for them. Whilst both experienced mountaineers, they found running shoes different and more difficult to manage on the wet, lichen covered rocks of the Glyder’s then their normal mountain boots. With hearts beating out of their chests they made their way up the climb onto the top of Glyer Fach, legs bursting and screaming for rest… all the while in silent contemplation, battling the demons and trying to conquer their battle of with their minds and keep going.
It was almost as if someone had heard their pain as the moment they both reach the top of Glyder Fach the skies cleared and they were treated to the most sensational sunset imaginable. There’s a famous saying “You only remember the first hour & last hour. Everything in between is a blur” and it was true, all the pain and suffering of Tryfan and Glyder Fach was forgotten as they ran across the flat, awestruck by the sunset.
With the remainder of the route stretched out across the horizon in front of them, Matt and Joe chuckled to themselves. When you are tired, cold, wet & hungry, you can’t help but doubt yourself and the situations you find yourself in and it’s safe to say, a few times throughout our challenge we’ve asked the question, “why on earth are we here”?…. In situations like this, one thing always stuck out for Matt. He remembers watching ‘Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels’ and recites the line at the start of the film “left leg, right leg, your body will follow”.
It really is as simple as that, just keep moving. Before they knew it we were heading down the steep descent of Glyder Fawr, progress proving painfully slow due to the steep wet rock, but with light desperately fading they both knew they couldn’t afford to be too slow.
Safely down into the saddle, they took the opportunity to grabbed some much needed food and water before making a speedy ascent of Y Garn topping out as the light faded. All of a sudden the situation became more serious, senses heightening in the dying light, brains became more alert. Strapping on head torches on, they started to traverse round to Elidir Fawr, enjoying view all the way down into LLanberis, where fireworks shot into the sky, imagining people with the family & friends enjoying the festivities. Matt and Joe’s situation was slightly different, as they stopped for a second to watch the fireworks, the realisation of what they had done and what they still had left to do suddenly started to sink it. The rollercoaster of emotions from the day had all bulldozed into them as they stood on the summit of Elidir Fawr, battered by the wind and rain, standing in shorts & MNDA vests.
Joe let out a scream, “ARRRGGHHH…. Let’s just get off the hill mate”.
From down in the valley, the support team were tracking Matt and Joe’s progress, watching the distant head torches slowing cut a path across the mountain side from Y Garn, eventually losing them behind a spur on their descent off Elidir Fawr. At around 19:30, after more than 10 and a half hours on the go, Matt and Joe eventually made it down to safely off to Nant Peris, to a waiting support crew, who greeted them with tea, much to Matt’s approval.
This challenge rounds off a year of hard physical and mental tests, building us as individuals but just as importantly bonding us as a team. We come out of it, mentally stronger and a step closer to the South Pole. You can find all of our blogs on the website and videos on YouTube. See you next year for more……