back to archiveThe limits of cross training
Alun writes "It was my third shot at the traverse. The first was a really hot summer's day in the late 1980's and I suffered from not taking enough fluids. I resorted to scrounging drinks on the Glyderau from passing walkers. The other mistake I made that day was not arranging a lift from the end of the Carneddau. It's a long walk from Foel Fras to Rowen on tired legs and we only just made it to the pub there before closing time. Lesson One - You need lots of water
"The second attempt in the early 1990's was rather different. An inaccurate wearther forecast had us marching into the teeth of horizontal rain on an ill fated Southbound traverse that ended with us throwing in the towel and heading off the Carneddau in search of an early breakfast. Lesson Two - You can have too much water.
"I had been discussing with Matt for some time the possibility of setting up a 14 peaks public database to record the details of people's experiences. The Society has had a decades long connection with the traverse been able to turn this into reality with the aid of some generous sponsorship and so we pencilled in April 3 into our diaries for a 14 peaks traverse to mark the launch of the new website and crossed our meterological fingers. Matt and I know that propoer preparation is important but my own participation in the etape du tour this summer and Matt's commuting into work meant that much of our fitness training was taking place on two wheels rather than two legs. But we both have a substantial background in mountaineering so we concluded it would probably see us through.
"Luckily April 3 was an excellent day for the traverse. Cool and clear. We set off from Pen Y Pass at 5am with Rob Collister, a society member and mountain guide. Rob was nursing a foot injury but had kindly offered to show us a descent option off the North ridge of Crib Goch that I was unfamilliar with. The dawn broke as we moved up the upper reaches of the Pyg track. It's not often you get such a busy path to yourself and it was a real pleasure to be alone on the summit of Wales highest mountain. I set my stopwatch running at 7am and we headed off towards Carnedd Ugain and then delicately over the scrambly ridge to Crib Goch. The rock was cold to the touch and a little slippery underfoot in places and needed a lot of attention.
"Rob's faultless local knowledge ensured a safe and speedy descent through potentially difficult ground and then down to the road. We said a temporary goodbye then Matt and I set off down the Llanberis Pass. Dodging vehiles we arrived in Nant Peris for start of the long long slog up Elidir Fawr. The summit shelter was occupied by a couple making breakfast with a portable stove so we asked them to take a picture of us and we rapidly moved on. Looking back at the picture Matt looks fresh while I just look old.
"The traverse of the Gyderau peaks was straightforward enough and the easy scramble up the S ridge of Tryfan added some entertainment. But dropping down to the A5 from Tryfan my legs started to ache. We were pleased to see Helen and John (or to be honest their campervan full of cake and tea.) Rob was also there, fresh as a daisy, for the final leg over the Carneddau.
We must have taken a half hour rest. My legs took the opportunity to stiffen up and I felt pretty uncomfortable plodding up Pen Yr Ole Wen. I just concentrated on following Rob. Once we hit the top it we knew that it was pretty much in the bag and a matter of plodding over the Carneddau tops.
Meanwhile my wife Mary was playing the hero. After finishing a day's teaching she drove to Bwlch Y Ddeufaen, fired up a stove and brewed up several litres of tea for the vac flasks and hauled them in an expedition weight sac stuffed with sandwiches and more cakes over Foel Fras to meet up with us just N of Foel Grach as the light went. She then lugged it all back to the Foel Fras trig for a giant scoff in the dark. It was 10pm before we set off on the descent over Drum.
My legs just about seized up on the descent - but as I had done no walking preparation whatsover I was pleased to have made the traverse. A number of factors were key to success. It was well planned, we had an excellent support team, we were very familiar with much of the route, we used very lightweight gear and last - but certainly not least - we had an excellent weather window and were prepared to delay our traverse if it hadn't materialised. Lesson Three - sort the logistics and get fit but not on a bike - you can take cross training too far!