back to archiveWelsh 3000s success - in aid of BLESMA
16th July 2011 - John Leary
Surely the third weekend in July would afford good conditions for our challenge? Yeah, right!
Having trained throughout the preceding months over some glorious weekends, we had hoped for a fine day, but it was not to be. We set off from Pen-y-pass at 4.05 a.m., in driving rain, strong winds and low cloud and all of a sudden, the magnitude of the challenge ahead of us came into clear focus. We were a team of four. I was accompanied by my good friend Paul Woby, his wife Vanda and a guy I hadn't met previously, John Pickering - like Paul and Van, a member of Staffordshire LDWA.
Vanda took the courageous decision very early on to withdraw, recognising that in the hideous prevailing conditions she felt she could slow us down on that intricate first leg. A true team player, she found her own way down from Crib Goch and rejoined us later in the day with the support team. (She was however, to play a crucial role later in the challenge, having rejoined us for the last leg, when the weather was once more quite appalling).
At 5.45 a.m. we set off from the summit of Crib Goch and under the circumstances made good time on the remainder of the Snowdon range. Ironically, the only time I have been at the top of Snowdon with only my own companions to spoil the shot, the weather was not conducive to a photograph, so we didn't hang about. Taking the steep descent from Clogwyn station, all three of us tumbled several times and ended up on our backs. Unfortunately, JP had an awkward fall and hurt his arm, and so he withdrew at Nant Peris. (John went on to spend the remainder of the weekend in Bangor Hospital with a very badly dislocated shoulder). And then there were two!
After welcome refreshments courtesy of our support, we set off again from Nant Peris to tackle the Glyders. Paul was in the driving seat on much of this leg and ensured we made up some time on Elidir Fawr and Y Garn. We posed for a quick snap at Cantilever rock and by Adam and Eve, but photos were always going to be few and far between this day. To be fair, as we approached Glyder Fawr around lunchtime, the rain that had been a constant feature of the morning finally subsided. Better still, as we approached Tryfan, the clouds parted and the sun gradually came out to play. By mid afternoon, we were treated to a pleasant respite, with a few hours of warming (and importantly drying) sunshine that enabled us to tackle Pen yr Ole Wen in t shirts. On this climb we chatted with a group of young lads from Southampton who were also tackling the 3000s. One oftheir number was struggling at this point and having bid them farewell at the summit's cairn, we didn't see them again - not sure if they made it.
We had made our second and penultimate rendezvous with our support team at Llyn Ogwen before tackling the Carneddau and it is only right that I give our valiant crew a mention at this stage. Jack Allen, himself a veteran of many such escapades, my wife Heather and her sister Rosemary and husband Tony Brindley, did a great job of refreshing us. Their help and encouragement was invaluable on the day. Hot drinks, good fodder, dry socks and a towel never were so welcome!
We made reasonable time to Carnedd Dafydd and, stupidly, I began to think it was going to be plain sailing here on in. Just before 7.00 pm however, fog descended like a blanket and navigation became a real challenge. We needed GPS, map, compass and all of Paul's experience to help us find Yr Elen and later Foel Grach. At around 9.15 pm strong winds set in, gale force in fact, and I laughed as Paul was blown off his feet, only to join him myself minutes later. Vanda had rejoined us from Llyn Ogwen and her fresh legs helped to maintain momentum on the third and final stretch. More importantly, she knows the Carneddau well and her experience was extremely useful in the fog and failing light as we struggled to keep to the beaten track.
Finally at 9.50 pm we arrived at our final summit, Foel-fras, and of course felt a great sense of relief and pride. We didn't dwell long however in the driving rain, in fact we didn't even open the champagne I had carried since Ogwen - that would have to wait until we were home and dry. The walk off via Drum took about an hour longer than in training but that is easily explained by a combination of fatigue and very poor conditions. At 11.50p.m. we met our support at Aber Falls and finally that was it, job done! 16 hours10 minutes peak to peak, 19 hours 45 minutes over all, not bad given the conditions. The lights on the support vehicles were a welcome sight, surpassed only by several Snowdonia Ales shared back at the digs!
We raised nearly £3000 for the British Limbless Ex servicemen's Association and they are delighted. I am proud of that result and couldn't have done it without the support of a lot of people, particularly Woby to whom I owe a lot, not least because it was he that introduced me to mountain walking. Why BLESMA? - it was a charity my dad supported. We lost him suddenly last year and I did it for him/for them if you know what I mean.
Will I do it again? You bet!