The Welsh 3000s – 14th April 2007

Ben Lairig Challenge 2007

The Welsh 3000s

Last year when Pete was Captain he kicked off the tradition of doing an annual Ben Lairig challenge, so when we were sat in the Clachaig Inn back in September we agreed that once again we should attempt to complete an utterly silly adventure for no apparently good reason.  On Saturday 14thApril we attempted the Welsh 3000 challenge.

 

The Welsh 3000 challenge is to walk all the hills in Wales which are over 3000 feet above sea level, of which there are 15.  You must not travel in a vehicle between any of the hills and the time measured is from leaving the top the first hill to the arriving at the summit of the last.  A support crew is allowed to meet the team carrying food, water and medical supplies.

 

The team for the challenge was made up of current and past members of the club.  Steve, Joe, Ben, Matt (Who had organised the trip), Bance and I.  Kindly supporting us with the student union’s 9-seater were Pete, Jon and Hannah who for some unknown reason had agreed to take time out of their Easter holidays and revision sessions to drive all over the Welsh countryside for us.

 

So leaving campus on the Friday afternoon Jon and Pete drove us south, after a suitably greasy takeaway in Chester we continued into Wales. We arrived at Bethesda around 9pm and headed to the pub for some pre-challenge hydration.  Steve and Ben joined us there after driving up after work.

 

We slept in the car park under Snowdon, we arrived late and were leaving early, the Youth Hostel was closed and we knew we wouldn’t be in anyone’s way so it seemed the most appropriate place.  At 3:30am watches started bleeping and an array of sleepy faces began to emerge out of the blackness.  The roar of Bance’s stove echoed around the car park as muffins were scoffed and boots hastily fastened.  At 4:05am we began to climb Snowdon.

 

Pete and Jon decided to join us for the sunrise on Snowdon, Hannah felt she’d be more useful guarding the 9-seater against thieves. The ascent was fairly easy, using head torches we took the Pyg track all the way up to the shoulder then turned left onto the summit, exactly the same as we did in the previous challenge.  We had the mountain all to ourselves, something not usually imaginable for Snowdon!

 

At the top we looked out over north Wales, the streetlights were still on in the towns and the mist was slowly rising out of the valley bottoms. Sweaty and smelly we sat on the summit and watched as the world became lighter.

At 5:47am we started the stopwatches, the race was now on!

We took the path back down to the shoulder where we had just come from and began to climb up the other side onto Garnedd Ugain.  The climb was easy and we had soon conquered peak number two, we posed for the photo and headed onto the infamous Crib Goch.

Because we’d waited on Snowdon for the sun to come up, we had good vision when we began the treacherous ridge.  Looking down at the drop on either side certainly woke me up! The scrambling was relatively straightforward but with the exposure and the rough footing we took our time.

 

After the ridge Pete and Jon took the regular path back down to the 9-seater hopefully to find Hannah awake, the rest of us who were doing the challenge took the ridge to the left to cut off some of the distance of the road walk.

 

The ridge was easy enough, a quick scree slide took us into a long grassy valley which we followed out to meet the road at the bottom of the Pass of Llanberis.  The 9-seater overtook us as we followed it through the sleepy valley as far as the village.

 

This was our first stop of the walk, a chance to eat some much needed breakfast.  We filled up the water bottles and treated any early signs of blisters.  The weather forecast had said it was going to be a warm day so most of us decided we were going to force our legs upon the world and changed into our shorts.  After about a 20 minute stop we were off again.

 

Climbing the side of Elidir Fawr was not fun, the sun was starting to get a lot hotter and the 2600 foot climb reduced us all to sweaty messes. However thanks to some chocolate and energy gels we made it to the top within two hours.  This was the second big climb of the walk out the way and we felt a lot better once we were above it, that was until we saw Tryfan. Looming away in the background it looked a terrifyingly long way off, yet it was only a fraction of the total challenge!

 

Still no point in worrying, we took the path around the top of the valley then up a climb onto Y Garn.  The world was still heating up and the mist was lifting.  More and more people started appearing as we entered the more social hours of the day.

 

The path took us down to a small lake near the Devil’s Kitchen then we began a scree climb up onto our next summit, Glyder Fawr.  There were a lot of people up here, large rocks were all over the top and we had lots of fun boulder hopping.

 

The next top was Glyder Fach, we had even more chances to play while climbing up this one, without bothering to find the easy way up we scrambled our way up the big rock slabs onto the top of it.  The obligatory photo stop and we began to head for Tryfan.

This is where the difficulty stepped up a notch.  By now the sun was beating down at what the forecast told us would be about 23 °C (73 Fahrenheit) we were approximately half way through at 16 miles but doing really well with our time.

 

Now we had to descend 900 feet to a scree covered path to reach the beginning of the Tryfan climb, it was tough on the knees but we made it to the bottom without any injuries.  We looked up at Tryfan looming in front of us, shrugged and began the climb.

 

Wow, how I love scrambling, sometimes.  It was tough getting up there and even harder coming down, there were lots of people coming up from the other side so we rested just under the top, the severity of the climbing and the height gain had slowed us considerably.

I don’t know what I was finding so funny, I was exhausted!

 

We decided not to try the Adam and Eve jump at the top, partially because of the number of other walkers up there but mainly because we didn’t trust our depth perception any more.

 

We began to head down Tryfan to the road where the 9-seater would be waiting for us, the drop down was much like the way up.  Some of us were having real problems with dehydration at this point, we’d all taken at least two litres for this section but I’m sure I sweated out at least that by now!  Matt, Ben and Bance were particularly suffering with cramp and headaches.  We saw a Sea King helicopter fly over, probably on a mountain rescue callout, we did consider pretending to be injured to get the lift but thought it was a little irresponsible.

 

After a very slow descent we reached the road, just in time to see the 9-seater drive along to the other car park to meet us!  Despite the 18 miles behind us, I was feeling quite strong when we eventually arrived.

 

So, same drill as last time, eat as much as you can, drink as much as you can and refill the water bottles.  I did also try to eat some Cashew nuts to replace some of the salt I’d lost.

 

This is when my body began to play a rather unkind joke on me, while I had been walking I’d had plenty of energy, adrenaline had kept the pain to a minimum and I’d forgotten that I’d only had 90 minutes of sleep the night before, as I sat there in the 9-seater trying to put something in my stomach all my energy faded away and I felt like I was going to throw up my meagre lunch.  Far too early Joe and Steve decided it was time to move on.  We all knew they were right but Matt and I just looked at each other in disbelief.

 

This was where Ben decided he’d had enough, looking up at Pen yr Ole Wen 2200 feet above us, I couldn’t say I blamed him.  We all knew that the third and final section was the longest of the three with seven of the fifteen hills in it.  We wouldn’t see the 9-seater again for well over six hours. Matt had made the same decision as me, We were going to finish this walk.  Bravely (or stupidly depending on how you look at it) the remaining five of us began to climb the hill.

 

In a mere 90 minutes we stood on the top of mountain number nine, we were all a lovely sweaty mess once again. Here we took a few moments to admire the sky though closed eyelids while we lay on our backs, panting in exhaustion. But all too soon we were on our feet again as we trudged on around the top of the cove and away towards the next peak.

 

The people we were meeting up here were different, it was getting later now so practically everyone was carrying backpacking sacks, they were probably heading for the campsite near the bottom of Tryfan which the club has stayed at many times before.

 

After one false summit and another half an hour we were standing on the top of Carnedd Dafydd which stands at around 3425 feet.  The sky was starting to get a lot darker now, luckily this meant we were cooling off.

 

We all expected that we would be finishing this section it the dark so we’d retrieved our head torches from the 9-seater where we’d deposited them after the first walk.  For the time being though there was easily enough light to find our way along.

The hills were becoming more rolling and less rocky as we proceeded, the next one was Carnedd Llewelyn, this was the last one we would climb which was over 1000 meters, not an overly significant fact, but at this point we were ticking off every checkpoint we could think of!

 

The path split with a ridge leading out to Yr Elen and the main path leading onto Foel Grach, of course both of them were part of our climbing agenda for the evening so we proceeded out along the ridge to the outlying peak then turned around to climb back up to the fork in the path before continuing onto Foel Grach and hill number 13.

 

We stood on the top and looked out at the remaining peaks, the haze had long since crept back in and our perspectives were playing tricks on us. After some head scratching we identified the remaining two hills, what confused us was that from our current position they did not appear to be the highest.  We double checked with the map and GPS and decided we were right.  We set off, the finish line was in sight.

 

Blisters were becoming bigger and limps more obvious as we carried on into the increasing darkness onto Garnedd Uchaf, the summit was covered in boulders and as we clamoured over them I heard a loud sigh of relief from someone behind me, only one more to go.

 

Head torches flickered into life at various intervals as we climbed our fifteenth and final hill, Foel-fras 3090feet above see level.  We reached the summit and tried rather unsuccessfully to put on a brave face for the camera.

We’d finished the Welsh 3000 Challenge in 15 hours and 21 minutes, but unfortunately for our feet, the walking didn’t end there.  We were still miles from the nearest road over 900 meters up in the air, in the dark, in the middle of northern Wales.

 

Following Steve who seemed to be fairing the best of us we ambled off into the blackness.  He led us off down a steep bank where we dropped towards a small lake, checking our position on the GPS we found our way to the track at the far end which led us down, after two more miles the track became a road.

 

Feet were stinging and muscles cramping and just when I thought we were going to have to take a break we came around the corner and the 9-seater was parked up with our friends waiting for us.

 

We arrived at the car park at 23:02, completing the total walk in 18 hours and 57 minutes.

 

Very slowly I pealed off my socks and boots then changed as many of my clothes as I could be bothered, standing there in only a the pair of shorts I couldn’t feel the cold of the night air.  Seeing Hannah and Pete shivering was my only clue at how chilly it was, I couldn’t feel anything apart from the pain in the soles of my feet.

 

Deciding to take pity on them I put some clothes on and we packed up the 9-seater.  Craving some hot food we stopped at the same takeaway in Chester before Pete and Jon drove us back up the motorway to York.

 

At 3:30am, I collapsed into my bed.  34.4 miles and 24 hours since our challenge had begun.

 

I wonder what we’ll be doing under the next Captain?

 

Adam Griffiths

Captain – Ben Lairig

University of York

Stats

 

Time (of day)

Leave Snowdon Car park

04:05

Arrive summit of Snowdon

05:35

Leave Snowdon

05:47

Garnedd Ugain

05:58

Crib Goch

06:46

Arrive at Car

07:45

Leave Car

08:08

Elidir Fawr

10:08

Y Garn

11:04

Glyder Fawr

12:11

Glyder Fach

12:45

Tryfan

13:55

Arrive at Car

15:40

Leave Car

16:13

Pen yr Ole Wen

17:52

Carnedd Fach

18:17

Carnedd Llewelyn

19:15

Yr Elen

19:36

Foel Grach

20:22

Garnedd Uchaf

20:42

Foel Fras

21:08

Arrive at Car

23:02

 

 

Total Walking: 18 hours 57 minutes, 34.4 miles, 11000ft

Peak to Peak: 15 hours 21 minutes,

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