Welsh 3000ers

I have had tennis elbow since the summer and that has been getting me down. My bike, a 20 year old RockHopper is still in pieces. It was supposed to become a singlespeed retro-machine but mechanical teething problems have put that project a few months behind schedule, even Paul Errington had to admit the problem could be 1 of a million things, so I decided it was time to get back to roots.

With a couple of runs home from work under my belt I was looking for the next logical step. We had some new carbon trekking poles and a new sleeping mat that needed a good work out so with the weekend weather forecast looking fab I decided that it would be a good idea to try the Welsh 3000ers in a day.

The only people I knew who had done it were Matt, Oli and Phil in preparation for the SAAB Salomon Mtn X in 2008. The difference between me and those guys are that they are triathletes, they have even done iron men comps, but I reckoned the experience gained from years of family holidays in Snowdonia would give me the edge.

My first failing was to arrive in Llanrwst 1 minute after the chip shop closed. My second failing was to arrive in Betws-y-Coed 1 minute after the chip shop closed. The evening meal turned into an unsatisfactory muesli bar and apple, not the best preperation for a 25 mile day. My third failing for the day was to decide to sleep in the car. Outside temperatures were about 2 degrees but it felt much colder than that in my tin coffin!

Come 6am Saturday morning I was keen to get underway. Reaching Pen-y-Pass at 6.30 I followed the Pyg Track to summit Snowdon at 8. I was pleasantly surprised and felt good, although I did feel some abrasion on my left heal. Passing this over as a minor inconvenience I heading down over Crib Goch to turn sharp left in the direction of Nant Peris.

It is always disappointing to lose so much height knowing you are going to have to claw it all back again. The route from Nant Peris to the summit of Elidir Fawr was new to me and I discovered it to be a long, long drag, sustained and shouldn’t be underestimated. I caught up with a couple of guys who were on a reconnaissance for an attempt on the 3000ers in June, naturally subject to arranging work and stuff. We chatted for a bit before I started pulling away at a rate so imperceptibly slow I didn’t know if I should say cheerio. You know that slow moving truck that inconceivably pulls out in front of you to overtake another truck traveling at exactly the same speed on a uphill section of motorway? well that truck was me. Actually it was a pretty good day for hill banter, no road rage here, there was a positive vibe in the air, right from the party of chicks on the summit of Elidir Fawr to the guy who nearly had his thumb bitten off by his Jack Russell on the descent from Tryfan, everyone was out to enjoy it.

So there I was on Elidir Fawr at 11.30. I was pretty exhausted, it was hot and I hadn’t drunk enough. I was conscious of time ticking away so I set off promptly around the long traverse towards Y Garn. This should have been a chance to recuperate but I felt fatigued and I was moving slower than I would have liked. The climb up to Glyder Fawr was the most difficult part of the day, and it was here that I had my first doubts about completing the challenge. My sense of impending doom was compounded by wasting time to scramble up the boulders of the false summit, slipping and grazing my shin in the process. Really I was not best pleased, slumping down I pulled out my emergency Ginsters cheese and onion pasty and knocked back a litre of water.

1.20pm. The traverse across to Glyder Fach seemed to take an eternity and the path down the side of Bristley Ridge was beastly, things were deteriorating. My knee which had flared up occasionally over the past few weeks whilst jogging was now showing real signs of destructing, however upon reaching the col I decided I may as well bag Tryfan. Actually I managed to recuperate some energy over the more technical terrain, it must have been the food and water kicking in. I didn’t have a watch and only knew the time when I took a summit photo so it was a surprise to find out it had only just gone 3. If I could get down to Llyn Ogwen by 4 I would still have another 4 hours of day light and it would still be a goer.

Unfortunately this is where my knee really did pack in. It had taken a pounding all day and was never going to get me through the remaining 10k or so. With the acceptance of failure I became once more aware of the rubbing on my left heal. Removing my sock I found a nasty bloody patch on my heal. Ooof it was really game over and a cup of tea at the Ogwen cafe.

Shucks, this was really dissapointing, despite having had reached a low point traversing the Glyders I felt that I had recharged enough to climb Pen yr Ole Wen, after that it was virtually flat to the end game. So near so far, but it wasn’t wasted. I enjoyed a peaceful bivvy in some boulders along Llyn Ogwen. It was a lovely starry night which passed comfortably on the new full length Airo mat. I had carried it all day so I was sure going to use it.

On Sunday morning I still had thoughts of finishing off the remaining 3000ers, but I would still have had to walk back to my car at the foot of Pen-y-Pass. I only had to take another look at my heal to remind myself that it was not a good idea. In the end I had a slow but enjoyable trek back over the Tryfan - Glyder pass trying not to weight the blister on my left foot or my knee on my right leg.

I guess it was quite early in the season but I think a sub 12hr time is a realistic target if I can get my knee sorted this summer. As for the guys who run it in under 5hrs, or multiple times in a day.. they are machines!

Equipment notes:
I was always planning to bivvy no matter if I completed the walk or not so I was happy with my weight of approx. 5kg. I couldn’t find where Nick had hidden the camping stoves before leaving Alpkit HQ so this decision was made easy for me!

- Alpkit crag sack
- PipeDream 250 sleeping bag + 4l Airlok drybag
- Hunka bivvy bag
- Airo full length sleeping mat
- Gamma
- Pentax Optio W20
- Carbon trekking poles
- Silva compass
- Downloaded route map from Welsh3000s website

Food & Drink
- 750ml Sigg water bottle
- 3 pitta bread
- Tuna salad
- 3 Chocolate & muesli bars
- Strawberry yoghurt
- 1 x Mars bar (duo)
- 1x Apple
- 1 x Ginsters cheese & onion pasty

- Patagonia capilene baslayer
- Patagonia classic penguin print hat
- ME gloves
- Qechua RAID shoes
- Alpkit Aktif Calf & Akdrenaline socks
- Tesco pants
- 0hiro synthetic jacket
- Marmot Preclip

Should have in retrospect
- carried a Compeed blister pack
- Eaten a square meal Friday night
- Eaten often and early on Saturday
- Drunk more water
- Got my knee checked out

Map courtesy of MapMyRun

By Kenny Stocker