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Summit

Summit

At 15:30 on Wednesday the 18th we reached the summit. A full account and pictures to follow….

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The Adventure Begins

In 30 minutes time we will leave the luxury of the Kibo Palace Hotel and transfer to Machame Gate. I have resisted the temptation to stuff my pack with one of the hotels soft fluffy pillows, eaten a high protein breakfast and once I’ve downed my final cup of coffee I will finally be ready for Kilimanjaro.

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Final Preparation

With just four days to go before we depart for Tanzania the prospect of climbing Kilimanjaro seems very real. Preparations had been going well over the past months with a fantastic days scrambling on Tryfan and the Glyders. The negative effects of holiday Croissants, Cheese and red wine had been tempered by the wonderfully restorative early morning runs through the vineyards of Cote de Bourge

Tryfan

Last week I suffered a minor set back, whilst out running a tumble over a loose paving slab left me with cuts, bruises and damaged ribs. The GP has confirmed that they’re badly bruised rather than fractured and that Ibuprofen and Paracetamol are more compatible with altitude than Codeine. One week on and the pain is begging to subside but I’m resigned to  some uncomfortable nights camping on the mountain and will be taking a large stash of painkillers.

Parkrun

Confidence is a preference for the habitual voyeur of what is know as Parkrun. Until recently I have been completely oblivious to the Saturday morning activities in our local park. Parkrun is a fantastic volunteer run establishment that organises free 5k runs in local parks.

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In a desperate bid to improve my fitness I’ve been sweating out a few 5k runs on the gym treadmills lately but this seemed like much more fun. I decided to take it easy on my first race with a focus on running all the way and not having to resort to walking. Around about the half way mark I began to worry that my pace was too slow and I wasn’t pushing hard enough but analysis of my heart rate monitor data afterwards would suggest otherwise (redlining most of the way).Screen Shot 2013-06-15 at 18.06.28

With a finish time of 27 minutes I’ve left plenty of room for improvement, I’d love to get within the 25 minute mark.

With less than 3 months to go before Kili I’m beginning to feel worryingly underprepared, I think I’ll continue with the 5k running and try and organise another trip to to the hills.

The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge

The Yorkshire three peaks challenge is an assent of three of the most prominent hills in the Yorkshire dales. Pen-y-ghent (694m or 2,277 ft), Whernside (736m or 2,415ft) and Ingleborough (723m or 2,372ft). The challenge rules stipulate that the 23 mile route should be completed within the benchmark 12 hours. The challenge was conceived in 1887 by D.R. Smith and J.R. Wynne-Edwards, two schoolmasters of the nearby Giggleswick grammar school, it used to be known as just the “Three Peaks Challenge” but when the national three peaks (Ben Nevis, Scafel Pike and Snowdon) became popular the prefix “Yorkshire” was added to avoid confusion.

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We had chosen to travel up by train and were made most welcome by Jo and Steve at the Willows B&B who provided useful advice and local knowledge. We woke early (5:45) and after a bacon sandwich and clocking in our start time at the Pen-y-ghent café we set off up the path to the first of the peaks. Just over one hour later and having enjoyed a scramble up the steep final section, we reached the top of Pen-y-ghent. True to its name the wind was blowing fiercely (Pen-y-ghent translates from the ancient Cumbric language as “hill of the wind”) so after a quick photo we decided to descend. We had been warned of a large bog at the bottom of the hill but the new path was a delight to walk on and I decided to give my new walking poles (recommended Kilimanjaro kit) a test. At first, walking with poles seemed challenging, a bit like walking but with the additional effort of having to lift and move the poles as well. After a couple of miles the rhythm of the poles felt more natural particularly on downhill sections.

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The walk out to the second peak, Whernside is a long old schlep, about two thirds of the way there the rain set in, from this point on the inclement weather became a notable feature of the walk that would be difficult to ignore. “It wouldn’t be a challenge if it was easy” we rationalized. Despite the rain our spirits were lifted by the impressive view of the Ribble Head Viaduct and a mobile van selling cups of tea. We decided we could afford a 10 minute break and a strong cup of Yorkshire tea. “Is there a bin near by?” I enquired, “There are no bins at all in the national park and I only take my own litter back” was the abrupt response. Once we reached the viaduct we were faced with two choices of route. The more popular route is longer but a good path and even gradient all the way, we decided to take the shorter but extremely steep route straight up to the summit. An hour later we were all utterly demoralised, the combination of boggy ground, high winds, driving rain and the oppressively steep climb was testing our resolve. Trying to remember that it wouldn’t be a challenge if it were easy, we soldiered on to the peak of Whernside. I contemplated taking a photo to mark the achievement of our second peak but decided that I didn’t dare take the camera out of its waterproof case! I could imagine that the walk along the ridge would be a highlight on a nice sunny day but for us the visibility was about 20 meters and the strong side-winds carried hail stones that stung the side of our faces. We descended quickly and once out of the cloud our moods were lifted when joy of joys it briefly stopped raining.

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Throughout the descent I had tried to be sympathetic to my friends who were grumbling about the discomfort of their wet feet, the truth was that despite having identical boots mine remained dry. The difference? Gaiters. I had purchased a pair of gaiters a few days previously after hearing stories of the Pen-y-gent bog but hadn’t appreciated just how effective they could be in heavy rain. It seems that my friends boots had not leaked but become wet through the ingress of water over the top of the boot. We stopped for 5 minutes to allow excess water to be poured from boots and for socks to be changed. Refreshed we set off on the short trip across the valley to the base of our final peak, Ingleborough. Shortly after starting up the path the rain set in again and the well laid stone track turned into a stream. As the path steepened our hearts pounded and leg muscles ached with each step. We agreed that the steep route up Whernside hadn’t been the best option. The last section of Ingleborough is a scramble up the limestone rocks followed by a more forgiving gradient to the summit. Visibility was extremely poor at the summit and we had to walk close together and note our route back carefully. After the obligatory touching of the trig point we turned straight back round and headed back to Horton-in-Ribblesdale.

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The walk back seemed painfully long and in particular the finger post sign that stated 1 mile to Horton felt like it had been misplaced, our land-lady later confirmed that it had indeed been re-measured recently. After crossing the limestone pavements and negotiating the flooded boggy ground we hobbled into Horton and logged our time with the Pen-y-ghent café. 11 hours 15 minutes, not a course record but given the conditions we felt proud of our achievement and had 45 minutes to spare to be within the regulation 12 hours. So did I enjoy the challenge? Undoubtedly, I’m sure I would not have attempted these three beautiful Yorkshire hills in one walk were it not for the popularity of the challenge, but there again I think I also understand where Wainright was coming from when he wrote “Some people have chosen to regard the walk as a race, and this is to be greatly regretted, walking is a pleasure to be enjoyed in comfort”.

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The public bar of the Crown Hotel was packed that Friday night, rammed full with energetic young men talking excitedly about the challenge that lay ahead of them, amongst them sat three broken men nursing pints of Black Sheep, lacking the energy to engage in conversation but quietly proud of their achievement.

Yr Wyddfa

At 1,085 metres above sea level, Snowdon (or Yr Wyddfa in Welsh) is the highest summit in England and Wales, it’s also one of the busiest. We set off from London at 6pm on Friday and queued on the M1 with others desperate to escape the capital for the weekend.  Several hours of uneventful travelling later we found ourselves in the Smithfield Bell, Welshpool where we ate an average meal before concluding our journey to a log cabin near Dolgellau.

Whilst Snowdon may be the tallest point in England and Wales it’s certainly not the most difficult climb. It’s a mountain of the people, accessible to all, there’s even a train that can take you to a cafe at the summit. There are numerous climbs and scrambles up Snowdon but the vast majority take one of the six major trails. We had chosen to ascend using the Snowdon Ranger path. The path was named after the Victorian mountain guide John Morton who was the self proclaimed ‘Snowdon Ranger’.

350px-SnowdonMapThe path is gentle and forgiving as it winds it’s way up the western slopes of the mountain. We has perfect weather and climbed slowly enjoying some great views.

IMG_0814As we reached the ridge we were rewarded with fantastic views across to the east face and an ant like trail of walkers crawling their way up the steep section from the top of the miners path and the Pyg track. The summit was heaving with walkers and tourist queuing patiently for their turn to be photographed with the trig point. As we admired the views and reflected on our achievements we couldn’t help overhearing several phone conversations “Hello, I’m calling from the top of a mountain” or “You’ll never guess where I’m calling from”.

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Having luncheoned on cheese and pickle rolls and scotch eggs we descended via the Rhyd Ddu path. As we descended via the steep slopes we reflected that our path up was an easier climb, a view echoed by the red faces of those we passed. The Rhyd Ddu is a great trail with stunning views to either side of the ridge but arguably one of the best features of the Rhyd Ddu is that it ends at the fabulous Cwellyn Arms with its nine guest ales!

CwellynWe arrived in Rhyd Ddu with seconds to spare and caught the Welsh Highland Railway the two miles back to the Snowdon Ranger car park. A great end to a fantastic day’s walking in the hills.

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Training Walks 2 & 3

Training walk two was a weekend walking in Oxfordshire. A couple of 10 mile walks across flat terrain. The weather was bitterly cold but thankfully stayed dry on both days. However, the ground was very wet and the rivers were in spate. The Oxfordshire farmland countryside was beautiful and the lambing season was well underway. The food, beer and service at the Star Inn Woodstock was exceptional. With England winning their game in the six nations it was a great weekend!

IMG_0711IMG_0720IMG_0727IMG_0729IMG_0732star_(3)Training walk three was originally intended to be the Brecon Beacons but due to bad weather we decided to scale back our ambitions to a 10 miler over the Mendip Hills, not so cold as Oxfordshire but equally squelchy underfoot. The walk provided 1,500ft of height gain and with such low cloud cover the top of black down was in the mist giving me an opportunity to test my new soft shell jacket. With the weather being so cold this year it was noticeable how far behind all the plants are, a fantastic display of Snowdrops but maybe not what you might expect in mid March.

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