Monday, 16 July 2012

The 24 Hours

Blow by blow (or stomp by stomp) account of the challenge -

Saturday 4pm - Ben Nevis.
Stomachs lined with a mcdonalds form Fort William we set off, an hour earlier than we had previously planned, but what harm could it do we thought (you'll see what harm later) we were just so keen. I quickly came to realise that i would probably never regret a mcdonalds as much in my life as i did that one. It sat heavy in my belly, which was heavy enough on my body as we tramped onwards and upwards. it was pleasently sunny after all our worrying, and as you can imagine i was horrifically sweaty. Ed had declared himself fit to walk, but was lagging quite badly after the first hour or so. I tried to be nice, aware that we still had 23 hours ahead of us to try and stay friends for, and with my cheery encouragement we reached the top (1344 metres) after 2 hours 45 minutes. The last 300 metres were caked in cloud and were cold and uncomfortable, and i didnt actually notice the top until i was on it. We had a quick photo stop (although there was not much to see through the fog) and then set off down again. The plan said we had 5 hours for Benny N (we're cool enough for nicknames again now) and after 4 hours and 50 minutes we were 10 minutes from the bottom. Or more I was 10 minutes from the bottom. Eddie was lagging pretty badly at this point, claiming "major injury" in the form of tired legs... Dad met us near the bottom to escort us back to the car, and could hear us before he saw us, to the tune of "Ed! PLEASE keep up!" As it happened we made it back to the bottom at exactly 9pm, so i was happy. Tired but happy. Ed was not happy. Claiming everything from groin strain to irregular heartbeat, mam panic-diagnosed altitude sickness, but after about 15 minutes of his none stop complaining had to admit it was probably just tiredness from unacustomed excersise. The wounded soldier did not like that.

9pm - 2am. Drive from Ben Nevis to Sca Fell Pike.
I slept most of the way, but form Mam and Dads reports Ed complained most of it. I did wake up when the car physically left the ground over a large bump in the twisting back roads of the lakes, where Dad raced (in a safe and legal fashion!) with another three peaks driver he had befriended while waiting for us.

Sunday 2am - Sca Fell Pike.
In the small and awkward car park, Mam ans Dad dropped us off and disappeared down the country lane to turn the car around and set up camp to wait for us. As soon as they were out of sight Ed made a great show of limping and whinging, until I couldnt help but snap "Are you going to do this then or not?!" At that point little Eddie, overcome with agony, as well as being tired and grumpy (the little princess usually doesnt get up til noonas im sure youre aware from previous blogs) flipped. "Go on your bleeping own then" was something along the lines of his furious yells. He launched the map at me with all the strength his little arms could muster and stormed off to wait for the car (he was so angry he even forgot to limp... must have been an adrenaline rush or something). I stood there for a couple fo minutes probably, staring dumbstruck at his retreating back. It was pitch black (as the harm done by our setting off up Ben Nevis early was that we arrived here at 2am not 3am, so dawn was no where near as breaking as it would have been) and as i stared from the map, to my surroundings, and back to the map, i knew i didnt have a clue even what direction to walk in. Thinking it was all over (and honestly furious with Edward for ruining it) i too had to turn tail and head back to the car. Dad describes the scene he saw in the headlights on returning back to the car as "hideous" i was in the center of the beams of light (i dont know and couldnt give a monkeys where Edward was in the scene, he probably wont make it in to the movie at all after his little performance) face screwed up like a monster, wailing. he opened the car door to a "Daaaaaaaaaaaaad! wahhh!" The sullen look on Edwards face must have said it all, and grasping that Eddie wouldnt do the walk, and for safety (as well as i dont mind admitting map-resding-in-the-dark-competancy) reasons i couldnt do the walk alone, was the moment my father became my hero. Despite being written off the challenge with weak knees, despite having not done any training since his write off in April, despite not having his knee braces or trekking poles with him, despite the fact that he is 52 you know, he strapped on Eds 3 sizes too big walking boots, and did Sca Fell Pike with me. Heroic music should have played, as we gave Edward withering looks and strode off into the night, victory snatched from the jaws of defeat. However, following my birthday (see the blog) you must still remember that this is me and Dad we're talking about here, and in the darkness, as is our way on Sca Fell, of course, we missed the path. My awe was only heightened though as we scaled the bare mountain side, Dads super human effort getting us to the top (978metres) on time, and as the sun rose, we could only laugh at the blinding obviousness of the path we managed not to spot. Our journey down, on the newly discovered path, was flawless and even dads knees held up, getting us down again by 6am, perfect timing on the 4 hours allocated by the plan, and in actual fact even quicker than that, allowing time for Edwards histrionics. I have never been more impressed or proud of my Dad, who undoubtedly saved the challenge there.

6am - 10.15am. Drive from Sca Fell Pike to Snowdon.
As Dad collapsed mam took the wheel to get us to Wales for the last leg of the challenge, with daylight not being an issue i'd be fine to tackle Snowdon alone. Edward was sheepish, as well he should be, and me and dad, well we were plain knackered.

10.15am - Snowdon.
I was dropped off at the car park and the others drove off, making their way to the Snowdon Mountain railway base station, where they would get the train up to meet me at the top, and off i went. As i scrambled over rocks on the initial incline i honestly wondered whether i could do it, as i was overtaken by a group of burly welsh men i was galvanised to go on, and picked up the pace. It was then that Mam decided to call me to chat about the train (i know, time and a place mother) and i almost lost sight of my galloping welsh inspirations (i treated them as the greyhound at the dogs track treats the hare, except i merely wanted to keep up with them, not eat them) I got Mam off the phone and leaped over a style to follow them. I noticed that i was basically the only female on the mountain at this point, and my burly welsh hares were far from unique in this setting. After following them doggedly up a steep route for half an hour or so i plucked up the breath to ask them if they thought we were anywhere near half way there (as according to the plan i should be at the top in just over 2 hours) "Well youre nearly at the top of the knife edge" came the reply, my puzzled face must have triggered the further response "you do want to do the knife edge and then Snowdon dont you?" With a sick feeling in my stomach i whimpered "This IS Snowdon isnt it?" Of course, left to my own devices i had climed half the wrong mountain. Luckily this 'Knife Edge" was a pre summit to the actual Snowdon summit, (an extereme one, which explained all the burly locals) so i had merely to slither a little way back down bare grassy mountain side and i'd be back on the right path, the helpful welsh fellas pointed it out to me, God bless them. the slithering was much easier said than done, and i can report now that i am probably one of not may people who can say that they have slid down a bank of Mount Snowdon on their backside. Iwas back on the right path, and still on time despite my little excursion, but my legs were weary. the muscles that allow a person to put one leg in front of the other seemed to have had enough, just at the last scramble appeared up ahead. It was nigh on vertical, with wide zig zags in the path making it walkable. screw this, i thought, and just about flung myself onto all fours to physically clamber up the last push. Making it to the top (1085metres) after 2 and a half hours, i looked around triuphmant, and promptly burst into tears. A kindly tourist came and gave me a piece of chocolate and i pulled myself together. My knee was now roughly the size of a football and i literally could not put one more foot in front of the other. At this point a lovely man working as a guide mentioned that a lot of people classed getting to the top of each peak as the challenge, so if he was me he would stop the clock there. So there you have it, i cant lie, i got the train back down Snowdon (leaving dad to step in again and give me his seat and walk down, although taking the much gentler route that i was not aware of) and have firmly planted myself in the school of thought that says getting to the top is the main thing, not down again, and clocking in at 20 hours 35 minutes.

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