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Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Snowdonia

My training moved up another gear over the weekend of May 10-12. Action Challenge,( The company who are taking me to Kilimanjaro) organised a training weekend in Snowdon, which I attended. I left home late morning on Friday the 12th heading for North Wales. I was very excited about this weekend. It was going to be a good opportunity for me to really test myself and measure my fitness. It would also be a good chance to walk as part of a group. Which is something I had not done, to date. And meet people doing the same thing as me.
I made pretty good time and just needed to make one stop on the M5 for a break and something to eat. I arrived at the Youth Hostel in Nant Gwynant around 17.30. The last 50 miles or so of the drive were amazing, going through breathtaking scenery.
I checked in and met the Guides who would be taking the weekend. I shared the room with 4 other guys. The room was a barracks type set up, with bunkbeds. I found a lower bunk and got myself sorted out and then got chatting to other people on the weekend. It was good to hear how other people were getting on with their training, and it made me feel good to know that my training was very similar. So I was, doing the right things.
After a nice chilli con carne dinner, our lead guide explained what would happen over the weekend. The initial plan was to climb Mount Snowdon on Saturday. However, the weather forecast was very grim. Heavy rain, high wind, lightning, and low cloud. Our guide felt that those conditions would not be good to attempt to summit Snowdon. He had a back up route for us, which would involve going towards the summit but not quite to the top. A final decision would be taken in the morning as to what we would do.
I did not get a great deal of sleep that night, being in a strange bed maybe, with a mix of excitement about the following day possibly.
The next morning after breakfast we were told that we would not be going to the summit. I was a little disappointed on the one hand, but on the other hand it was the safe decision and I could fully understand that. We set off from Nant Gwynant to Pen-Y-Pass. We went off road and followed trails through absolutely stunning scenery through a big valley.
There was a group of about 30 of us, with two guides, one at the front, one at the back. I remembered the advice my doctor gave me, for when I go to Kilimanjaro, about aiming to be the last person into camp, so, I decided to walk towards the rear of the group. Conditions were a little tricky, It was raining hard and conditions under foot were slippery, I ended up on my bottom several times. After a couple of hours and a steep climb, we reached a cafe for a very welcome latte, and lunch.
We then set off up the Pyg Track. This, I found quite challenging in parts. It was a very steep climb over stone and rock steps. Some of the steps were so high I had to lift my legs almost knee high to climb up the next step. My walking poles really helped me here to keep my balance and take some of the load off of my legs. I was certainly working hard, but I felt that I was managing ok. I wasn't going to set any speed records, I just kept going nice and steady. I started off towards the middle of the group and again drifted towards the back.
The sun did appear but briefly, The rain was very heavy and the wind in exposed areas was pretty strong. We eventually descended down a steep grass hill and on to the Miners Path and made it back to the cafe, for another latte. After which we followed our route back to the hostel in Nant Gwynant. It was a 9 hour day. It felt like we had walked 100 miles but it was actually only 10.
I was tired by the end but I had really enjoyed the day. It had given me some real confidence. I was thinking if I could get through a tough day like that, I was doing well.
After a cheeseburger dinner and a drink we sat down for a Kilimanjaro briefing. Our guide had climbed to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro 3 times already, so he knew what he was talking about. I listened intently to what he was saying, what it was going to be like, tips on what things to take in my kit bag. I thought to myself This is getting real now, and fast approaching. It was an exciting prospect,
The next morning we set off after breakfast on a shorter walk. We took the Watkin Path, which was very close to our hostel. The plan was to just do a 4 hour walk, as the day before had been a long one. It was a steep climb in parts, but it was manageable. The rain soon arrived and lashed down on us. Our lead guide stopped us and explained about the need to take it very slowly on Kilimanjaro. A slow pace would help us acclimatise and give us a greater chance of reaching the top. He then led us for about 10 minutes at the pace we would be walking, all the way up Mount Kilimanjaro. It was really slow maybe a mile an hour pace. It was helpful to have the demonstration. I had been walking far to fast on my own during my training. Not a bad thing in terms of increasing my fitness. But, now I can practice with the sort of pace I need in Tanzania.

I left the hostel at about 12.30 having said my goodbyes and made my way home. A long 5 and a half hour drive in the pouring rain. No surprises that all I could think about was Mount Kilimanjaro. I did not reach the top of Snowdon, but now I was absolutely determined that I would reach the roof of Africa. But I am off to Ben Nevis in June for more training first.

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