Wednesday, 14 July 2010

The Welsh 3000s Part 2

Our walk on Saturday was a tough, tough challenge.

This video was taken by Stuart, a member of our team, on the Crib Goch arete on Snowdon.

So what did I learn? Well, four key things I learned, and then something more personal.


To do something like this, you really, really need the right kit. I made some good decisions in the build up which really benefited me on the day.

COAT: Rab Drillium 3 layer eVENT fabric: kept the worst of the water out and was still beading after a near 10 hours of constant rain. The wired hood is excellent for visibility and the pockets are big enough to stash stuff you need close at hand.

BOOTS: Karrimor KSBs with Vibram sole & eVENT lining. Coped with some extreme weather very well: if not waterproof, at least robust!

SOCKS: Bridgedale Endurance Trekker: fresh pair on the day. It is going to be a long slog and your feet normally give up first. Coolmax liners gave my feet that little extra comfort.

FLEECE: I don't normally wear a fleece much because I overheat easily, but there was very little danger of that at 3000 feet in winds of 40mph, so it was invaluable to have my Rab fleece. Especially by the end as darkness fell, the rain started up again and I was getting tired.

BASELAYER: Over 32 miles you are going to sweat, so a Berghaus technical baselayer was my preferred option to keep as much moisture away from me as possible.

LEGS: I need some leg protection, I need it to dry quickly, I need it to withstand rocks and mud and bumps and slips. A trusty pair of Ronhill leggings fit the bill perfectly. I also got some athletes wicking boxer shorts: a wise move when you wear them for that long!

WATERPROOF TROUSERS: If was going to rain a bit (as if!) then overtrousers help, not least to keep the wind off wet legs. I went with some North Face ones in the January sale. They survived a 20 foot slide down a grassy bank trying to get off Snowdon, and kept the wind out brilliantly.

BACKPACK: With two refuelling points with our support team I knew I could travel fairly light, hence just a 25 litre Innov8 Race Elite 25 Rucksack. A pack like that is not really designed for a battering in the rocks, but it weighed nearly 800g less than an equivalent Berghaus pack I own, and that is another 800ml of fluid to carry so given the choice I would rather have the drink!

ACCESSORIES: A few little wise decisions came good: windproof fleece gloves stood up to everything the weather threw at them, and still gripped the rocks. A waterproof fleece lined hat and a waterproof beanie gave me different options. Everything within my rucksack was kept in separate Exped bags and that was the best decision I made, as others with carrier bags etc found themselves waterlogged quickly.

NUTRITION / PREPARATION: I took at least 2.5l with me on each stage, and drunk a mixture of 500ml water and next time 500ml of Nuun electrolyte drink which puts the salts you lose sweating back in. I have never got on with "Camelbaks" because I don't know how much fluid I have left, and I lose breath when I stop to suck them. So I just used 500ml bottles of Tesco mineral water costing £1.28 for 6, which I emptied one at a time into a 500ml plastic bottle as part of a Raidlight system on my pack, so drink was always accessible. For food I took a selection of different cereal bars, some SIS energy bars, some SIS energy gels, a few jelly babies, salted nuts, plenty of "Go ahead" biscuits and bars, some of those "School bars" which are basically fruit sugar in a stick, and some Snickers. I ate something at least every hour, and drunk 500ml at least every 2 hours. I was so grateful to have such a selection because at some times I just fancied one thing, so could pick and choose.

And yet: despite all my preparations, planning, searching for bargains on the internet, trying out my pack, working out the best way to pack it, which exact items I wanted to take, it still was not "enough". By that I mean having started out at 3.55am by 5am all of us were soaked to the skin, with boots full of water. Such was the horrendous weather, driving horizontal rain, and the fact we were scrambling up and down rocks in it. And that meant having the decent kit became a much more important issue, because although my comfort was challenged, I now needed my boots to grip wet rock. I needed my socks to stop blisters while full of water. I needed my clothes to dry quickly, and not cause me discomfort by rubbing when wet.

All in all: they worked perfectly! All my stuff took a hiding and 19 hours 55 minutes later I arrived safe and sound, with not a single blister, not a single scratch, and just a couple of bruised toes from an over enthusiastic descent of Tryfan.

Had I not had the right kit I would have been stuffed at 5am, on top of Crib Goch, in that weather.

Would I change anything? Well, with hindsight I may go for a longer jacket at some stage like the Berghaus Long Cornice so the run off from my jacket is not so close to waist height. I may also go for Seal Skinz socks to give me another waterproof layer for my feet. Other than that I would do very little different, and will always remember my secret weapon: Sudocrem! I reapplied during the breaks: and was not sunk by the scourge of chaffing, which has ruined many a walk for me. 19 hours in wet or damp clothes, and not a hint.

There are three more key learnings which I will post about in due course.

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