Last weekend, I attempted the 3 Peaks Challenge* – ascending Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon, the highest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales respectively. During the trip, and while pushing myself to get up (and down), I learned some things about myself, and the world. These I’ll be sharing here in a series of blogs over the course of this week.
Day Two, Part Two: arrival at Snowdon. After successfully completing Ben Nevis on Day One, and Scafell Pike on the morning of Day Two, despite delays on both, we headed off to Wales for our final challenge, Snowdon. We knew we’d be finishing it in the dark, so we needed to make back as much time as we could – which Kate duly obliged with. We made a brief (though not brief enough, according to Pere) stop at Chester services, where it was agreed that Hugh and Valerie wouldn’t be making the attempt on Snowdon – given the lateness of the hour (the group Pere led the previous week had been starting Snowdon at 5:30, we were going to be lucky to start at 6:30), we needed to make good time on the ascent.
As we turned off the main road and headed into deepest, darkest North Wales, the first spots of rain appeared on the windscreen. By the time we were approaching Betws-y-Coed it was full-on rain; and by the time we pulled into the car-park at the bottom of the Pyg Track, it was blustery too. Looking around the minibus, the faces said it all – the darkness was closing in early, it was chucking it down, and the van was getting buffeted by strong gusts of wind. But we’d come this far, and after what seemed like an age of ‘will-we-won’t-we’, we decided to go for it.
In the end, we had to abandon the attempt – about half-way, in the pitch darkness and pouring rain, we were hit by a gust so strong that I could barely keep my feet. We were only about half-way up, and it had taken us over an hour and a half to get there, because our head-torches didn’t reach far at all through the darkness and rain. Pere looked around the group, and asked “Do we call this a noble effort, or do we go on?” I have to confess, I was the first to say we should go back, I really didn’t fancy facing that kind of gust once we got to the ridge – and the decision was to go back down. The general conclusion was that the Gods had just told us to get off their mountain – so we took heed!
Although the energy was a bit flat when we reached the bottom, there was nonetheless a feeling of having faced the elements and come through. And that was Lesson Eight: Better to have tried and failed than not to have tried at all. If we hadn’t set out, we’d forever have wondered what it would really have been like – but now we know: bloody ‘orrible!
For me, there was a secondary lesson too, that it’s possible to manifest your fears by focusing on them – as I got increasingly nervous of repeating the morning’s slip on the wet rocks, my footing got less certain, and a fall became more likely – to the point that at a couple of points I slid down on my bum rather than risk it! What was probably ‘false expectations appearing real’ actually became real because of my focus.
So that was that end of our attempt, but there are still a couple more lessons to be drawn from our experience on Snowdon …
* Lite version, over 2 days.