Monday, 15 August 2011

Midnight Snowdon trek

We missed this hair brained plan of climbing Snowdon at night last week but we were a bit more determined this week.

The idea all stemmed from Sarah Elwell (yup you get a second mention!) insisting that "I'm not doing enough training". That coupled with the fact that I want to test all these dodgy lower body biomechanics meant that something needed to be done. The only crux being that we're slap bang in the middle of Ramadan so climbing during the day would be out of the question as its no food and no water for us good little muslim boys. Thus the idea of a night climb was born so that we can eat and re-energise before going up.

My plan: set off at 6pm, get there, pitch tent, head to mosque, open fast, pray, then head to Snowdon and climb, back down and into tent, sleep, wake about midday, drive home...

What actually happened:
Harune was still in Merry Hill shopping for base layers and the like at 6:30pm. I was mostly but not entirely packed. Mum made some paratas and omelettes Mmmmmm! He got here at around 7.45. We threw everything in the car and headed off... to find some food for opening our fast (the paratas were for sehri time). Junaids or Yassers? Pizza or wraps? In the end we got a masala fish in naan from Yassers and some chicken niblets. Then headed off. We opened our fast enroute with water and then stopped at a service station just before Telford to eat. I probably got through less then half of the food before I was exploding. We prayed in the carpark and were back on route again. Only to stop a short while later... of course, we needed a cup of tea!

We made it to Snowdon carpark at around 11.15. It was dark, almost scary dark! I prayed isha in a very gravelly carpark and geared up.

11.30 we set off

We headed up the PYG track... It's halal don't worry!

It was a great night for walking. No wind, warm and not crawling with people... Doesn't sound like Snowdon at all! There was however, a mist and cloud. Annoying because there was a full moon above us, hidden behind a blanket of fluffy stuff. Could have been amazing under a clear moonlit sky... Might have saved some battery power in my headtorch too!

As we climbed higher, I was feeling good. My back didn't hurt, ITB, knees heels all checked. All working fine. Harune was suffering with a little ankle pain though.

Then came the hill fog. Suddenly Visibility dropped to 5 metres or so. Fine when you are on one of the made paths but every now and again you are faced with a scramble over a rocky section that could take you in any direction. In the day, or good visibility, the Pyg track is an easy route. It was not so tonight. There were a few off track adventures but we manages to find the route again each time.

We saw one other couple on the way up who were decending but they had decended down the Miners Track before we got to them. We plodded on. All the usual landmarks were being ticked off which was a good thing. The Miners track piller, the scrambling sections, the posts with the coins hammered in, the rock wall with mesh on it. All good so far!

The wind picked up due to exposure as soon as we got to the pillar for the decent from the summit stretch but we pressed on. The long steep slog at the top was quite satistying and I was full of energy.

Finally we made our way up the very built up stair section to the trig point at the very top. At 1.30am, we topped out and looked out... erm... into the mist! No view, no moonlit night, too early to watch the sunrise... oh well, I guess it's back down again then!

I really wasn't looking forward to this part of the journey for a number of reasons:
Its always harder decending then it is ascending and as rocks were slippery, its a recipe for a fall; decending badly could lead you off the edge of a cliff whereas climbing only leads you to the bottom of one, the poor visibility didn't help us here; we notoriously lose tracks on the way down and end up decending some super steep mountain side off the beaten track; decending absolutely pounds the knees to hell and so I new I was in for a beating.

With all the marker points logged in my head, we headed back. First major marker... The decent pillar to they Pyg and Miner tracks, miss this and its a decent down Crib Goch... in the dark.. hairy scary!

But it was found with ease so next up, the two coin posts, a scramble down the rocks here and we were well away.

At the rock platform covered in mesh place... we came across another couple ascending. They were Three Peak Challengers on the way to the final summit. Harune was convinced that they would celebrate in style on the summit of Snowdon, given the seclusion and wot not. A mildly entertaining thought... trying not to get a visual!

Anyway we continued down, and met the marker pillar for the decent down to the Miners track. We were on a home straight. Here we met other groups on their way up to the summit, all Three Peakers, but we continued down.

One thing has to be said for the Miners Track... I hate it with a passion. As nice and scenic as the route is, it goes on, and on, and on forever. Just when you think you're making progress, you turn the corner to miles and miles of trail in front of you! Fortunately, we couldn't see that far so we just put one foot in front of the other and carried on.

I kept asking Harune for a time check. At some point we would need to stop and eat so that we could start our fast for the following day and time was pushing on. However, we were also making very good progress on the decent and so there was a possiblity that we would get back to the car in time to sit and eat in peace. We picked up the pace even more and decided to try our best for the latter.

As the minutes ticked by, fatigue started to set in everywhere. The knees were battered, the Hams were feeling it, and my feet were aching. Tired and weary, we caught sight of the lights to the YHA by the carpark. They were the most comforting pin pricks of light in the vast expanse of darkness before us. As we motored on, the path eased us to the gate and the start/end of the route and into the carpark.

Gear in back of car, change of top to a nice dry warm one and back into the car for a munch on Mums homecooked Paratas and omlettes made some 12 hours ago. At that point, it's like food decended from heaven... albeit wrapped in tin foil. The fast was closed and a decision was to be made: drive home now or stay, pitch tent and sleep. The prospect of tucking in to our own warm beds was too comforting a thought and so pitching tent was abandoned.

Though I would have liked to drive back to give Harune a chance to rest, I was too far gone to be of any use. Hats off to the man, he pointed the nose of the steed home got us back safely in 2 hours or so.

Back home, all the gear lay splaid all over the front room as I crept into bed and snuggled up with a sleeping Mrs Moof...

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