Sunday, 25 July 2010
As usual I'd just like to thank everyone for their generosity since my last post and in parcticular both David Hathaway Transport (Bristol) and Geodis Calberson both for their generous donations.
Its been quite an exciting few weeks with us getting some coveragefor the event on the Steve Prescott Foundation website. In addition my employer Nisbets Plc will be holding a dress down day on Friday 30th July and donating the funds raised to our walk!
Jon arrived early (07:15) and we made our way over to pick up Andy. The weather was overcast but mild and we made good progress to our rendezvous point with Steve;Asda at Merther Tydfil for breakfast. We arrived to find only a few cars in the car park and the store quite obviously closed. Steve had suggested this might be the case this early on a Sunday morning earlier in the week. However I was sure the website had said that it would be open.....not the case. So after meeting up a quick change of plan found us at good old McDonald's tucking in! It was really good to finally meet Steve a fellow PMPer. We did all the introductions and had a good old chat.
The weather here was very different from that at home,grey and drizzly. We finished our breakfast and after a quick de-tour to pick up some sandwiches etc soon found ourselves heading for the hills.
The nearer we got to the car park the wetter it seemed to get,typical! We arrived at the large car park to find it pretty much empty apart from the odd military vehicle and the butty van. We kitted up, donning wet gear and sorting out walking poles. We crossed the bridge at the start of the path leading up to the summit of Corn Du.Its a steady up hill climb for about a mile or so and the summit of the peak was obscured by low cloud. As we climbed higher the wind grew steadily. We passed a few walkers on their way back down the hill and exchanged greetings. Other than that the only other people on the track were the SAS doing their selection training, tabbing with full kit,burgens and SA80's!
As we hit the top of the Corn Du ridge the wind really hit us hard, the final scramble up to the cairn fully exposed us to the wind and the mountain forecast of 40-50mile per hour gusts was spot on. The conditions were awful, zero visibility,horizontal rain and a relentless wind...."this could be fun" I thought.
We didn't hang around long and started the descent off of Corn Du and along the ridge towards Pen Y Fan, the highest peak in south Wales. How different the conditions were from the last time I was up here exactly one month to the day before my MOAS-2nd Jan. Then the clouds cleared to give a beautiful snow clad view of the hill in bright blue skies.
The cloud wasn't going to part today, that was for sure. We battled along the ridge and climbed up on to Pen-Y-Fan. We met a group of very under prepared kids coming the other way asking for directions. Its crazy, these are typical of the kind of people who end up getting rescued by the mountain rescue team.
We swung a right and followed the ridge down the steep and rocky track down into the bowl between Pen Y Fan and Cribyn. Here we crossed the stepping stones at the tarn which last time we were here was buried under a thick blanket of snow and until now I didn't know existed.
Next came the short but very steep climb up Cribyn. Here the wind really battered us and we felt very exposed. The legs were starting to feel the steep climbs and I found the walking poles useful not only to help on the climbs but to steady myself when being hit by the gusts of wind. We pushed on a little further to the point where we were due to hang another right and walk the ridge line down toward the lakes. It was at this point (approx 3 1/2 miles out) that Andy told us he was having problems with his knees. He was fresh back from biking in Canada and was still suffering a little I think! He's far fitter than I am and this was unusual. The conditions had continued to deteriorate and after a quick heads up we decided that if Andy wanted to turn back then we all would as things were pretty bad up there and the next section was head on to the wind. Despite having our waterproofs on we were all soaked through and there wasn't going to be anywhere along the rout where we could get out of the wind for a quick brew. So the decision was collectively made to turn back. Sometimes its braver to admit you've had enough than to crack on and struggle later on. This would still mean that we would finish up having done around a seven mile walk over pretty tough terrain and in appalling conditions.
We re traced our tracks down over Cribyn just as we turned around both Steve and I were nearly knocked off our feet by an almighty gust as if to confirm our decision was the right one. Steve and I whooped with a nervous laughter.
As we climbed back up Pen Y Fan Jon started to struggle a bit. He's the first to admit that he is probably the least fit of all of us and hats off to him for doing this walk. I just dug in, looking intently at the path in front of me through rain soaked and steamed glasses, finding a good rhythm and steadily making progress. I was quietly please with my progress as this was the first real tough walk I'd done since the MOAS.
We cut across the path just below the ridge line of Corn Du taking a small short cut and started to head down off the hill. The SAS were still coming up the hill,some in groups other on their own. Andy fed them Worthers Originals as they came past!
We were glad to get back to the car park and Steve and I opted to get changed in the dry of the public toilets. All were glad to get into dry clothes, everything was soaked through and I mean everything. The only things that did stay dry were what was in the dry sacks inside the sodden rucksacks.
As it was still fairly early (15:00) we decided that a quick bite to eat at the pub was a good idea. We headed toward Brecon and as we descended the pass the weather started to clear and the sun came out.
We settled down in the pub with a well earned pint and a plateful of food. I couldn't finish my meal I was stuffed. In fact I was overstuffed, not good after so much exertion. I started to feel hot, so off came my fleece. Still hot I started to feel strange. Oh no I'm going to pass out! I recognised the symptoms and managed to let the lads know. The next thing I was coming around on the floor with all three of them sat around me plus a lady I didn't recognise. "Trace is gonna just love this when I tell her" I thought". It didn't take me long to recover and apparently I was only out for seconds. The moment I led down and my blood pressure levelled out I was fine. I soon sat back up, luckily the pub was all but empty! Andy swapped my pint for some water and I started to feel OK again.
I knew exactly what had happened. After the exertion of the day my body had pumped all the blood to my muscles to supply them with the oxygen they needed whilst working so hard. When I ate such a big meal the body then directed all the blood to the stomach to help with digestion thus lowering my blood pressure and causing a faint. Throw in the fact that I'd come down from a cold hill to a warm pub, a pint (that dilates the blood vessels) and the fact that I'm not at full fitness and hey presto that's what you get.
We paid for our meal and thanked them for their help "I'm off I said, the beers far too strong in here!"
The journey home took us back up the pass and we soon entered the cloud and rain again, the silhouettes of the SAS still tabbing across the hill in the mist. The rest of the journey was pretty uneventful thankfully.
Tracey wanted me to visit the doctor the following day just to be sure. I'm glad I did. He confirmed my correct diagnosis and said it was nothing to worry about, and said I could go running too. Cracking!