3 Peaks up, 3 Peaks down

Yep – I made it! I trudged up Ben Nevis and knackered my knees on the way down. I managed about half a mile of Scafell Pike before having to turn back, and expected the same result with Snowdon – but got quite close to the top of that final peak. And then got the Snowdon Mountain Railway down, as my knees couldn’t take the descent. Have to have these knees seen to, really!

My hire car was a Chrysler Sebring 2.0 diesel, and to be honest I wasn’t particularly enamoured of it on first acquaintance. But over the 1300(ish) miles that followed, I grew to quite like the big ol’ bus. Slow to pick up, as most diesels are, but once it realised I had my foot to the floor it would lunge forward with vigour – surprisingly quick, as it goes. And not too bad on diesel, although I didn’t work out the actual mileage. It had gadgets and gizmos galore, but I couldn’t be bothered playing with them – once I’d sorted the climate control, the cruise control and the MP3/CD player, I was happy. And it was time to go.

The weekend began on Friday morning early, when I picked up my first passenger Jase at Dartford station at 7:10 AM. I’d risen at 6, to hear traffic reports of an M25 closure – right where I was going. Bugger. But by 7 it had cleared, so we were off. Up to Sheffield to pick up my second passenger Anju, and we soon had a great conversation going in the car. To be honest, the journey would have been a whole lot longer without them – cheers, guys! Arriving shortly before 6pm at the hostel, there was just time for a quick drink then off to the Alexandra Hotel for our group’s briefing.

Given that we were expecting a reasonably hefty attrition rate on the number of people who booked (26!), we ended up with a healthy 23. Everyone was briefed on what to expect, t-shirts were handed out and everyone headed to their respective accommodation for a nightcap. Exhausted, I tumbled into my bunk and slept quite well until 6am – then it was time to get up and go fetch Jase and Anju who were staying in separate establishments. That made me a tad slow on the start of the trek, and in the confusion I lost my Siemens M65 mobile phone – a pain, considering I’d bought it just for this trek! Not to mention the accessories I’m now going to be selling…

Anyway, off up the trail, following a couple of photos. Pete was taking the lead, and I was bringing up the rear – this seemed to be a sensible option, having the two first aiders at each end of the pack. However, the pack stretched out immensely, and I ended up getting to the top after about four and a half hours – meeting people coming back down after they’d spent a half hour at the top was mildly disconcerting! At the top, I and my erstwhile companion Rosie had a 10-minute break then turned around and headed down again, just as the rain started. At this point, I was doing fine and fairly bounding down the path – but about a third of the way down my right knee began to twinge, then to ache, then to give me serious pain. I ended up limping down the path and getting back to the hostel about 4pm – almost as long a trek down as up! Not cool…

We took time to grab a bite at the Ben Nevis Inn, then hit the road – traffic on the A82 saw me testing the skills of my SatNav and making up a fair bit of time. Arriving in Nether Wasdale in Cumbria, we had to crawl along a twisty narrow country lane littered with sheep to find Jase’s accommodation (he was in a different place again!), then back to the hostel – a magnificent old country house that has been converted for the purpose. We arrived shortly after midnight, utterly exhausted. I piled into bed again and passed out.

Up in the morning, I headed for the start of the trek with tubey grips on my knees, with the intention of only going as far as I could – and Pete told everyone I was going to warm them up with a Riverdance performance. Instead I gave them a version of the “Where the Hell is Matt?” dance from the YouTube video – which cheered them up immensely. Video footage is threatened… The distance I managed to go turned out not to be very far at all, and soon I was limping back down the trail, this time with Rosie in tow. That made for a fairly boring morning, waiting for the rest of them to come back, but looking out the window at the deluge made me at least happy I wasn’t out there soaking. Back in the car, and off to Llanberis for the final peak. I was beginning to think I was going to achieve a One Peak Challenge, instead of three….

Llanberis: arrived just before the hostel closed at 10pm. Jase, as ever, was in a different spot to the rest of us so we had to find that first – but at least his hotel was next to the start of the trek. The following morning, a quick breakfast at the hostel then on to the start. A quick clown dance for the cameras, then I started out, with the aim of doing better than the previous day – and ended up marching out ahead of my back-marker cohorts. So Pete took over the back end, and said I could take the front – hah! Not a chance, especially with some of the fit buggers racing to the top. But I did OK, and got close to the top. I’d faffed a bit at the mountain railway, then decided to carry on – Pete and the back-markers caught up with me, and eventually I decided to call it a day. This was after seeing Dave (who’d broken his back in a motorbike accident!) limping past me on the trail – R_E_S_P_E_C_T! But I was all in, and went back to grab the train. Crawling back down the hillside in the carriage, I was slightly demoralised – but being realistic, I would have taken hours to get back down. Going up mountains is one thing, but going down is murder on the knees.

So we all met up for a final lunch in Pete’s Eats in Llanberis, and everyone was totally chuffed at making the whole event. The Facebook group is very active, and it looks like there are going to be hundreds of photos to check out. Very cool.

For the future, I’m going to have to get these knees looked at – I don’t want to give up hillwalking. It might mean being out of action for a bit, but I’m a lazy sod – I can cope! 🙂

Our road trip to France went quite well, with the SatNav steering us around some gnarly traffic situations – money well spent, I think! A couple of days spent loafing by the pool, and a haul of wine to bring back with us – who could ask for more from a bank holiday? And I’m sure that it’s a whole lot better to drive the journey than to fly – even if it takes longer, it’s a lot more relaxed. We’ll have to see if that enthusiasm stays with us for the next visit to France…

And this weekend, I’m off to Amsterdam with Pete to meet our mate Shiva from Nepal. That ought to be good – although Fiona is beginning to forget what I look like… 😉