I strike the summit stone on Tryfan (917m) in what almost feels like a punch, and it does me good. It feels like confirmation that I’m giving it all, I’m in a fight with a bloody mountain! Good job I’ve got small-man-syndrome. I then let loose on the descent. I’m angry with the storm, the mountains and my nipple chafe; more than anything I’m angry with myself for switching off and letting the time slip. The conditions are treacherous and my decent becomes reckless. I slip twice ripping a pair of gloves that I’d borrowed to shreds (Sorry Lowri!). On the plus side I take away an important lesson here: rolling down is pretty quick, I make it down in 24 minutes and drop all but one of my support runners and barrel into the last support point in an incoherent bloody mess.
So Close Yet So Far…
I change my clothes, top up the talc and head off without my poles as I realise they’re with my support that I left on the way down Tryfan. Just as I’m heading off Sam, one of my support runners who’s come all the way up from London to help out, sprints in to hand over my poles. These would prove invaluable with what was to come.
After the third fall I’m left in a bad way. I’ve twisted my ankle
The rain and wind is intensifying and there’s floodwater over the road as I cross the tarmac to start the next climb. Pen Yr Ole Wen is the hardest climb of the entire round. It’s a slab of a mountain that rises straight up to 978m from the Ogwen valley floor and the fastest line does not pull any punches – it nails it right up the face. The gullies have some sort of grade or other but as Im not a climber I’ll just say they’re pretty steep. I charge up, not batting an eyelid in my current state of mind. I’m too busy emptying the tank to give a damn. My heart rate hits 189bpm by the summit and I ignore the little voice of reason in my head telling me that this might be too much of a push 21 hours in. But I don’t care, I’m almost back on schedule. I get my head down and continue the charge across the last leg, the Carneddau.
These are the most exposed mountains in Wales, almost as high as Snowdon and formed into flat-topped domes that accelerate the wind speed. They are the last place you want to be chasing a schedule in 60mph winds and horizontal hail.
It’s tough going but the frantic energy created by the fear of falling behind the schedule keeps me going and I hit the last summit at 9:53am. Chris, who has been leading the nav on this leg, is heroic. I make a promise to myself to tell him so when I’ve got breath enough to speak.
The energy starts to disappear as we start the last decent, but the fear has been replaced by relief. I’ve done it, I think to myself. What a dangerous thought when you’re not quite there yet.
On the flat, grassy run in to the finish I fall three times and as usual there’s a cameraman right in front of me to capture it all in HD. With the end in sight, my mind switches off and the complacency creeps in.
After the third fall I’m left in a bad way. I’ve twisted my ankle – an old rugby injury that always rears its head at the worst time. For a second, I despair. My ankle feels numb. I’ve often wondered what would go through my mind at a moment like this. These are the hard questions that I seek out in challenges like this. Staring failure in the face, would I carry on? What would it feel like? Here I am starting down the barrel locked and loaded with an answer that I don’t think I want. I’ve been out running for almost 24 hours, half of it through the tail end of a hurricane. I’ve climbed the equivalent of Everest in a single sitting and run over 100km. I’ve been preparing for months. Everyone around me has been sacrificing their time and effort for this and here I am failing miserably. I have 3km to go and my ankle’s gone…
The Last Leg
It’s the thought of those people around me that have sacrificed so much that gets me up. A few tentative steps and it seems runnable. So I stumble on.
As I clatter over that same wooden bridge that I seem to have left a lifetime ago a mad smile erupts on my face. I’m suddenly glad of the torrential rain as it covers my tears. I hug Gwenllian with everything I’ve got left and begin to lift her into the air and almost collapse as my ankle gives way. As usual, it’s the other way around, she’s the one lifting me up.
I finish at 10:35am. 23 hours and 5 minutes after I started. The end of an incredible adventure over the most beautiful mountains in the world. I’m left with not only an overwhelming sense of respect for this place I grew up in and the people who helped get me through but also a crippling mountain debt that I’m going to be gladly paying off for most of my life.
The video showing the full attempt is now available to watch on BBC iPlayer here.
Diolch o galon i bawb nath neud hyn yn bosib / Thank you everyone who payed a part: Gwenllian, Huw Vanlife, Gethx2, Mari, Llion, Dygs, Sian, John Mynydd, Elliw, Dylan, Gonks, Owen-Sgidia-Swanci, Iwan, Gwydion, Lowri, John Coleg, Sam Ultra-X, Donnie, Kate, Chris, Mam, Dad, Owain a Cimwch, Emlyn, Karl Whitey, Dyl-pelican a Dyl Bymiobyses. If you ever need a mountain minion, I’m your man!
Footage: Cwmni Da