Kili The Hard Way blog – Brecon Beacons Training Weekend
Team member Liz Miall writes about the last training weekend before the team heads off for Tanzania…
Friday 4th January
Christmas is all but done and dusted, the decorations are mostly down and only remnants of Christmas cake and the odd strawberry Quality Street remain. 2013 is heralded in with gusto and for me, a certain amount of trepidation because now it’s full steam ahead for Kili The Hard Way!
To show we really mean business The Team had arranged a training weekend in the Brecon Beacons so once again I find myself heading north up the M5 after work on Friday, shifting through the gears and also my mind from my work as an OT to a weekend of physical challenge and team bonding. I’m relying on the dubious abilities of Apple maps to get me from Tavistock to The George Hotel Brecon http://george-hotel.com and despite it translating the post code as “Brecon Beacons National Park” three hours later I’m arriving at my destination – yay I’ve made it!
Wondering what the weekend would have in store I’m checking in at the hotel reception when there’s a friendly tap on my shoulder and there is Chris grinning at me!! Journeying from Surrey via Bristol he’d arrived at the same time. Surely this bodes well for teamwork?! Meeting in the bar later we chat about the forthcoming adventure and share experiences of the bewildering medical requirements – Malarone, Diamox, Yellow Fever – or not! We confirmed that The Tenby Boys (Giles, Dave and Jonny) would be arriving at 9am tomorrow for the start of two solid days of mountain walking. Unfortunately Ray wouldn’t be able to get time off work (he’s indispensible!).
Saturday 5th January
After a restless creaky night (the floorboards and bed, not my joints!) and a good breakfast the rest of the team arrive in a flurry of breakfast baps, takeaway coffees and good humour. We pile into Dave’s van and head off to the Talybont Forest for a day in the mountains. It’s good to see the boys again and on the way we share kit knowledge, (mis!)information and medical experiences of Hep C jabs and who may be more at risk depending on their activities and preferences.
Jonny is our expert guide for the weekend with his unparalleled local knowledge and ability to talk constantly even whilst eating a pork pie. Our day is spent striding up and down the major peaks of Cribyn, Pen y Fan, Corn Dhu and Fan y Big and along ridges such as Graig Fan Dhu, Craig Cwareli and Graig Fan Las. The views were obscured by thick cloud of the type that reduces your world to the 8 metres immediately surrounding you, muffling sound and distorting images. A good substitute for our final night ascent of Kili’s summit I thought, peering on the positive side.
Apparently we walked along some of the best ridges the Beacons have to offer with superb views to the left and the right. Yeah, we believe you Jonny! The cold blustery summits reminded me of the crucial need to be able to look after yourself in a harsh mountain environment. It’s not just about having the right gear but more importantly knowing how to use it, when to layer up, when to vent, when to eat and drink and when to dig deep and just keep going. As usual the day passes more easily with the constant banter and stories of previous escapades from Dave, Giles and Jonny who assure me and Chris they’re saving the best stories for when we’re on our expedition. Really?!
Walking all done and the rest of the day was spent in a pub, in the hotel bar and in Brecon’s excellent Ghurka Corner restaurant http://www.gurkhacorner.co.uk/index.html Personally there was less time in the hotel bar for me due to the lure of a loooong soak in the bath easing my aching muscles – bliss!
Sunday 6th January
Over breakfast I’m regaled with tales of “the night before” in the hotel bar, made all the more colourful by the apparently good value double vodka. I’d been happily oblivious and deep in the land of nod whilst they were all checking out the price and quality of the said vodka. I am honestly impressed by their constitution, stamina and drinking ability after a tough mountain day which saw me scuttling to the comfort of my bed as soon as was polite. Snore snore!
Incredibly, despite yesterdays exertions all my limbs seem to be functioning normally today and I’m not crippled by muscle soreness or aches, bring on another mountain day! Today we pack up, check out and head off, this time to Llynbedw for another ascent of Corn Dhu and Pen y Fan but this time from the north which involves a relentless upwards tramp rising 600m in just over 4km. My legs feel more tired today as we approach Corn Dhu, it’s been a long climb and the wind is strong, pushing me sideways off balance. What on earth will these conditions feel like at altitude? All good training though and again the summits are in cloud, however as we start to descend via Cefn Cwm Llwch there are small breaks in the cloud and we’re treated to teasing glimpses of the beautiful Welsh mountains we’ve been in walking in for two days.
Jonny skilfully (don’t tell him!) adapted his route so we arrived back at the car park in time to return to Brecon for a de-brief over coffee. We finalise details of Kili kit, and flight times as well as confirming that Chris WILL be joining us despite no flight or visa yet!! Nerves of steel that man!
So it’s goodbyes all round and off to our respective homes. A huge thank you to Jonny White Noise for two days excellent walking, interesting bits of information (the ripple marks on Pen y Fan, the locations of plane crashes, the tragic story of little Tommy Jones) and endless …………enthusiasm. I vow to come back and re-walk his routes on clear days when the amazing mountainous views reveal themselves.