Kili The Hard Way blog – Snowdonia training weekend
By Kili team-member Liz Miall
MINUS 2 MONTHS – 17TH–18TH NOVEMBER
I thought this was going to be a bit of an assessment/selection weekend for Kili The Hard Way 2013 sponsored by Helly Hansen, but it turns out no – we’re in! The itinerary for the weekend starts at 7pm with a briefing, meet our leader for the weekend and go through kit and equipment for the expedition. My first fail – I’m unable to leave work until 5pm, I will miss the whole evening session and will be lucky to arrive at our base, The Bryn Tyrch Inn before closing. The latter forces an anxious phone call to the inn whilst en route, but I’m assured there’ll be someone there to let me in. Phew!
I drive from Devon up to North Wales after a tiring and taxing day at work – work is tough at the moment. The loooong 6-hour journey is fairly unpleasant – dark, rain, spray, lorries, busy, fog but on the plus side a) I’ve left work behind, b) this will be an exciting weekend, and c) I’ve got next week off – woop woop! The motorways give way to dual carriageways and they in turn give way to A-roads by which time the route is fairly familiar – Shrewsbury, Oswestry, Chirk (!), Llangollen, Corwen, Betws, Capel Curig.I overshoot the Bryn Trych and after a quick about turn I eventually arrive a little after 11pm and enter the inn’s warm beery hubbub. Now to locate the group – that awkward moment staring at likely-looking bunches of burly outdoor types trying to identify contenders for a ‘Kili the Hard Way‘ team. After an embarrassing couple of minutes spent fruitlessly scanning the bar Chris caught my eye and in no time I’m being offered a seat and a drink and being introduced to everyone. ‘Everyone’ being Chris ‘Mr Trek and Mountain Magazine’, Giles, Ray, Dave and Jonny – a group of four friends from Tenby. After a few pleasantries, chit chat and a brief resume of the evening’s events, it was time for bed. As an aside, the Bryn Tyrch is a top class place! The rooms are immaculate, the atmosphere very welcoming and friendly and the mulled wine really hits the spot.
SATURDAY 17th NOVEMBER
It’s an 8am breakfast for an 8.30 departure and we were joined for breakfast by Ross Worthington of RAW Adventures, who will be leading us over the weekend. Ross is very tall. I am not. The others had met Ross the previous evening for the briefing and kit information session and this was an opportunity for me to ask a few questions crucial to my survival on a 5,800m mountain. Why is it that in these situations all my burning questions float away out of my head and into the nearest cloud leaving me with key, stage-one questions such as; how am I going to pee into a bottle in my tent? Doh. Ross turns out to be an extremely informative, professional and all round pleasant guy, well worth meeting. He was well-prepared for our training weekend and was generous in the knowledge and experience he shared. During the day he offered me opportunities to guide with his business in order to build my log book for my ML assessment – paid! A very kind offer but one I can’t see me having the opportunity to take advantage of. But thanks Ross!
Our day was spent on Snowdon – part of the Watkin path. Quite demanding, but within everyone’s abilities both technically and fitness-wise. Ross took us on an interesting route and interspersed the day with plenty of snippets of local and historical information as well as hints and advice on being in the mountains. Did we know that King Arthur was said to be fatally wounded here? Did we know that using walking poles takes 250 tons of pressure off your knees during a typical 8-hour walk (250 tons!!)? Did we know that a walker went missing on this mountain last week and hasn’t yet been located….?
For me, the day passed very quickly and I was conscious of being the only female along with all the usual anxieties (is it just me?!) of trying to get to know everyone and to fit in. You’ll notice that so far I haven’t passed comment on anyone, yet! Ross led us expertly and at a good pace and in no time at all we were at the finger post having all decided that summiting was not our goal today. The scree path was apparently no harder than our forthcoming descent of Kilimanjaro – good! After a brief lunchtime stop we continued our descent on the Watkin Path and eventually were back at the car park in time to get to the Bryn Tyrch for a fabulous glass of mulled wine. Time for a quick scrub up (well I did, I think the others stayed in the bar..) and then off up the road to Plas-y-Brenin for a well-planned evening.
We had the use of the map room and Ross had prepared an excellent powerpoint presentation on what to expect whilst on a Kilimanjaro expedition (sore feet, frozen boots, dry skin and acute mountain sickness). This was followed by an evening meal Plas-y-Brenin style and then we met George Manley who also gave an extremely informative presentation on what else to expect (lost luggage, diarrhoea, yellow fever and man-eating buffalo). Can’t wait.
SUNDAY 18th NOVEMBER
An 8.30 breakfast for a 9am start (I wonder if we were here for another 5 days we’d be meeting for breakfast by 11am?) and a chance for more questions before we set off. At last, my powers of thought have returned briefly and I get advice on my sleeping bag, boots and foot powder (yes, foot powder). A day of walking plus technical skills is planned, with a finish by 1.30ish because we’ve all got a fair drive to our respective homes. To be fair, now is the time to give my first takes on the group. The Tenby Boys are warm and funny. Given they are an established group of friends who’ve had a few adventures in the past, it felt like they welcomed me into their group. I will know I’ve arrived properly when their constant mickey-taking of each other extends fully to me but there were hints of it by day two (thanks Giles). Chris is kind and focused and knows more about gear than any gear freak I know! We all gel well, our skills, experience and fitness levels are evenly matched and together we make a team which will be able to summit Kili the hard way. I cannot tell you what a relief it was to realise that last statement.
Our day in the mountains (I can’t bring myself to use the expression ‘on the hill’, it sounds fresh out of a magazine!) was interesting thanks to Ross, enjoyable thanks to the weather and fun thanks to the boys. We had another amusing photo shoot for Trek & Mountain magazine. Yesterday it was Ray modelling a blue Berghaus jacket, today it was Jonny in a fetching red Marmot down jacket. Opportunities for much mickey-taking ensued.
Our day ended with talk of a training weekend in the Brecon Beacons in January and the nervous anticipation of our impending adventure 7000 miles away. Having swapped email addresses and said my thankyou’s and goodbyes I headed off home via the Cotswold Outlet in Betws. Like a child in a sweet shop I spent a happy while perusing lar
ge kit bags and made my selection, a smart 100 litre Lowe Alpine TT which seemed robust (fingers crossed) and very light. It’s pretty big and would double as a shelter in inclement weather. At the checkout I was ‘helped’ by the assistant to buy a bag to cover my bag (last one in the store, madam, Osprey Airporter, only £10), and then did I want the bag that the cover bag came in? And finally would I like a bag to put the bag in a bag … aaargh! Of course who should I bump into in the store but Dave, Ray, Jonny and Giles! They generously gave advice on kit bag selection and admired my new purple 1 litre Nalgene extravagance before saying goodbye again and off we all trotted in our different directions.
My journey back down to Devon was spent reflecting on all I had learned over the fantastic, action-packed information crammed weekend and how I was looking forward to truly being part of the Kili The Hard Way Team. The weekend had been well organised with a good mix of practical and technical opportunities as well as classroom-based learning and informal talks. This will stand us in good stead for our big mountain challenge in January where I’m sure the extra knowledge will put us ahead of the game.