FINISHING ON A HIGH
An even earlier start this morning as the alarm went off at 6am. We were keen to leave for Snowdon by 7.30am to give ourselves plenty of contingency time in case of any problems and keen not to be late for friends, family and CRUK staff who were joining us there. The weather forecast looked reasonably promising – no heavy rains, but some strong winds en route and even stronger at the top of Snowdon. After the deep disappointment of the previous day, we were now feeling excited at completing the challenge and so looking forward to meeting those who’d be joining us.We’d prepared most of our gear the previous evening. However, we had not prepared Rubes and Roberto as the weather had been so dreadful.There had been no stable for them the previous night, so they had been in a garden, behind a couple of high gates, chained to a heavy garden chair. It was a relief that they were still there when we went out to get them ready for their final 20 miles. We were leaving too early to eat breakfast in the accommodation, so ate bananas and seed bars in preparation for the journey.
At 7.10am we had a live telephone interview with BBC Radio Oxford about our story and challenge. We weren’t aware that Emma (Director of Policy at CRUK) was also going to be on the line and part of the interview. It was great to hear her voice as she and a colleague, Rose, were joining us later. The interview starts at 1:09:20
Having completed the interview we scooted out to be met by Jackie and friend Caroline, who had joined us the previous evening. They gave the final wave off and “Good luck” as we pedalled upwards towards the PYG Hotel, 1 mile from where we’d start hiking up Snowdon and where we’d meet others who were joining us.
The first half of the journey was straightforward – there was hardly any traffic on the road, the surface was quite good, and it was very gently undulating. There was some breeze, but it wasn’t affecting us too much. All seemed good and worlds away from yesterday’s cycling. When we stopped for the call of nature, Patrick pointed and said “There are rainbows on this challenge!” A light shower followed, but nothing of any significance.
Once we reached Betys-y-coed we had 10 miles left and as we turned left and heading westwards and uphill. We were cycling straight into the strong wind. It was hard work, but the previous 7 days of cycling had improved our cycling fitness and with such a short distance left we knew we could this.
As we were passing through Capel Curig, we stopped off the the place we’d booked dinner for the evening to check everything was ok. We spotted Emma and Rose and disturbed their breakfast with hugs. It was to be a day of many hugs! When we left Capel Curig I watched the ‘Distance to destination’ figure decreasing on Gerry the Garmin and shouted the figure back to Patrick “5 left!”. With 4 miles to go Caroline appeared in a lay-by and cheered us on. With 2.5 miles left friends Gill and Clem cheered us on, Caroline reappeared at the next lay-by -she’d had Paul Simon singing ‘Graceland’ at very high volume to motivate us, but because of the wind we couldn’t hear anything. Seeing friends motivated us and we felt good as we reached the PYG hotel.
The PYG hotel is an ‘interesting’ place. It was used by Hillary when he was in Snowdonia preparing for his Everest summit expedition in 1953 and some of it hasn’t been changed since then. We sat down with friends (Jock, Linda, Emma ad Rose had now joined us), had a brief chat about the morning , ate some tea and toast and then used the toilet to change from our cycling gear into hiking gear. We had the first branded group photo of the day before we all set off to walk 1 mile up the hill to the Pen-y-pass car park to meet the others.
More hugs as we met the rest of the Snowdon team in the cafe (Claire, Bec, Holly, Jon, Karen, Emily, David, Jo, Alex, Cally, Tim, Evie). We were touched by the number of people who’d travelled some distance to join us. It was heartwarming and it lifted our spirits further. Another feature of the day were the CRUK branded group photographs. Thank you Trefor (one of our CRUK Cancer Campaigns Ambassador colleagues), who travelled from his home in Anglesey to meet us at the cafe and wish us good luck up Snowdon.
In addition to the motivation provided by our friends, the CRUK branding also highlights what this is all about. It’s not about Patrick and I, but about ensuring lifesaving research continues to improve cancer outcomes, so other families don’t have to go through what we went through. All of us together do make a difference!
With group photos taken, we needed to get on with our schedule. Some of the group were walking up Snowdon and others were taking the train to the top. The plan was we would all meet at the top at 3pm. We said goodbyes and the walkers headed upwards,towards the clouds.
Before too long we’d made reasonable progress as we looked back to where we’d started from
Whilst we were tired and weary from a challenging week, the trek up Snowdon was made so much more manageable by being part of the group, with it’s collective commitment and passion. It was good to be able to catch up with some people and get to know others better. However, in the hours we had , we didn’t feel we had enough time to give to the people who’d given so much to us and the CRUK cause.
As we were going up, we were stopped by a couple, Annika and Mark, who were on their way down. They’d been looking out for us as they’d read about the challenge on social media and were hoping to spot the group. It wasn’t that difficult, particularly with the branding Claire and Bec were carrying.
After a few hours we arrived at the top just as the train was pulling in. For once the plan was working. This was another lift again as we hugged those we hadn’t seen for a few hours. It was lovely to see step-daughter Rachel and her and Holly’s twin girls Harper and Tate. They’d never been on a mountain before, or so high that they were in the clouds. From the stories about the train journey, I’m not quite sure who had been entertaining whom.However, it was clear that new friendships had been forged.
In the cloud, drizzle, howling wind and low temperature, we assembled for our CRUK summit photo. Something was going right – just look at the smiles on the photo! For some it had been a return journey, others were ‘first-timers’ so there was also the bonus of their individual achievements.
We then went into the very busy cafe and bought hot chocolate to warm us up.
Rose had baked a cake for us and carried it all the way up the mountain! Very chocolatey, very moist and absolutely delicious. Thank you Rose.
Realising there was just time to get a group photo in the cafe before those on the train had to depart, the team obligingly assembled again. Claire and Bec had reached the front of the queue for drinks, but still managed to hold up their polybanner, although in their rush and excitement, it was upside down.
It was time to leave the summit and onto the very final leg of our challenge. The descent was actually slightly quicker and more straightforward than we’d planned. Not much of this challenge had been straightforward. It hadn’t just been the physical energy we expended, but the mental and emotional challenges.
With 20 yards to go, the cheers from those who’d joined us made us feel emotional. There was also a mix of elation and relief as we realised we had actually done it!
This challenge is the most difficult thing either of us has ever done. We’ve gone through a number of low points, but the support we’ve had in terms of donations and kind words has driven us on. There have been many times during the last 8 days when we’ve felt really humbled by the generous gestures of both friends and strangers.
A big thank you to all of those who travelled to Snowdon to be part of our last day, donated to support CRUK lifesaving research or sent us messages to keep us going through the tough times. Special thanks go to Jackie, Terry and Diane, who gave up their time to support us – without you none of this would have been possible.
If you haven’t yet had chance to donate, please see the link to our Justgiving page on the Home page of this web-site
PATRICK’S FINAL TRIVIA
Snowdon was part of Edmund Hillary’s training in preparation for his expedition to the top of Mount Everest. Each year 350,000 reach the summit.