Becky Daniel recently took part in a new and innovative fundraiser ñ an extreme climbing challenge, organised by Welsh Children’s Charity Tros Gynnal, for the slightly’ more adventurous. Three peaks and 36 hours later, she reports on her experiences.
Climb up a mountain at two in the morning? You’ve got to be joking! No, this really was the start time for the first ascent of the Three Marvellous Mountains challenge. When we reached Cadair Idris’s craggy summit in the powdery blue of early dawn, gazing down across the magical landscape, it all made perfect sense.
This is the second year that Tros Gynnal ñ the leading Wales-based Children’s Rights Charity, supporting vulnerable young people in Wales and the South West ñ has co-ordinated such an event. It was, however, my first attempt.
For the challenge, teams of three to five people must take on three sizeable peaks in 36 hours. This year Cadair, Cnicht and Rhinog Fawr had been selected.
We arrived on Friday evening at Arthog Outdoor Centre and hit the sack early to try and snatch a bit of rest. Everyone was up for the 1am briefing, bleary-eyed, booted and ready. At the starting point, Castel y Bere, a marshal sent teams off into the pitch-blackness at five minute intervals, illuminated only by head torches.
My team was made up of my athletic 19-year-old son and my mountain-climbing partner, so I knew that I was going to be the weakest link. Adrenalin kicked in though as we strode along under the stars, aiming for the slice of crescent moon above Cadair’s summit. As we steadily climbed, the light and visibility increased and the sheer majesty and beauty of the landscape was revealed.
Thick banks of white mist clung to the folds of the valleys. Endless ridges rose up in all directions, while the coastline arched away into the distance under wisps of lavender and rosy clouds. It was hard not to keep stopping to snap away with my camera. How do I describe the euphoria of being 893 metres above sea level in the breaking dawn? Bliss!
It could have been sleep deprivation but the early morning light made me see everything with fresher eyes. The descent passed sheer cliffs and a deep green lake. It cut through vivid, emerald slopes, following a stream into a fairytale wood. When we arrived at the minibuses below, to be greeted with a mug of hot steamy tea and congratulations, I was literally brimming over with joy!
We were driven up to picturesque Croeso. The sun poured down as we slugged back our coffee at the community-run cafÈ, contemplating Cnicht, the Welsh Matterhorn. It looks exactly like the pointed kind of mountain that children draw.
A couple of teams had decided to compete for the glory of first place but others, like us, had decided to just enjoy the walk at a more gentle pace. The views from Cnicht’s peak were breathtaking, with dozens of pools studding the hillsides and ridges all around. The steep valley below had been quarried for slate and was criss-crossed with dizzying walls, tracks and ancient mine workings, making it look like a scene from Lord of the Rings. We had been walking for around ten hours, with very little sleep. I felt a lovely, new sense of completely satisfied weariness.
Back at Arthog, everyone was in great spirits. After eating, barely able to speak or move, I fell into bed in an exhausted stupor. Then it was Sunday morning.
We were bused to the start of the Rhinog Fawr walk, where our path led us through a pine forest and then up to the rocky outcrops. It was a rough track but fortunately the old legs’ kept on going, up to the 720 metre summit and panoramic vistas of the sea.
I was impressed with Tros Gynnal’s organisation. The event is greener than other well-known challenges and although we were transported en masse by minibus, the distances were minimal. A lot of consideration has been put into making sure the occasion is ecofriendly ñ stripping away unnecessary frills, while ensuring participants are sufficiently comfortable and are each having a satisfactory experience.
Three Marvellous Mountains was a weekend to treasure. I achieved more than I believed I would, made new friends and, without sounding like an old hippy’, felt a real sense of unity with nature. Meanwhile, the challenge itself helped raise funds for some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children in Wales ñ so being part of this event left me with a good feeling all round.
Some places are already booked for next year, so if you are keen on giving this challenge a go, you should register your interest now. Next year, the route will incorporate different mountains and there is talk of including a bit of canoeing. Another skill to master! I can’t wait.
Contact: Seb Morgan-Clare
Tros Gynnal,12 North Road, Cardiff, Wales, CF10 3DY
Tel: +44 (0)29 2039 6974
Heading down from Cadair Idris in the early morning
Photo: © Jonathan Rowland