On Saturday 15th September 2018 we ran a Snowdon Sunrise Walk with a team from Astute.com, a Lead Generation agency who specialise in IT sector, and who were fundraising for Julias House Hospice.
There is a great deal of work and planning that goes into running an event and much of it starts months before, but that would be pretty dull to write about, so we’ll just start with the event itself.
I arrived at the meeting location at around midnight after a long drive. I was ahead of time, so I was able to relax a little whilst I got my equipment ready and did my final administration tasks for the event. My other guide, Loui-Jo, arrived at 3am exactly as planned and after a short discussion to go through our plan again we met up with the team from Astute.com. They had travelled from Bournemouth in a minibus, through the Friday evening and Saturday morning, so the participants were keen to get started on the challenge whilst their driver Mark was keen to get some rest and relaxation after the drive.
There had been some drizzling rain on and off through the night but when we were doing the briefing to the team before we started the challenge it had mostly stopped, and the temperature was not too cold. We started the challenge at 3:45am, right on time. Our years of experience in running these events means we have great processes and systems in place and we can manage the challenge very accurately, considering the varying levels of fitness and pace that any group will have, so that we arrive on the summit at the right time.
The first section is often the hardest on many of these challenges. A large reason for that is because it is unusual for most people to be starting to climb up a mountain in the early hours of the morning – although it is a regular thing for us. The body takes its time to realise what is happening, but eventually it will respond to the demands that we are requesting from it. The blood will start pumping and the oxygen will get delivered to where it is needed, and after a while the body settles into a rhythm and the initial shock of heading up rugged rocky terrain under the beam of a head-torch settles into a steady pace. We stopped a couple of times on the first section for people to adjust layers and to kit. It makes sense to do this early on so that anything that Is not quite right is fixed before it becomes an issue. A rubbing boot now will be a painful blister later.
We made steady pace but as we gained altitude we were more exposed to the elements. The wind picked up and the temperature dropped. This is sometimes a welcome change as we are working hard up the mountain and generating our own heat. The visibility was also becoming quite poor and what was just patches of mist and cloud lower down, now became a blanket of grey thrown over our group. In places the visibility was down to just a couple of metres. It is times like this that people really appreciate professional and experienced guides who know the mountain well. The rain had also made an appearance and the head-torches often struggle to penetrate through the atmosphere and light up the way ahead. Much of the light reflects off the rain and the mist and that makes the visibility even worse. Earlier on we had encountered another group who were also heading for the summit. This was a much larger group than ours, I estimated about 30 people or more. They had set off before us and we had passed the group once as they took a break, and then they passed us as we had a short stop. The group appeared to have just 1 person leading them. That’s not enough even for a clear day, but certainly inadequate for a night climb in poor conditions. There may have been an assistant but that did not appear obvious to us, and a good leader or assistant should be obvious to spot. Myself and my guide made a note to just keep an eye out for them if we encountered them again.
We made our way steadily towards the summit. There are a few rocky sections where the route fizzles out and is unclear at times, and with the poor visibility thrown into the mix it was important that we kept the group very close together. One of our group had developed a painful knee so the pace had dropped slightly, but he was committed and determined, and with a close-knit group comes good teamwork, good team spirit and strong motivation for success for the whole team. The support network was strong with Astute.com.
The dark night was just about starting to loosen its grip and give way to the slight lightening of the sky. Just below the summit we encountered the other larger group that we had seen earlier. They had taken a slight wrong turn and although they were not far off the correct route, they had gone a little off track and seemed a disorientated. I pointed their group leader in the right direction and after we had passed they followed up behind us. Not a drama and they were not in any immediate danger, but one mistake like that can easily lead to another, and danger is never far away on a cloudy night on a mountain.
We already knew that we would not be witnessing a beautiful clear sunrise, but we still made the top at right time. The group had worked hard and worked well, and it is always a great pleasure to get everybody successfully to the summit together. We took some photographs and celebrated together on the top and social media accounts where updated and shared. These events are to fundraise, and social media plays a big part in raising awareness and funds. At this point though, the job is only half done. People often loose focus after the summit, tiredness also kicks in after being up all night and lacking in sleep, so its important that we keep everyone’s concentration up. It is no coincidence that most incidents on the mountains happen on descent. My team can’t relax until we have everyone safely back, and we take a personal pride in looking after everyone.
We knew that one of the team was suffering with knee issues, so we made the decision to descend via a less rugged and easier route. This would be a safer and more favourable option for the circumstance. However, the team’s minibus was at the original starting location and would need to come and collect them from the end of our altered descent route. We decided to send our assistant guide Loui-jo back down the original route, with one of the strongest team members from the group, to direct the minibus to come and collect us, whilst I took the rest of the group down the new route. The descent was easy going and this was greatly appreciated by the team after the hard work making summit. We arrived at the bottom just as the team minibus also arrived there. We finish our sunrise walk with an amazing breakfast in a superb local hiker’s café, so once we were all back in the minibus we made our way there to replenish our calories and reminisce on the nights challenge.
Memories were made. Goals where achieved. Challenges were completed. Money was raised. All before most people are out of bed.
To visit Julia’s House click here
To visit Astute.com click here