The walk comprises of 15 Peaks. Originally there were 14 summits over 3000ft, then a fifteenth, Yr Elen was added. Some then argued that there were other candidates for the term 'summit' (the jagged ridge of Grib Goch containing obvious examples).
More recently, Tryfan (initially measured as 3002ft), has been put under scrutiny to assess whether it actually an 'elite peak'. But hell, for the sake of tradition alone we were going to include this summit regardless of what geodesists might want to tell us!
The Walk breaks down in to three obvious sections.
Section 1: Start at Pen Y Pass and ascend to Crib Goch (1), Garnedd Ugain (2), Snowdon (3) then descend to Nant Peris campsite.
Section 2: Leave the campsite, ascend to Elidir Fawr (4), Y Garn (5), Glyder Fawr (6), Glyder Fach (7), Tryfan (8) and descend to Ogwen Cottage.
Section 3: Leave Ogwen Cottage and ascend to Pen Yr Ole Wen (9), Carnedd Dafydd (10), Carnedd Llewelyn (11), Yr Elen (12), Foel Grach (13), Garnedd Uchaf (14), Foel Fras (15) and then a final walk of several kilometers over undulating boggy and rocky ground to the car park.
The first section is by far the most technical terrain. We started from Pen Y Pass car park shortly before 0400hrs. The car park was packed with 30 or so mini-buses and there were more arriving by the minute. You could see cars snaking up both sides of the Llanberis Pass, their headlights shining out through the dark. Horns were tooted as several hundred people shivered in a gusting gale whilst marshalls from different events herded the groups around (there are several 'events' that start, finish or at least include Snowdon in their route and June offers the longest days to complete these challenges - thus the popularity of the venue).
The climb up to Crib Goch was fine - very windy and cloudy but nothing unusual there. We traversed the ridge, bagged Garnedd Ugain, ticked Snowdon in a howling gust and then took the steep descent back down to Nant Peris. Some of the team found this descent quite hard on the knees, but I didn't think it too bad. Certainly I found it easier this time than on my previous descent via this route.
I had recce'd this first section of the walk some weeks previously to test out the VFFs over Crib Goch in particular. I knew that cold toes were probable but that a couple of pairs of leggings and, if needed, some waterproof trousers were put over the top, I would be relatively comfortable regardless of how wet my feet got and regardless of wind and rain.
The ground was rocky underfoot but again, experience in the VFFs was crucial. Careful foot placement is a must as the rocks can be awkward and heavily 'edged'. These edges reach in to the arches of your foot. If your foot as spent much of its life sheltered in a boot, shoe or thick-soled sneeker/trainer then this can be unforgiving. Similarly the dreaded 'toe stub' on rocky terrain is a wince-inducing experience. But I have enough mileage underfoot to mean that walking in VFFs on all kinds of terrain is second nature. Eye and foot work in combination rather than the blind 'clomping' gait of the heavily shod walker.
Starting the walk at 0400hrs meant that I was already ten hours in to a fast (my last meal of six boiled eggs and half a chicken had been eaten around 1800hrs the previous evening). I have to say that I was in a very comfortable state throughout this part of the hike.
As with the VFFs, when I completed this section of the walk some weeks ago I did it fasted and was sure that I could repeat this feat without a problem. I knew that getting back to Nant Peris would be quite within my abilities without needing to eat.
I normally fast for at least sixteen hours every day as I do not eat breakfast and so my first meal each day is usually at lunchtime. On two days each week I fast for 24 hours. On these 24hr-fast days I go the gym at lunchtime (around 15 hours in to the fast) and then attend an hours martial arts seven hours later.
Being active like this on a 24hr fasting day is not a problem. In fact two intense workouts as outlined above (one at the gym and one in the dojo several hours later), are more than comfortable and my sparring in the gym feels way sharper unfed.
Back to the walk. By the time I completed stage one I had done around four hours of work, some of it quite intense but from my weekly training experience of multiple fasted workouts a day, I anticipated that after a thirty minute stop at the campsite, my body would be ready for stage two and the climb up to Elidir Fawr.
But things were about to change...
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5