Published: November 29th 2009August 8th 2009
Sunrise over breakfast
Not a bad view to enjoy an early morning Nutrigain!
We had originally been hoping to do the three peaks challenge for Mandi's birthday, but when we realised we didn't have any friends stupid enough to volunteer to do the massive amounts of driving involved we decided on a cut down version, with a 2-peaks challenge being the filling in a three day road trip sandwich. We roped in Fleur and Ed and soon enough we were rocking northwards for the Lake District on a sunny Friday morning in August.
There were only three of us in the hire car for the initial leg, Ed would be getting the fast train to Penrith to meet us in the Lakes on Friday night. The weather had been good to us and we'd tucked into a sunny pub lunch next to the canal in Mandi's home town of Stone en-route. Progress was smooth until the fateful moment when from the passenger seat I suggested to Mandi that we take the more "exciting" B-road to Lake Windermere rather than the slightly dull A-road. Mandi's slightly, shall we say, "enthusiastic" driving style on the b-road meant that after all of about 2 and a half minutes we had hit a rock, shredded a front
Summit of Scafell Pike
Slightly misty, but hugely rewarding
tyre and come to a unceremonious halt on a verge at the side of the road!
Changing the tyre wasn't a problem - however the spare that we had to put on was, as it was a spacesaver! This being the rural north everything seemed to shut down at 5p.m. sharp on Friday night and it was now 6.30! We limped the final hour or so to Penrith going no faster than the 45mph the tyre was recommended for. This slow speed let us enjoy the stunning views and also engage is some comedy overtaking manouevers as we just managed to out drag horseboxes and lorries up some of the hills!
By the time we had picked up Ed and headed for dinner in Penrith, Mandi had been on the phone to every garage in the area and formed some sort of plan to get us a new tyre that would hopefully allow us to keep on schedule and complete our two peaks challenge during Saturday. It was going to be tight like the tiger though!
Our hostel had our presence for all of 6 hours as we were in at 10.30p.m and out by 4.30a.m. in
View from Scafell Pike
On the way down we may have taken a wrong turn but it led to beautiful views!
order to nurse the car down to the car park at the start of the climb up to Scafell Pike. We had some pretty shoddy maps, an even shoddier compass but we had our fingers crossed and were hoping that would be enough!
Although the route on the ground seemed very different to the route on our maps, it was a pretty well made path and the simple theory of following the fork that seemed to go most upwards meant that we made steady progress towards the summit. Our start had been pre-dawn so our breakfast nutri-grain and banana stop saw us sitting on boulders next to a river looking back across the valley we had climbed, all the while as the sun rose over the horizon turning the watercourse beautiful shades of orange. It was about as nice a breakfast stop as you could get!
We made it to the summit without any issues and we were soon celebrating and enjoying the obligatory can of cider that had been lumped up the mountain to celebrate our arrival. Is it worrying that at 7.30 in the morning alcohol can taste so good?!
We decided to take a
Summit of Snowdon
Obligatory Blackthorn in hand!
different route down from the peak, confident that the views would be even more stunning and the path easy to follow. We got one out of those two correct! As the Lake District opened up below us the vistas were quite superb, however the path was less so as we lost it several times and ended up descending a couple of hundred metres further than we needed to before having to climb cross-country to get back up to the trail that we knew. Far from being an issue, I found this to be a real highlight as we passed no one going the other direction and we got to get off the beaten track.
Mobile phone signal had been non-existent on the walk, but we had spotted a BT payphone at the head of the trail which Mandi dashed off in front of us to use. The ear to ear grin on her face told us that the garage was waiting for us and "all" we had to do is nurse the car up to Keswick and hope for a formula one style pit stop to get us back on the road!
On arrival at the garage our
View from Snowdon
The Sun was getting a bit low in the sky by this point!
spirits soon plunged as they told us it would be at least 2 hours to change the tyre. Mandi and I went into overdrive, charming, begging, bullying and cajoling them to get us back on the road as quickly as possible. The all-star mechanics responded and less than an hour later we had a full sized fully inflated tyre back on and were pointing south and bearing down on Snowdon.
Traffic was generally stop start and we were getting ever closer to our cut off time for starting the climb of Snowdon which was 5.30p.m. A massive tailback around Warrington sent spirits plunging, but we managed to find a short cut via sunny Runcorn and with crowd pleaser Prodigy blasting from the stereo we powered on.
Arriving at the base of the climb at about 5.40p.m. we decided that we'd go for it and just walk a little quicker to make up for the lost time! This time the path was very easy to follow and from early on in the climb you could see the summit which meant that we always new where we were heading. For both Scafel and Snowdon we had decided that as we
Baked bean dinner!
Washed down by champagne it tasted amazingly good!
weren't doing the full 3 peaks, we would try and make up for it in part by doing the toughest routes to the summit for both mountains. The final slog up the Watkin Path up to Snowdon is pretty tough with a lot of loose stones and rocks underfoot and a pretty sheer drop that you didn't want to be investigating at close quarters!
If that wasn't enough Mandi and Ed decided to add a bit of spice by accidentally leaving the main path and almost climbing hand over hand to reach the top! Fleur and I sauntered round the more traditional route and we were reunited at the summit for photos, celebrations and of course Blackthorn!
By the time we had reached the hostel we were understandably famished. The kitchen had closed as it was gone 10p.m. (the last part of the descent had been a bit on the murky side!), but the hostel owner took pity on us and managed to rustle up a giant tin of beans and loaf of bread to sell us. Not exactly haute-cuisine but it was definitely the best tasting beans on toast I'd ever had, and washed down with the
The guys ready for a swim!
Before braving the icy lake we were in high spirits
champagne that we had bought to celebrate the successful completion of the challenge it was exactly what we needed!
After such a successful day we had all earned a drink or two, and even though we had been up since 4.30a.m. that morning and climbed two mountains Mandi and I for some reason powered on till 5a.m. with a mixture of booze and card games before eventually hitting the hay as it was getting light!
In the morning the idea of going swimming in the lake that the hostel was located on was floated. Given my generally frail nature and fear of anything slightly cold this idea did fill me with a bit of dread. However, peer pressure is a wonderful thing and I soon got down to my smalls with the rest of the guys to go swimming in the lake. It was cold, very cold - but it was also very refreshing and I think it cut through my hangover and set me on my way for the rest of the day. Predictably a Mandi hangover is a different beast and even a dip in the icy waters wasn't enough to get her feeling well enough
Man that's cold....!
Why did we do it to ourselves!
Felt good afterwards though!
to enjoy mingling with the laid back folk of Betws-y-Coed, or visit a waterfall...or enjoy a lovely roast dinner!
However, by the time we were back inside the M25 our team was back up to full strength and we were able to celebrate what had been a brilliant road trip. It felt like we had been part of a Top Gear challenge, driving through some of the most beautiful parts of the country with the test of climbing two mountains in the middle of it and all the while things going wrong, (admittedly most were self inflicted - but as I said to Mandi I'm kind of glad she managed to drive into a massive rock and burst the tyre, as it very much turned the trip into an adventure!!), meaning that overcoming the problems and completing the 2peaks was even more satisfying!