March 24, 2013

South Wales Three Peaks Challenge - (with map and strava!)

On Saturday the Brewer Half and I "competed" in the South Wales Three Peaks Challenge.

The week before I received an email letting me know that the Gold route (the 20 mile 3 peaks route we were doing) was amended and would not cover the peaks due to poor weather.  

When we arrived we were informed that the gold route was canceled, and we would now do an amended bronze route, and the Skirrid was removed from the peaks. So it was a 2 peaks challenge now, except not to the peaks, so more like a walking challenge.

We set off anyways. It was snowing and about 2 degrees.  The start up The Blorange was steep and slippery, which is strange because I always thought the Blorange was flat and boring.
There was quite a steady stream of people, so navigating wasn't so difficult   We didn't go to the top but followed the checkpoints and other people, and eventually stopped for this photo.  You can see the punters behind us, punting around.  This walk was awesome for punting.
About 8 miles in we came across load of little sheeplings (or lambs as some people call them).  If I was a sheep I'd feel like I got a bum deal being born into loads of snow.  I thought sheep come in the spring, as far as I can tell it's still winter (stupid calendar, stupid weather).
This sheep was very excited to see me and seemed to like being photographed.  You didn't think the blog of a girl in Wales could exist without pictures of sheep did you?
We continued walking to our next check point but decided the modified route was not amazing, even though the weather was bad it was still called a 3 peaks trail, and going for a 12 mile hike only half way up 2 peaks felt a bit defeatist.  Also I'd told loads of people at work what I was doing and didn't want to come back with only 12 miles done!

So we headed up to the top of Sugarloaf. Sugarloaf is just under 2,000 feet tall and normally looks something like this:
When we got to the top it looked like this:
The wind was immense, the ice was thick and the snow was almost waist high in places.  I had to crawl  up the last bits.  It was one of the most extreme conditions I've been in - I couldn't see more than 10 feet ahead of me.  Crampons or an ice axe would have been very helpful, most of the time I spent trying not to slide around.

The ascent and descent added a good 2 hours onto the hike, and I can understand why the organizers had taken the peaks out of the challenge!  I don't normally agree with "safety measures" on organized events, but Mountain Rescue were 100% right in changing the checkpoints to lower locations!

Snow stayed on the ground until almsot the bottom of the mountain:
At the end we checked in with the race HQ, turned in our checkpoint cards, and were given lovely certificates to take home plus lots of lovely tea and biscuits!
Then we came home and stopped at Vegetarian Food Studio for a Cheese Dosa and a Thali - perfect post-hiking food to warm me up!
The hike was a lot of fun but a bit strange - it's not a race, and there's kind of a set route so it's not really a navigational challenge either.  I was disappointed not to do all 3 peaks but I'll probably return and do them all at a later date.  It was definitely challenging and I was fast asleep by 9:30, so all in all an excellent way to spend a Saturday!

Also, Brewer half and I ate a whole pack of Pepperidge Farm cookies and didn't even feel bad about it.
In case you're interested, here's the Strava from the Three Peaks Trail:


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