August 20, 2018
I have 5 siblings.
Yes…I am one of 6 children.
What can I say?
We do things BIG in our family.
None of my siblings are particularly sporty. Jennie was as a teenager, she was proper into Sport as a kid, trained as a lifeguard, did a sports course at college, even worked in a gym for a while…and then life took over and like many adult women kind of lost her mojo.
Lindsey is a bit of gym buddy sometimes, and has recently got a bike…but even she would admit that her fitness isn’t what it could be.
My two brothers though?
Well…watching West Ham from the stands with a pie in one hand and a pint in the other is the closest they get to being sporty…aside from a few brief periods of gym membership, they have never really been into sport.
Now I share this to give you some context, for what is to come next.
The conversation in a pub back in the spring went a bit like this,
“So what you doing for your birthday sis?”
“Not sure yet”
“The big 40, you got to mark it somehow”
“Yeah you should do something exciting, something that you wouldn’t normally do”
“What like climb a mountain?…yeah, thats what I want…I reckon we should all go on some kind of family adventure”
And that’s when they all went a bit quiet.
I could hardly believe it was happening.
The youngest two, the twins couldn’t make it as they had family commitments they couldn’t get out of (yeah that old chestnut) but Gary, Jenny and Lindsey were super up for it and had thrown themselves into the planning and preparation with great gusto.
They had only told me a few weeks ago what we were doing, and I hadn’t really looked into the logistics.
It was all fun and laughter on the way up there as we took the micky out of each others new kit, and debated who was going to die of hyperthermia, and have to be airlifted off the mountain and how we would explain it all to Mum, who was actually sunning herself in Bulgaria with our Aunt for two weeks.
But as we neared the end of our 6 (or was it 7 hour) car journey reality started to sink in…we were going to climb the largest mountain in Wales…and I was the only one who had done any training over the last few months at all.
“How hard can it be” my sister Jennie kept saying, as there was a train that went up there so it couldn’t be that steep.
My brother hadn’t quite got round to buying hiking boots so would be going up in trainers and shorts…but he had protein bars so he’d be all right for fuel.
Whereas Lindsey was adamant that two bags of Haribo sweets would fuel her OK
What was I thinking?
What had I let us all in for?
Anyway, after a night in the pub (with only 2 drinks each which I think is a Creffield record) we got a good nights sleep and headed to the small village the next morning where we would be parking the car before making our ascent. It was a bit like the blind leading the blind, as we hadn’t really agreed on a route, and we didn’t realise we would need to get the Sherpa bus to the start.
And so we headed off on the Snowden Ranger route with great enthusiasm at around 11am.
5 minutes into the hike the laughter stopped as we all suddenly realised what we had let ourselves in for and it wasn’t exactly going to be a walk in the park. Like it wasn’t super difficult at this point, but let’s just say we wouldn’t be needing all of our clothing layers at this point, so coats started to come off and gloves were hastily shoved in pockets.
I had no idea how I would manage.
Training for the New York Marathon has been going well. I did a hilly 10 miler a couple of weeks ago, and 3 times a week CrossFit was doing wonders for my cardio fitness. But who knew how I would find it…I do have a tendancy of falling over on hikes.
I was using my Apple Watch to keep track of mileage and elevation, but I wasn’t 100% sure how far up it was. My brother had bought a map but none of us really knew how to read it. But we were having fun and taking lots of photos.
We stopped a few times to let people past, or to take on water…I had made up a trail mix bag with nuts, dried fruit, goji berries and some peanut m&ms…this was brilliant fuel.
The others had not really considered the fact our cooked breakfast was now approaching 5 hours ago.
About 3 miles in the weather started to change. The wind picked up and the fog started to head towards us.
The conversation between us had become less and less as we headed up the mountain…and we each took it in turns to go on ahead or trail behind. Not really talking much at all besides the occasional “You OK?” or “Careful” in regards to a slippery patch or steep incline.
At one point my brother simply sat on a rock and shook his head, and all of a sudden I got the giggles….although I couldn’t show him that.
It was physically tough no doubt. But now was where we had to dig deep with our mindset and not talk yourself out of finishing it.
“I can’t do it…I really can’t do it” came the call from Jennie, her head had been down low for a while, and her normal banter had disappeared.
Lindsey was soldiering on, but I was worried she was pushing too hard and all on just a few haribo. At one point I seriously thought she might get blown off the mountain altogether…her fake eyelashes were holding on for dear life thats for sure.
Gary was still in a pair of shorts and a white sports top, saying he couldn’t feel the cold.
Although it was all getting a bit difficult I wasn’t in completely unfamiliar territory, as I knew it was just a matter of putting one foot in front of another and going at the pace you can personally go at. I can’t imagine though how it must feel to be doing something of that magnitude for the first time.
I mean it’s not like we could turn round and just go back down.
A guy on the way down around the halfway point said he had been going for 3 hours and couldn’t find anything at the top. This wasn’t helpful and moral started to dip now, as we were cold, wet and starting to get hungry. Maybe those foil blankets we laughed about in the car on the way up would be making an appearance.
“Why can’t we just got to Ibiza for the weekend like normal people” my brother had said earlier on.
“This is worse than childbirth” Jennie said, as we waited to let some folks pass us, much to the amusement of some random man who overheard.
“Come on we can do this. We have come this far. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other”
“Surely its not much further” Jennie kept saying. I didn’t quite have the heart to tell her there was still at least a mile of climbing to go.
A lot goes through your mind when you are doing any endurance challenge, but when you do one with your siblings who have been in your life for 35+ years, this kind of goes to a whole new level. I thought about all the arguments we have had over the years, the crazy things we have got up to, the stuff we have endured together.
I wondered if my Mum would be proud of us (she’d probably have a fit, if she could have seen us, as she hates heights and is somewhat risk averse). I know my Grandad would have been proud though because this was right up his street….he loved the outdoors.
We stopped and asked a guy to help us understand the map at one point. I just needed to talk to someone other than my siblings, and he reckoned we were about another mile away (which I kind of knew). What didn’t help was the number of folks we saw almost skipping back down the mountain in short shorts, or with small children like it was nothing.
“Not long now” they would say with a smile.
In the distance, we could hear a sound a bit similar to a helicopter…we later found out it was the train, which we had agreed we would be taking back down the mountain if we ever reached the top. We were already exhausted, another 3 hours going down was too much to consider at this point.
We turned a corner though, quite literally and we knew we were nearing the top.
The weather was really bad now. Lots of rain. Strong winds and nearly no visibility at all. We lost my brother at one point and literally had to go back down another route to find him. By now the mountain was pretty congested with sheer drops that felt quite worrying…I love how we expect to have such places to ourselves at these key moments.
I think we had pictured reaching the summit with a great sense of achievement, and celebrating with a beer while talking cheesy selfies. The reality was it felt quite precarious up there, my phone had switched itself off due to the rain, and I felt quite vulnerable with so many people trying to get to the top to get a picture.
All I wanted was a cup of tea.
So literally after 20 seconds or so of touching the summit rock and agreeing we needed to get off the mountain ASAP, we headed towards the cafe (ha ha) even typing that makes me laugh. I still can’t believe there is such a big modern facility at the top of the mountain…are all summits like this?
It was heaving though. You couldn’t move. There was nowhere to sit or barely stand, and the queue for refreshments literally wound around the whole venue. Jennie looked like she might burst into tears. We had lost Gary who was still outside taking photos, and Lindsey was in the queue for the loo…and that’s when the announcement over the tannoy came.
“There will be no single train tickets available down the mountain due to high winds”
Jennie came across all white as tears filled her eyes.
“I can’t climb down, I just can’t” she said.
I knew she would be OK once she had something hot inside, and she warmed up again.
We ordered sausage rolls, welsh pasties, hot chocolates, tea and a beer (For Gary) and we stood by the bins trying to make sense of what we had just been through.
The last mile or so had been pretty scary.
But we had done it.
All we had to do was get down in one piece now.
After around 40 minutes of warming up, having a browse in the shop (I know right?) using the loos, and putting on our remaining dry layers we discussed the best option for going down.
I didn’t want to go back down the Snowden Ranger route as to me it felt really exposed and quite steep towards the end. A girl in the toilet queue suggested the Llanberis Path which was much wider and more gradual in its descent, so we decided we would go that way…regardless of where it brought us out at the end.
I think I underestimated how difficult the descent would be.
It was like climbing down a billion flights of uneven stairs. I lost my footing a few times, and almost ended up on my arse….and watching my brother try to negotiate the trail in his now drenched Adidas trainers kept making me laugh and lose my own concentration.
It seemed to be never-ending.
It had taken us 3 hours and 3 minutes to go up, and two and a half hours to go down…although there was no stopping for photos or snacks on the way down, so not sure there was much in it.
My neck was hurting from looking down at my footing for all that time, and my toes were starting to hurt from being pushed up the front of my hiking boots for all that time. But after the first 40 minutes or so the rain stopped, and the winds died down, although you still couldn’t see anything.
With about an hour to go the banter returned and we even took a few photos again.
We had done it.
4 Creffields had climbed a mountain and lived to tell the tale. We hadn’t even had a row…or call out “Right, I’m telling Mum”
We waited for our Sherpa bus from the warmth of a Youth Hostel with 4 Coronas to celebrate, and it was all fun and games again as we recalled the funny bits from the last 7 hours. Laughing at how underprepared we were and even talking about how we might do it differently next time.
Jennie was adamant there would be no next time though.
It was almost 8 pm time we got back to our B&B to shower and get ready for dinner, and we were all too tired really to celebrate properly. I couldn’t even finish my beer at dinner, which is saying something.
I fell asleep within moments of my head hitting the pillow.
The car journey back was more subdued than it had been just 2 days previous, but the sense of achievement was palpable.
Gary is super keen to do Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis in the next 12 months, and I am 100% up for it too.
I can’t tell you how proud I am of them for doing this, and how grateful I am for them helping me to fulfill one of my goals. I have been so lucky over the years to experience wonderful fitness related adventure, and it is always so difficult to share with them how incredible it can be.
I also realised over the weekend how much I miss spending quality time with my siblings.
I think it has opened up their eyes to the idea of adventure and being more active outdoors, and we are now discussing potential trips we can take in the future with and without our kids, so watch this space.
Next month I will be welcoming 30 women into my Living a Bigger Life Mastermind…climbing a mountain is not compulsory but taking yourself out of your comfort zone and ticking things off your “I’ve always wanted to do” list absolutely is. For more information and to see if this is something you would like to get involved in click here.
To get you in the mood and give you a sneak peek into my Life Coaching world look out over the next few weeks for some FREE lunch and learns and a FREE Webinar on “How to have an adventurous life” make sure you follow me over at www.facebook.com/thefatgirlsguidetorunning
In a few days time, my TEDx talk will go live all about how women are held back by their weight, their appearance and their fears about being judged. What I have realised is the more I challenge and test myself, the less I care about what others think. I simply love helping women get to this place too.