We’ve all been scared and had moments when the task seems out of reach or at least very difficult to achieve. This February, myself and the O.P.T team of coaches decided to put ourselves through the mill and test our worth by climbing Mount Snowdon as fast as possible to raise money for the Fisher House Charity at the Q.E Hospital, Birmingham. Then we got excited and decided to add a stretcher and a pretend casualty, Keith, with a combined weight of 100kg. We were hoping to be able to raise some money, test our team work and take in the beautiful scenery. However, Mother Nature had other ideas when it came to there being any chance of us having a view from the top! Luckily we had started checking the weather about a week before we left and prepared accordingly; it was forecast to be gale force, 60 mile per hour winds and a wind chill factor resulting in -20 degree temperatures. For once the weather man got it right!
We had been procrastinating about doing something big for a while but never got round to planning anything. Then we set the challenge, picked a date and committed to it. The threat of somewhat inhospitable weather wasn’t going to stop us! We all knew it was going to be hard, it was going to hurt and it would push us to our limits. This wasn’t our first rodeo but when you put yourself out there on social media and people have been generous enough to donate money, there’s an added pressure and concern about what would happen if you didn’t complete the challenge. My own personal worries were that I was still in recovery from back surgery. I’d not been running that long since my spine operation and didn’t want to let the team down.
We arrived at the car park at LLanberis Pass at 0730 and by the time we had sorted ourselves out the sun was up and we were ready to set off. The team was made up of five coaches from O.P.T (Barny O’Neill, Dave King, Matt Hill, Roland Rignall and Scott Butterworth), a support crew of Dave “Benno” Bennington and my ProHuman partner Bethany Hipwell, to take video and photos and provide some much needed encouragement along the way, and most importantly Keith!
We got about a third of the way up, forearms already stressed and shoulders bruised, when it became obvious that the weather was definitely going to be a challenge, the ice was thick on the ground and made walking unhindered difficult, let alone when you can’t see your footing due to the stretcher on your shoulder, but this is where the team came together. From the off there was awesome communication, calling out of the conditions underfoot by those at the front, rotation on and off the stretcher and a will to jump back on the stretcher after our breaks to give team mates a rest. For me this was the greatest of achievements, if you have ever lead a team on any expedition you will know that it only takes one person’s bad attitude and negativity to lose the battle, on this day this would never be the case, we were a solid team.
Hands were wet, cold and made gripping the stretcher a real challenge. As the wind came over the mountain and through the gaps in the hill sides the stretcher became a kite and our only option when this happened was to hit the deck, fast. With the build up of compressed snow, lack of footing and the additional challenge of our ‘Keith kite’, we had to remain vigilant and switched on at all times. Especially as Dave had already been blown off twice, at one point leaving him dangling off the side of the mountain holding onto Matt’s leg! None of this impacted our determination to reach the top and we pushed on despite the worsening conditions. It was very much like a fire fight against the elements, with us hitting the deck and preparing to move at any drop in the onslaught of wind, snow and white outs as we pushed on hard with every break in the storm. It was an amazing buzz.
As the leader of the team I had no doubt that even though it was a struggle and nature was kicking our arse’s we were definitely going to make it to the summit. I felt a responsibility for the lives of my team and in my head had made plans for how we could adjust the plan and maybe just leave Keith and finish without him or take him off the stretcher. While we didn’t discuss this verbally I could tell we were all in agreement this was not happening and we just cracked on. We dug deep for a final push to the summit, keeping low up the steps to prevent us literally being blow away. Forcing Keith and the stretcher up on to the podium, a huge sense of achievement and relief all round, we took a quick hero’s photo before retreating in search of some shelter on lower ground.
After a quick pit stop for refuelling and a team talk we started on our way down, it was really important at this point we didn’t switch off, it was going to be just as hard on the descent. The good news was we now knew there were a couple of more sheltered points that we could push to in order to get a quick breather and break from the storm before continuing. When we emerged from the worse of the wind and snow we were able to appreciate the amazing scenery on the lower ground. As conditions improved we were able to up the pace and even ended with what felt like a sprint finish; full of elation, a little tired and high on a sense of achievement. My pride in the team and how they coped in the conditions and worked together was immense.
That day and the conditions we faced will be unrepeatable. When we planned it, maybe a little naively, we didn’t think we would be facing such challenging weather and we thought the effort of carrying a 100kg stretcher between five guys would be the toughest part. The wind, ice and snow turned out to be a gift from Mother Nature and the experience of working as part of such a strong team, who shone when others might have wanted to give up, made it a day to remember.
On behalf of myself and my fellow awesome coaches we’d like to say a massive thank you to Bethany and Benno for all their support and encouragement through the hard times it was an amazing adventure and we’re glad we got to do it with you guys.
Thank you to everyone who supported us through messages before, during and after, following our progress up the mountain. Finally a huge thank you to everyone who sponsored us and donated to our just giving page it really means a lot to us and Fisher House.
Hints & Tips
Be prepared; prior planning and preparation prevents piss poor performance!
Find yourself a strong team. No matter what you do in life, doing it with a strong, supportive and likeminded team will make all the difference.
Some things are out of your control. Make the most of what comes your way and rise to the challenge.
This week’s takeaways
Say yes to opportunities that come your way.
Make a date, choose your destination and go on an adventure.
Dig deep and believe in yourself and those around you.