On Sunday 7th July, after an 8 week delay due to a fractured ankle whilst trekking the Himalayas, I finally completed the second part of my 1234 Challenge. With help from my friends Allan and Tony Roberts, I mountain biked the 74 miles from the top of Snowdon to the Top of Moel Famau.
It was a long and very tiring day, cycling in 24 degree heat for 9 hours isn't exactly my idea of fun, but I really did enjoy the whole experience.
This is how the day progressed.
We arrived at the summit of Snowdon just after 9am on a crystal clear morning. There were breathtaking views every direction, but we had no time to take them all in. There were 74 long miles to complete and the temperature at the summit was already giving us some cause for concern. I had a few quick photo's on the summit before we left.
The ride down from the summit can only be described as "dangerous & exhilarating"!! I found it very intense and concentration levels needed to be at 110%. I came within an inch or two of having what would have been "challenge ending" accidents on two occasions. However we all made it down in one piece and without any mechanical failures. So after a quick stop at the Snowdon Mountain Railway to fill up on water and supplies, we were off to cycle the next leg of the journey from Llanberis to Llandudno. 34 miles along the stunning North Wales coast. Although the sun was not beating down fully yet, the need to take on plenty of fluids soon became apparent. By the time I had reached the crossing of the A55 at Bangor, I had already gone through over half a litre of water.
We pushed on and joined up with the North Wales Cycle Path at Tal-y-bont and followed it through to Llandudno. The views across to Anglesey from the cycle path at Llanfairfechan was breathtaking, and reminded me of a scene from Howard's Way. A still blue sea with lots of sailing boats dotted around. We reached Llandudno some 3 1/4 hours after setting off and enjoyed a 15 minute break to have a bite to eat and refill our water bottles before continuing on the next leg of the journey. By now we were getting into the hottest part of the day, and cycling along the coast towards Abergele we thought we may get a little bit of a breeze off the sea to help cool us down. The breeze wasn't there, and by the time we got into the lanes heading towards the hospital the sun was starting to really beat down on us.
After a 20 min break we set off on the last leg of the journey, the final 22 miles to the Jubilee Tower on the summit of Moel Famau where we had a little break. We were now feeling quite refreshed and made good time through St. Asaph, Trefnant and on to Bodfari. It was here we left the main roads and headed into the back lanes that followed the contour of the Clwydian Range to Llanbedr-Dffryn-Clwyd, just outside Ruthin. It was really hot in the lanes with no breeze to cool us down whatsoever. To find some cooler air, we resorted to trying to cycle in the shadows of the tall hedges to our right.
Eventually we came to the part of the whole route I was dreading the most. The long climb up Bwlch Penbarras hill to the top car park at Moel Famau. The lane is 1.5 miles long and quite steep in places. To begin with the going was good and the trees along the lane gave us a welcome rest bite from the sun, but all too soon it came to an end. Half way up the hill we emerged into the sun once again and this stretch of road, albeit a relatively short stretch, was the worst of the whole journey.
72 miles in, and in the smallest gear on the bike, it was like riding into an industrial oven! The heat was unbearable and zapped what little energy we had left. Luckily we had a car waiting at the top car park with more desperately needed refreshments. After a 15 min break to catch our breath, take on some water and to ditch our ruck sacks, we cycled the final stretch of dirt track to the summit of Moel Famau, where we were greeted and congratulated by lots of family and friends. Although we had completed the challenge, our celebrations were a little subdued because we had lost a member of the team along the way, who had to pull out of the challenge due to heat exhaustion. Tony had managed to ride 54 miles, including riding down Snowdon, in sweltering heat. An absolutely amazing achievement to which we are all proud of him.
People have been asking what is the significance of the flag I carry around with me. Last July my sister-in-law to be Paula was diagnosed with cancer. Throughout her treatment she showed the greatest courage and selflessness I have ever seen. A truly amazing person who never complained or said "why me"! She just got on with life, even arranging her own fairytale wedding. She was my inspiration to use my Himalayan holiday, and to devise two other challenges, to raise funds for two amazing and very deserving charities. Sadly, Paula lost her battle with cancer a few weeks ago. I feel really blessed to have known her and will never forget her.
My fundraising will carry on, not only in Paula's memory, but for all the people who have been affected by cancer, are battling cancer at this moment in time, and the people who are yet to be diagnosed. I have the Welsh Flag because Paula is Welsh, and the teal colour letters I have sewn onto it, are made of the actual fabric used to make the bridesmaids dresses for Paula's wedding.
So, 2 challenges down and one to go. Time for a little rest and relaxation before The Bupa Birmingham Half Marathon on Sunday 20th October, which will mark the end of my 1234 Challenge campaign to raise money for the Glan Clwyd Cancer Centre and Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research. I would like to offer my most heartfelt thanks to Allan Roberts and Tony Roberts, everyone who has supported me, stood by me, sponsored me and given me encouragement throughout all my challenges so far.
You are all AMAZING people and I love you all.