It was 0330 and I was awake. I had set the alarm on my watch because the one on my telephone would only come on if I left the telephone switched on and that would have drained the battery just in time for me to be out there alone in the Brecon Beacons, which would not have been a good idea. My body clock had woken me up anyway, and I could feel my nervous excitement. Finally the time had arrived. I had not been binned and I was ready to go. I got dressed into my kit and having put my sleeping bag inside my bivi bag I stuffed it into the bottom of my Berghaus Cyclops Crusader bergen. It was clearly too big a bergen for what I would be carrying but my next size down bergen was too small. I will make the point straight away that I was doing this Clean Fatigue. In fact, I had only been allowed to enter on that basis because of my dreadful Fan Dance time.
So I was ‘only’ carrying my safety kit, which consisted of a spare compass, spare headtorch, spare laces, paracord, gaffer tape and a couple of utility tools in one waterproof bag; spare wooly hat, ruff, and spare pair of gloves in another; waterproofed map in the inner pocket; mountain first aid kit, Fitzroy jacket, and a towel and talcum powder in their own bags; a hexamine stove with a Zippo lighter, spork, tea bags and bags of porridge inside a metal pot and cup, all bagged and secured so it would not rattle; a cut down rollmat, and in another waterproof bag my change of clothing, being a short sleeved zipped base layer, long sleeved base layer, two fleeces, a pair of hiking trousers, long johns and socks, and a knee brace, just in case, and once all that had been gathered together my bergen was weighing 35lbs. I also had 3 litres of water in a bladder, 1 litre in a thermos flask, and water purification tablets in case of the need for an emergency resupply from a stream, plus food. I was happy that my bergen was ready to go, and would pack my belt kit after breakfast. My pacing beads were attached to one of the shoulder straps on the bergen. I would be wearing long North Face hiking trousers, Paramo boxer shorts, Bridgedale socks, a Rab short-sleeved base layer and my Rab Vapour-rise Lite Alpine jacket on top.
I headed up to the dining hall in my Aku Pilgrim GTX boots and gaiters, using my hand torch so that I saved every bit of battery power in my headtorch, just in case. I got my bowl of steel cut oats and gave it a liberal covering of syrup before taking a seat at the table with Karl Rushen. I had known Karl only from Facebook before this weekend and it had been a real pleasure to get to know him better over the last couple of days. Now we were largely quiet, still waking up, very much focused on what was ahead of us. I ate my oats quickly, enjoying the taste, apparently unlike many others in that dining hall, and got myself a cup of hot tea. The weather was mild outside but who knew what the DS were calling up for us once we got away from base camp. In fact, it almost seemed like they were determined to show us that they were on the ball so far as the weather was concerned because by the time I got back outside it was beginning to rain lightly. I headed back to my tent and got my belt kit ready. Energy gels spread between my trouser pockets, with my racing snake map also in one of the trouser pockets and a survival blanket in the other, radio in one of my jacket pockets, with my notepad and pencil, and some food (the sausage roll and the bag of mixed nuts, raisins and chocolates) and a lip salve in the other, with my compass attached to one of the pocket zips, wooly hat and headtorch on my head, and I decided to wear a pair of thin gloves. I could easily take them off if I got too hot. I was also wearing my Garmin Fenix 2 watch. Together with the kit in my bergen, I had absolutely everything I could ever need to survive.
I emerged from my tent and put my bergen on my back before walking round the edge of the field to avoid most of the mud, and then over to the meeting point. The rain was picking up and I began to wonder if I needed to change my jacket, which would be a real pain at this point. I walked along the row of cars to find one with a space available and was very lucky to find Tony and Shelly Kelly with Jonathan Dando and one seat still spare, provided I had my bergen on my lap. I had not spoken with them before over the weekend, but what a lovely bunch to have my final moments with before setting off on my own for the event, and the conversation in the car was upbeat, lively and very positive. They all obviously knew this area very well, so there was discussion of possible start points and probable route destinations. By the time we parked up we were all looking forward to getting going.
The rain had picked up by the time we parked and while I did think again about changing my jacket, I both decided against it and also had the decision taken out of my hands as Stuart barked at us to get ready, get in two ranks and get our headtorches turned off. As Stuart moved away to deal with something, Matt stepped forward, “Does everybody know where they are ? Let me know now if you have any problems before he gets back.” They made an excellent good cop/bad cop ! Very soon everybody knew where they were on the map and our headtorches were off to show that. It was time to move out and we doubled off to the start point. As we waited for the signal to commence the event for real, people were huddled around maps trying to guess where the first RV might be. There were two locations we all pretty much knew for sure would feature at some point in the event, although I had yet to find someone who could tell me precisely where one of those was on the map, and there was a third location we strongly suspected would feature, but only one of those was in the location of the starting point and was surely too close to be RV1. Which meant we were looking for other possibilities on the map, and if we went off in a certain direction then one possibility again seemed too close, but another seemed pretty likely. We would all know for definite very soon.
People began to head off to the start line and I was impatient to get going so I got myself to the front of the waiting queue. I was called forward. My headtorch was on red, my racing snake map was in one hand and my compass was in the other, and I doubled in to find Ken Jones waiting for me. This would not be a good time to balls up the RV SOP then ! I kept my head and breezed through it, identifying RV1 on being given the grid reference and immediately seeing my route to it. I was sorted, and Ken told me I could use white light until sunrise as I got up to go away. Surely that had been far too easy. I moved off, just stopping at the team ahead of me who appeared to still be in discussion about their route. I suggested the one I was planning to take and they wondered if we were allowed to take the track I had in mind. It had not been declared out of bounds, so I was confident it was acceptable. I ran back the way we had come in and passed the fast group doubling in to take up a waiting formation ready to get going. It was all very real now.
My route to RV1 was steep, and I definitely did not think we were being eased into this. I could hear some noise ahead of me and pushed on, occasionally seeing the light of a headtorch being turned back in my direction. Not that I could see anything else at this time or in this light. It was dark and it was misty, and having chosen this route at least it was staying as clear as it was on the map, so I could follow it without any trouble, even in this light. I reached the top of this steep beginning and the track I was on followed the flow of that on the map, so again I was confident I was going the right way, although a little concerned that nobody else had caught up with me yet. My fitness may well have improved since my Fan Dance but I was under no illusions about how I ranked compared to the others on this event, so I was somewhat surprised not to have been caught by this point. About an hour in I heard someone coming up behind me and as he got closer I could see it was Ian Ford, which was brilliant for my confidence. If Ian was going the same way as me then I must be going the right way ! We chatted as we pushed on, Ian checking that I was all right, and us both wondering where everyone else had got to – they must be out here somewhere – and then he was gone, powering away. After almost 1 hour and 20 minutes I reached the first of the Mountain Safety Team points and I must have looked confused because the guy who was manning it immediately told me that he was not RV1. As I finished chatting with the MST, Charlie Martin checked in and passed me. He must have been really pushing it because I am sure he started in the fast group. According to what the MST had told me, based on who had gone through his location, and with Charlie going past me, I was now in 5th position, and again I was wondering where everyone else had got to. I knew for sure I would not be in 5th place by the time we reached the end but now I had a determination to reach RV1 before anyone else went past me. I carried on and on seeing that Charlie had stopped just along the track from me, I asked him if he was all right. He was, and was just taking off a layer. I said I thought he was the first one from the fast group to pass me and he replied that as he set off there seemed to be a lot of headlights going cross-country, whereas he had looked at the map and did not fancy that route. It sounded like he knew what he was talking about, so I was more than a little surprised about half an hour later to see Charlie coming back towards me. My face must have been easy to read on the day because like the MST before him Charlie guessed what I was thinking and said that the route from RV1 to RV2 brought us back along the same track, which is why I was seeing him again, and that would be for the last time as he drove himself on to first place in an exceptional time. Ian came past me just a couple of minutes later, also driving on to an excellent fnishing time and a True Grit award, confirmed I was not far off RV1, and sure enough, 1 hour and 55 minutes after setting off I arrived at Jason and RV1, although there was a twist to it.
I had not left the track and RV1 should have been off the track. Jason asked me to confirm where I was on the map, which I did, and he confirmed my location. One down, who knew how many more to go ! I was given the next grid bearing, identified it on the map, and then set about route selection. With some excellent guidance from Jason I discarded my far too conservative ideas and saw the obvious route cross-country, which would mean following a bearing once I had returned along the way I had come in, so I set off.
Rich O’Regan came past me pushing on hard, wanting to put in a very good time and obviously in competition with some of his mates. I wished him all the best as he left me behind. It was light by now and the mist had cleared, so I was able to see some very familiar faces coming towards me, first Sean and Adam Linehan, closely followed by Simon Limb (and his two dogs, Kai and Diesel) and Kramar Donachie, to whom I confirmed that I was not lost and it was there and back again, and then Karl Rushen and the team he was with. I had been out for almost 3 hours by the time I got back to the MST, and as I was confirming my onward route to him, Jim Davenport and Tony Day appeared, after having taken a less than direct route to get to this point. I told them it was a straight route to RV1 from here and wished them all the best as they continued on their way and I continued on mine. After being passed by Rob Paine and the team he was in, I very soon arrived at the point where I was due to take a bearing and found Ken Jones waiting there. He was in his DPM and on his radio, looking every inch the imposing figure you would imagine him to be. Seeing him there I was very glad he is on my side ! Once I had confirmed I knew where I was on the map he gave me the necessary bearing and said that taking the path round to the left and then adjusting accordingly was probably the easiest way to progress from here, rather than trying to go straight over the top. I took his advice, got around the corner until everything appeared to flatten out, walked out into the wilderness to make that necessary adjustment, and then set off on the bearing. The ground was firm enough underfoot and even when I encountered a lot of stones in my way I was making good time, although as I was crossing the stones my radio started picking up Radio 1, so I switched it off for a while. I was keeping one eye on the bearing and one eye on my map so that I could compare it with the landscape, and when I came across a stream running through a gulley I decided to keep it to my left and followed it down. It did not take me to precisely where I was planning to end up, but instead took me further on and closer to the point where I would begin to head towards RV2. As I approached a gate and treeline an elderly man and a dog came down from my right. We exchanged greetings and he asked me what I was doing, so I explained, and before he could tell me where I was I jumped in, showed him my location on the map and told him the way I was going to go from here to get to RV2. He said he was going that way and we walked together, passing another of the Point To Point participants (who, unfortunately, I do not know to name here) as we went through the gate and turned left. He told myself and my elderly companion that he was going to a crossing point up the lane and as we continued going in our direction my ‘guide’ made the comment that he had been walking these hills for more years than he cared to remember and this was definitely the way. I bid him a farewell as I turned right and not before long the guy we had passed was coming along the same route I had followed. So now I was at the bottom of a track which would take me up to RV2, and while I could see the hill that RV2 would sit atop, from here I could not actually see RV2. I began the climb, following a track which was hugging the treeline, as were a number of guys ahead of me, although some others who followed me up took a more central line across the open slope. I got to the base of what looked like final slope to the top.
Not only did it look very steep, but I could see that those ahead of me were not finding it an easy climb. Well, I could see them until the mist came across and I lost sight of them and the top of the slope. I spotted a rocky track going up to the side and decided that would be far better for me than trying to scale the main face, even though it certainly did not turn out to be an easy option. It twisted and turned and suddenly I looked up, saw a couple of peaks, and wondered if the trail I was following would actually connect with the peak I wanted to get to. I got to the top of this track and turned left, walking along the ridge to get to the top of the main slope and very soon finding Dave Humm and his communications equipment blocking my path, and to be honest the mast coming out of the mist was a little surprising ! Dave told me that RV2 was straight ahead and I carried on until I saw it was Stuart manning this RV. I went through the correct RV SOP with him, he gave me the next grid reference, which I identified, and then he asked me for my route selection.
I could see it. I could see it very clearly on the map. It could not be more obvious. And yet in my current cold, wet and tired state I could not put that into words. I had been out for almost 5 hours by this time, and had covered just over 9 miles. It had been tough going. Stuart began to prompt me and then it started to come out and my route selection was approved. At which point Stuart pretty much made my day. “I know you like your photos,” he said, “Do you want one with the trig point ? I’m only letting a few people have the privilege.” Oh, I was never going to refuse that offer ! So I got to have my photo taken during Point To Point at the famous trig 642. And my thanks to Stuart for that, and to Lee Colebrook for taking the photo.
The rain had never really started to fall heavily, but it had felt wet throughout the morning. I changed from my damp gloves into a dry pair, which instantly made me feel better, and carried on, with the first move to get me to RV3 being pretty straight forward – get to a cairn and turn left. There was a track to take me there but I never quite found it, and looking at some others who were now on this part of the route I was not alone in that, but we all came together at the cairn, just as some walkers were coming up a steep track which led up to it. They must have wondered who we all were as we appeared out of the mist, and I certainly wondered what on earth they were doing out here given the kit they were wearing. One of those in the team which had caught up with us was Mick Henderson, and we had been joking on Facebook about which of us was going to win the coveted last place – it looked like that would run right to the end then ! Everyone was taking a bearing and then we set off to follow it, which almost immediately became a lot more easier said than done because this terrain was boggy.
Up to now there had not really been any issues with the ground, and if I had wanted to walk in a straight line to follow a bearing then that had been possible, but now that situation changed and at one point my left leg went down into the boggy ground so that the water came well above my knee. I was thankful that I had chosen to wear my gaiters and that my Aku Pilgrims were dealing with the job in hand so very well, because my feet were still feeling dry and comfortable in my boots. I pushed on through the mist over the open ground, past an animal skull and up and down slight slopes until finally four of us came out of the mist together and looked down into VW valley. It was an awesome and intimidating sight, especially with the mist blowing across it.
There were already some people ahead of us down in the valley and it was very clear we would simply have to go down into it ourselves and then walk along the bottom of the valley before finding a good place to go up the other side. I took a diagonal path down, which turned out to be a lot harder than walking downhill should be, before catching sight of another MST position, which I headed towards, following the instructions of the person manning the position to take care while crossing the water between me and him. There was no option but to go through the water and at least it cleaned off my boots a little. I had now been out for 6 hours. I had a short chat with the MST and asked him how many people he had seen before me, because I had not seen very many actually passing me. He said that not everybody he had spotted had come through his position, that some had started up the other side of the valley before getting to him and that others had carried further down into the valley before crossing the water. I had seen a track just beyond his position and decided to take it, as a few had done before me, and it turned out to be another steep climb. I reached a plateau and my legs decided that now was a good time to sit down to eat some of my sausage roll, and it tasted delicious. The mist had cleared and the view from up here was wonderful, giving no hint of what I had been through so far. I got up and drove myself on up the slope, over the top, and then I could see RV3 and took another diagonal line to get there. I had successfully contoured the peak and Voluntary Withdrawal valley had not defeated me. I came down the slope and crossed the A470 to get to Matt at RV3, following the RV SOP again, being given the next grid reference, identifying it, and then being told I could take any route to get to it provided I went up the slope on the other side of the A470 from us first. I decided to take a breather before moving on to that ! As I was eating the rest of my sausage roll a few people caught up with me at the RV. First was Vini Sihra, looking very determined, and she did not hang around long at the RV, driving on to become the first female participant to finish.
And then I was joined by Sean, Adam, Simon and Kramar, not looking like the happiest campers in the world, it must be said. Sean, in particular, looked like he was feeling it. I decided to set off, knowing they would pass me as we went up the slope, and as I looked at my watch I saw I had been going for 7 hours.
I crossed the A470 again and went through a gate, saying hello to Limby’s dogs as I passed them, and began to climb, looking at the people going up ahead of me zig-zagging their way up and wondering how on earth to do it because my zigs and my zags were just not coming together. I just went straight up.
It was not long before Limby and Kramar went past me, then Adam, and I expected Sean to follow suit but he came up alongside me and we continued to climb together, alternating with overlaps before we were joined first by Jonathan Dando, who I had not seen since our early morning car ride together, and then by Darren Porter, who I had not met before over the weekend but who I would get to know over the remaining part of this day. Climbing up to trig 642 had been tough but this was in another world of tough. It felt like it was taking forever, it definitely felt like it was getting steeper (which it was), and it did not feel like it was coming to an end any time soon. I would look up and not see any sign of the top. There was at least one false summit and suddenly the climb got so steep that I was bear crawling without having to bend forward, which brought its own issues when I put my hands straight on to something with thorns and the barbs went through my gloves. I quickly brushed off as many as I could and then spent the rest of the climb trying to clear the others. It took me the best part of an hour to get to the top and for a second part of me did wonder if I might be as well turning around and going straight back down to RV3 again instead of pushing on, but that was never going to happen. Adam had waited at the top for Sean, and Darren and I joined them to walk along the ridge. After all the previous peaks I had been fine once I got to the top, but now I felt shattered after going up around 1000ft in less than a mile, and I began to fall back from the others as the mist came down again. I got out the bag of mixed salted peanuts, salted cashews, raisins, peanut M&Ms and chocolate M&Ms we had been provided with, and a couple of mouthfulls of that left me feeling a lot better as I continued along a track which was at the edge of the ridge. I had lost sight of the others in the mist as I dropped back but I knew where I was going from here and would only have been holding them back anyway. I also knew that I should have eaten more by this time to keep up my energy levels, but although I had brought energy gels with me I never felt like eating them and they were supposed to be my ‘easy’ food, so that is something I will need to consider for the future. Ken’s steel cut oats had got me to this point ! I pushed myself on, staying on a track which was running along the edge so that I had a drop to my left, and I reckoned if I stuck to this I would shortly meet another track which would take me to RV4. As I neared the point where I expected that to happen I heard some voices to my right and I headed off in that direction to investigate, only to find it was Sean, Adam and Darren, who must have got a little lost making their own way to here for me to have caught up with them. I showed them on the map where I thought we were and described where I thought we were heading to at the end of this particular piece of track, tying it in to the route for the Fan Dance which both Sean and Adam knew. I went ahead a little, confirmed that the track ahead looked correct and we carried on in that direction, very soon coming across another MST position. We were asked for and gave our names and callsign numbers because the DS were clearly trying to locate everyone who was still out on the course, and we were asked if we were all right, to which we replied that we were, that we knew where we were and that we knew where RV4 was from here. Then the MST took a good look at Sean and specifically asked him if he was all right, to which Sean replied that he was, but then something must have clicked because he took off his bergen to get out his smock. He knew exactly where to find it, then put it on, but needed some assistance getting the zip done up. I think we were all learning a lesson out on the ground right at this moment. In the same way that I knew I should have eaten more but had done nothing about it, so Sean knew that he needed to sort out his layers to get warmed up, but it took a switched on MST to make us all appreciate this and take the action required. It was testament to the highest level of personnel used by Avalanche Endurance Events. Sean was ready to proceed and I was very confident about where we were, even while the others were wondering if certain tracks would take us to Corn Du or not, so we carried on along the track and not too long after leaving the MST position we reached RV4 at the summit of Pen-y-Fan, to be greeted by Jason. He gave us our next grid reference and not only could we see that we were going home, but even better the first part of our route would be the very familiar Jacob’s Ladder, and from there round to Windy Gap, although, unlike our previous experiences with this stretch of terrain, this time we would be doing it in the dark.
I had been out for about 8 and a half hours at this stage and definitely got a boost from thinking that now we were on the home stretch as we made our way down Jacob’s Ladder. I was still finding myself at the back of the group but I was keeping up with them. Although it was very dark by now, we knew when we passed the track which leads to the summit of Cribyn and kept going along the track we were on. Adam and Darren were checking the map and each time they did this I took the opportunity to keep going, knowing that they would catch up with me along this stretch before we needed to take a route off. As we reached Windy Gap and another MST point we had been caught by Simon and Kate Bent, and we all confirmed our location and the next part of our route with the MST.
Our little group set off before Simon and Kate and very soon we began to think we had missed something, not least because Simon and Kate were no longer behind us. Looking at the map we had definitely gone too far rather than not far enough, so we retraced our steps and got back on track, climbing again, which once again found me dropping back from the others. Fortunately there was another MST at the top of this section and I caught up with everyone there. Once again we were asked for our names and callsign numbers, and while Adam and Darren were confirming location and next moves with the MST I decided to call everything in. “Hello Zero. This is James02. Locstat over,” and then I relayed the callsigns from our group, our position and an ETA for the FRV, looking around the group for input and arriving at the decision that 35 minutes was about right. We really should have given that timing a lot more thought, although on the plus side it definitely left me feeling we were on the final stretch and that was a huge boost.
Such a boost that I took point with my headtorch on, with Adam behind me making sure we were staying on bearing, Sean behind him, and Darren at the back keeping a check on the bearing whilst also providing more light from his torch. We knew we had to get to a certain point before heading off on a bearing, and according to the map there was a track to get us there, so I saw my job as getting us along that track as quickly as possible in the conditions until Adam told me it was time to turn off the track. I pushed on, apparently at a speed which surprised the others, but I have always had pretty good night vision and I had a clear mission to get us to the FRV safely and as soon as possible, and this track was proving to be a good one, with the only thing holding us back at all being the question of where we needed to make our turn. We thought we must be close by the distance we had covered and then Adam said that to continue following the track would take us off bearing, so we knew we were at the turning point. Our new bearing was set and we moved off cross-country, which was a harder proposition and especially because darkness had really descended and I could not clearly see what we were walking into until I had pretty much walked into it. I still pushed ahead judging each step as I planted it and passing back any relevant information about the terrain before the others had to deal with it, and, in fact, we appeared to be somewhat fortunate that our little corrections to our direction of travel to keep us on the correct bearing mostly took us onto better ground. Once I fell forward as a bit of ground gave way but mostly we kept going well. We had come alongside a river and as we stopped to check the map and bearing, I realised just how much being point was taking out of me, so asked that someone else take it on for a short while. I did not want to overstretch myself at this late stage because I had just felt my water run out, and being out on point was taxing in these conditions, plus I knew we must be close to our next big landmark, and I was happy to take it back on from there. Sure enough, we very soon reached the location where we could get on to the track which would take us the remaining way to the FRV, and that made us all feel a lot better. Adam had been spot on with his navigation. Of course, our ETA of 35 minutes had gone completely out of the window by this time, and we decided to hold back with an update until we got closer and could give an accurate assessment of our timings. We knew they could always contact us if they were unduly worried, which was one of the huge advantages to running a communications network for an event like this. The track was not as clear now in places as it had been this morning and we had to stop a couple of times to shine some light around to see exactly where we were, but soon enough we got to the top of the steps which were our final route out of here. I called in another Locstat and we began to descend, receiving a message that the FRV was being marked by a red strobe, and we confirmed that we could see it from our location. As we went down we could also see other headtorches appearing at the top of the steps, and from the radio communications we knew this must be the team with Tim13, although we had no idea how many might be in that team by now. A competitive spirit kicked in and we were determined that we should stay ahead of them. We felt we had earned our position from the way we had negotiated this last section and we were not going to give it up at this late stage. And with that we pushed a little harder and, of course, took our eye off the ball, with Adam going over on his ankle. He was fine, got up and we kept going. We would have picked him up and dragged him home at this point ! We were greeted at the bottom by Simon and Kate, who had already finished and were heading back to the cars, and they confirmed where we should be going from here. We pushed along the track we had first gone along much earlier on in the day, managed to take a premature turn off it when we could not see the red strobe, heard Tim13 announcing an ETA of 8 minutes and then got ourselves organised so that we doubled in together as a team to the FRV, to be greeted by the smiling face of Jason, who seemed genuinely pleased to see us finish. It had taken me just under 12 and a half hours to get back to here, after just over 21 miles and about 6,000ft of elevation.
We all signed in and there was much shaking of hands and chatter as we tried to take in what we had done while awaiting the arrival of the next group. It was not long before they arrived and I was delighted to see Karl among them – I will admit to getting some dust in my eyes on seeing him, he is such an inspiration. I could see that Tim13 (Tim Donati-Ford), Mark and Stuart Massey and Jamie Horgan were with him, and then I saw that Jim and Tony had also come in, and also Maximilian Lebmeier (and his dog, Enigma), and the only one missing from those I had known before this weekend was Olly Rowsell, and the unfortunate news was that he had had to pull out at RV3. I also found out that Mick Henderson had to pull out at the top of the slope from RV3 after taking a tumble which resulted in him being taken to A&E, an incident which proved the effectiveness of both the medical and the communications training we had received the day before, by all accounts. My battle with Mick for last place will have to wait for another day. Myself, Sean, Adam and Darren set off back to the cars, and our nav skills must have been left back at the FRV as we began walking down the wrong spur, and had to come back up from there as Karl came past, taking the correct path as he taunted us. It was good to be finished. I managed to get a lift back with Adam, my bergen in the back this time, and as we chatted we all agreed this had been a one-off, not something that you would look to be doing every year, unlike the Fan Dance. In fact, it was agreed that this made the Fan Dance look like a sprint. This was one to be filed away as having been completed. There was a prize giving ceremony later in the evening but I would not be able to stay around for that as I had to get home, get some sleep, and then be in a work meeting the next morning, which had not turned out to be the best planning ever. In fact, I even gave up the chance of a hot shower back at base camp because I decided it would be best to just get my tent down and hit the road. Getting the tent down was easy enough but as I had expected would be the case, I needed a push to get out of the field. Fortunately there were lots of willing helping hands giving pushes to all the cars looking to get out of there, and the next thing I knew I had Stuart at my front passenger window barking some final orders for the weekend and making sure I got it into second gear. It took two pushes, and then I was out. I needed food and stopped at the first services once I had crossed into England, only to find that Sean and Adam had done the same. It was great to see them and more tales of the day were told over various goodies from Burger King, and our thoughts and conclusions were shared. All of them were positive. It had been an excellent weekend.
I must thank a multitide of people for their assistance in various ways in getting me to the FRV. First of all, everyone involved with Avalanche Endurance Events – Ken Jones, Jason, Matt, Stuart, all the MST, and those involved behind the scenes – for all the training and guidance and for laying on such a very well organised and brilliant event; the team of Sean and Adam Linehan and Darren Porter for allowing me to tag along with them through RV4 to the FRV; Ian Ford for the excellent navigation training (and you should take a look at his blog here); Dave Humm for the excellent communications training (which continues online as we now look ahead to the Winter Fan Dance); Sean Linehan, Kramar Donachie, Olly Rowsell and Simon Limb for being such understanding and encouraging tabbing training partners; Karl Rushen for the inspiration (and you should also take a look at his blog here); Jim Davenport for the motivation on Strava; the instructors and fellow participants at Regiment Fitness bootcamps and tabbing sessions, and especially Graham Grover, for continually pushing me; Dean Clarke for the recommendation of the perfect AKU Pilgrim boots; Jon Bell and Joseph Brigham for the variations in training they bring me; and, of course, Debbie for allowing me to go off and be an idiot.
Afterword – it has taken a while for me to type up this blog, not least because the previous final version corrupted just before I was able to publish it, so I have had to retype it from an earlier Word version, and that has allowed me to take stock of everything that happened over Point To Point. As I have said, when we finished it we all agreed it was a one-off, never to be repeated event. 1 day later we all wanted to be out in the hills doing it again. 7 days later we had eaten Mr Kipling out of house and home by way of recovery. 14 days later I finished the last mince pie and got back into training for the Winter Fan Dance. Some organisations put Tough before the name of their event to draw people in. This event sounded more like something from a pony club gymkhana, and yet was the toughest physical experience of my life to date (which includes trekking at altitude in Peru). I say “to date” because my training is now for back to back Winter Fan Dances on the 10th and 11th January (to get the experience of doing one Test March and then having to get up the following morning and do another), and I will be signing up for Iron Man (another of the Selection Test Marches) the moment it is announced. And I have to say I am only considering doing this because of the trust I can put in Avalanche Endurance Events, based on my experiences with them. There are no two ways about it, these events are dangerous and have the capacity to seriously injure or worse, which they have done even recently with the real things, so I would only consider doing them if I thought I was going to be kept safe. Everything leading up to Point To Point made me feel that way, from the initial selection process to the informative, useful, and, frankly, essential-reading emails; the excellent paper-based and on the ground navigation training, and just as excellent online communications training, both of which put me in the best position possible for the training day; and then there was the training day itself when we were all tested individually so that the DS could be sure about sending us out into the wilderness of the Brecon Beacons. The event itself was perfectly organised, and not only were there the correct number of marshalls in all strategic positions, every single one of those marshalls, be they DS or MST, were of the highest calibre. Events like these demand that they be run by the best and this one was, which is why it was such an outstanding success. Avalanche Endurance Events will be running all the Selection Test Marches and for so long as I qualify to take part in them I will be signing up. I came out of Point To Point a better person – I would suggest you put yourself through the challenge provided by Avalanche Endurance Events and see what you can learn about yourself.