No mobile signal, no wireless, the wrong type of ‘cloud’ and amazing MPG!
No mobile and no wireless? Could this be a greater challenge than Scafell Pike?
Just like any other project, it is great to see our 3 Peaks Challenge team are preparing for the challenge just as they would prepare for any other project we are involved with. With absolute attention to detail. Some of our team have never tackled a challenge such as this before, so three of our most experienced adventurers, including our MD Steve Hodges headed up to the Lake District this week for a training run. Steve provided an account of the trip on the return journey. Over to Mr Hodges…
Given that we are less than three months from our 3 Peak Challenge in support of Camp Cando we have decided that some training runs might be sensible, so we booked a day on Scafell for a few of us and a weekend in Snowdonia for a small working party. Today was the day that three of us took on Scafell and what an eye opener it was.
Adam Crocker-White (Astro Head of Operations), decided that in order to be able to lose as little work time as possible, we would get the train from London to Seascale on Wednesday and meet Joe Wing (Astro Business Development Exec) who was driving over from Newark. True to form the train journey was absolutely fine and we sat in relative silence for five hours tapping away on laptops and phones. All was well with the world with the minor exception of the Storm Alarm on my Suunto watch repeatedly going off on the journey, mocked by Adam for having such a device, we ignored it, and went about our business.
Having already checked into Burnthwaite Farm B&B, Joe met us at the train station and we all headed off to Wasdale Head. Joe’s opening comment as we got into the car was “Great B&B, pub close by, absolutely NO mobile signal Hodge. Do you think you will be OK?” This is in reference to my separation anxiety from the connected world which resulted in me taking a satellite phone with me when I did my Day Skipper assessment in the Channel last year. “I will be fine Joe, they will have Wi-Fi. Everyone has Wi-Fi” was my stern response.” “OK then mate, whatever you say.”
We headed to the B&B, democratically debated who was having the twin room and who was getting a double bed to themselves and I wandered into my double room to drop off my things. We then immediately headed to the pub to get connected, get fed and plan our day on the hill over a nice cold Guinness!
As we walked through the door of The Wasdale Head Inn we were greeted with the above sign. My heart stopped. It is not that I can’t be away from being connected but I just like the comfort that my emails will be downloaded and read, and my iMessages will work if in am needed in an emergency. As it happens, there was wireless! So, to scorns from around the room we got connected, ordered our food and beers, and began talking through the day ahead with our laptops chugging away in the background making the most of the very rural broadband. Another piece of signage in the pub that I noticed on my way out was much more comforting, and probably very true. Although, our four pints followed by six miles won’t have helped the numbers!
The next morning, we were up, showered, fed and watered and on the hill by 09:15, we had hoped for a four hour yomp but the cloud cover was low and the weather forecasted to be very windy, very cold and snowy. So, in consultation with the farmer we reset our expectations for five hours to be safe.
The lowlands were chilly but clear and the initial ascent brutal. It is a steep start to a mountain by any standards, trampling up the path at Brown Tongue Gully the banter was good but by 45 minutes in, talk of burning calves and profuse sweating dominated the conversation. An hour in, this turned to. “Wow! The cloud is coming in.” and “This sweat is really cold when the wind catches you!” – we knew we were in for a hard stroll. Still determined, still focussed and still enjoying ourselves we pressed on, we made it to the first major navigation mark – a river crossing – and then on to a large fork in the paths that provided us the comfort to know we were on track. We were making good time but the temperature was falling fast, the cloud was getting thicker and the wind was really picking up. Still the banter remained strong and progress was good.
About an hour and 15 minutes into our ascent, we stopped for some water and decided that more gear was required so out came the waterproof jackets. I put on my waterproof trousers and gloves and hats were donned. There is something to be said about having the right gear. It just makes such a difference – although, as Joe’s future brother-in-law pointed out on Instagram, we did look like we had all just burgled a North Face shop – it served us extremely well and the environment began to test us.
The wind-chill turned the temperature to minus 9 degrees and at some points we were walking in six inches of snow, and the 35-40 mile an hour forecasted wind was relentless. But we pushed on with occasional stops for water and to consult the map and we made it to the summit in 2 hours and 5 minutes. Time for photos was limited. The cloud was piling in and the wind was taking us off our feet but, the hail that waded in was a particular delightful addition! A few token selfies and a quick video and we were back on our way again, with a goal to get out of the weather as quickly as possible. I didn’t even stop for some coffee.
The initial part of the descent was very challenging with snow and ice underfoot. To add to the challenge, the mist had left everything coated in a slippery layer. We were in a rush so we headed off down a tougher but more direct path until we re-joined our main route up. We passed very few people all day but we did see a couple of people heading up as we made our way down and gave them the courtesy of the warning of conditions ahead.
We made it back to the car park in 1 hour 35 minutes, not bad all things considered but it was great to get out of the weather, back to the B&B for a shower and to be heading on our way. We went for lunch at Seascale Golf club, where the wireless was good and the food was amazing. 16 messages and 400 emails all turned up from the preceding 14 hours. Phew! I was back in the game. We sat, tapped, ate and every now and then broke off into conversation about one specific part of the day or another. To others it probably looked anti-social, to us it was very social. The new kind of social. Instagram updated, an exhilarating day shared being recounted in bite sized chunks with each other and photos and banter being delivered to the larger 3 peaks team about the antics of the day. It is brilliant!
Sat on the train now somewhere between Crewe and Milton Keynes with my cheeks glowing and my knees reminding me I should exercise more often there is still a flurry of emails running around the team by email and message, there are still the occasional comments and recollections between me and ACW about the day’s events. And yes, we are working too with emails down to 63 and ready to finish the week off tomorrow back in the suit and into London for a series of meetings. I will be working hard to bring that MPG down as much as I can ahead of the weekend.
What a week, what variety, what a giggle and what an honour to be part of a company who work hard, play harder and have fun in whatever we get up to.
Bring on Snowdon in March, I can’t wait! And, bring on the Three Peaks Challenge, we know it will be tough, we know it will be challenging but we also know – without question, that it will be a laugh. Come what may.