The Six Shropshire Summits is a 37mile, 6000ft of ascent walk, that must be completed within 14 hours and its the third time I have done it. I did it the first time with my Brother in Law, Paul in about 1996 and really found it hard. The second time was in 2002 with Jackie. It was slightly less hard then as we took a change of footwear, making it easier on the feet on the 17 mile roadwalk. Jackie remembered we had done it in about 13 hours then, so we were hoping to beat that time.
Steve is a pretty fit 40 odd year old and Paul is in the RAF and a very fit guy. Here we are at the finish (the smiles hide the pain!):
|Brian, Steve and Paul|
A quick downhill was followed by a long 17mile roadwalk up over Roman Bank, where at the checkpoint they told us we had to hurry. By this time Steve was in a bad way, with cramp in his legs. Paul and I were feeling quite concerned about him, so Paul offered to take his quite heavy rucksack to help (Steve had purchased a ridiculous quantity of food, making his rucksack really heavy). As we went on I could feel blisters starting to form on the soles of my feet, probably due to the springiness of my running shoes. Deciding to do nothing about we pressed on, the soreness gradually getting worse.
We arrived at Abdon, at the base of Brown Clee Hill, the fifth summit, at just after 5.00pm and Steve was really in pain. My blisters, by comparison, were nothing, but Paul looked fresh as a daisy! Steve rubbed some 'Deep Heat' into his leg muscles, took on some 'go juice' to help the cramps and rehydrate himself and I gave him some Ibruprofen, I thought about looking at my blisters but decided it would do no good.
We set off from Abdon at 5:30pm, the latest time allowed with our three other friends, who it turned out had no maps or compass (!), so were using us as guides. We got over Brown Clee Hill and its little subsidiary and headed down to the last checkpoint, which we must be at by 7:30pm. With 5 minutes to go we were 0.75mile away so decided to run. This was OK, until we came to a hill. I told Paul I couldn't run uphill and Steve certainly couldn't, so Paul went off alone to alert the checkpoint we were close behind and not to disqualify us.
He got to the checkpoint at 7:30pm, we arrived 5 minutes later. In the van were 3 army guys who had given up due to blisters on their feet (and I thought they were tough!). They just couldn't believe it when they saw Paul running up the hill, particularly as he's in the RAF! They were also impressed when I told them we intended to finish: 'fair play' they said.
Off we went for the final 3 miles and final summit, Titterstone Clee Hill, with a 'golf ball' transmitter on its summit. That golf ball has haunted me on the previous two times, as it gets larger only very slowly and taunts us as we walk. The walk up is relatively steep and continuous and not what you want when you're nearly finished. At this point we had overtaken a couple of very slow walkers and now overtook a couple of young guys (in their early twenties), who were really suffering. With our three other friends that made at least 7 people behind us, which was quite pleasing.
The sun came out for the last two summits and on our final assault the sky was completely blue, giving us a very nice finish. By now my legs were really aching, which with my sore feet made it very slow. Paul was still going pretty well and looked like he could do more, but I felt pretty near my limit and Steve was certainly really struggling.
We finished at 8:50pm, much later than expected and gave them great respect for Jackie, who had finished at 8:00pm in 2002. 'I can now see why you married her' said Paul!
Back in the car park we were presented with our certificate of completion, here's mine:
By then Steve was at an end and my feet were really sore with blisters. Paul was by far in the best condition and I'm sure will do well on our 100km walk.
This walk was about 60% of the distance we will do on the South Down's, but has almost the same total ascent. How will we get on? I just don't know. I have to sort out my footwear and Steve needs to sort out the weight he carries, while Paul, well, he just needs to be Paul. Our only other unknown is how Ash will get on.
Watch this space!