Training Weekend - Wales, 4th/5th/6th October 2002

Friday 4th October 2002

The team assembled at Neil's office in Putney, by about 6.00pm myself, Claire, Jamie, Zanna and the two Rachel's were kicking our heels in the carpark of Neil's office waiting for Neil to turn up with the minibus.

This was the entire party that was going to be travelling to Wales with the exception of Mark and Ruth who were making their own way to the cottage.

Just after 6.30pm Neil and the minibus turned up having negotiated London's rush hour on a Friday, which is about as bad as it gets. Now with the clock at 7pm it was time to load up and hit the M4 heading towards South Wales.

The team arrived at the cottage in the Brecon Beacons at about 12.30am, Mark was already there and Ruth was due to join us during at some point on the Saturday.

Neil pulled the minibus into the layby opposite the cottage and told everyone to help with unloading the minibus and to carry the kit into the cottage.

At the cottage we were met by the cottage's owner, Nic, an old friend of Neil's. He welcomed us in, made a brew and cracked open the beers.

After the introductions were over thoughts and talk turned to the expedition - Everest! Having looked at a number of maps and chatted about the forthcoming trip it was about 1.30am, time for bed! The team made their way up the stairs and I rolled out a therm-a-rest and sleeping bag on the floor of the lounge and settled in for the night.


Saturday 5th October

At approximately 6am the following morning Nic arrived in the lounge where I was already awake, washed, dressed and ready for the day's events.

Nic and I decided between us that it was time to wake the team and the alarm call was to be ABBA blasting out at full volume. This had the desired effect, bearing in mind that the team did not get to bed until 1.30am and therefore only had a maximum of 5 hours sleep.

After breakfast Neil and I said a few words and then it was time to get lunch made and head for the hills.

The team all piled into the minibus and with Neil at the wheel we set off towards Pen-y-Fen. At about 9am the minibus pulled into the Storey Arms carpark which is at the foot of the hill.

After a brief warm up session it was my turn to give the team a new challenge, each team member was given a go in my 'Off Road' Wheelchair so that they could experience the difference between walking up a hill and pushing a chair up a hill.

Now it was time to take on Pen-y-Fen. The first problem the team encountered was a locked gate that needed to be climbed. Me, my wheelchair and team needed to be the other side so that the acsent could begin. With a great deal of help from the team I climbed over the gate.

At first Pen-y-Fen was a 20 degree muddy slope with the odd hole, grassy patch and rock here and there.

Neil took up his position at the rear of the wheelchair with two others on each side of the front and with me pushing it up the hill. The purpose of three additional people was to act as safety, brakes and where required offer lifting assistance.

The going was hard and slow because the ground got steeper and more and more difficult to cross. The rocky path, loose rocks and uneven ground were a test for me, the wheelchair and the team.

In addition to physical tests I was testing my trust in the team.

In a nutshell everything went without a hitch even through sections of the path to the summit were too much for the 'Off Road Wheelchair'. Where this happened I would drag myself across the ground showing no regard for comfort!

As the morning progressed it became apparent that I would not make the summit so the team was split into two groups each of which to make their way to the summit of Pen-y-Fen while I sat on top of the first ridge looking at the world that lay below me.

Lunchtime. This was tucked away without too much of a problem!

Now, as the old saying goes "What goes up must come down". So I got back into my wheelchair and with a great deal of assistance from the team I started to make my way down the hill. After a short while the hill was too steep and I took the decision to drag myself down the majority of the way back to the start point.

However, Neil and by this time the team was joined by Ruth and Nic felt that a better way down could be tried. I got back into my chair and at an angle of about 45 degrees lent back on the back wheels with Neil on the back, Jamie acting as brake man and two others acting as our wing men. We discovered that we could move down the hill at a considerable pace. The plan worked.

However, this method of transportation was very un-familiar I felt very unsure that is was the way forward. The biggest thing I had to overcome was the feeling of letting some else take control, this was very new ground for me as I am always in control.

Just when we all thought the day's trials were over the team had to climb back over the gate as negotiated on the way up, now somewhat tired the team made their way over the gate and across the road to the waiting tea van. Then it was back to the cottage for a shower and food.

That evening, having cleaned up, the team took a stroll, as if we hadn't walked enough during the day, to the local hotel for a bite to eat and a glass or two of something nice and alcoholic.

After dinner the team made their way back to the cottage for team building games, which were great fun and a most enjoyable way to finish the evening.


Sunday 6th October

Nic awoke me at about 7am and between us we felt that 5 hours sleep was more than enough and with the stereo blasting out the theme to that 70's cult children's series 'The Banana Splits' the team made their way down for breakfast.

After breakfast we headed out to a local rock face where every team member (with the exception of me) had a go at climbing and abseiling.

The rock face was about 60 ft high and rather sheer, everybody got to grips with climbing and I think my team gave it plenty of beans and effort.

Later the team drove back to London with Neil in the driving seat. As the whole team slept I sat back and thought SUCCESS!

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