Dragons’ Back Challenge – by Matthew Myerscough and Michael Murray

A continuous traverse of 190 Welsh mountains to raise money for Mountain Rescue

“I feel like I’ve been over every bobble in Wales”, Mike exclaimed as we stopped to appreciate the view on a clear day.  Mountains stretched as far as we could see, and with some satisfaction we noted their names and that we had in fact stood on their summits very recently.  We were approaching the end of an extraordinary journey in which we climbed all 190 Welsh mountains in a record breaking 550 mile continuous walk lasting just 34 days.

Early morning view across Llynnau Mymbyr – Matt Myerscough

My inspiration for this challenge can be traced back to February 2014, when my partner Alison and I were caught in an avalanche on Snowdon.  After being swept 1,000 feet down the mountain and buried in the debris, we were incredibly grateful to Aberglaslyn and Llanberis Mountain Rescue Teams for coming to our aid.  Our Dragon’s Back Challenge was devised to raise money for these teams to help support them continue their lifesaving work.

Despite the recent heat wave my close friend Mike and I began our journey in Swansea on 29th July 2018 in more typical Welsh weather, driving wind and rain!  Thankfully conditions improved and, despite injury, in the first two weeks we made good progress across the Brecon Beacons, Black Mountains, New Radnor hills, and on into central Wales where it was a delight to wild camp in the beautiful and remote Elan Valley region.

Wild camping in the remote, beautiful Hengwm Valley – Matt Myerscough

Our continuous traverse took us onwards across the Pumlumon Mountains towards the Cadar Idris range, and the start of the section we had nicknamed, ‘the dragon’s head’, a 100 mile detour to include the Aran, Berwyn, and Arenig mountain summits.  This remote section of the challenge required many nights of wild camping which proved testing due to poor weather combined with our demanding schedule.  One particularly low point saw us spend a cold wet night pitched high in the Aran Mountains during a storm with only a stagnant tarn as our water source.  Lows were followed by highs when family and friends surprised us at road crossings and summits with hot food and fresh socks.

After two days of horrendous weather and tough navigation crossing the Rhinog Mountains, we descended into Maentwrog where we began the final chapter of our journey.  By now we were playing catch up on our original schedule because of lost time due to bad weather and injury.  Before we had even started the challenge my mother had rather optimistically booked her accommodation at the finish in Conwy!  Keen not to disappoint the welcome party, but also to set a new record for the fastest ascent of the 190 Welsh peaks, we accelerated through the final stages of our traverse by merging consecutive days into single longer outings.  Daily ascents of over 10,000 feet became more common in the last week as we stumbled onwards over the Moelwyns, Snowdon range, Glyders, and finally into the Carneddau. 

Mike (left) and Matt on the summit of Cnicht – Matt Myerscough

On our final summit, Tal y Fan, it was a delight to enjoy champagne with family on a beautiful evening.  Although our journey was almost complete, we had only just begun to realise the satisfaction of our achievement.

In 34 days we had walked across Wales from Swansea to Conwy, climbed 190 mountains, and ascended 5 times the height of Mount Everest from sea level.  We are delighted to have raised over £5,500 for Mountain Rescue and would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported our cause.

For more information and to donate to Mountain Rescue please visit www.dragonsbackchallenge.com

 

 


[Updated 20 March 2019]

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