WAAT4: This was no pre-Sunday lunch walk!

I’m just putting some pictures and bullet points together for a short presentation I’m giving tomorrow evening, when the proceeds of a charity event my work gang and I participated in last year – the WAAT4 – are handed over to the recipients. 

I’m rocking laughing looking back at these photographs and the subsequent WhatsApp conversation between us.

The WAAT4 is a navigation event across the beautiful Brecon Beacons, taking in the summit of Pen y Fan, and depending on the route you sign up to, some other amazing views across the national park. 

The event is arranged by a really dedicated group of people we work with and it’s up there amongst those other lung-busting challenges that all too often pop up in my Facebook feed. If you’re like me, they drag me in and are probably the only things I see that give me a real itch in my slippers or play on my FOMO.

So, during a Friday night group-chat session when June seemed a very long way away, we signed up. Four of us. None of us athletic and just two campers amongst our pack.

It’s like childbirth – you quickly forget the pain and the tears and are left with only a few stitches (read: midge bites and blisters), that feeling in your tum of having achieved something spectacular and a swathe of pats on the back and endless ‘congratulations’. It also left us walking a bit odd for a day or two!

These are the bits I can remember…

It was hard! 99% of people across South Wales have climbed Pen y Fan, but we weren’t on the pre-Sunday lunch route… we were keen, not-so-mean adventurers, going up the back way!

We walked… and we walked… and we walked. And as we got higher, the temperature dropped and the sunny sky soon disappeared. Then, from nowhere, there was the peak. 

As we clambered like newborn, disorientated mountain goats to the summit of the highest point in southern Britain, we found ourselves in almost zero visibility and big winds. A brave man from Brecon Mountain Rescue wrapped up in his wet-weather gear appeared out of the mist and pointed us towards the next checkpoint – a small dome tent, perched at the top. He was shouting at us to keep moving… but no one leaves Pen y Fan without the ‘money shot’, do they? 

We were at the top now – we were over the worst – we had this challenge in the bag. 

Our approach throughout had been to follow the person in front of us – those with the white numbers pinned to their person. As you’d expect in any big event like this, the competing  teams quickly dispersed across the mountain, so whereas we’d originally been amongst a pack of enthusiasts adorned with white squares of paper, we were very soon left on our own (seems obvious now in retrospect!). 

The unpredictable weather we so frequently warn people about as part of our day-job also blew against us and so, there in the mist, having made it to the top, our plan fell apart. We’d lost the pack!

Soon after, as we made our S.L.O.W. descent, I sat on a rock, broken and pebble-dashed in sheep poo (don’t ask!) with my team looking on perplexed and maybe amused (because yeah, I cried!). We made a pact. The four of us vowed NEVER to embark on this challenge, ever again!

It took us another few hours to reach the finish line. By which point, runners passed us; a number of teams on the 40k route lapped us and we temporarily misplaced ourselves for a second time. But we made it!

I’m proud to say all four of us completed the challenge, despite my pleas to ‘leave me to die… go on without me!’. And, as we hobbled back into what felt like a festival site at Brecon Cricket and Rugby Club, the atmosphere was electric.

A samba band was playing. Work colleagues and fellow WAAT4-ers came to welcome us back. There were cwtches in abundance, as well as t-shirts, medals, a bar full of chilled, moist booze AND a hog roast!

We’re months on from the WAAT4 now and while the strange gait has gone, our rose-tinted spectacles are firmly in place, as we often speak about that weekend spent camping in Brecon, mid-June.

We’ve also gone on to complete big swims, muddy runs and one of the team even completed a half marathon… because after the WAAT4, we believed we could (and the FOMO is just too much!).

As you’ve probably already guessed, it didn’t take us long to break that pinky pact made under the influence of sheep dung, rain sodden clothes and altitude! So, we’re up for it again in 2019 (the 40k route, perhaps!) – Are you?

If I’ve sold it to you, you can find out more and sign up on the website.

In 2009, Dyfed-Powys Police asked each division to raise money for charity. The crew in Powys came up with the idea of making the most of what was on their doorstep and so began the story of the WAAT4. 

Almost a decade on and the Brecon team along with the event’s many participants, have raised almost a quarter of a million pounds for vulnerable communities and charitable organisations. 2018 saw record numbers of teams enter the challenge, including us four amateur adventurers.

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