Welsh 1000m Peaks race… kind of

The event I’ve been sporadically training for in the past few months turned out to be a bit of a washout. Rain, rain and more rain was the order of the day, and said rain meant that only two of the five 1000m peaks were actually visited on the day. The race took place on 9 June.

The evening before, all the competitors received an email stating that the summit of Glyder Fawr would be missed out, and instead of the route over the Gribin ridge, the Miner’s track would be taken up Cwm Tryfan and over and down to Pen-y-Pass.

When we arrived on the morning, however, little route cards were being given out which indicated a completely changed route, with a low-level route completely bypassing the Carnedds and heading along the North Wales Coastal Path to Bethesda, before taking the old road up to Ogwen Cottage. Many were not happy and out of the 180 entries, less than 100 started.

Despite the route change, I still enjoyed the first 10 miles of road and trial running and arrived at Ogwen Cottage in just over 1 hour, feeling fresh and still full of energy. I helped myself to some flapjack that was being given out, and headed up to Bwlch Tryfan and onto the Miner’s Track. The rain was pretty ridiculous, and the outflow to Llyn Bochlwyd was more a case of wading across a thigh-high stream, rather than the hopping across stepping stones that it normally is.

The Miner’s Track had became a not-so-small stream and the descent to the Pen-y-Gwryd was quite tricky, both because of the wet rock and boggy grass. My legs still felt okay on the run up the road to Pen-y-Pass and I hit the checkpoint at around the 3 hours mark.

It was then just a matter of weaving in and out of the tourists heading up the Pyg Track (easier said than done!), before branching off to the summit of Carnedd Ugain, where the marhsalls looked to be having a cosy time huddled in a tent, and then along to the finish on top of Snowdon. I finished in 4 hours 24 minutes, about 55 minutes behind the winner and in 30th position.

Pyg Track

Me heading up the Pyg Track

The summit cafe was packed full, which a good number of shivering fell runners and mountaineers. I met my parents there who thankfully had dry clothes and an insulated jacket for me to change into before the long walk down into Llanberis, for a well-earned coffee in Pete’s Eats.

Should the route have been changed? In my opinion, definitely not, but with the death in the 2007 race and the recent death in the Buttermere-Sailbeck fell race, I can understand the organiser’s decision – a decision that must be an extremely tough one to make.

Ras y Moelwyn

Last Saturday, 21 April, was the Ras y Moelwyn (Moelwyn fell race) and as a bit of a last minute decision I decided to give it a go. I’ve wanted to do it for a few years now but have always found myself busy.

The weather was very fitting for April and waiting around at the start in Blaenau Ffestiniog we got a few short sharp showers. We were all very glad when the race actually began! The showers carried on for the first half-an-hour or so but it subsequently cleared up. It was the 25th anniversary of the race and the organisers had put on a bouncy castle and climbing wall which were both proving quite popular with the kids.

Start

A rather quick start to the race, in the pouring rain! Photo courtesy of Andrew Harrison.

The route (of around 9 miles and 3,300 ft of ascent) follows a large track up to the Cwmorthin and Rhosydd quaries. A very fast pace was set and maintained along most of this stretch and I was glad when the proper uphill sections arrived and the pace slowed somewhat! A grassy slope took us to the top of the highest point of the day – Moelwyn Mawr at 770m (translated as the great white hill) – and then over Craigysgafn to Moelwyn Bach (little white hill). This section was a little airy in places and very good fun. A steep grass and bog gully led us down to Llyn Stwlan. The llyn is used as part of a small hydro-electric power plant in the Vale of Ffestiniog.

Finish

Me very near the finish - I'm a lot more worn out than I look!

My fell running shoes – a four-year-old pair of Inov-8 Mudroc 290s – have pretty much no tread left on the balls of my feet and because of this I really had to slow down on the descents. I have ordered a new pair, but they haven’t arrived yet!

From Llyn Stwlan we headed up Moel-yr-hydd and then straight down its northern gully to Llyn Cwmorthin. The pace back along the track to Blaenau was again relentless and definitely the most physically draining part of the race! I finished in 1:43:30, just over 20 minutes behind the winner (Ifan Richards) who finished in 1:21:37. 124 took part and I think I finished in 37th.

Next week it’s the Three Peaks fell race, so from now until then I will be mainly trying to do as little exercise as possible!

Fell running on the Glyders and Carnedds

It dawned on me last week that I only had two weeks to go until the Three Peaks fell race and that the last long run I did was the Edale Skyline fell race a good few weeks ago – time to put some proper training in! I’ve also entered the Welsh 1000m Peaks race in June and so I thought I’d use the opportunity to recce the only part of the route I’ve never done before – Y Gribin ridge onto the Glyders.

I did the run yesterday as a variation on what could be described as the “Ogwen Horseshoe” – along the Gyders, down to Llyn Ogwen and back up onto the Carnedds. The variation I chose came out at 15 miles with 7000 feet of ascent. I parked at the base of the north ridge of Tryfan and headed up to Llyn Bochlwyd before picking up the obvious track up the Gribin ridge. I had a quick look to see if I could spot the Cneifon Arete (translated as the nameless arete) that I’ve fancied doing for a while now, but couldn’t pick it out of the mass of crags lining Cwm Idwal. From the top of the ridge it is less than a kilometre to the summit of the highest mountain in the Glyders – Glyder Fawr, standing at 1001m.

The ridge is down as a grade I scramble, though I definitely think it is at the lower end of the grade as most of the difficulties can be bypassed.

Pen yr Ole Wen

The view of Carnedd Dafydd from Pen yr Ole Wen, taken on one of the few runs when I chose to take my camera with me, over the Carnedds in the April of last year. The weather was quite a bit worse yesterday!

Until late 2010 the listed height of Glyder Fawr was 999m and as such it wasn’t included in the Welsh 1000m Peak race. However, new GPS measurements found the height to actually be 1000.8m and so a decision was made to include the mountain in the two fell running categories of the race. This year, the “elite” mountaineer’s categories will include the summit as well. This addition makes the long fell runners class (A) race a grueling 20 miles with 9000 feet of ascent – why did I enter this!?

From the summit of Glyder Fawr, I headed down to Llyn y Cwn and then onto Y Garn, before taking the eastern ridge straight down to Ogwen Cottage. The past few times I’ve been down this ridge, a new path was in the progress of being built, and it was a relief to see the new path fully in place yesterday – it certainly made the descent easier than the boggy/grassy mess it was before!

I had been planning on topping my water bottle at Ogwen Cottage and so had drank everything I had before I got down to the little takeaway stall in the car park. Unfortunately however, the little takeaway stall refused to fill my bottle up and so I was left with a choice of either water from the outlet of Llyn Idwal or water from the sinks in the toilets that was specifically marked as not drinkable. I presumed that the sink water was marked undrinkable as it was also from the outlet of Llyn Idwal and as I didn’t have much choice I filled up from there. The Carneddau are notoriously dry and I didn’t fancy my chances of finding a source higher up.

My route up Pen yr Ole Wen was via its south-western ridge, a route I’d never done previously. It was a drag and my legs started aching, but a bit of scrambling and the odd bit of steep scree added enough entertainment to keep me going. There was a good deal of snow about on the summit and I chose to eat this instead of drinking the water from down at Ogwen.

I followed the ridge along over Carnedd Dafydd and Llewellyn, before heading over to Pen yr Helgi Du and Pen Llithrig y Wrach and finally down to the A5. The weather closed in on the final section and for the first time all day I was forced to put my windshirt on as it started snowing. By the time I was down at the A5 this snow had turned to persistent drizzle and by the time I got back to the car I was drenched through. I can’t really complain though, as most of the run had been cloudless and with sunny intervals. The run took me 4 hours 30 minutes altogether.

My legs ache now but not too much and yesterday has definitely boosted my confidence that I’m (just about) fit enough for the Welsh 1000m Peaks race. I ended up drinking the water from my bottle and as of yet (touch wood) I haven’t fallen ill!