Sunday, 7 June 2015

Snowdon & the Welsh 1000m Peak Race

At Ogwyn Mountain Rescue base
Tim was racing the Welsh 1000s race yesterday so I tagged along to have a quick trip to Wales, and offer support where I could. The linear 32km race starts on the coast near Bangor and climbs over the Carneddau and Glyders before finishing at the summit of Snowdon. That's right. The runners end the race at the top... and then have to make their way down. The class Tim had entered is the longest fell race in this event and takes in five 1000m summits with around 3000m ascent.

We'd driven down on Friday so had a short recce of one part of the race route in Ogwyn valley. Tim is a member of Glossop Mountain Rescue Team, so seeing a van parked at Ogwyn MR base we popped in for a quick hello. 45 minutes later we emerged having had a very thorough guided tour by Kevin - cheers.  We then headed up the hill for the recce and just as we got back to the MR base the new rescue helicopter popped round for a practice land and fly by. Fabulous to see and got a few waves from the crew.

Tryfan from across the valley - recce of descent
There was little hill support for me to do on the race route. At the main road crossings the runners had water and given it was going to take Tim around 5 hours to run I didn't actually have time to see him at any of those points and get to the top of Snowdon. My main role in the day was driver and provider of warm clothes at the finish line. So, I dropped Tim at the start, met up with the other three Glossopdale Harriers also running (Al, Saul and Tom) and saw the runners set off. I then drove round to Llanberis and by the time I'd parked, rechecked I had lots of warm clothes and plenty of food and water packed it was 10:10am and time to set off walking up the ridiculously popular track up to the top. Only about 7km to walk but a significant amount of climb and the weather was as forecast - cloud on the summit and very strong winds. I didn't want to have to rush, so allowed 3 hours, aiming to be at the finish line for around 1pm.

Glossopdale Harriers left to right: Al, Tim, Tom and Saul
The start of the race
I've only ever been to the top of Snowdon once before and never by the easiest of the routes up, the Llanberis path which virtually runs by the side of the train line. Needless to say it is *very* popular with all kinds of walkers. Many dressed wholly inappropriately for the weather and height of mountain they were walking up - and some of which will have been borderline hypothermic judging by their shivering and feet stomping at the top.
The Llanberis path, with Snowdon summit hidden by the clag
views on my walk up - mountain railway below the path hidden but I could hear it
I had a really pleasant walk up, doing my best to ignore the ill-prepared short-wearing-carrying-nothing brigade. The views were astounding, with only Snowdon being hidden by cloud. I really wanted to be wandering alone in the valley way down under the path - quiet greenness with a stream way below beckoned. But onwards I walked, seemingly fast in comparison to others given I reckon I passed a few hundred (literally) other walkers as I made my way up.

views on my walk up - looking north-ish
Just before I reached Clogwyn station I put on my goretex for protection against the strengthening wind. I was warm enough, but knew I would chill out incredibly rapidly higher up and could see I wasn't too far off being in the clag. No point struggling with extra layers on the exposed sections!  I chatted away to another lady also heading up to meet her other half running the race. Lovely to chat and take our minds off the climb.

I'd originally planned to nip over to another summit close to Snowdon, Garnedd Ugain (1065m) but really didn't fancy a solo blustery excursion in the clag. The mountain will be there another day.  On to the summit, the path ever busier and the wind so strong your feet didn't land where you wanted, hands on the rocks and floor in places to steady ourselves.

Finally we reached the top of the Pyg Track where the runners would be coming up (indeed they would be
summit photo
going over to Garnedd Ugain before doubling back on themselves to Snowdon). No runners spotted so we pressed on to the summit and because of the very strong wind I literally crawled up the steps to the actual summit trig point.

Dropping down behind the shelter wall I quickly put on ALL my extra layers. The final 5 minutes at 1085m had properly started to chill me and my hands were rapidly turning to the classic Raynauds white. Extra layers on, extra windproof hat on, buff tucked in and under the hat/over my nose, extra gloves on and hand warmers inside. Slowly warming up a little though my toes and feet stayed cold till the descent. I think it took me about 2 hours to get to the top, so for the next hour or so I hung around. A few runners were coming in but it seemed they were all from the shorter race that had set off earlier than Tim's. I think I clocked at least one long runner come in, then all of a sudden Tim appeared!!! Super amazing astounding, I really can't tell you the a) amazement of his speed and b) the relief he had finished on such a windy day - it had been a headwind for him all the way.

Tim's the one with the white sleeves busting
a gut to get to the dibbers just behind me

I quickly handed him warm layers and spare warm gloves as he was having his kit checked (great to see the marshals insisting everyone get kit checked) and once he'd gathered himself we headed down the hill. It would have been great to stay up there with Catherine (waiting for Glossopdale Tom) to come in and the others but it was bitterly bitterly cold and we both needed to stay warm - or not get any colder at least.

The walk down seemed longer than the way up, relentless downhill testing quad strength! We chatted, Tim got cramp (and recovered), I fed him and pushed the water bottle his way, we bumped into another runner Tim knows so he joined us and soon enough we were back in the sunshine and the streets of Llanberis.

Medals for race finishers are normally handed out at the summit but the train wasn't running so they were given out at the sports hall, along with endless tea and cakes - brilliant organisation and thank you to all the marshals and helpers. I know I wasn't running, but they really did make me feel very welcome. There was an ipad updating with results in the hall so it wasn't long until we could see all the Glossopdale runners were finished - cracking running by all. It was then just the tea-drinking waiting game til they all got safely off the hill.

Seeing the results confirmed that Tim wasn't in second as we had maybe thought at the summit but he was indeed a brilliantly placed 4th. After a few phone calls by another helpful marshal we learnt Tim would be receiving a prize so we hung about and headed over to the pub in Capel Curig for prize giving. Sure enough his name was read out, 4th in A Class Long Fell race...he got a super ceramic bowl and a welsh flag buff.  I am super proud of his run, and all his training - especially impressive given he has his final exams for his Physiotherapy degree this coming week.

Tim receiving his prizes

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