Aborted Paddy Buckley Round 11th Aug 2007

11th Aug 2007
82% Covered approx 55 miles 23,000 ft

After completing the Bob Graham Round, I spent a while trying to figure out what was next. I eventually decided on doing the “big 3”. The Bob Graham, Paddy Buckley and the Charlie Ramsay's round.

I was asked to help out with Alan Duncan’s attempt which was scheduled for August 11th. I decided to do the first 3 legs and have my first look at the Paddy Buckley round for the following year.(starting at Pont cae'r-gors and finishing at Capel Curig). In the intervening weeks I decided to have a go at it myself. Without the pressure of it being my round, and the only problem being to keep up, I felt relaxed about the idea. I set off for Wales on a sunny Friday evening, with one of the helpers, Chris Reade, as a passenger.

We had a nap at Pont cae'r-gors, then at around 22:00hrs we introduced ourselves to the other helpers. At this point we noticed some head torches on Craig Wen, we would later discover that this was Bill Williamson, on his 2nd leg with Iain Ridgeway, on what was to be his successful round. After a couple of group photos, at 23:30hrs we headed off for the first peak, Craig Wen.
I was literally guided around the first section to Llanberis, as I was the rest of the route. I had no idea where I was going and totally trusted Alan Duncan and his helpers. Around about Moel Ellio I noticed that at times Alan was going so fast I was struggling to keep my effort within the comfort zone, and at other times I was waiting for him. This was down to the cold that he had already mentioned before the start.

A quick stop at Llanberis and a strange early morning chat with Bill. He told me that he had, had a hard time keeping up with Iain as he had been with him since his start point of Aberglaslyn, and alone with him since Pont cae'r-gors. I would find later that he was also going at a rapid pace, 21 30mins for his round. We headed off up to the Elidirs and and Alan struggled up the inclines. This was the first time that Alan complained of his cold sweats and his need to dig in at times. We carried on with Alan going fast then slow until half way along the Boundary ridge. By now the time was 13:30 pm and we were with Rob Woodall, Ray Baines and Neil Shepard. We were a good way into the round, and Rob mentioned splitting up. This had been mentioned much earlier in the day, but I was reluctant as this was Alan Duncans round. I knew that splitting up would take some of the support away from him. But Rob said that at we were loosing time and that to have any chance of getting in under 24 hours we would have to start moving faster. He asked me the question, just as we were pulling away from Alan, "do you think you can go any faster?" I knew what the question meant and after a while I replied yes. He then shouted to Alan Duncan, Ray Baines and Neil Shepard. Alan Duncan Replied, "carry on". So we did. We went at a fairly good pace and, instead of continuously loosing time, we started to gain bits here and there on the 23 hour schedule. At the quarry Yiannis met us and told Huw and Moo to join us on the Moelwyns. This lifted spirits, as it was like a mobile karaoke session, they were singing all the way. We ran well and I felt good until coming off cnicht I felt pains in my left knee. I would later learn that this was an ITB strain (3 weeks off running afterwards). As we approached Aberglaslyn, on the long run off Cnicht the clouds seamed to close in from nowhere (see the 2 photos taken 10 mins apart). By the time we reached Aberglaslyn it had started to rain.

I ate a tin of Rice pudding whilst being instructed by Wynn to dig in. Wynn patched my feet up, and I was off. A quick calculation told me I had 4 hours 19 mins to complete the route inside 24 hours. I knew it would be tight. With darkness coming early due to the thick clouds, visibility worsening and the wind picking up, it was looking unlikely. We headed up through the shelter of Aberglaslyn woods. Then on reaching the open ground, and the full force of the elements, we ground to a halt. The map came out as Duncan and Lawrie puzzled over the route. We thought that we had made a catastrophic mistake, we had actually made an error that, had we known, would only have cost about 10 mins. After a while of feeling cold in the wind and rain I called off my attempt. We returned down through the woods. They both felt guilty about the error, and were still puzzled as to what they had done wrong. (we had turned up through the woods too early) I told them that the attempt failed because of me. I did not put the ground work in that is needed, like I did for the BG and took a chance on being guided around. I was the one to blame for not knowing the route.

When we got back to Wynn at the car (only 10 mins away) we explained, and waited in worsening weather for Alan Duncan to arrive. After a while (about 10 mins I think) he arrived and although he felt rough and the weather was turning nasty he vowed to continue. He did and that night the weather was awful. Back at the bunkhouses I counted my blessings at having, decided to leave the round as unfinished business. The rain and wind was serious in the valley. God knows how bad it was on the tops. Alan braved all this to finish in about 27 ish hours. Reports the next day confirmed that it was every bit as bad as I imagined. It was a truly heroic effort by him, and a fantastic effort by those guys that helped him on that last leg.

Travelling back home the next day I reminiscing about the "if onlys". But I vowed to do the ground work and visit Wales frequently in the intervening months prior to my next attempt next summer.


lawriej said...

I still have nightmares about this... maybe my turn next year

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It is just a memory of a good adventure for me. It was the nearest thing I have come to, to a true adventure as defined by Sir Ranulph Feinnes "an undetaking with an uncertain outcome". Prior to and since that I have recced routes a lot. That was just a throw of the dice. But it was a true adventure. The reason I failed was not down to anyone but myself. It was character building stuff and I will never forget that day. If you have a go I will endevour to be there to lend a hand.