24th May 2008
18 miles 10,000 ft
Earlier in the year I had ear marked this as a possible date for my attempt on the Paddy Buckley round. Due to injury, lack of training and recceing I decided it would be better to spend my birthday helping Duncan Elliott with his attempt.
I decided to use it as a camping recce trip. So went down 2 days before and on the first day I drove from Llanberis to Capel Curig and from here ran to the start of what would be my leg 4, Carneddau. I then ran over Pen yr Ole Wen and the rest of the Carneddau, the weather deteriorated into low cloud, wind and rain. But it was still a good learning experience. Getting on the correct sides of ridges makes a big difference to the speed that you can cover this ground.
After a days rest Bill joined me that evening at the camp and joined me in Llanberis for an Indian meal and some beers. The next day we had breakfast in the Pinacle Cafe with a very nervous Duncan Elliott. The weather looked good and the sun was shining, as we all entered the Cafe for Breakfast. Duncan and his pacers prepared themselves ready for his leg 1. (this would be the end of my run) Capel Curig to Aberglaslyn via Rhosydd Quarry. They set off at 11:00hrs for the first peak Carnedd Moel Siabod. I was to join him at Aberglaslyn in about 6 hours time, so Bill and I enjoyed a coffee whilst sat outside the Cafe, and mused at the chances of success. We were all hopeful, but at this point the weather looked set and favourable. This would change.
After whiling away the hours at Llanberis campsite Bill and I made the journey to Aberglaslyn. This would be good training for my attempt, as this is were my attempt would start. I was set to do this leg to Pont cae'r-gors and then carry on (Bill would also join us here) to Llanberis. Earlier than expected Duncan's pacers tuned up and not far behind he came in. 6 hours 18 minutes was probably a bit fast, even though it was his first leg in daylight. A quick bite to eat and we were off. Me as the official photographer/water carrier.
I worried a bit when Duncan mentioned that the wind was strong on the tops. But we changed the subject and made our way up through the woods and onto Bryn Banog. The day was still very clear and sunny but the wind was fairly strong at this point, and quite cool. We started up the next peak, Hebog, and Duncan told us that the food wasn't digesting well. He sat down. We encouraged him along and he gradually picked up again. Steady progress was made over the humps and bumps of the ridge. Kevin guided well in nice clear conditions and Neil and I kept Duncan motivated and eating. We kept good pace and Yiannis helped out with Wayne by guiding us through the remaining 1/4 of the route, with copious amounts of water. All the while I was doing my paparazzi impression. Duncan desended Y Garn well and my concerns disappeared. I ran off on the flat part to put in Duncan's food order, and give myself more time to sort myself out at the road crossing.
Bill and Alan Duncan joined us and we set off for Craig Wen. I forgot my gloves and ran back to retrieve them, this was a good move. We seamed to labour up to the summit but we still gained 2 minutes on his schedule so things weren't looking too bad. He was still 1/2 hour up at this point. The light faded and going across the ridge proved testing as the wind picked up. We reached Yr Aran and descend via a steep rocky gully much to the dismay of Duncan. By the time we started up the long drag to Tregalan we had to don the head-torches. The wind now seamed to get ever stronger and Duncan voiced his displeasure at the buffeting he was getting. Part way up and Duncan had it in his mind to quit, no matter how we tried to change this, he was adamant. I told him that we had to, at least make it over Snowdon and down the other side to where Wynn, Steve and the rest of the support would be waiting. Eventually he listened and got up. The ridge to the top of Snowdon is quite exposed in parts, with significant drops to either side. It was difficult to make progress and at times Iwe were knocked backwards and sidewards by 50 mph gusts. Duncan wasn't happy and voiced his concerns about the danger levels. But we eventually made it.
Alan Duncan and I decided to head off up on to Carnedd ugain and hope Duncan followed. He didn't I shouted "you're going the wrong way!" he replied with I'm done, well words to that effect anyway. From here the decent off Snowdon started badly as we descended down towards Moel Cynghorion. We back tracked and then got the correct route down the tourist track. The wind was very cold and at least gale force. I was glad to be descending and getting out of the wind. It was worth it as at the car park in Llanberis coffee and Cakes courtesy of Wynn were laid on.
Bill and I walked up to the campsite at 02:30 in the morning to end a good day for us. But a very disappointing day for Duncan. His prayers were most certainly not answered! All that night the wind did not relent, if anything it got stronger. On reflection I don't think the round was achievable, in a reasonable time. The wind would have took a lot out of Duncan and made it a very long round indeed. That would also depend on weather he could have negotiated the very strong wind on the Glyders at all. Given the conditions I think Duncan made the wise choice. Next time the weather will be better. It couldn't be worse!