Mountain Talk

Mountain Talk
Tim Blakemore presents ‘A Year as a Mountain Guide’ – Tickets now Available

A quick reminder that the first of the Cafe’s Autumn season of events kicks off on Friday 5th October when we welcome our friend Tim Blakemore to the Cafe. Tim who has guided throughout the world including Antartica, Greenland, The Himalaya’s & Scandinavia is an IMGA based in Les Houches near Chamonix.

A fascinating insight on how someone who has chosen the mountains to both live & work & help others achieve their own personal goals. Full details are on our events page, ticket proceeds going to Tim’s chosen charity

We hope you can make it!

Paul’s Blog – Ultra Trail Wales – Part Two

Whilst Martin Cliffe was smashing my pb for our Siabod Challenge I was focused on final prep for last Saturday’s race which would be my first ever Ultra race. This included my Pasta Carbonara pre-race day meal taken at 8:45 am, no more food until breakfast two hours before race start at 6:00 am. Next, organise all fuel & kit options into their boxes for my support team who duly arrived in the form of the Rowlands’ just after midday.

The afternoon consisted of registration & kit bag check (no corners cut as safety should something go wrong is more important than anything else) before I drove Kean & Sandra around the various parts of the course where I felt support would be best placed. This was very useful as we tinkered the plan here & there to ensure they could reach each position without possible congestion on the day getting in the way.

Back at the ranch more calculations to focus the timings at each support station but clearly on the day flexibility of thought would be key.

The evening was spent watching Kean, Sandra & Dorina enjoy the Carbonara I had cooked for my ‘breakfast’ followed by Kean watching me fill & refill my wine glass with increasing alarm. I of course was having a little toy with him & upon emptying the final dregs into my glass showed him the bottle, a very pleasant Italian Moscato at just 5.5%. Bed beckoned, sleep was scarse so after only catching an hour & a half of it among lots of tossing & turning I rose at 2:00 am & read instead.

Dorina cooked at 4:00, a specially large breakfast of 4 Poached Eggs, two pieces of toast & a shoval full of Baked Beans, before I waved goodbye & was driven to the start by Kean & Sandra. Race briefing was lively, there was a buzz in the air, I felt more calm & relaxed than I normally would, I’d planned, I’d recced, I’d trained, I had a support team & a ‘sound’ race plan, what could go wrong, hours later I could reflect… well very little actually.

Approx. 90 of us lined up, I was near the back as there would be plenty of time to settle in, the race started on time as dawn’s early light arrived.

We were soon on the first Tarmac hill, think I was the first to move from run to walk, ‘that’s the plan Paul stick to it’, soon others followed suit. There was time to chat to acquaintances & friends.

Breaking onto the open mountain a look behind, not for other runners but for weather, heavy shower marching across the Mawdach estuary, extra layer put on in time! This would stay on for most of the mountain stages as showers came & went in the stiff breeze.

As we climbed my walk pace was clearly good & I slowly moved through the field, I would later find out my placing at each check point but for this report will convey that as the race progressed. By first CP my position was a respectable 28th. Navigation now became key, the  next three runners in front were rarely visable in the clag, take it easy & get to Cader’s summit with no wrong turns, job done. Coming off the summit the three ahead began to go left, ‘no guys it’s this way I called’, it might be a race but the conditions did not permit gaining any advantage, they soon corrected & followed.

Kean was waiting at the Bwlch, ‘what do you want Paul’, ‘Banana & Gels’, ‘you’ve got a pack of 6 chasing you’ ‘yes I know, I took 3 of them coming off the summit’. As I refuelled they closed the gap & as I began walking the next incline 7 runners ran past ‘stick to the plan Paul’. On steeper ground my walk did it’s job & I’d regained all 7 places albeit one guy did re-take me on our descent to Feeding Station 1 which I reached in a surprisingly brisk 3:11:56 in 25th place. I gained places here by only taking on Electrolite, my feed station was across the estuary where Kean & Sandra plied me upon request with Yogurt & Crisps & stocked me up with fluids & Gels.

Leg 2 started well, a friendly chat with Amy who was ascending better than me but had the wrong shoes for the descents allowed me to warn her about coming off Dyfwss, only for both me & a guy in front to do 360 degree pirouette’s, think he won on the severity & style marks, Amy loss ground but got down safely.

Now down in the safety of the forest Kean said ‘think you are top 20’ indeed at CP 5 I was in 19th place. Mat Fenwick passed me as I refueled ‘Mat what am I doing ahead of you?’, a very pleasant surprise. We had been on the go for well over 5 hours, still had over a Marathon to run, but the race now seriously began.

It was tough, the hills came & came again but pre-race knowledge & three more refuels helped to sustain me. By CP 7 (2nd Main Feed Station) I was 16th but again only a swig of Electrolite saw me exit it in 12th.

There now followed isolation for 6 or so Kilometres before I gained & temporarily lost a place whilst Kean fitted me with road shoes which I’d requested he pick up from home after our last meeting. Put simply the forest trails were killing my feet & I needed a change.

This stop also allowed Mat & Amy to get me in their sights again. Was it the extra re-fuel & new shoes or was it my cunning to walk the hills whilst in their sight & then run a quick burst when going briefly out of sight round bends before allowing them to see me ‘still’ walking as they too came around the bends. Probably both, I had soon regained the lost place & more importantly was out of sight & in isolation once again.

Dilemma, to pee or not to pee, do I have time, before or after the next drinks station, I need one but will they get me back in their sights & make me their hare. The pee won but a trickle of dark straw cost unnecessary time but did teach me to ‘drink Paul!’

The final hard climb was rewarded by a fabulous run across the lofty & splendid Panorama Walk before a gentle descent into Dolgellau. By now I was running on empty, cow bells rung at check point 11 were welcomed & then feared as they were rung for Mat soon afterwards, final fears, ‘run, run’ I did & crossed the line in 11th to Matt Ward’s flattering commentary on how I had carved through the field. Kean & Sandra were there, mutual respect for a job we had done well, put simply I would not have placed that well without you.

My time was 10:45:58 well ahead of my predicted 12/14 Hours but well behind race winner Charlie Sharp, a cafe regular, who recorded 8:43:20 despite admitting that he had taken the first half easy due to the conditions (these had been poor in the mountains but pleasant in the afternoon around the forest).

I must thank Ashley & Matt for another fabulous race, there were more than 100 volunteers helping get us around safely in one way or another (that’s more than one per runner), many of them out on the course for several hours. Of course the other runners all deserve credit for taking it on & doing so with time to talk & encourage each other, you are too many to name but the three immediately behind me, Mat, Amy & Emma, thank you for your cameraderie & pushing this hare on & on.

Also thank you to team Siabod, Fraser & anyone else who tracked my progress as the day wore on.

Finally a massive thanks to Kean & Sandra but be warned an Ultra Runner has been born, the Paddy looms, you will be required so stay fit & healthy & off the vino, as you can see it’s not good for you!

A long race, a long blog, no apologies you should know me by now.

Pride came before a fall but that’s a story for another day.


Martin Cliffe smashes our Siabod Challenge record.

Congratulations Martin, great run & glad you enjoyed it.

Last Friday dawned & saw Martin Cliffe rise with serious intent on his mind. He had e-mailed me earlier in the week notifying me of his plans to tackle the longest of the Cafe’s challenges. At once I knew that the previous best time set by myself & Paul Jones during June’s Reach out for Nepal day would soon be toast!

Martin, a friend of ours, is of course also a top end Fell runner & can regularly be seen in the leading pack of racers across Snowdonia’s fell racing calendar as well as on Mountains further afield. He has form on Siabod too winning the Siabod race itself a few years back, put simply he is a class or two above me.

I haven’t had a full report from Martin as yet but like all challengers (including me) he has commented that the slog & false summits on the Challenge’s final climb (Moel Siabod from the South) was the most arduous part of the route but at least you know you are heading for home (aka the Cafe). 

So just how fast was he, well looking at his Garmin stats. I am struggling to equate them to our splits but it looks pretty clear that he beasted the descents whilst maintaining good pace on the ascents, this all led to a total time of 5 Hours 49 Minutes & 39 Seconds some 38 minutes ahead of Paul’s & mine time, so well done Martin, if a record is going to succumb then you did it in style!

A call to arms, will Martin hold it for as long as I did (over 6 years with 3 different times), my thoughts are maybe not, the Challenge has become increasingly popular this year, Martin commented ‘it’s a great route’ which indeed it is. It is also (at over 23 miles with 8,800 feet of ascent) a great training route for those Ultra runners amongst us, so why not give it a try, you will earn your tea & cake on the house.

Once again congratulations Martin!


Paul’s Blog – Ultra Trail Wales – Part One

Well that’s it physical prep & route knowledge recce’s are now complete, I can’t do anymore except keep the wine bottle corked & eat to a plan over the final 3 days before race day itself.

Before I go any further please note that any fellow competitors who are Male & in the O.50’s category are forbidden to read this blog, I’ve done the hard yards in gaining knowledge & would consider it un-gentlemanly if you pick my limited brain to beat me!

Here follows my 3 week lead in:-

Week 1 – Plan 50 miles – Actual 35 Miles, excuse (fair), the 15 miler planned for the Sunday was scuppered by the Cafe’s 2nd busiest day on record but at least that saw me take over 25,000 steps just serving food & clearing tables.

Week 2 – Plan 65 Miles including two 20 milers – Actual 71 Miles including a 20 miler & 15 miler (curtailed from 20 due to nappy rash, top tip don’t treat area with a sweaty hand). Excuse, none needed very pleased especially having gone out in an Armageddan deluge on Sunday to break through the 70 barrier.

Week 3 – Plan 35 Miles & an additional walking recce of leg 1 (Cader Idris traverse, 15 Miles) – Actual 41 Miles (22 & 19 miler’s) plus the walking recce with the running miles also seeing me recce leg 2 & part of leg 3. Excuse, none needed, very pleased except foot pain on the final recce that saw me running 9 miles for home.

So all in all very pleased with that, the recce’s have given me renewed & new route info. a shoe choice decision (forfeit a bit of grip for comfort) & a race strategy (start slow, stay slow & then hopefully make headway with something left in the tank for the ‘run able’ forest tracks that dominate the 2nd half of the route.

Thanks to Richard for uploaded route onto my Garmin (also helped me to understand the route is 85K (of which I’ve recce’d 74) & not 80K, very important for the mind), Fraser & Neal for joining me on the leg 1 recce, Dorina for dropping me to Barmouth for leg 2 & then facing the Dentist alone (she got her own back by adding spiteful amounts of Chilli to the meal that awaited me upon my return). Thanks too in advance to team Rowlands who are supporting me on the day, I will try not to abuse you with self pitying grunts.

To all those joining me on the start line, we have a big day ahead, would we want it any other way, let’s go through the pain barriers & enjoy ourselves!

Cheers along the way, be you a Marshall or spectator, will be very warmly received.

Open MIC Night saturday 18th August

A quick reminder that our Open MIC Night is a week earlier than normal this month to our host Alan Mannouch being away next weekend. This Sunday also sees Alan doing a big bike race on Anglesea so with our blessing he’ll wrap things up a little earlier than normal at around 10:00 pm. 

Hope you can make it & enjoy a relaxed evening with us.

Paul’s Blog – The Alps July 2018 – Part 3

Monday 30th July dawned bright & with me having tried to level the fitness playing field by over cooking the running during the weekend Dave & I headed off to Switzerland, the perfect climbing pair?

Today was to be reasonably relaxed, a 2/3 hour journey, park up at Tasche, taxi into Zermatt & then the Gornergrat cog railway up to the Rotenboden station at 2, 815 metres. From here a relaxed 3 hour walk in to the Monte Rosa hut, our base for the night. Time had appeared to be on our side as we made a lazy start but the transfers from car to station took a bit longer than expected so reaching Rotenboden at 14:30 meant only an hour to spare between expected arrival at the hut & supper which would be served at 18:30.

The walk in began pleasantly, I again took the opportunity to capture the flora with my camera with frequent stops although these were interrupted by the ladders, glacier crossing & scree (should have taken crampons off here, yes both!) before the path again became easier. Soon after passing a couple of azure blue lakes & their feeding waterfalls the final climb to the hut began, a bit of a slog but on a clearly defined path which mostly wove around the rocky landscape. We reached the hut as hoped at 17:30, the last to do so except a couple of American’s who arrived shortly after dinner was served.

The hut is modern, expensive but the food was good & service pleasant even if at first they had failed to allocate us a table. The yanks sat next to us, we explained our goal, the Nordend & they seemed attracted by it rather than their original aim of the Dufourspitze (Monte Rosa’s highest peak & 2nd only to Mont Blanc in the Alps height stakes). After dinner Dave did a recce of the first part of our route whilst I completed my 4th book of the trip.

Soon we were tucked up in our bunks, for once I slept reasonably well before rising before the alarm at 1:45, don’t you just love these early Alpine starts. Breakfast though was the best I’ve had at a high hut, there was even Cheese & Ham, a real treat.

By 2:55 we were ready & set off into the night, two other groups had already left for the Dufourspitze & the yanks left soon after us. Initially we made good progress over the rocks of the Unt Plattje using the odd marker to show our way but then we got lost. Snow bank, back off having put my crampons on, rock wall, back off, right, back off by this time the 2nd group (also having difficulties) had gone left & not come back, law of averages we went left & proceeded with the Yanks in toe. It was a relief to arrive at the Monte Rosa Glacier, see two sets of lights in the distance above, crampons back on, this time both would remain on for many hours to come.

We had been told by the hut Guardian that our route had not been climbed recently, that a couple planned to climb it today (no sign of them at any point in the hours ahead) & with 40 cms of fresh snow a couple of days before that it should take us 6/7 hours to the summit. Having descended most of the route with Tim & Kean after our summitting the Dufourspitze in 2014 I had some idea of the route & this would be backed up by Dave having summitted the Nordend with his partner Tamsin in 2017, what could go wrong? Well for approx. 3 hours nothing did, we slowly plodded up the steepening glacier having successfully negotiated some initial crevasses, we closed the gap on those ahead & we were treated to a wonderful sunrise giving plenty of excuses to stop & snap.

Cresting a steep rise the Dufourspitze track bent right it was time to leave it & head in isolation & with no tracks to follow towards the Nordend over to the left. Here I made my first mistake, with Dave leading I began to feel we should be swinging left & making less vertical headway, I made my feeling known but weekly, as Dave marched on I meekly followed. Clearly whilst in the U.K. I would be more than inclined to take control in such a situation in the Alps I was use to just following & so stuck to type. Our ‘good’ progress came to a sudden halt (the snow pack had become a bit concerning too) when we topped a rise to be met by a huge crevasse, no alternative turn round & descend to a snow bridge which led to the right & a glacial basin that my week self had been willing us towards earlier. I led to the snow bridge, it was more of a slanting traverse between two more crevasses, ‘Dave, I’m not crossing that!’. This led to a further descent & then swinging right into the bottom of the basin, we had lost time & about 200 metres in height but we were temporarily back on track.

Here with a restricted view I made my next mistake thinking we should head to the left of the Silbersattel ridge before cutting right high up behind a ‘small’ serac. This would see us slightly right of a recent serac collapse as well as a major serac hazard higher up. Dave, now back in the lead made good initial progress but began to slow & take breaks as the incline steepened, we began to disagree on the best line, in truth Dave’s experience of reading the ground & what we were heading into was more accurate than mine. With Dave taking in rope he led me to a safer spot, I straddled the lip of a crevasse to rest from the 40 degree slope. From here Dave led left, called me across & then front pointed above the minor serac, ice screw in, ‘come up Paul’, which I did. Dave led the next pitch but 20 metres later ground to a halt, ‘Dave can’t we keep going’, ‘Paul you are not going to like this, this is not Pd, it’s not the route, we need to descend & look for another line & if we don’t find it we will have to bale out’. I didn’t argue, it made sense, we slowly retreated to the safety of the crevasse lip.

From here Dave wanted to traverse right, me & traverses said ‘no, I’ll front point down if you belay me & we can traverse right on less steep ground’. This we did, both then convinced a slanting upward line to the right would give us a chance to break through the serac barricades onto the summit ridge & onto the summit, we agreed tos give it one more go. Dave led two pitches, the snow pack becoming a concern, Dave stopped again, played with his axe in the snow ‘Dave can we continue’, ‘that’s not what I’m thinking, it’s the snow pack’, I had thought it but not evaluated it, again Dave’s experience showed to which I responded ‘O.K. Dave we are going to bale!’ I had come to my senses, understood today was not our day, Dave, having first suggested it earlier, willingly agreed.

From here a cautious & long retreat was needed to first extricate from the iffy snow pack & then down steep slopes to the side of the serac debris, Dave needing patience at my front pointing for longer than he felt necessary.

Once out of danger we climbed the small rise to the North of the glacial bowl, looked back, this was the view we needed & had missed on our first eroneous line, it was obvious now, we should have gone into the bowl but swung up out of it further to the right. In truth that could well have taken us onto another un-consolidated snow pack (that fresh snow from days earlier), had our errors been our blessing? Anyway time & energy meant there was no going back for a 4th try, we had a train to catch preceded by a long descent, it was now almost 11:30 & we should have been on the summit an hour ago. It is hard to be sure, at times I thought we were within 50 vertical metres of the Nordend’s summit (4,609 metres), looking back from our view point in truth we’d probably ‘topped’ out at 4,450 metres, we had given it our best shot & had to accept our failures, no summit but at high point for the trip a very minor consolation.

Good progress saw us reach the hut at a little before 2:00 pm to be greeted by the two American’s, they had continued to the Dufourspitze but un-like the two groups ahead had turned back as soon as they reached the more technical ground, these conquerors of several of the Sierra Nevada’s 4,000 metre peaks had clearly found the Alps to be a different ball game, they made promises to go home & train to return another day, no doubt an equally good call to our own.

Time for a quick bite to eat & to call Dorina before our final descent & long walk back up to the heights of the station, not all plain sailing but with crampons off on the scree this time it certainly felt easier for me. Waiting for the train I put a 2nd call into Dorina to confirm we were safe.

We arrived back at the camp site at Les Bossons at 10:00 pm having stocked up on wine, beers & snacks at Zermatt, it is not often that I open a bottle of wine & don’t drink it all, today was an exception, 15 hours on our feet (2nd of the trip) & 20 hours on the go in total, it was soon time for bed.

& so ended our Alpine experience, Dave & I, as planned, went our separate ways but would both reach the U.K. by the Friday with me having fitted in one early morning run in Boulogne (simply too hot the evening before) before rediscovering the joys of the U.K. roads, despite getting through the tunnel 4 hours ahead of schedule. Reaching Dolgellau my phone rang, Dorina’s voice, ‘where are you’, ‘just picking up something to eat for tonight, I’ll be home in 20 minutes’, I was, we were re-united with joint relieve & happiness.

All in all a full on but largely successful trip, arguably to equal mine & Kean’s ‘Royal Tour’ of the Monte Rosa peaks in 2014 but it’s Breithorn & Nordend still alood me, I will have to go back but not next year, Cho Oyu & only Cho Oyu is my summit focus for 2019.

Thanks to Dave, Tim & Ali & of course, & as ever, Dorina.

Paul’s Blog – The Alps July 2018 – Part 2

This is long as I am also using it as a personal diary for the experiences I went through on the Italian side of the Mont Blanc Massif over two &  a bit days, please forgive me.

After a relaxed evening & a bit of a lie in, Wednesday was planned to be an easier day. Tim & Ali picked us up from the camp site at 10:00, we again headed through the tunnel & into Italy, I do like Italy! This time we turned left at Entreves & headed North East up the Val Ferret for reasons that I’ll soon make apparent I was glad to be sitting behind the driver giving a restricted view to any mountains on my left. We were soon parked up at Plampincieux, stepping out into warm sunshine there she stood, our targeted peak, the Gran Jorasses & it’s high point the Point Walker. O.K. clearly we were not to be climbing on one of the Alps most iconic North faces but for someone like me this was going to be a very substantial test, the route from valley to summit is 2,650 metres & it looked massive, ‘don’t dwell Paul it’ll look easier once you are on it’ I tried to convince myself.

But first things first an Italian

Then we geared up lightening our loads where possible & at 11:15 we began a steady ascent to today’s target, the remote Boccalette hut, situated at 2,804 metres this still a 1,250 metre climb on a warm day with heavy packs. That said it was enjoyable, early on I frequently fell behind to take photo’s of the Alpine flowers along the way. As we climbed higher I could cherish memories of September last year by looking South to the Monte della Saxe ridge which Dorina & I had walked over as part of our Tour du Mont Blanc. The pleasant walk took on a more rugged guize as we crossed over the Torrent Marguera, several sections had beefy fixed ropes to cling to, never hairy but time to focus & keep the camera zipped in it’s case. The final barriers to the hut were an awkward snow patch with Tim kicking in to ease my progress & a further fixed rope which brought us to the huts veranda.

Tim had known that the hut guardian had a bit of a reputation for climbing a bit in his day but we were not prepared fully for his pedigree. Franco Perlotto can only be described as an Italian & in the best possible sense, soon we were seeing photo’s of him with Cassin, Bonatti, hearing tales of him dossing down with Alex McIntyre in Sheffield, meeting Doug Scott in a bookshop in Penrith………… all with an excited but self-deprecating way with shrugs & smiles & a, ‘well I’m nearly dead now’ nonchalance. Well done Franco, a pedigree like yours & yet you’ve repaid your debt to the mountains by re-opening a once closed hut on the flanks of one of the Alps great mountains. Of course all this meant that this small hut was going to be very busy, apart from us, Franco, Chiara (a Spanish girl working with Franco, well he is an Italian Male) there would also be 2 other people staying the night. Now that is an Alpine hut experience worth having!

Good Italian food inevitably followed as did some wine & a spirit on the house, time for a few sunset photo’s of some Anvil storm clouds far to the South & then early to bed, the forecast was good & beckoned an early start.

We breakfasted at 1:15 am in recognition of  a big day ahead but the plan soon lay in tatters, thunder rolled, the rain came moments later, where the hell has that come from. The storm which only appeared on the weather forecasts after it had actually started lasted until well after 4:00 am by which time Tim had finally decided ‘not today guys’, but we were lucky, Kean would later tell me that 3 people had to be lifted off the Mountain whilst we simply tossed in the safety of our beds. The other pair did set off for the summit, probably a French guide for you, the Dutch client did well but was looking pretty tired after an 11 hour climb that was successful, good effort but I was glad for an un-planned rest day at this wonderful hut where we occasionally greeted climbers from the North face routes who were passing through on their descent.

Thursday evening the hut was again packed with just the four of us, simply doesn’t get better than that, oh & there was Polenta & Beef too!

Friday saw another 1:15 breakfast but this time the weather gods were with us & by 2:00 am our climb began.

After about two hours trudging up easy but gradually steepening glacial slopes Ali called from behind ‘Tim I think we should have bared left by now’, he came up to consult with Tim & as he passed me I heard his fateful Scottish drawl ‘dude where’s your crampon?’ ‘What the f…, no, no, that’s it, it’s all over, what a f…… idiot’ I thought, quite what the others were thinking I dared not guess!

Initially there was hope, maybe we’d find it as we retrace our steps to pick up the correct track, but this retrace was short, there would be no crampon, it was over & I was devastated by my error & it’s consequenses.

What? not only have I lost a crampon I’m now hearing things, no it was real, Tim did actually utter ‘We’ll give it a go Paul, we can turn back if necessary’, I didn’t argue, I was in shock, ‘I, yes me Paul Hodges, am going to have a go at a huge 4,000 metre summit on one bloody crampon, shit’. I won’t go into the full details of exactly what I was thinking but it’s fair to say I was extremely un-happy with myself for landing me in such a short future.

Life sometimes moves on & after some steepening of the glacier we came to our first rocky rib, the Rognon de la Boutille, here my cunning plan began to work for me, one crampon was faster to remove than two, I decided not to brag ‘come on guys hurry up’.

This rib was long & technical, indeed just the lower sections would require 5 lowers on our descent, reaching the top with daylight now upon us we stopped at the start of  a short snow arrete to refix crampons or crampon. The crux of the climb lay in sight, the traverse of the Glacier del Gran Jorasses. Now traversing glaciers is my weakest skill, if you ignore my in-ability to fix a crampon (a slip thankfully held by Tim on the Aletzschorn in 2015 proves this fact), the one ahead was left to right & I would have no crampon on my outer right boot. At this point I did whymper & Ali, bless him, took control by switching the crampon bar around thereby allowing me to wear my left crampon on my more important right foot, I was impressed by that Ali but for the record I was still shitting myself. We had already been warned by Franco ‘don’t traverse the lower track it is iced, go higher & then drop back down to it once across’, in truth the higher track was also iced, at 45 degrees ‘this is the hardest traverse of my life & I’ve got one crampon’.

Here we got what you pay for, Ali led Dave, cut step after step, fixed ice screw after ice screw but I knew that until Tim managed to reach & clip into that first ice screw one slip from me & we’d fall down the glacier which was seriously crevassed 100 metres or so below us, you just don’t come back from that type of fall. Tim clipped in, logic tried to work but all I could think off was that this was beyond me, of course I knew it was now too late to retreat & that I just had to get on with it. Our slow traverse seemed to take an hour for what was less than 50 metres, clinging to a wall of death one by one I removed the ice screws & finally we got to a point where I could front point down to the track below whilst Tim belayed me from above, relief of sorts but we’d be coming back the same way.

Soon we were onto our next rib, crampon off as we began the ascent of Tour des Jorasses, this got us to 3,813 metres where we would refix crampon/s. For Tim & I only one option to traverse on relatively easy glacial terrain but under an infamous serac which thankfully looked pretty benign & therefore relatively safe. Ali & Dave decided to avoid the serac & head up a long steep gully to it’s left which would bring them to Point Whymper, I had had enough Whympering so was more than happy not to target that.

Our traverse went well as we passed some small fallen serac debris & after 10 minutes or so we were out of the line of fire. From here on the final ascent was on a mixture of snow & rock, after nearly 7 & a half hours Tim led us onto Point Walker’s summit at 4,206 metres, what a climb it had been. We were soon joined by 4 gnarly Ukranians who had come up the North face on the distinctly more impressive Rolling Stones route, if they noticed my boot they kept quiet & we took turns to take each others photographs. Moving away from the summit to a gentle cul we stopped for a well earned bite to eat, take in the stunning 360 degree vista’s including Mont Blanc & it’s incredible northern aguille from an angle I’d never seen before. We also watched Ali & Dave making slow progress up their 50 degree gully, glad we’d avoided that.

Before our descent began Tim adjusted the crampon back to fit my left boot which would now be predominantly on the Outside of the face.

In truth despite needing extreme care the descent felt easier than I’d feared, the crux traverse was easier as we took a lower line allowing us to soon turn more front on where I could make better use of my axe. This said following into one of Tim’s cut steps I was swinging my axe wildly to make the step bigger, Tim’s frustration spilled ‘Paul that’s pointless’, ‘Tim if I put my right boot on that it’ll come straight off’, he nonchalantly stuck out his right boot so that it rested below the step ‘step onto that then’ which I did.

Once onto the final glacier, the gradient eased, the wet snow failed to support my right foot, with Tim’s encouragement I did what all the greats have done at some point & bum slid to safety.

On a small scree section 20 minutes above the hut ‘there’s your crampon Paul’, ‘we could take the rocky line Paul’, ‘Tim I’ve got two crampons I’m sticking to the snow’. This allowed me to prove to Tim that I can descend on crap snow quite well with 2 crampons on (Ali’s training on day 1 had clearly helped).

Our descent had taken a little over 5 hours, I enjoyed a beer & coke before congratulating Dave & Ali on their climb as they joined us, they’d bagged both the Whymper & Walker to boot.

As for Franco ‘One crampon?’ slapped his head, smiled & gave me a hug. We soon said our goodbyes to Franco & Chiara & began our 2 hour descent to the car. For once despite the easier ground I didn’t charge ahead, Tim had weighted me with the rope but I had no inclination of trying to go at his or Ali (who would soon hang back to check Dave over the trickier bits) pace, my climb was done, ‘just take it easy’.

Just as we reached the tunnel I borrowed Dave’s phone, ‘Hi Angel, plenty to tell you, later, for now we’ve done it, I’m down & I’m safe!

Farewells soon said Dave & I spent an evening comparing notes on a very big day.

Saturday saw a relaxed day with me getting out for a short 5 miler, Dave clearly thinking ‘how can the old git do that’. Sunday much the same but this time I did an 11 miler which took me to Le Junction a climb of over 1,500 metres, some fell runner whom I won’t name has been known to take a cable car on it’s lower section & then keep it a secret for a year or so but in fairness Kean was almost 60 at the time. As for Dave when I got back into camp he almost had me certified. Both nights saw us again enjoy a good meal in Les Houches as we plotted our final climb an un-guided ascent of The Nordend, the Alps 3rd highest summit.

Enough for now I hear you say, Part 3 (shorter) in due course.

Finally: Tim was risking his reputation by allowing a client to attempt this climb with such a shortage of kit, I can take it as a compliment that he felt I still had a chance but the biggest factor I am sure was that he knew his skill set could get me off one way or the other, as ever I am indebted to him for pushing my boundaries. Only 3 days earlier I had welled up & almost cried when we got off the Rochefort arrete in pure relief & gratitude to Tim. There was no such sensation after the Gran Jorasses, the physicality & harsh realities had drained me of even those emotions or should I put it down to experience gained over a fabulous week, who knows?

Paul’s Blog – The Alps July 2018 – Part 1

I set off for my first Summer Alpine trip for 2 years on 12th July & reached the Grand Champ camp site at Les Bossons late afternoon the next day to soon be greeted by Kean & Sandra who were relaxing in the high 20 degree heat. Within hours two accidents put a slight damper on things but thankfully nothing in the league of what curtailed my previous summer visit when a certain rock took out Tim Blakemore’s leg early on our climb on the Aguille Argentiere in 2016. My accidents were self-inflicted first walking into my ice axe & putting a 3 pronged gash into my left foot & second tripping over in the dark after an evening with the Rowland’s putting a deepish cut & bruise into my left palm. Carry on like that & I could knock my plans on their head before I’d even put my crampons on (on that score a theme will develop).

Saturday dawned, Kean & Sandra departed & I went for a traditional altitude run climbing to the lovely Bellachat hut where with €10 on me I could only buy one coke at €5.50, I really did feel like having two. I then extended the run to capture a new summit, the Aguille Les Houches at 2285 metres for some reason not the highest point on the ridge, strange? Any thoughts of climbing the further 28 metres to the ‘true’ summit were dashed by a clap of thunder from the storm building over Mont Blanc so I made a beeline for the valley with spots of rain & the smell of thunder in the air. Relief came as I hit the treeline which coincided with the storm dissipating as quickly as it had developed. A good run of 12 miles & 1,350 metres of ascent.

Three hours later, having collected my mate Dave Ball from his Argentierre camp site & having met up with Tim to make plans for the week ahead, some urgent erection of the tent I’d brought over for Dave was needed as the next & far more severe storm swept in from the West.

Sunday was a more relaxed day after I turned down Dave’s request to climb the Cosmiques Arrete & we settled on a pleasant lunch in Chamonix before I went on an easy 5 miler so as not to overdo it before the main events of the week ahead.

Monday saw Tim & Ali (an aspirant guide) pick us up at 8:00 am, we drove through the tunnel, drank coffee in the sun & then took the Hellbronner Skylift to the Torino hut. My nerves were rising with the altitude but in truth they were pretty high even before leaving the U.K., this trip was all about some big mountain days to get me more ready for Cho Oyu in Spring of next year, basically I needed to remove some rust.

Dumping some gear at the hut our first day would be the Aguille Marbrees a short route with further acclimatisation at the hut for the remainder of the day. We left the hut at 10:30 circled the western & northern flanks of our objective with crampons on to reach the col du Rochefort at 3,387 metres. Here crampons (you’ll see my drift on the coming Friday) were deliberately taken off as we prepared for the rocky ridges ahead. I had been paired with Ali so that Tim could assess Dave (far more adept than me but Tim needed the knowledge). Ali was good at instruction/calming but my initial hour on the exposed ridge was a nervous one as my mind & breathing tried to adapt to my surroundings. Finally Ali’s massage began to get through ‘think of doing a series of one legged squats Paul’, my mind went back to the core training I’d been doing & things got better from here-on. By the time we reached the 3,536 metre summit I was even beginning to enjoy it a little. From here we retraced steps briefly before branching right onto the South ridge traversing most of it before a lowered descent saw us reach the Glacier. A short walk back to the hut was lengthened as Ali decided I needed a lesson on quick descending footwork on Glacier terrain, fair cop. We reached the hut at around 14:15 having had a good re-introduction to the Alps, there followed a relaxed afternoon & evening at the hut, as ever Tim’s easy warm up & acclimatisation plan had gone to plan.

Tuesday saw us rise at 2:00 am for the usual abysmal Alpine hut breakfast, ‘Dave that wind sounds a bit fierce’ I commented with a hint of alarm. By 2:45 we headed out into the dark & the wind initially following yesterday’s track before continuing on a North East line to get to the start of the climb proper at 3,454 metres, our goal being the Rochefort Arrette & Aguille Rochefort. I had suggested this climb after persuading Tim it was too much for me two years ago, a discussion won which ultimately led to Tim’s accident, was this some kind of self-induced guilt punishment, I’ll leave that answer to the Psychologists amongst you.

Shortening the rope (today Tim & I are together with Dave & Ali on a separate rope) we began to front point up a steep snow gully for a couple of hundred metres before moving onto a rocky rib that we would follow towards the ridge. Not long before we topped this rib my stomach came into play, backs were turned or in the case of Ali & Dave a hasty distance gained as the inevitable call of nature was answered, never easy with harness, exposure & a stiff wind to boot, thankfully my stomach would play ball on the days ahead.

We reached the ridge just to the East of the towering Dent du Geant (Giants Tooth) & with me now back in the lead suddenly a testing climb turned into a test of exposure. There simply were no tracks left from the day before, the wind had erased them & I was clearly expected by Tim to make a new track on the very apex of the ridge, my heart plummeted ‘Tim I don’t like this’, did he choose not to show sympathy, clever b……! In truth from here-on he had me on a very tight & short rope.

Initially I could put feet side by side as the axe dangled uselessly to my side but after 10 metres it worsened & became one foot in front of the other to make matters worse the sun was rising & I could see the full extent of the exposure on both sides. Thought processes ‘core strength help me now, could Tim jump right fast enough if I fall left…..’, this was a full on Alpine experience to at least match any I’d taken before. Thankfully after 20/30 metres things improved until I could actually use the tip of my axe to balance if not being able to plant it for security. From here-on the degree of exposure came & went & a few rocky sections brought a degree of relief before the next exposed section revealed itself. At one point Tim moved around me, ‘stay there Paul I’ll set up a belay over on those rocks before you come across’. Now Tim is cool & works very fast but with precision when the pressure is on but come on Tim do I really need to be standing like a statue on a one foot wide ridge, no axe planted, for at least 2 minutes, if I hadn’t of already taken one I would have shit myself. The words ‘come over Paul’ were the sweetest thing a man has ever said to me. Soon after this & back on the snow Tim lowered me to the next ridge where a tricky narrow step downwards (back to one foot in front of the other) was the hardest move of the day. Tim would later say ‘one or two bits were a bit interesting’, this was definitely one of those bits!

Eventually we reached the foot of the final rocky climb the Aguille Rochefort itself. From the exposed ridge it had looked like a safe refuge with easy Grade 1 scrambling but up close it showed it’s truth teeth & was for me at least a proper rock climb. We slowly picked our way up with the occasional ‘tight rope here please Tim’ & reached the Verglass covered summit at 7:15 am (4,001 metres) where we were rewarded with no views, a continued biting wind & a bite to eat.

Shortly after Dave & Ali joined us Tim & I packed up & began what I’d been fearing all along, our descent a ‘simple’ back tracking of our outward traverse. Some lowering speeded our descent off the Aguille & from here we could at least follow our earlier tracks which made for easier & faster progress. At the first rocky section we met two climbers taking a break in the cold wind, their minds about to defeat them, they turned back which in truth helped me further as our track became better laid still, nonetheless a focused mind could not relax at any point.

Finally we were off the ridge & took a well earned & proper break as several other small groups began to arrive on the ridge & ask us about what lay ahead. Our early start had given us the trail breaking but had also given us the delights of a superb ridge in splendid isolation, something special to reflect on.

Dangers still existed, the rib descent was at times very loose, with other climbers above us thoughts returned to 2016, ‘please no dislodged rocks this time’. Eventually we reached the snow gully, it seemed steeper than on the ascent so Tim needed patience as I over kicked in for piece of mind. The weather which had closed in with flakes of snow soon after we’d started to traverse the arrette then broke & our walk out across the glacier became an opportunity to photograph the majesty of the Valley Blanc & it’s surrounding summit bastions above. We reached the hut at 11:20, it had been 8 & a half hours of epic adventure, for me just how my pre-leaving the U.K. nerves allowed me to come through that was hard to fathom, clearly as ever a debt to Tim was a major factor. Dave I think felt a similar accomplishment as he ordered a beer, knowing I’d be driving later I settled happily for a coke.

From here we descended the Hellbronner, drove back into France, ‘see you tomorrow guides at 10:00’. Dave & I enjoyed an outside meal at a friendly restaurant in Les Houches before returning to the camp site for a proper drink & reflection, what a day. Lest I forget Dorina & then Kean were given a brief account by phone, it was a case of needing to sing from the rooftops (actually from the safety of a tent in a valley)!

Now I had planned to cover the whole trip here but the above is enough for anyone, the crampon & other tales will follow in part 2.

Paul’s Blog – Running

Well yes despite an absence of running blogs over the last couple of months I am still running but first a brief final mention about the Y3P’s at a walk.

Despite saying so myself I was reasonably pleased about a blog I drafted covering my third visit to the Yorkshire 3 Peaks in little over a month in May of this year, Then disaster struck my Internet connection failed & I lost well over an hours work. My head sank & needed the high altitude of the Alps several weeks later to clear it. That said I still can’t find the motivation to re-cant that walk around the Y3P’s with a group of friends & just as importantly the co-incidences & kindness I received in the following 24 hours when my car exhaust fell off shortly after the walk, shouldn’t happen to an Audi, things ain’t what they were…….

So if you are sadly desperate to know more about that come into the cafe & I’ll be happy to go on a bit, for now though thanks to all those involved in a spirit lifting weekend on 19th & 20th May.

Now to running & in particular the Stockholm Marathon & the Trail Wales Half Marathon.

Stockholm entered my diary shortly after seeing a slide show of this beautiful city in October last year during Team 333’s AGM which was held at our Cafe. Beautiful, must visit, they must have a Marathon, indeed they did & it would be celebrating it’s 40th year this year, more than London!

Not liking the ‘wonderful’ Airport experience, ‘Dorina, I ‘ll drive us there & we can drive the bridges linking Denmark to Sweden’. Never again, German roads once the pride of the Third Reich are basically to be avoided, roadworks & closures at seemingly every turn despite cunning plans B’s & C’s, note to self car ferry to Scandanavia next time.

That said we arrived on schedule on Thursday afternoon a little under 2 days before the midday start. By now I was fully aware of the predicted heatwave of 26/30 degrees, what soon became apparent as I tapered by walking around Stockholm’s sights later that evening was simply this is anything but flat!

Friday dawned, more tapering as I led Dorina on a pre-breakfast 5K run along wonderful water fronts, followed by endless sight seeing steps & a walk up to race registration in 26 degrees before the planned early lunch & one bottle of wine then to crash out at the hostel mid-afternoon in readiness for the race. As Kean & Sandra soon found out here my ‘plan’ faltered. Over that tasty pasta lunch & some initial glasses of wine the conversation went something like ‘Dorina, it’s too hot for a pb, it’s too hilly for sub 3:15 (good for age London entry criteria), I’m going to just run for fun & enjoy today first’, ‘yes my darling’ was her encouraging reply.

At some point during the 2nd bottle, quite a low point I think, the call went into Kean & Sandra, Hi Kean guess what we’re doing, there then followed an hilarious 10 minute exchange which left me feeling vindicated & Kean thinking ‘Hodges, bloody hell’

More wine flowed as we returned to the hotel which did at least see me reach bed at a reasonable hour, probably about 8:00 pm but with almost permanent daylight it could just have easily been midnight.

Saturday dawned, a good breakfast & drinking water & juice like a fish I actually felt surprisingly good. Pre-booked taxi (good part of the plan & for once well implemented) saw us head for the start where the best pre-race toilet facilities I’ve ever encountered at Stockholm’s Olympic Stadium awaited (it’s a runners thing).

With the mercury reaching 28 degrees the gun went off at bang on 12 noon, only mad dogs, Englishmen & another 100 plus nationalities go out in the midday sun. Dorina waved on & would be waiting at both the 15K mark & the finish.

It was hot, I have run in Italy hotter but never raced, by 9K I was suffering, this was going to be a DNF, Dorina at 15K was too tempting, it made sense to retire there. Before that I would drink at the 2 mile stations & run under every cold water jet that the organisor’s placed at these drinks stations. Very well organised, well done Stockholm.

At about 13K I began to feel a little better & at 15K I simply waved to Dorina & ran on, it must have been a pride thing as it felt far from sensible at the time.

Despite everything by halfway my time was on course for sub 3:20 but like many of those around me I was working very hard & I knew I couldn’t keep that pace up. So I became clever for once & backed off early, I began to walk through drink stations to make sure I drank a full cup of water & a full cup of electrolyte & continued to run off the direct line to make sure each cold shower enveloped me. It paid off later I would be pleased to find that my final four 5 K split times were all within a minute of each other, very consistent, very clever Paul.

Eventually we entered the Olympic Stadium for a final lap to the finish, was I running like Eric Lidell, no, but it felt good, Dorina look at me I’m overtaking again, Dorina was watching an annoying kid in front of her in the stands, still she photographed my back after I’d passed.

I crossed the line in my slowest road marathon time to date but despite yesterday’s debacle & the heat I had found a way to persevere & felt very proud. Not conforming to be funnelled hundred of yards away from Dorina to collect my ‘I was there’ T shirt I moved a barrier found my Angel, led down, changed top & enjoyed an ice cream.

My time was 3:31:15 placing me 1,190th out of 16,000 starters of whom over a 1,000 made a sensible decision, for them, to DNF. I came 112th O.50 (top 7%) & believe I was the first Brit in that category, however I wasn’t the fastest Paul Hodges, beaten by that bloody Aussie by a few minutes! Most importantly I could reflect with satisfaction & pride & still do today as I draft this.

Sunday saw us sightseeing all day, legs weary but moving in the heat, we visited the Abba museum, a must for those of a certain generation, if only it were still 1976/7 when the sun always shone, marathons were to be a thing of the future & I walked through those empty rooms without tears in my eyes.

On Monday we stopped at Copenhagen & I dragged Dorina around the sights for 3 hours before a lovely traditional restaurant re-supplied us. Another note, Copenhagen is flat, they have a marathon in May, it’ll be cooler, 2020 you are on my list.

Bruges was our next port of call & on Wednesday over a week after setting off we got home for a well earned break.

Quit here whilst you are behind but for those with staying power lets move onto the CyB Half Marathon. This is shorter.

11 days after Stockholm I went on an 11 mile hill run from the Cafe with some serious ascent, being only days before the Half Marathon my thought process was, Stockholm took a lot out of me, focus on the Reach Out for Nepal charity run in 11 days time & sod the Half Marathon you’ll have a crap time no matter what.

However I did give myself half a chance, the wine was eased off considerably all week & I rose early on race day to cook my pre-race favourite of 3 Poached Eggs & Beans on Toast. I even walked to the start rather than jogged. Then things went wrong as I joined the back of the queue to then find that this year (it’s hard to explain) that would mean I would indeed be near the back & not near the front, some pleasant ‘excuse me’s’ saw me edge forward but I was still mid-pack by the time the gun went off.

Sprinting to gain places before the trail narrowed I still knew I was not where I should be as we began the first climb but.. ‘what’s that? I have energy, it feels good, I can race, well what a wonderful surprise!

& race I did & I enjoyed it, even the normally annoying bits as I continued to gain places. I finished in 1:50:11, not only a pb after racing the route 8 times but more than 3 minutes faster than my last 3 attempts, see Matt Ward (who when I asked after January’s Winter Half, ‘has the route changed Matt because I can’t get near my 2015 time’, his response ‘your just getting old Paul’) there’s still a bit of life in the old dog yet. I’d finished 35th out of 508 & 3rd O.50 out off 55, had been 2nd at one point but that’s not going to put a damper on a very satisfying performance.

As ever great work by Matt, Sian, Dyfi & all the team for a fantastic local race on my doorstep.

Now all attention is on my first ever Ultra, The Ultra Trail Wales, a 50 miler on August Bank Holiday weekend, it’s time to pack up the keyboard & go out for a run.

Thank you for reading & thank you too to all those who visited the cafe yesterday including many Triathletes (congratulations on competing in that heat) who used us to re-fuel after the Snowman Triathlon in Capel Curig yesterday, you helped make it our 2nd busiest day ever & stopped me going out for a 15 miler but don’t worry I’m going to make up for that today.


The Siabod Challenge

If you managed to stay with my Reach Out for Nepal Day blog posted yesterday you’ll know that Paul Jones & I have lowered the fastest known time for the Cafe’s ‘Siabod Challenge’ from my previous best of 7:03 set in 2014 to 6:27. I am of course under no illusion that had Paul not been supporting the first leg of my wider charity run he would have gone considerably faster & I’m sure having enjoyed the route he will do exactly that in the future. As for me with my first Ultra race only 3 weeks away I might well see, weather permitting, if I can lower that pb as part of my training plan.

But it has been great to see that several others have taken on the route this summer of all summers, not all have recorded their efforts with us & there have been some who tried hard but didn’t complete it, well done just for giving it ago. Those who have completed it deserve a mention as well as the tea & cake they received on the house so here goes:-

On 6th of June Neil Pitts set off at 6:00 am without speed in mind just wanting to enjoy a big day in Snowdonia he returned having achieved just that after 11 Hours & 22 Minutes, well done Neil!

On 15th June Dave Appleton & Jack Tyrie completed the route together in a very respectible 9 Hours 34 Minutes & 47 Seconds making them the 2nd fastest challengers to date. Do you fancy another go guys, the fastest challengers so far are Tim Smith & Dean Millington who set 9 Hours & 12 Minutes back in 2016.

Then whilst I headed to the Alps on Thursday 12th July Emily & Dec gave it a go & completed it in 12 Hours 3 Minutes & 17 Seconds.

Having done the route for the first time in 4 years I was reminded what a great day it is circling 3 of Snowdonia’s classic Mountain ranges, should I try it clockwise for once, food for thought!

If you are hill fit & looking for something to push your limits or indeed have your eyes on the Welsh 3,000 metres challenge or your own Ultra this could be a route for you too & remember tea & cake on the house if you record your start & completion at our counter.

Reach Out for Nepal Day – 23rd June 2018 – Part Three

It’s hard to believe that this years event is now almost 6 weeks past us, my apologies for not putting this report together before my Alpine excursion, there is only one true excuse, please bear with me whilst I explain.

The week after ROFN I’d planned to do two blogs the first would cover my 3rd trip to the Yorkshire 3 Peaks to walk it with friends & the remarkable co-incidence & treatment I received when my car broke down that same evening as well as going on to give an account of the Stockholm Marathon. The second would be a report on our ROFN Day. More than an hour of typing into the first of these my internet connection crashed, the drafted blog was lost as was my soul & motivation to start typing all over again, at last that motivation has returned, so here goes, ROFN 2018:-

Dorina & I stayed at the Cafe overnight on the Friday so that we could maximise sleep for the long day ahead. Waking at 4:00 I began to go through my pre-run routines whilst Dorina cooked me 3 Poached Eggs on toast with 153 Backed Beans (not quite that sad but you’ll get my drift). We were soon joined by John & Marion as supportive as ever & then at 4:45 by Paul Jones who so willingly offered to support the first leg of my 45 mile run namely the Siabod Challenge. With photographs taken Paul & I set off bang on time as the clock struck 5:00 am in what promised to be perfect conditions. Crossing the Glyderrau we were rewarded with a gloriously still sunrise, with Paul being quite a bit faster than me he was able to stop & capture several stunning photo’s & then catch me up. Paul’s speed would come in handy twice later on when I was able to ask him to fill up water bottles at Pen y Pass both on the way up & down Snowdon in the knowledge that he would soon catch me up again. At the foot of Snowdon we were over 10 minutes ahead of schedule, feeling good with pride coming before a fall I then proceeded up Snowdon with confidence & too much speed, it felt good whilst it lasted but to climb the Pyg track in 1:06 (only slightly slower than a good training pace for me) when you have another 35 miles ahead of you was certainly not a great idea. The descent saw reality strike, suddenly the day began to look like a long one. The return over Moel Siabod is never easy but as the days warmth grew my mojo shrank, still you’ve got yourself into this Paul only you can get yourself out of it. With Paul’s great support we strode back into a now bustling Cafe after 6 Hours 27 Minutes a new Best Known Time for the route but not very clever on my part!

I tried to acknowledge all the people taking part in events at the cafe itself but in truth I was also thinking use this stop effectively, re-fuel, hydrate, change socks, hydrate… I have at least learnt that much in the recent years.

Now it was time to start Leg 2, the Siabod Half Round, a mere 15 miles or so with 4 more summits. My support team this time was Peter Durkin, Alwyn Oliver & Brian Robbins, Brian having seen the state I was in decided to support the whole leg rather than join us at Pen y Gwryd. Despite my best efforts to re-fuel the days warmth re-drained me on the climb up Siabod, sensing this Brian & Alwyn kept behind me as I crested the summit ridge but they were clearly concerned as I began to whimper motivational stuff like ‘this is bloody tough’. Descending Siabod a slight recovery set in but as soon as I hit softer boggy ground cramps hit & my pace dropped again. The miners path climb up onto Glyder Fach seemed as tortuous as ever so Brian & I consulted, is there a direct line to the summit to avoid the plateau, yes, lets go for it then! Brian led the way, but it wasn’t the way was it Brian! On reflection the next 30 minutes were comical as Brian began leading us towards the wrong Glyder with me thinking why are we circling the summit we should have been aiming for, tensions grew when Brian got into scrambling mode ‘it’s easy Paul’ he encouraged ‘Brian I’ve been cramping for a few hours I think I could do without this!’ I hissed. Enough was enough with me still not realising that Brian had Gyder Fawr in his mind I stopped following took my own path to Glyder Fach, Peter & Alwyn clearly also having doubts followed my new course. Soon the penny dropped & an apologetic Brian was soon back in the fold. We’d lost some time but in truth this leg was never going to be run to schedule it was now a case of simply managing my decline safely back to the Cafe. Here my supporters worked as a team, Brian led (the correct way) as we headed back over the Eastern Glyderrau, Peter followed but constantly looked over his shoulder to check on my pace & slow Brian if necessary & Alwyn kept a respectful distance behind me, all provided me with fluids when I needed them. Having almost completed the descent back into Capel I broke the news ‘sorry guys, the route takes the long way back to the cafe via Plas y Brenin’, don’t think it made me Mr. popular! 

Back at the cafe more great support & more re-fuelling before it was time to set off for the 3rd & final leg, Moel Siabod itself. This time my support team consisted of Dorina, Maggie Oliver, Sandra Rowlands, Rebecca Roberts & a chap called Steven Brown who I’d just been introduced to by Rebecca. I gave a brief briefing ‘now girls remember we are going to run until we are out of sight of the cafe, then we are going to walk & there will be absolutely no running up any hills! Got that’. This was taken on board by all except by my Angel (aka Dorina) who promptly went off like a hare in training for the Siabod Fell race, clearly un-leashed from a long day at the cafe it took several stern words such as ‘please my darling’ before we all settled into a more sedate pace. We reached the summit in 1:12 but that no longer mattered the 6 or so hours of doubt had by now gone I was going to complete this years run, the Siabod Triple Challenge was at last in the bag. This final leg was completed in 2 Hours & 1 Minute a slow but enjoyable end to a great mountain day.

Of course none of the above could have been done without my support runners, John & Marion & Gaby for her Goulash & care but of course this was only my story many others put a lot of time & effort into our ROFN Day, I was not there to see much of it but will do my best to cover it now:-

Twiggy & Peter Price (& friends from Trefoil) for making & selling a variety of Crafts as ever your support is simply wonderful. Hazel Robbins for selling Nepalese artefacts supplied by Doug Scott’s charity CAN with whom we continue to have a great relationship.

Ian Draisey deserves particular mention simply because he organised the Cycling Sportif again this year & this event (the riders passed us as we reached the Pen y Gwryd on our leg 2) was the biggest single fund raiser for us this year at circa 2K as this goes to press!Also thanks to Helen Isles who supported the riders & of course to all the riders who took part, hope you enjoyed your day in the same way I enjoyed mine.

Sara Jackson for once again providing a more peaceful way of enjoying the day with her Yoga classes, thanks Sara.

Charlotte Evans again led a group of hardy girls wild swimming & am delighted to see that some have turned this into a regular habit with Charlotte’s encouragement.

Apologies were received from Mike Lees on the day itself whom I’m glad to say is now back to ‘normal’ but this potential for disaster simply proved the spirit of the day itself with Tim standing in at a moments notice to host the Auction & our ‘own’ Nick Livesey stepping in to host the Quiz (Mike having e-mailed us the questions & answers from his sick bed). Great job guys, summed the day up from where I was sat!

As ever John & Marion’s support & organisational skills both in the lead up, on the day itself & the weeks that follow are a key factor. Marion has created the visual account of the day which is still on display at the Cafe, John will be going out to visit the Melamchi School at his own expense to give us a detailed report of how all the monies raised by all our supporters have been spent.

Thank you too to the Cafe team who kept the cafe working whilst all of this was going on.

The final thank you must go to all those who have supported our efforts by actually donating cash or buying goods etc, without your support none of our endeavours would have helped the school a single dot.

So what does all this mean? Well this year the total raised has exceeded £6,000 & is still rising. If you have read this with interest there is still time to give by donating at our counter & remember this years fund raising will culminate once again in November when Doug Scott visits the Cafe to give his presentation ‘Up & About: the hard road to Everest’.

If you’ve reached here simply thank you for being interested in a day at the Cafe.


Open MIC Night 18th August

This month sees our regular Open MIC Night come forward by a week due to it’s host, Alan Mannouch, having other commitments over the Bank Holiday weekend, so get your practising in early & out the 18th in your diaries.

Breaking News

October looks like being a busy month for us Event wise. Already in the diary are Team 333’s AGM (27th) & The Little Adoption Shop Quiz (20th, full details on our Events page) but now we can confirm that 5th October sees us host IFMGA Mountain & Ski Guide Tim Blakemore who will present ‘A year as a Mountain Guide’.

We are delighted to be able to announce this, initial details are now on our Events page with further details to follow shortly. Please book early to get an insight of a Full time Outdoor Lifestyle that could change your horizons forever!

Paul’s Blog – Apologies & Updates

I could use the excuse that it’s been a busy couple of months & that I seem to have been here there & everywhere recently for failing to blog with my usual attention to detail but in truth that would not be good form, so simply put I apologise for my failure to update on both the important & less important events connected to either the cafe or myself this summer.

I plan to correct this in the coming days, covering Reach Out for Nepal, Siabod Fell race, Forthcoming Events as well as my own exploits although the latter will be mercifully brief as time has long passed some of them by.

So here goes with the first, The Moel Siabod Fell Race:-

There is a race report on both the WFRA web-site & Eryri Harriers web-site which covers the Senior’s race in detail so I won’t repeat myself here other than to re-thank all those who supported/took part on the day. However whilst I was away in the Alps we were contacted & asked what about the Junior’s race, there is no mention of it! Guilty as charged with my only excuse being that strictly I’d allowed underage entrants to take part & thus consciously avoided reporting on it. Despite mitigating this breach of WFRA rules by insisting that the Jones’ brothers mum ran with them I felt it best not to go into print, but on reflection I am now happy to do so.

The race was contested between Maisy Parry, Tom Jones & Gruff Jones, after a short race briefing covering the marked course, Marshall positions & route description the race got underway at 14:05 just 5 minutes after the senior’s. The route takes a lovely anti-clockwise circuit through Bryn Egan forest initially on a good forest track before climbing steeply on a technical but delightful single track path before the long descent to the finish on another good forest track. Less than 15 minutes after setting off Maisy came into view speeding out of the woods towards the bridge & the finish line which she crossed in 15:25, very impressive for an 11 year old. Next up was Gruff in 18:10 well clear of Tom in 22:05 who dare I say it could have been holding a little back to keep his mum company! They each received a good cheer from the crowd as well as a chocolate bar for taking part. So well done to you Maisy, Gruff & Tom (& Mum) & lets hope you will come along next year & encourage some friends to join you for what is after all a lovely route.

St Julitta’s summer exhibition opens on Sunday at 2 30pm

The exhibition opens on Sunday at 2 30pm. In the evening there is a lecture at Plas Y Brenin given by Mr Andrew Davidson, the Chief archaeologist for Gwynedd Archaeological ,’Moving Through The Landscape: the development of Road Transport in north-west Wales.

For more information visit:

Moel Siabod Fell Race – Saturday 7th July

A final reminder for this Saturday’s race in conjunction with the Capel Curig show, full details on our events pages but more than just a race to make coming to Capel on a predicted glorious Saturday, Race prizes, Gaby’s Goulash, River plunge, Tug of War & Show attractions.

Please note I am hoping to not insist on mandatory kit but please put it in the car just in case the weather gods are wrong!

Cotswold Outdoor sponsor the Moel Siabod Fell Race

I am very pleased to confirm that once again Cotswold Outdoor have donated the major prices for the forthcoming Siabod race being held at 2:00 pm on 7th July 2018. For those competing at the sharp end of the field here is a list of what’s up for grabs:-

Race Winner & Ist Female each get Rab Expedition Kit Bags

2nd Place in Race gets a Vango Folding Gas Stove

3rd Place in Race gets a 1.5 Litre Hydraulics Reservoir

1st Local gets a Petzl Tikkina 150 lumens Head Torch

A big thank you to Rosemary, Chris, Meta & all at the Betws-y-Coed Cotswold Outdoor store for your continued support.

There will also be minor prizes for age category winners & Choc. Bars for all entrants in the Junior’s Race too!

For more details about the race visit our Events page.

Reach Out for Nepal Day – 23rd June 2018 – Part Two

Just a quick final reminder that our annual fund raising day for the rebuilding of the devastated Melamchi School in Nepal is only days away & it would be great if you could come along to support us in any way possible. For full details of the events taking place between 5:00 am & 11:00 pm just go to either the Nepal or Events pages on our web-site, it’d be great to see you! If nothing else join us for our curtain closure Mike Lees’s relaxed & often hilarious Quiz which gets under way at 8:00 pm.

Reach Out for Nepal, Capel Curig Show & Moel Siabod Race

It is a busy few weeks coming up & we hope that you will be able to support these events in Capel Curig.

First up is our Reach Out for Nepal Day on 23rd June, a wide variety of events & sales are taking place at the cafe throughout the day starting with Paul’s annual charity run at 5:00 am & rounding off with Mike Lee’s charity Quiz Night which gets underway at 8:00 pm. For full details simply click on our Nepal or Events pages. We hope you can take part on the day, if you want to sponsor Paul you can do so at the Cafe counter & feel free to contact him if you want to join him on part or all of the run by phoning 01690 720429.

The Capel Curig Show & Siabod Fell Race as ever take place on the first Saturday in July, namely 7th this year. We hope to outline some more of the Show’s attractions in the coming weeks but it is almost worth attending for the post race tug of war alone between the Locals & the Fellrunners. With the Fellrunners being soundly beaten in recent years Paul’s pre-race safety briefing may well include ‘remember lads, it’s not all about winning, you need to keep something back for the Farmers!’

Sandwiched in between these weekends will be our latest Open MIC Night on Saturday 30th June, details on our Events page.

So something for everyone, we hope to see you at one or all of them.

Bank Holiday Weekend Opening Hours

Just a quick note to confirm that we will be keeping our doors open later than normal this coming Sunday to help you maximise your time Outdoors in what might still promise to be great weather. To help you plan your days below are our full opening hours this coming weekend but please note last hot food orders are 30 minutes before we close i.e. 5:30 pm or 7:30 pm respectively.

Friday – 7:30 am to 6:00 pm.

Saturday – 7:30 am to 8:00 pm.

Sunday – 7:30 am to 8:00 pm.

Monday 7:30 am to 6:00pm.