Mountain Talk

Mountain Talk
Breaking News

We are delighted to announce a couple of new dates in our Events diary.

Firstly our ‘very own’ Nick Livesey long awaited photographic book on Snowdonia has now been printed & is available from this Thursday.

I am pleased to announce that Nick has agreed to do a book signing event at the Café to coincide with the forthcoming Christmas Quiz (in support of OVMRO) on Saturday 15th December. So to secure your signed copy simply put the date in your diary & come along between 5:00 & 8:00 pm to meet & talk to the Photographer/Author, aka as Nick.

If you can’t make the night itself copies of the book will be available through a variety of outlets including the likes of Cotswold Outdoors, Waterstones etc. etc. & of course from our counter too.

Next up Bandabacana are returning to the Café on Saturday 2nd February, they need no introduction but it will be part of their 15 years together celebrations so even livelier than normal. Full details on our Events page, thanks for agreeing to come back again guys, it’s appreciated!

Finally a reminder that the Christmas Quiz is nearly upon us so why not plan to combine the whole evening with Nick & Mike Lees as the double act.

Brazilian Line World Premiere

With the BMC’s Winter Skills lecture (presented by Sam Leary & Mick Jones) a sell out tonight your final opportunity to come to the Cafe for a presentation this Autumn is only 6 days away in the form of Filmuphigh’s ‘Brazilian Line’ on Wednesday 28th November. Tickets are still available but with our last 3 presentations having sold out be sure to book to guarantee your seats. Full details are on our Events page.

Doug Scott’s signed books now back in Stock!

An added bonus of Doug’s visit to the Cafe is that he re-supplied us with signed copies of his latest two books, we’d sold out of previous batches weeks ago. Copies are again on sale from our counter with 100% of the sale price going to the author himself, details are:-

The Ogre – £20 – Biography of a mountain and the dramatic story of the first ascent.

Up & About (Hardback) – £24 – Biography of Doug’s ‘Hard Road to Everest’

Up & About (Paperback 2nd Edition – £14.95

Both books are excellent reads be sure to secure your copies you won’t be disappointed.

Doug & Tut’s presentation last Saturday

It was a memorable night despite those IT Glitches early on so I’ll address those first as lets be honest is was both embarrassing & frustrating in equal measure. My apologies on behalf of all those involved with both the inadequate volume on the CAN video hotly followed by the ‘loss’ of Tut’s slides (not Tut’s fault I hasten to add) led to the lights going back on & a significant delay. The patience the audience gave as Marion, Denise, John, Doug & Tut frantically tried to work things out was really appreciated so thank you very much for this. The biggest thanks must go to Steve Hobden a friend of the cafe who was in the audience & speeded up the up-loading of the correct programme significantly, thank you Steve!

What I can say is that Doug, Tut & Denise were far from happy about the whole situation, over breakfast at our place the following morning plans for their next matinee presentation at Brecon later the same day detailed discussions led to revised plans being put into place to ensure there was no repeat of the problems of the night before.

As to the content of the presentations themselves we had earlier been given an in depth insight into CAN’s excellent work in Nepal to help restore communities in remote areas which had been literally devastated in the 2015 quake. It highlighted to me that the reason we are lucky enough to have luminaries (which Doug & Tut certainly are) giving presentations in our Johnny come lately Cafe is simply our & our friends desire to help CAN help the people in Nepal. My reading of the audiences patience is that they saw an IT Glitch (or two) in the context of this wider picture.

Once the Glitches were past Tut began ‘The Hard Road to Everest’ with an insight into his getting into climbing & natural progression onto harder routes in the Alps & beyond, his empathy & appreciation of many climbing partners who helped him along this journey was deep felt & touching to see & hear. Their had been no Everest plan, simply with experience & reputation gained the ‘Everest’ phone rang, he & Nick Estcourt broke the rock barrier & more & 1975 entered Britain’s Everest history books for good.

There followed a shortened break before Doug began an auction of his signed photographic prints, this went really well & raised a further £2,100 for CAN. To all those who took part in the bidding thank you on behalf of CAN, Doug was delighted with the interest you showed & depth you dug into your pockets.

We moved on the the second half of the presentation, this time it was Doug’s turn to portray his own journey on the road to Everest. Times were different back then it wasn’t just a matter of kit not being what it is today (a slightly curved Chouinard single axe being a notable case in point) the logistics, scrimping, making it up as you go along tenacity made these men what they were. Doug freely admitted the fortune that shone on him as a result of Tut & Nick’s fortitude allowing him & Dougal to (along with Chris as expedition leader) receive the bulk of the accolades, but as they all knew it had been a team game executed immaculately until a post summit day storm put pay to Tut’s & others own summit hopes as well as leading to the death of one of their friends, Mick Burke, success & tragedy sum up the expedition.

After the main event the audience again showed their patience allowing John to sum up & me to present a cheque on behalf of Reach Out for Nepal 2018 to Doug for £8,000. Marion recorded it on camera & sent me over the photo’s the next day with a covering ‘Doug looks very emotional’. As I looked at these, particularly the first one with Doug & my arms around each other, my thoughts were ‘yes Marion your right but I’ve seen photo’s of me before too & in this one I can see the emotion in me too’.

There are many thank you’s to all who made everything linked to Saturday happen but I’ll single out the guy who set us out on the road that led us to Doug & CAN, Leo Holding at the 2015 Keswick Mountain Festival  just one month after the quake hit. Kean (first), take that as the best apology you’ll get mate, followed by John have informed me that Leo is giving a presentation at Caernarfon in March next year, John stop reading & reserve the tickets please!

Denise, we felt the pressure you bore early on Saturday, but lets be clear the wider picture is what matters & it is now in it’s rightful context of a lesson learned for Brecon & nothing more than that. A small CAN team do so much good, we applaud you all!

Reach Out for Nepal Update

Thank you to everyone involved in any way with this years fund raising for the Melamchi School, with Doug Scott’s next presentation at the cafe only days away I am pleased to give the following update on both the fund raising & the School itself, so here goes:-

The total raised to date in 2018 is £8,061.80 which is significantly higher than our earlier expectations of around 5/6K, simply a great result. This figure will go higher due to a Gift Aid application I need to make for my sponsors so the final figure should exceed £8,400.00.

We will present Doug with a cheque made out to Community Action Nepal on Saturday for £8,000.00 leaving a small residual balance in our Reach Out for Nepal bank account.

The total now raised to date for the School is now a staggering £34,450.41 since our first Reach Out for Nepal day in 2015 got underway a little over 3 years ago. In addition through the Cafe sales of Prints, Tickets for Doug’s presentations & sales of CAN’s goods & artefacts have raised a further £10,500.00, this money goes to CAN’s general funds for use on other projects. We have also sold £808.00 worth of Doug’s books with this money going rightly to the Author himself, how he finds the time to write them I really don’t know, well I do actually but it’s not for me to say!

Progress of the school & it’s hostel is being monitored by us as closely as possible given the high workload of Doug & his small team i.e. we don’t like to push too hard for detailed updates. What we do know is that the Girls hostels (3 Buildings) were completed by Spring this year & were officially opened during CAN’s Spring visit on 27th April. At that time the boys hostels were substantially built & post monsoon work to complete them & fit them out has re-commenced with completion expected this winter. As for the school itself progress is less clear but we are hoping for a fuller picture after Doug has visited us, that said the fit out of the hostels represented over two thirds of the £25K we targeted to raise so our monies raised are making an impact.

John Rowell is in contact with Purma, the Headmaster, & has made provisional plans to visit the School in Spring 2019 at John’s own cost to improve both our link with the School as well as give a detailed report on progress etc.

Subject to actual costs being fairly in line with Budgets we will have substantial funds still ring-fenced for the School within CAN’s funds. With the School continuing to expand but with the Government taking over day to day running of the School from CAN IN 2020 as CAN itself focuses on other works in the North Gorkha region we will await John’s visit before opening a debate on where these proceeds & indeed future fund raising should be targeted. From where I am sat the priorities need to be ensuring we maintain our contact with the school whilst ensuring that funds are going to the Coal face so to speak & this may well mean focusing future funds raised on CAN’s other projects or a specific one.

Finally & on a more immediate note Doug will be bringing more signed book copies down with him, selling artefacts on the night as well as auctioning more of his photographic prints so if you have booked tickets please bring a bit of cash or better still a bit of plastic, it’s all in a good cause. If you don’t have tickets but would like to come & listen to Doug & Tut please be quick & call the Cafe on 01690 720429, we only have 6 tickets left!

Thank you for giving your time & more.


Saturday 10th November

This Saturday sees us welcome Doug Scott CBE as he (together with Paul ‘tut’ Braithwaite) gives his presentation ‘The Hard Road to Everest’. Tickets have been selling well in recent days but we still have 12 left so if you want to attend please e-mail us or call the cafe on 01690 720429 as soon as you can to avoid disappointment.

As last Saturday when Susanne Sholtz gave her excellent presentation about the history & behavioural patterns of the Carneddau Ponies (thank you Susanne) we will be closing our kitchen early to allow us to prepare the Cafe for Doug so please note that last hot food orders will be at 6:00 pm.

Doug will once again be selling a variety of books & artefacts as well as auctioning a number of prints, all monies going to Community Action Nepal. Hope to see you there.


Saturday 3rd November & Breaking News of a New Event

This coming Saturday sees us hosting Susanne’s Scholt’s Carneddau Pony Presentation with a packed house so please note that last hot food orders will be at 6:00 pm & not the usual 7:30 pm.

I am delighted to announce that our friend Rob Johnson & his Filmuphigh have chosen us as a venue to premiere his film ‘Brazilian Line’ with he date being Wednesday 28th November. Full details will be on our events page later this morning.

Finally if you here any screams in Bettws between 12:45 & 1:45 today do not call the police, it’s simply me having physio on my calves which are still as tight as hell from the Snowdon Marathon last Saturday, just why do I run ‘fast’ on tarmac? Well O.K. the scenery, the atmosphere, the supporters, the sense of achievement, definitely a case of Type 2 pain followed by Type 2 pain if you get my drift.

Weekend News

First things first, this Saturday (27th) sees us again hosting Team 333’s AGM. They do excellent work in raising funds for Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue Organisation (our local rescue team). I point this out because as such we will be closing at the earlier time of 6:00 pm with last hot food orders being 17:30 pm, we trust you will understand.

Earlier in the day I & some 2,000+ others will be running & sometimes walking the classic Snowdon Marathon. Please note that the Llanberis pass will be closed from 10:00 am to Midday & that parking in Llanberis is going to be difficult, don’t park illegally as you will sadly receive a ticket. Of course good luck to all those taking part be you Organiser’s & their helpers, spectators (wrap up warm) & the runners themselves who probably like me are still thinking about kit, kit & more kit! Great event to be a part of, hope to see you in one form or another.

Finally & here is where the weekend rolls into Monday & Tuesday as the next 4 days are the last that you can cast a vote for our Cafe, if you feel so inclined we would be delighted to receive your votes, simply visit www.tgoawards2018. It only takes a few moments & there are several other local Snowdonia businesses nominated in other categories (inc. Plas y Brenin’s bar which I failed to mention in a previous post). Good luck to all the nominees for getting this far.

Now back to kit………….?

Fun Quiz Night (for all Dog lovers) – 20th October 2018

A final reminder for an enjoyable night out at the Cafe this coming Saturday. Organised by our good friend Hazel Robbins & hosted by the ever great value Mike Lees we hope you can join us for a lively quiz with plenty of laughs & scratching of heads all in aid of the Little Adoption Shop which rescues abused dogs in China.

Full details on our events page, the night will include an Auction & a Raffle, our thanks to everyone who has donated items to help this cause.

Paul’s Blog – Events

Well by now I had intended to have blogged about my endeavours in the classic Peris Horseshoe Fell race the Saturday before last but with time passing & the fantastic Autumnal colours now putting on their show (it’s a joy to be running through them at this time of year, if only I could sprint onto the scene in the way that they have this year) I feel (as they say) to have been overtaken by Events & Cafe Events at that, so:-

Thanks Tim for a thoroughly insightful & enjoyable insight last Friday into your year as a mountain guide, we were left thinking we need to do more as much as feeling admiration at the professionalism & self analysis which you put into your work & lifestyle in equal measure.

Looking forward, tickets for Susanne Schultz’ presentation about the Carneddau Ponies have been under constant demand. Out of the 100 tickets allocated we have just 5 left so if you are not coming into the Cafe in the next 24 hours & want to reserve tickets it’d be best to phone us on 01690 720429, sorry make that 4 now! 

Doug Scott returns to us on 10th November, this too has been a sell out in the two previous years, there are still plenty of tickets available at the moment but with sales picking up again I’d urge you to reserve your tickets sooner rather than later.

Before both of these we have our ‘Fun Quiz Night’ for all dog lovers (you don’t need a dog to enter) hosted by the ever reliable man of Doctor Who & the Left, Mike Lees. No need to reserve tickets but you might want to reserve a table so as not to be disappointed. The night will include an Auction as well as a Raffle with all proceeds including entry fee going to the dog charity The Little Adoption Shop.

Finally an event that is not happening, Alan Mannouch is taking a long overdue sabbatical from hosting our Open MIC Nights so the one planned for the last Saturday in November will not take place (note the October one was off already due to our hosting Team 333’s AGM on that night). Note: Alan will be hosting our Open MIC on 29th December to help  lead us towards the New Year.

To all the runners taking part in Matt Ward’s Petzl Night run on Saturday night good luck, with over 3 hours of running mostly in the dark & with a ‘troubled’ forecast on the cards we may well need a bit of luck on top of our self-determination!

The Great Outdoors Magazine Awards – 2018

We are delighted to be shortlisted again for this years TGO Annual awards in the best Cafe category making it 4 years running that we have made the short list so thanks to all those who recommended us.

Voting is now underway so if you feel we deserve your vote simply visit & click on the Awards tab, you should find us on the 2nd page, your support would be greatly appreciated by all of us at the Cafe.

There are a number of other local businesses who are nominated in other categories so hopefully they’ll get your votes too, in particular Joe Brown’s are nominated in the Independent retailer, they are most supportive of our cafe & have great kit to boot so they got my vote. Cotswold Outdoor got my vote in the Chain retailer, basically the Betws store greets me with a welcoming smile every time I walk in (is that because that’s very often) & continue to support the Moel Siabod Fell race as well as help promote our events.

Cunningham’s also get short listed in the Independent retailer & two local camp sites, Dol Gam & Gwern gof Uchaf also get nominated in the best Camp site, both have had busy years so that’ll be a close call.

Voting doesn’t take long so if you can find time to do so between now & 31st October to support the Betws/Capel nominees it’d be great, thanks.

Tim Blakemore’s Presentation – A Year as a Mountain Guide – Friday 5th October

A final reminder that tomorrow our good friend Tim gives his presentation about his working life in the Outdoor World, tickets can be reserved at our counter or by phoning the Cafe on 01690 720429. We should also be able to accomodate a few walk ins but best to reserve just to be sure.

Please note last hot food orders are 5:30 as usual but we should be able to rustle up some late Goulash after that for anyone who is attending the presentation until approx. 7:00 pm. Extended drinks license with presentation kicking off at 8:00 pm.

Hope to see you there.

Paul’s Blog – Peris Horseshoe Race – Saturday 29th September

With on the day entries still thankfully permitted there is still time to commit to this classic long race which starts at 11:00 am & of course for those looking for an ‘easy’ option there is always the short course option. Both provide an incredible experience, I can highly recommend them. 

As for me I was certainly looking forward to the long peris hoping my recent run in the Ultra Trail Wales would stand me in good stead. Alas the extraction of a large molar tomorrow leaves this all in doubt, the Dentists last words were ‘It’s going to hurt & you will need pain killers for a few days’, not exactly music to my ears, don’t bite on a polo, it’s expensive & …… Of course pain killers, heavy sweating in a race are not recommended for the old Kidneys, this could be a time to be sensible.

So with this doubt in mind I edged my bets & got out for a 21 miler yesterday (after a 10 miler on Monday which had gone very well), good effort but felt sluggish or was it a recent tick bite & the subsequent Lyme’s disease type rash playing with my mind. Either way at least I’ve got one long run in this week, is there a 2nd left in me?

Whether I make it to the start line or not best of luck to all those who do take part, enjoy the pain (Fell runners are very good at this) & of course good luck to Stuart (race organiser) & the rest of his team, may the sun shine on his Marshalls!

For race details, see our Events page or better still go to Eryri Harriers web-site.

Autumn Season of Events Kicks off this Saturday

Our full Season of Events kicks off on Saturday 29th September when Alan Mannouch hosts this months Open MIC Night a regular last Saturday in the month feature. If you haven’t been along to one before why not pre-record your favourite TV shows & get back into a Saturday night out. The evenings are relaxed & if you want to play or sing you’ll find warm appreciation.

Hot on the hills of this Friday 5th October sees Tim Blakemore (who for his sins had guided Paul & friends on more than one Alpine tour among many others expeditions throughout the world) present ‘A Year as a Mountain Guide’, tickets are still available at just £5 with all ticket sales going to Tim’s chosen charity.

These starters will be followed by several other Events throughout the Autumn & early winter, for full details of the above simply visit the Events page or look at the notices displayed in the Cafe, we hope you can make it to some of them.

Finally keep a look out for details of Nick Livesey’s new book launch which we hope to help launch with Nick giving his own presentation within the near future.

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.