We said a warm thanks & farewell to Dafydd Thomas at Carnedd Daffyd a little after 11 hours after we had started out, 3 had now become 4.
The initial rocky bit saw the rock god in his element as Tim pushed with me in pursuit closely followed by Peter & Paul bringing up the rear. Soon we were on the hard but easier stony path & these same stones soon began to pound into the sore soles of my feet. I needed a moan ‘Peter, this terrain is no good for sore feet’ as I passed two girls & 2 guys sat down for a rest ‘hello’ I distractedly offered & that was it. Loss of concentration for a split second, tired legs, stubbed toe & I knew I was falling forward on a downward slope, fast. I hit the deck a moment later rolled to my right & then back onto my feet immediately saying I’ve hurt my hand whilst scanning my legs for blood whilst probably getting thoughts of ‘did we just see that’ from the resting walkers as I ran on without breaking another stride with my hand hanging limply at an interesting angle from my arm. Peter saw it all & would later comment that it was a remarkably stylish roll but he like me was soon looking at my hand with some degree of alarm. The pain was intense, I’ve fallen plenty of times, many a minor cut or bruise but this was different & I knew it, I was still running but in a confused state of shock believing I’d broken my wrist & probably my hand as well.
Naturally I ran on.
Peter was now keeping a concerned but respectful distance, my confidence had been knocked for six, watch that stone, can I continue, your hand is just hanging there, can’t lift my arm properly, close to 20 kilometres still to go, why?
With Tim setting a good pace, Paul passing me by a wider faster line & Peter (I think) deciding to just let me run alone whilst he took an occasional look back to see if I was still following I eventually reached the summit of Pen yr Ole Wen where Tim totally oblivious to it all (as indeed Paul had been) went to shake my hand which I hastily & only narrowly avoided. From what I remember I simply said what had happened, there was no debate & we just moved on, two more summits to do turn back & head for them & that is what we did.
Peter quoted about 18K to go, I thought maybe a bit less & then summoned up an un-necessary pee stop to gather up my mashed thoughts into some substance that would work it out. By now my hand was beginning to hang less so from my arm, quite what caused this initial reaction to the impact I don’t know but almost certainly to do with an impact point in the hand itself, as to the pain that remained intense for the remainder of the run.
I trailed the others as we re-passed Dafydd Thomas as he photographed us ‘I’ve hurt my hand’ I bleated. We then began to re-climb Dafydd but despite taking it very carefully (‘can’t afford to fall on that again’) I slowly joined the others at which point Tim came up with the great idea of traversing around Dafydd rather than going back over the top. This worked a treat & avoided some tricky ground that had begun to play on my mind.
Slowly I got back into something like a rhythm but would taper back every time it got technical.
Earlier Tim had also checked out a rocky traverse line around Carnedd Llewelyn again to avoid a re-summit & we were soon on it after just re-passing the four witnesses to my fall, god only knows what they were thinking when they saw the line we were headed onto.
This boulder field was on a steep slant, very un-even & not a good place for me to be bringing up the rear in a state of fear. The inevitable happened, I stood on a rocker, had to steady myself with my damaged hand to avoid a fall that would hurt other things & the pain leapt through my hand & up my arm like an electric shock, it was good that the others were distant enough not to hear my cry, I moved on. Eventually with the tricky boulders coming to an end I began to relax as the others slowed to let me catch up.
The traverse had saved a lot of time and energy ‘good call Tim’. We were now on easier ground & moving freely but with my next fear beginning to loom I didn’t hold back ‘Tim, Brian Robbins has told me that a footpath heads right that avoids the forthcoming scramble down onto the ridge, it may not be the line you want but I’m a bit worried about a one handed scramble, can we look for it’. The rock god gave way & we found the path & I led us onto it. At this point I should state that I did qualify my request with ‘but Brian does have form when it comes to nav.’ which was duly seconded by Peter.
This excellent path duly descended right to the top of the scramble, thanks Brian, one handed scramble, game on! In truth despite early nerves I soon found a way to contort my body & left hand into a variety of eloquent positions & down to safety. This last significant physical/mental barrier out of the way I began to relax & the guys let me set a nice pace across the most sublime ridge of Bwlch Eryl Farchog to the airy but easier scramble up to our penultimate summit of Pen y Helgy Du with Paul kindly offering if you need a push just ask. Well I like Paul an awful lot but he’s not using my ailment as an excuse to touch my ass, I climbed on!
Peter took our photo once on top & then there was one. From here we again had glorious views of so much that we had earlier journeyed the balance of ‘big asks’ was now very firmly behind us.
The long tricky descent to the next cwm (think this is also when I became aware of unusual blister type pains on the top of my toes) seemed to sap a lot of energy from me & I think it did the same to Paul behind me as Tim & Peter pulled away up front so once safely at the foot of the final climb (a steep climb of over 600 feet to the summit of Pen y Llithrig y Wrach) I asked Paul to open a gel for me, he too followed suit by getting some fuel on board. Then the final climb began, head down, it’s in the mind, slowly we reeled the metres away, closed the gap on Tim & Paul until near the top Tim pulled away again but by now the climb was spent we were on our 22nd 2,000′ summit the Slippery Witch was tamed & Capel lay all downhill ahead. Congratulations, Photo’s, final fuel up, we descended on.
The descent after a long day is a big one of approximately 1,350 feet before the ground levels out but Tim guided Peter to lead us down the less rocky & more grassy line. We made good progress, Paul warned me of odd holes as we descended & we were soon safely passing a large ‘wild’ camp before moving on towards the Leat. I had taken another tumble but landed lightly so no cries needed.
We fast walked the rocky path that leads to the diagonal descent line to the A.5, this we took at a good pace despite me going over one last time (this time it was not my shattered confidence to blame but some chicken wire on a crossing board lifting up on the impact of my left foot so that it caught my right foot), again no pain just the embarrassment of looking like a clown!
‘That’s enough, a part from falling over at will, an array of blisters on the tops of my toes & a hand that seriously hurts I’m actually feeling good, time to lead the way’. The Gazelle let me pass, I ran on, we ran on, the crest of a wave moved us on, boy did this descent feel good.
At the road & as agreed Peter ran on at speed so that those back at the café would be warned of our coming. I then led Paul down the road which apparently doesn’t suit Gazelle’s as Tim dropped of the pace. This of course was no time to split up, we were about to achieve something special Paul & I stopped, Tim soon joined us, we walked to the penultimate corner, ‘right guys, we are not going to let them see us walking, a gentle jog from here’, Tim responded ‘gentle’ & we rounded the corner in style.
We got a wonderful reception from so many smiling faces & friendly cheers, it is always an incredible moment to reach the end of a such a journey & not know who to thank first but we muddled around in the crowd & eventually remembered to hug & congratulate each other, Paul, Paul & Tim. It was not until some days later that Dorina told me that when we kissed she’d not even been told about my hand & only found out from Tim sometime afterwards.
Clearly many were concerned about my hand but some minutes later when Gaby helped me remove my shoes & socks everyone who witnessed it gave a gasp when they saw my bloodied toes, but that’s another story.
I eventually went to A & E on Monday afternoon & had my hand X-rayed on Tuesday to receive the all clear with regard to brakes & fractures. It has a 2″ diameter bruise in the centre of my palm & today some 6 days later I am still unable to make a gripped fist but there are signs of progress & it has a further two weeks to recover for the Alps, left fingers crossed.
Tim, Paul & I all exchanged a number of knowing looks & comments immediately after the run & this followed on over breakfast the next day with Tim & through several subsequent e-mails with Paul over the next few days. At the heart of these is the awesome route itself it genuinely is the single best mountain day I have experienced in the U.K., the weather contributed so much but doing it with Tim & Paul iced every part of the cake & I’m welling up writing this finale.
I have already thanked those others who helped both logistically on the hill or via the Café so one final thanks to all those un-named who saw us run in at the end.
I have been asked ‘why don’t you name it as the ‘Paul Hodges’ or ‘Hodges’ round or……. all a bit un-fair on Paul Jones & Tim Watson, suggestions on a postcard but we have already thought of the ‘PPT’ the ‘HodJoWat’ & the ‘Hand it to Hodges’ rounds, come on some lateral thinking please! It could & should become a classic!
Now some stats:-
75.42K (47.15 Miles), 13 Hours 53 Minutes (we are claiming that as a fastest known time (FKT)), 3,816 Metres of ascent (12,516′) , 22 Summits (plus a mistake summit), 6,100 Calories & 95,500 Steps for me (probably quite a few less for Paul & the Gazelle).
Thank you Paul & Tim for everything we shared.
& one final word, this run was for charity, if you’ve enjoyed reading about it even to a fraction of how much we enjoyed doing it donations are still possible in the café, the collection pot is next to the picture board of our exploits, anything massively appreciated!