Arriving at the Café early on Saturday saw the poor weather soon deteriorate into a foul storm, ‘Dorina, can you print the weather Forecast I need to look at tomorrow’s’.
It was not good reading, 65/75 mile an hour gusts (50 can blow you off your feet), wind-chill -7 degrees C, frequent heavy showers or prolonged rain, possibility of lightning in the West, rain turning to sleet or snow later. Most disconcerting, this was not music to the ears of an already under-prepared ‘runner’ for the Siabod Challenge. I began to repeat the forecast to anyone who would listen. Later in the day I would ‘lightly’ discuss my options with the Roberts family before they left with friendly smirks meaning ‘Paul, you’re not are you?!’. Indeed I wasn’t but the reality of pulling out before I’d even begun & having already received some donations did not make me a happy chappie.
Sunday dawned & as Dorina drove us to the Cafe the mind began to wonder, ‘what if I…..’.
At the Cafe it seemed a taken ‘what do you want for breakfast Paul?’, ‘my pre-race special I replied’, ‘are you sure’ or was it simply a tell, tell resigned look in her eyes.
By 8:00 am I was in full winter running kit, photo taken, jokes with six of the Oggie Mountain Rescue team exchanged ‘lads, change your training plans & follow my route, PLEASE’. I left the Cafe advising Dorina ‘don’t worry darling I have plans, B,C & D.
In truth Plan C was to stay low & run the old road to Bethesda & back, circa 20 miles, Plan D was simply to return to the Cafe as soon as I could find a suitable excuse.
The reality was that the weather was initially not that extreme, very wet under foot but apart from that the early climbs were relatively pleasant & taken at a steady but respectful pace. Soon I popped out on top of the first double humped ridge & met the first gusts & hailstones, hood drawn up to limit the pain I moved on but at times the headwind was too stiff to run the flats but my concerns became more measured as I constantly weighed up the options as the day would wear on.
Next up with two staggered climbs to my first summit, Gallt yr Ogof, a correction on the second climb proved to be an error & I popped up onto the ridge 80 metres to the North of my aim. Fortunately I knew this spot & corrected to bag my the summit after 1 Hour 25 Minutes, it was distinctly wet, windy & cold so I didn’t hang around.
My navigation around the Man eating bog went somewhat better & I was claiming my second summit, Y Foel Goch after a further 13 minutes, ‘not bad in the conditions’, I thought.
Now Plan B (Bailout en-route as you see fit) was firmly in play. Exposed fully to the head-wind with hail stinging at my face & Glyder Fach ahead obliterated by ominous mirk decision was made ‘abort, descend the Miner’s track to Pen-y-Gwryd & either call for a lift or run the 5 miles back to Capel along the road with a tail wind’. But sometimes plans have to be re-altered, having descended to the Lyn Caseg-fraith plateau & crossed it’s boggy bag of tricks my pace was too slow, my hands soon turned from quite happy little souls to ‘we’re getting cold Paul’, a few minutes had seen things going quickly downhill.
I’ve only had Hypothermia once & that was a relatively ‘mild’ case but had scared the living daylights out of me. If plan B didn’t change I would be running into the gauntlet of wind & hail both crossing the plateau & throughout the long descent, ‘can’t do that Paul you’ll be frozen before you even get to the descent, turn right, Cwm Tryfan, get out of the wind!’
My first attempt to find the gully off the plateau failed my second probably succeeded but it was more like a waterfall than a descent path so reluctantly & with a degree of concern I turned back into the wind & headed for the Cairn that led to the ‘normal path’ off & it’s hazardous loose overhanging rocks. By now I was cold throughout but was pleased how I manged my way down & out of Cwm Tryfan, mostly at a fast walk (fast enough to slow down my cooling, my hands now useless to the degree that it was pointless to stop & pull out warmer clothing because simple zips were beyond my function). Paths were streams to walk through it was the rocks I focused on, one slip & an injury were my fear not cold wet feet. All the time my thoughts were ‘maintain pace as best you can a slow temperature decline can be reversed if you hit the old road in one piece’. Which is what I did with some relief. Looking at my watch I had been out for 2 Hrs 40 Minutes, it was 4.5 miles or so back to the Cafe, 40 minutes I reasoned, time to warm up.
Despite a couple of early foldings of my left ankle (probably a bit frozen) I soon built confidence & pace & most importantly warmth. With one mile to go I passed the only person I’d see during my outing, a female runner heading the other way, I didn’t warn her of the puddles ahead (floods to be more precise) but she looked experienced enough to handle them in her stride. 37 minutes after hitting the old road I walked into the Cafe, I’d given it a shot but for once had corrected a poor decision with a good one.
So what if I’d carried on? Without being overly dramatic but considering my knowledge of how my body reacts I think the climb up Glyder Fach would have warmed me but the traverse to Glyder Fawr & long descent of the Red Dot Path in the full force of the storm & hail & possibly snow (even in the shelter of Cwm Tryfan the rain had been turning to sleet) would have been potential life changers. If not I would probably been near the top of Snowdon when the worse Hail of the day hit the Café, within it’s warmth I simply reflected to John & Andy ‘think I got it right guys’ with a wry smile.
I have always enjoyed The Siabod Challenge but yesterday discovered as I guess I deep down really knew, it is an entirely different challenge in the mists of a mid-November storm. If the weather changes in the next week or two I’ll give it a second go to do credit to those who have already sponsored me, thank you for giving generously.
Deep down I am glad I gave it a go & not just simply stayed at the Café creating a ‘what-if’.