Well how did that happen, I’ve already been back from the Alps for a week, surely I was there yesterday!
The Alps can wait then as I’d prefer to talk about the Oggie 8 Challenge which took place on Saturday, the eighth Oggie 8 taking place on the eighth day of the eighth month, well thought out guys.
As usual it was a great event organised by the OVMRO & their support ‘Team 333’, taking in 8 summits (4 on either side of the A.5) over some 20 miles or so this is a genuine mountain challenge & a great fund raiser for the OVMRO. To broaden the appeal this year they also allowed smaller teams of two as well as a shorter 4 mountain route, a spate of late entries led to 20 teams taking part their commitment rewarded with wall to wall sunshine, a spectacular early morning cloud inversion & a fantastic all round day.
As last year the Cafe entered two teams, the ‘Siabod Shifters’ & the ‘Siabod Plodders’, think the names say it all – this event can be enjoyed by anyone with Mountain Fitness no matter how you want to tackle it.
We lined up at the start at 07:00 with the early suns rays reaching Oggie Base just in time for me to dispense with my fleece & travel with the bare minimum kit requirement which included the mandatory group shelter & first aid kit, until now I have not used it as an excuse for failing to keep up with the younger & faster bucks in my team.
Now about the teams, as last year I was in the Shifters with both Sion & Phil who had accompanied me last year. Our fourth member was Dan Collister whom Phil had recruited, I ran with Dan at a Coed y Brenin training run back in March, knew he was quick but only realised just how quick when I looked up his Moelwyn race time, 1:33 compared to my 1:52, great for the team if not my nerves, Gaby was beaming – Paul’s going to be put through the Mill, welcome back from the Alps Mr. AWOL!! Our Plodders consisted of Fraser, Nick & Chris all taking part like me for the third year running as well as Neal Maxwell making his debut.
As the horn blasted I almost barged the starter (Dave Worrel) out of the way, well he was on the racing line & this is a race (I of course mean ‘challenge’), we were on our way.
41 minutes later we hit the ridge & then as usual took on my preference for Yr Elen (1:04) before Llewelyn. Leaving Yr Elen we soon passed a team of two from the Wirral, clearly far closer to us than I’d hoped & then Brian Robbins’ team, this could be interesting. From here on though despite these concerns we slowly opened a gap ‘never to be seen again’ or certainly not from such a close range.
As conditions remained nigh on perfect we reached the ‘half wayish’ Brew shack in a pleasing 2:40, in truth the boys were being patient with me & I consoled myself that minor micro nav. decisions made my contribution tolerably useful.
Then the climb that plays on everyone’s mind Y Garn, un-like last year I was unable to keep up with Sion’s excellent pace & probably cost us a couple of minutes at least but was pleasantly surprised by equalling last year’s ascent time of 45 minutes despite a much more vigorous Carneddau first half. Clearly Sion has got faster (Phil & Dan also ‘cruised’) & I am not doing too bad after all.
The descent off Y Garn also felt hard as I began to think nutrition Paul you need NUTRITION! Thankfully at the lake the Marshall’s offered Jaffa Cakes, I took two plus one of my Gels (4th one) & the recovery began (or dis-integration stopped in it’s tracks). Despite this the guys could have still gone faster up Glyder Fawr but Phil with a little persuasion accepted my left hand line so again I had my uses.
The last big climb (I exclude Tryfan whose scramble is more forgiving on the legs) was now out of the way & the finish was now within sight, always a morale booster. Castle of the Winds & Glyder Fach soon sailed pass but the new position of Caseg Fraith check point was almost missed, sharp eyed Sion well done! This slight ‘detour’ was even more frustrating for Fraser’s team as he & Neal began descending the old route before being called back by Nick & Chris who’d been waiting at the check point for them, apparently it led to the only few cross words of the day!
Tryfan came & went in under 35 minutes despite my odd yelp of ‘Cramp’ leading to our run out through Cwm Tryfan, I take no blame for what happened next as I tried to mitigate it from happening but in truth it was partly my doing. Setting off I called out to the guys ‘careful now, pick up those tired legs, we don’t want a trip now’.
Less than a quarter of the way down with Sion stuck behind me I called him through ‘come on Sion come past, you can go faster than me, I’ll keep up as best I can’. He duly sped past & caught up with Phil & Dan who had already dropped me. Five minutes later with me occasionally losing sight of them Sion & Dan took time to look back to see where I was, almost fatal! Sion gave an almighty yelp as he twisted his left ankle very badly, just one moment’s lack of attention to the path almost wiped out a wonderful day’s effort. Thankfully Sion rose to the occasion as he hobbled on down at a speed that, given the injury, was nothing less than exceptional. I guided us against the clock feeling confident that sub 6 hours was still on if Sion could maintain the pace he was leading us at. Incredibly on the final stepped descent Sion picked up the pace leaving Phil, who’s knee was playing up, struggling to keep up. At the road we re-grouped & ran back up to Oggie base to cirens & cheers from a great welcoming party. 5:54 was a very rewarding time, we had retained our title beating last year by a full 2 hours, the lung-bursting effort (in my case at least) had all been worth it.
Checking progress of the other teams it was clear that both the guys from the Wirral & Brian’s teams were doing very well too as we decided to wait to see them come in. The Wirral guys put in a spurt on the final descent to pip it by 10 minutes or so with Brian’s team (this including Rob Collister, Dan’s Dad) coming in third in a remarkable 6:55. I say remarkable because of age, I was the oldest in our team at 49 some 10 years older than Dan, indeed if you add the ages of Sion & Phil together they are still only 47 (admittedly for young’uns they have great stamina), putting this into perspective Brian is 72 & Rob only a couple of years younger. Performance of the day in terms of times at least is a no brainer, if any of the Shifters can do sub 7 hours when we are 70+ we will be somewhat more than happy!
With the first 3 in & the Plodders hitting the Brew Shack in 5 hours there was time to return to the Cafe, eat, shower & clear a few tables (for once I escaped the pots) before returning to Oggie Base to watch them come in after 11 hours &, to Fraser, an annoying minute. Despite this minute they were all smiling & feeling rightly proud of a hard but enjoyable day, camaraderie simply grows & grows within a team as the hours pass.
At approx. 19:30 it was time for prize giving, all the Shifters had returned to base to collect an assortment of gear donated by Cotswold’s Outdoors (as supportive of local events as ever) & have a well deserved beer or two.
Time afterwards for Chris, Neal & I to dissect the days highlights over a few more Beers but I was clearly tired leaving the pub well before closing time, the Oggie 8 clearly is good for you in more ways than one, I en-courage you to take part next year or simply come out to watch a fascinating day un-fold.