Paul’s Blog – Reach Out for Nepal Day – 19th August 2023 – Blog 1 of 2

The week leading into this year’s charity day saw me finally learning a bit with age, basically I tapered better than normal. There would be only one easy run on the Wednesday (5 miler up to our beloved CyB Waterfalls) & no getting trapped at the Cafe on the pot-washer unlike 2020 where a full stint at the Cafe had me a bit whacked just hours before I tried & failed to do 100 miles in under 24 hours. There was however (as with me there seems always to be) one false step as on Thursday I got the Chainsaw out (well you can only sit down & read so much) & spent an enjoyable (& certainly unwise) amount of energy tending the garden. This slip was partially mitigated by a quiet Friday which saw us overnight at the Cafe after a restful day in preparation for the 5:50am start on Saturday. The forecast had been going steadily downhill all week with particular concern being the predicted winds of 60 mph gusts in the valley, heaven knows what that would mean higher up, my first two runs would be at the height of the storm & included summits. Still attention to detail saw me take a bearing for the crux of run 2 in preparation for what lay ahead.

Dorina & I rose at 4:00 am & were eating a good breakfast 20 minutes later to get us properly fuelled up (I hadn’t eaten since 6:00 am on Friday, my typical pre-race routine which despite any science seems to work for my ablution cycle, another bit of attention to detail).

Dorina & I would be doing the first run together but would anyone else be joining us? To put it mildly the wind & rain were battering the Cafe as Mike came down to join us with a pleasant smirk of resignation to the fate that lay ahead for us. Then things picked up in the shape of perennial supporter, Paul Jones, who’s face appeared at the front door, we weren’t going to be alone up there, thanks Paul big tonic that one!

John & Marion soon appeared as supportive as ever you can be from a warm & dry Cafe & to take the usual photo’s detailing the day as it progressed. Next & literally a minute before we were due to head off Carla Laura appeared. I knew she was planning to join me at some point but really, Run 1, in those conditions a very pleasant surprise so we delayed the start for a few minutes whilst she sorted kit, now we were four & that felt far better than two. That said I still felt more responsible than I was comfortable with if something went wrong it was unarguably going to be my fault.

The first (of six) runs was Moel Siabod via the Daear Dhu ridge scramble returning to the Cafe via the race route. As soon as we climbed out of Capel the wind hit us in the face, as I led on I’m not sure what my loyal band of followers were thinking, talk was of the small type & avoided the question at hand. By the time we reached the quarries I had serious doubts about the sanity so stopped behind a sheltered wall to soon be joined by the others. I avoided the ‘do you want to bail’ by muttering a less clever ‘are you all O.K.?’ To a man (well actually one man & two women) & to their credit the response was stupidly escapism ‘yes’, we continued on. Skirting the top lake Dorina would later relate to me that she felt she was making no headway (the wind was now even worse). Next we traversed to the ridge & it’s usually delightful scramble. I stopped again & explained ‘that’s the way I normally go but not in this I’m going left to pick up the path that climbs more-or-less parallel with the ridge. This was despite knowing that the path would be even more exposed to the wind but at least being blown off your feet there most likely bruises & a few cuts were the worse that could happen. The same thing happening on the ridge would have a lot more serious consequences. I was also contemplating what lay ahead on the summit as some years ago my mate Chris & I had been doing the same adjusted route in similar conditions (albeit with full walking & safety kit) & had both been blown off our feet from behind as we’d begun our descent (Chris twice in fact).

I led on frequently looking back as Carla then Dorina & Paul (bringing up the rear as point man) followed. Three or four times I stopped to let Carla close the gap simply a case of must keep within eye contact & making sure we all kept to the same route, these stops would include concerns of me getting cold but thankfully it would only be a matter of seconds before I could move on again. Of course by now we weren’t even considering the hope of a sunrise but at least ‘day’ light was upon us through the grey clag.

Eventually we reached the style which led onto the summit plateau where amazingly the wind was less brutal, clearly it was being funnelled around the mountain & not over it. At the summit we even had time for some selfie’s before common sense prevailed & we headed to safety but not before Carla confessed ‘it’s my first time on Siabod’, ‘well you’ll remember it ‘ I mused.

Now I know the descent line better than most but with Carla chatting away I did have to blurt a brief ‘I just need to concentrate a bit here’, she took the hint & a couple of minutes later we were safely on the descent proper & things felt a whole lot better. We enjoyed a running descent at an easy pace with no accidents or falls & at the penultimate style I looked at my watch to be pleasantly surprised to see we’d been on the go for 2 Hours & ten minutes. Carla asked ‘how are we doing’ to which I replied ‘good it’s only 10 minutes from here, we’re ahead of schedule (I’d allowed 2 Hrs 30 Mins).

Back at the Cafe a warm welcome awaited, Twiggy & Peter had set up their stalls for the day & I would have 40 minutes to re-charge my batteries (no not my watch), dry clothing, coffee, yoghurt…… Talk was of should I do an amended low route version of run 2 or stick to my original plan of the dual peaks Y Foel Goch & Gallt yr Ogof including the infamously isolated plateau that led to them. Now again I know this area pretty well but it’s a whole lot more daunting than simply finding the right line off Moel Siabod which is simply a walk in a storm.

There was also the question of would I be alone, Dorina was needed in the Cafe & Paul & Carla had family commitments, they had been stars & without them I’m pretty sure I would had taken Dorina behind that wall & said ‘WE ARE BAILING’.

Then Sonia turned up for work with her partner, Paul, in tow dressed in running kit. Now I knew he’d planned to join me at some point (this despite us barely having met before) but dare I hope he’d be coming out on run 2, well yes I did hope & got what I wished for. A quick hello, photo shoots & off we headed out into the gloom with me explaining we’ll be going slowly & walking most of the hills & Paul responding ‘that’s fine by me I’ll just do what you want me to’. Paul is a fell runner who has never run in this Ultra type of way but would play a blinder over the coming hours (I had 3 hours set aside for this bit).

During the descent of Siabod I had been formulating my two options. Original high route if the winds dropped a bit & the plateau wasn’t clagged, Bail option low route turn around at headwall of Cwm Tryfan still giving the distance (actually a bit more) but avoiding getting battered & potentially lost.

The run down the old road to little Tryfan was the worse I’ve seen it for many a year & probably ever (that’s saying something) & once up in Cwm Tryfan it was even wetter still, the path was a stream more often than not & once again we were head on into that wind. However as we climbed the ridgeline of the plateau was clearly in view, decision taken, Original High route was on.

I found my intended line to the plateau which Paul may have thought why is he climbing a river which popped out onto the Plateau but the path that I thought would lead us to Llyn y Caseg-fraith either wasn’t there or I missed it, worse still it was anything but clear we’d entered serious clag. I began moving right on a clear path knowing I was heading towards the Miner’s track, despite this leading us 180 degrees off line I initially reasoned I could navigate back from there correctly. However I soon took a reality check, went for my compass (already set at the 90 degree bearing I’d taken the previous evening in the safety of the Cafe), turned around & followed it into the un-known, with Paul (bless him) following me with ‘confidence’. It worked a few minutes later the lake came into sight & better still to it’s right lay the wide boggy path we needed. However it would still be an agonising 5 minutes before I was 100% sure I’d got things right, my concerns only waylaid once it began to rise away from the plateau towards the still out of sight summit I was aiming for.

On this climb the wind took over once again as my main concern, quite simply we were blasted from behind right, it was very unpleasant & once again had me thinking of adaptations for what lay ahead. We reached the summit of Y Foel Goch, in circa 2 hours roughly on schedule I surmised, touched the Cairn & headed on down out of the worse of the wind. I explained to Paul our two options of making the next climb of 30/50 metres to the summit of Galltyr Ogof or skirting around to it’s right to avoid another beating from the wind. It wasn’t a consultation as I’d already decided on the latter simply wanted to let him know my thought processes, Paul hasn’t been over this way before so ‘wisely’ just went with my flow.

I found the traversing path which I’ve only used once before many years ago & found it to be a bit more technical than I thought but it was clear to follow so I led on feeling confident I was both on the right course & that I’d made a good call. Once we were on the main path leading to Bwlch Goleuni we could pick up the pace & bog hopping became our next hobby. Finally the clag cleared & from the summit hump of Cefn y Capel I could finally show Paul where we were heading ‘that’s Capel ahead’.

On the final descent I picked a poor line getting us onto some avoidable slippery rocks & into some seriously tall bracken collecting a tick for my sins (found it two days later). Despite this costing us a few minutes we reached the safety of the old road by Gelli farm still on schedule & made our final 2 Kilometres back to the Cafe. We reached it in a total time of 2Hours 58 Minutes & 34 Seconds just a smidgeon under my 3 hour schedule, job well done & it was simply great to have the always cool & calm Paul alongside me all the way.

By now Claire & Till from Community Action Nepal had arrived at the Cafe & were being a great help to Twiggy & Peter on the stalls, thanks to all who bought something throughout the day.

A shorter turnaround of 31 minutes saw more Yoghurt, futile attempts to dry kit, full fat coke, salty crisps, the wind had beaten me up but not beaten me as I was still operating with logic which would unexpectedly be needed more than I could have guessed for run 3, Geirionydd & Crafnant.

By now I knew the high stuff was out of the way, the wind was gradually easing, basically the worse was behind me & simply digging in remained. Despite this I knew that run 3 would be a mental test as it would lead me past halfway (but still with a long way to go) & had been the cause of a mild case of hypothermia during a ROFN recce/training run back in February 2016. Still this was now the height of ‘summer’ I reasoned.

I’ll stop there so for those who wish to continue look out for Blog 2 to follow.

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