My close friend & Confidant, John Rowell, has been kind enough to ask me to compile a small piece for a book he is producing covering a wide variety of aspects & reflections of the Ogwen Valley. The book encompasses subjects such as Wildflowers, Farming, Photography, Activities & the like. When the book is published it should be a fascinating & unique way of understanding the Ogwen Valley & those who enjoy it’s charms & spectacular Landscapes. Watch this space for more details of his book in the months ahead. For now this is a little of what it means to me as a ‘runner’, & is my initial draft for my small part in John’s book.
The Ogwen Valley to me is first and foremost an escape & a very important one at that, for a wide variety of reasons. However it is also a lot more than that, it’s a training ground, a place of beauty, dramatic mountains, glacial formations & landscapes, wildlife, bogs, rivers & lakes, farms & livestock’s, camping, outdoor enthusiasts. My runs through it always though feel like a journey both into & out off one of Snowdonia’s most spectacular valleys. How lucky I am to have it on the doorstep of the Cafe that has become my work place & home from home over the last 11 years or so.
So lets start with that ‘Escape’ word. I am a very firm believer in the need to escape the world that large parts of Humanity has created for itself, we evolved to run not sit at desks & be led into endless lives simply supporting a system that as a rule far too many of us are blindly ‘living’ through. I’m not preaching but can simply say ‘been there, done that, never want to go back to it even if I have to admit that life without needing some of it is seemingly sadly inevitable. So when I am at ‘work’ escaping for a run up & into the Ogwen Valley to feel alone & free makes the return to reality more bearable leaving me feeling refreshed, fit (albeit sometimes more tired) but always more relaxed simply is an experience that I feel is hard to beat. Repetitive? on paper maybe be, in reality, never.
My journey of course begins & ends just outside the valley but what is that to complain about when you cross the Llugwy, move through Bryn-engan’s ancient woodland & often take in the classic view of the Snowdon Horseshoe across Llyn Mymnbyr before arriving at the valley itself where my ‘journey’ through it now begins.
To begin with it’s the Northern mountains that dominate the view, the South Eastern summits of the mighty Carneddau (the largest mountain massif South of the Scottish highlands). These are Pen Llithrig y Wrach (The Slippery Witch) & Pen yr Helgi Du but soon as I climb & then turn left then right the Southern mountains at the Eastern end of the Glyderrau come into my view, the long double humped ridge of Cefn y Capel & the protruding nose of Galtt yr Ogof. Gallt yr Ogof looks a long way off & seems to want to block my way but after some ups & downs, gates & styles I am past it & the real master of the run begins to dominate, Tryfan & the climbing mecca of it’s East face. The base of Tryfan is my goal where a kissing gate is to be touched as my turnaround point. Long before reaching this though the Carneddau giants, over to the North, try to re-take control of my panorama & mind, Llewelyn, Daffyd & Pen yr Ole Wen. All of these mountains are great places to be on in whatever form takes your fancy but they are for another day, my day is my ‘journey through the Ogwen’, usually alone simply escaping to a place I adore.
The kissing gate touched, Gwern Gof Farm & it’s campsite re-passed & the short climb up to the bridge over the stream (Nany Gwern y Gof, the watershed for the valley & my highest point) a new feature begins to dominate my thoughts. Not the mountains that dominated the earlier stages of my run but the long broken ridge far to the East, Creigiau Gleision (initially obscured but soon joins the vista), Craiglwyd, Craig Wen, Crimpiau & Clogwen-mawr. This string of summits descends in steps down to my return destination of Capel Curig & our Cafe. They seem & indeed are, miles away but slowly & surely I’ll make my way to them before looping left, right then left again as I exit the valley before the final mile or so sees me return totally re-invigorated & proud of taking the time ‘out’ to do what I have done.
Of course there has usually been more on offer, the first Spring Cuckoo’s, a hello to a walker or two or more rarely another runner, clouds, wind, bog jumping & the ever constant satisfaction of ticking off another marker point as I pass through. However the overwhelming feeling is this is my valley (albeit clearly not) & this is my journey from end to end & back again. Other runners in North Wales may say ‘what no mountain tops, no serious climbs or breakneck descents’, yes indeed I would say, come & try it, see it, feel it, live through it, you may get a very pleasant surprise.
The route can be varied upon, carry on to & around Cwm Idwal or carry on through the might of the Nant Francon (another gem of a valley) or on the return climb the Reservoir road, if you can, to explore the leat & it’s remote tranquility, indeed I occasionally do each of these but to me my Journey, the Ogwen Valley is simply my run, an out & back to Tryfan, a little over 10.5 miles in circa 1 Hour 45 Minutes of Escape.
& to John & not for the book: There was a reason why my third attempt to run a 100 miles in under 24 hours was based on 10 of these journeys in a day, yes it was the ‘easiest’ option I could find but I was also at ‘home’ albeit never, for once, alone. Feel free to edit it or ask for a re-write:)