Saturday 6th January 2018 sees us hosting Alex Kendall’s presentation of The Snowdonia Way. Alex both devised this new route & is the Author of the Cicerone guide detailing it which came into publication in February this year, details of his presentation including how to purchase tickets for it can be found on our Events page.
Alex & I put this date in our diaries 9 months ago with me saying ‘I’ll aim to do it before then so that I can add insight if needed’, well time flies as did my year so inevitably by mid-December I had not set a foot on it! So urgent action was needed, a plan hatched, ‘Dorina I’m going to run it over 3 days, Monday to Wednesday the week leading into Christmas providing the weather isn’t awful’.
The forecast looked relatively O.K., the snow had gone, the run was on so at just before 8:00 am on Monday 18th Dorina took my picture at Machynlleth’s Clock tower & wished me well, ‘take it easy darling the pavement is icy!’
Indeed it was a surprisingly cold start, a late frost had descended from the clearing skies, it was a beautiful start to the run but a tad treacherous under foot on the early tarmac section of the route. I was kitted out with plenty of spare food, drinks & warm clothing & also a new waterproof camera together with the guidebook itself, this was to be an experience to be enjoyed safely & not a race.
The plan for Day 1 was to reach Trawsfynydd some 29.5 miles later where my neighbour Bill would pick me up & drive me back home. The dawn was glorious, the Kilometres were clicking by, I was soon heading into the remote upper reaches of the Llefenni valley with fabulous light thinking ‘I’ve never been here before, it’s beautiful’. Dolgellau would come & go as I made my one significant Nav. error just after it’s Golf Course, this added a little but being local I could figure out where I was & soon re-joined the route as it headed North towards my home village of Ganllwyd. This section would take me through an area where I knew navigation would be difficult but true to his words at the Quiz night two days before Alex’s directions were clear & accurate & I was soon descending back to more familiar ground. At Bill’s house (literally metres below mine) I stopped to re-supply from a cach I’d left earlier in the day & gave myself a talking to ‘yes Paul you’ve done a marathon, 400 metres could see you back home, but Traws. was the plan so Traws. it will be, it can’t be anymore than 7/8 miles’. Several talking to’s later Traws. came into sight but I thwarted this by getting lost in a muddy field ‘need to talk to Alex about this’, back or forward? Forward over two walls, knock on Farmer’s door to apologise, no answer but at least I’d tried.
Just after 14:30 having phoned Bill a little earlier I ran into Traws. to find Bill waiting at the statue of Welsh Poet, Hedd Wyn, Day 1 over but longer than expected at 35.5 miles.
Overnight my sore throat of the last few days which had seen me finish Eryri’s Sunday fun run with unusually achy legs blossomed into a feverish cold giving me a fitful night’s sleep, I awoke for the umpteenth time thinking I really don’t want to do this.
Dorina again prepared breakfast & Lemsip & was soon dropping me off at Traws. for the start of leg 2 at 8:00 am, as I left her I utterred ‘Dorina today I may need to bail’. The route today would start by taking me over the long footbridge which crosses Llyn Trawsfynydd & after a road section onto an improved footpath which took me around the Western side of the lake to reach the dam. This delightful section despite the mist & drizzle which had invaded during the night seemed to lift my spirits, the fever had left & I even began to enjoy myself. From here to Penrhyndeudraeth took a bit of navigating but again Alex’s directions were clear & could be followed as I stopped frequently to make sure I kept taking the right tracks, a particular highlight was coming across Llyn Tecwyn for the first time. From Penryn. the route took me over to Rhyd, where a crass bit of forestry cutting almost obliterated the route & then onto Croesor. By now my left knee was beginning to hurt on any tarmac sections but then eased once I’d passed Nantmor & took on the ever beautiful Aberglaslyn Gorge. Reaching Beddgelert I diverted to the store to take on a sugar loaded Coke & Twix, then as I left the shop my knee ceased up out of the blue, two failed attempts to run on failed after two paces each, ‘face the facts Paul, you have to bail’. Bail I did as I called Dorina from a hotel & disconsolately waited for her over a coffee. I’d covered a little over 20 miles but with more than 18 still ahead including the most remote section of the entire route I for once had made the correct decision but that didn’t make me feel any better.
Apart from Dorina I was also being followed by a few friends & their kind words via e-mails were much appreciated but I was still seriously p….. off at this setback.
Wednesday dawned, the knee felt better but caution was my first reaction to the new day as we travelled to the Cafe. By 10:00 my mind was made up, with Fiona being unable to travel over (we’d planned to do the first part of leg 3 together) I was free to try & put yesterday’s disappointment to bed. At 11:00 Dorina once again dropped me off, this time it was back at my nemesis, Beddgelert, with a plan to complete Day 2 on Day 3.
We hatched an early contingency plan, rather than Dorina drive back to the cafe only to get another distressed phone call from Beddgelert we agreed she’d drive to Llyn Dinas & wait for me to see if I (or more importantly my knee) was in a mood to continue. As I reached the lake she’d even left the car to walk to the footbridge in the continued drizzle to avoid me taking a diversion, ‘it’s fine Dorina I’m carrying on’.
From here the route took the improved footpath down the Eastern side of Llyn Dinas before crossing the road & passing Llyn Gwynant to the West which included an airy view despite the gloom from the Elephant rock. Next came a boggy crossing which led to the climb to Bwlch y Rhediad & arguably the remotest section of the entire walk. This isolated section which crosses the Paddy Buckley route had been on my mind for some time, it passes to the left of the Cwm Edno Bog where in the 1950’s all crew & passengers of an Air Lingus flight lost their lives, some of the bodies remain un-recovered despite a major attempt to do so both at the time & many years later. The thought of passing the site alone, in deep mist in the middle of winter had been playing mind games with me, a tumble here, who would find me & more importantly when? Thankfully logic & care soon saw me emerging from the clouds to breathtaking light as I descended towards Dolwydellan at times paddling through the stream like path. The leg was now in the bag as I took a familiar track to Capel so I did what I’m good at relaxed & took my first tumble into the mud, pride before a fall & all that. Reaching Capel I put in a burst which saw me reach the cafe in a few seconds below 4 hours, I had put yesterday’s disappointment well & truly behind me. Reality also saw me making a mental note that yesterday’s decision to bail had been a very good one indeed!
It was then a couple of days of ‘back to normal’ or more accurately ‘not back to normal’ as I knuckled down to Cafe paperwork followed by Christmas food shopping but soon Saturday dawned with better weather, ‘shall I, shan’t I, I shall!’
At 8:30 I left the Cafe to attempt the long final leg to Conwy. The initial sections were like running in my own back yard but a lot of care was needed along the slippery & wet section pass Llyn Ogwen where the in-sight road did little to quell my isolated nerves but a slow pace saw me emerge un-scathed & running in towards Bethesda on safe ground. Up ahead two dogs off lead, ‘hope they are not the aggressive ones belonging to the farm I’ve just passed’. The owner stalled, put them on leads, they yapped, she smiled, she was Sue, Sue is the lovely mother of ‘our’ very own Rebecca Roberts, just what are the chances of that?
Via Bethesda is not exactly the fastest way from the Cafe to Conwy but this is the Snowdonia Way & it weaves it’s way through & around the mountains so Bethesda needed to be ticked & after 12 miles it was, now back to the guidebook, 21 miles & 1,480 metres of climb ‘shit Paul that’s going to be f…… hard’, & it was. Despite the fact that it led me around the flank of the Carneddau with fabulous views of fog banks lurking over both Anglesea & the sea to the North ‘please stay where you are’ & past herds of Carneddau ponies my spirits were hard to lift. Those miles, those climbs but one by one they fell behind me & by Moelfre thoughts of bailing were finally vanquished, I was going to do this.
From just above the Sychnant pass I decided to stop & take stock, I’ve got signal, ‘Dorina, I reckon 40 minutes from here’ ‘shall I set off now then’ ‘yes please’.
The run into Conwy was on familiar ground before a short road section led me to a delightful run along the Afon Conwy. I walked the final climb up the High Street crossed the road to the finish post at Rosemary Lane looked round 2 seconds later to see my car approaching, what timing, what a relief, what a sense of achievement. This leg had covered 35 miles & had taken 7.5 hours of mental battling, despite past form those battles don’t seem to get any easier but the final rewards keep me needing them all the more.
In all I’d covered 109 miles during 4 days out of 6, actual time on the route had been 22 Hours which has now got me thinking a 100 mile day might need to become a new goal but more importantly for now I had come back from adversity, adapted a failed plan & felt the positivism of ‘success’ albeit in a transformed form.
Alex must of course be thanked for both devising the route & his accurate directions (Alex, we do need a chat about the mileages or do I need a new Garmin?) as Bill must too for driving me home on the Monday. But as ever Dorina must take most credit continuing to drop the important things to help me to self-indulge my needs & for keeping me feeling me as positive as possible when I was in truth seriously down.
The Snowdonia Way, is it for you? Why not come & listen to Alex next weekend, personally if you are an experienced walker or indeed fell runner I’d thoroughly recommend it & don’t forget there is a longer high level route option, Dorina, what am I doing next summer?