Saturday, 31 December 2011

Run in the Carneddau

Well, thats what we'll be heading up in a bit
It seems that at the moment, its all the rage to go out on reccies for the Trigger, a Marsden to Edale race. The tricky bits are on our doorstep, and so it makes sense. I've been on a grand total of 1, and when an email came out at the beginning of the week about a potential run in Wales, with a route in the Carneddau being proposed I jumped at the chance to run somewhere I haven't really properly run. I can go out the back door and run round Kinder and Bleaklow any time, but Wales tends to need a little more planning.
The route was about 17 miles, and helpfully, spread between the 2 sides of the Snowdonia Explorer map. (Having now run around the route, I'm convinced that the reason for not running in the area before simply because of the map faff factor, but thats another thing).
So pick up from Glossop at 7:15, which ended up as being a little bit later, and we were eventually on the road by 8, arriving in the destination carpark at about 10ish- with some rather fine driving up some very dodgy roads by Andy in his Landrover. Getting there in a Rover or a Nissan Micra- the other 2 options, may not have worked quite so well.

At the carpark there were already a number of other cars, the weather was fairly overcast, but not (yet) raining), we put our stuff on, I performed my first trip of the day, getting my mudclaws caught in a bag and falling backwards out of the Landy, but no serious damage was done. Decisions on what items of clothing to wear and take were interesting. It wasn't all that cold, but it promised to be pretty chilly later on, and also wet. I ended up with Mudclaws, thick wooly teko socks, CW-X leggings, a merino helly and Rab Stretch Vaporize, with a buff, hat and lobster sealskin gloves on, just for good measure. Proshell gortex in the bag, with a pair of £10 Quechua waterproof trousers for emergencies.
Too hot on the way up the first hill
A brief discussion about the potential route and off we went. Nice and steady up a decent path. We rounded Clogwynyreyr at a low level, crossed the river, seeing a bird which I could not identify- which is the first time in a long time, and started the climb up toward Foel Fras. Walking mode engaged. After a while Andy and John started stripping layers, saying that they knew it wasn't going to be long before they were putting them back on. I was the only one without waterproof socks, but apparently, after the bog we had traipsed through, I was not the only one with cold, wet feet. Coming up, we hit the snow that was smattered across the hill, and continued up to the ridge, and then followed the wall to the top.

Foel fras Trig
Ice on a fence

A couple of photos of the ice, and off we went, also finding some rather spectacular ice formed on a fence- which actually fell off about 10 seconds after I took the photos. Across and onto the path, and through icy mud and bog water up to Garnedd Uchaf. The mist coming and going as we forged along, so that the view off to Foel Grach and the Carneddi was there, and suddenly obscured. On up to Foel Grach, and then a decision.
Bog-tastic running
The original plan was to drop from Foel Grach to Ffynnon Caseg and then go directly up the side of Yr Elen, probably involving 300metres of height loss and another 300 metres of height gain. Or, we could run along the ridge to Carrnedd Llewelyn, and then down West along to Yr Elen. The Descent/Ascent route was canned for future amusement as the route up Yr Elen looked a tad dodgy with a lot of snow and ice, and we ran across the ridge to a very snowy and icey Llewelyn. The wind was beginning to get up, and the rain was slowly making itself felt, but we forged on down and over to Yr Elen, stopping for a brief moment behind some stones in order to put on waterproofs as it was getting a tad wet and cold.
Icy descent
We got wetter and colder by standing still for a moment, before heading back out and warming up on the run down the scree path, and then up the hill to the peak of Yr Elen. Nothing like cycling- where if you get cold feet, they stay cold, with running, if my feet are cold, I just need to get moving, and they just seem to re-warm... as long as I am moving fast enough. My hands were still toasty in the seal skins, though with the constant taking my hand out and putting it back in for various things, the inners were getting a little wet.

From the peak of Yr Elen, in the wind, looking down at Ffynnon Caseg, and thinking what a lovely place it would be for a swim... in the summer, we picked our line off the hill to the South in preparation for going right down into the valley, and then climb back out up to Carnedd dafydd. There is a lovely grade 1 scramble up one of the ridges, but it was decided that with all the snow and ice up there at the moment, it might not have been the best idea in the world, so we instead decided to go up earlier, hit the ridge and head to the peak from there. The descent was excellent, we picked a great line that missed out 2 patches of scree, the hill was ridiculously steep, and as long as you didn't hit any stone patches, you could generally stay on your feet. Not even Mudclaws can grip on wet rock, and we all spend some time not necessarily on our feet.
Off Yr Elen

Hit the bottom, crossed the stream and straight up the other side. Hearts pounding we ascended a fair way, and just before getting to the top, recognising that this was going to be the most shelter we were going to get before well, almost the end of the run, we decided to stop and have lunch. John handed around coffee, sandwiches were broken out, and we looked at a rather delightful vista spread before us. I noticed a rock tumbling down from where we were stood. As it fell, I thought, hmmm. thats black, I didn't realise there was coal up here. We watched it go for a short while and John said. "Hang on. Thats the top to my flask". We waited for it to stop, and thankfully, it only went about 25 metres down, and he set off after it, with Andy and I chuckling and digging about for our cameras.
Retrieval of coffee top
John located it with our help- shouting left, right, up and down, and slowly came back up, with Andy helpfully commenting that John HAD mentioned he might do reps of the hill.

Up and onto the ridge, and the wind was really howling, the rain was driving, and we slogged up the hill, hoods up. The rain was pounding into the side of my hood, without that I suspect I'd have had rain driven right through my ear. The noise was almost so loud that I thought my ears were going to start ringing. The frozen turf was ok, but as soon as we reached bands of scree that we had to cross, each and every one of us started imitating Bambi on ice. No grip whatsoever. Wet rock and fellshoes do not mix in any way shape or form, and if anyone knows of a shoe that might grip on that kind of stuff, please start selling it. Average speed, already not all that fast was cut in half on the rock, and it was all we could do to find the fastest way across it to get back onto frozen grass again.
Toward the top, of course, its entirely wet, icy, frozen rock, so we teetered along, completely unsure of any footing, with wind and rain howling around us. Needless to say there was no photo stop as we gathered our thoughts and trotted off toward Carnedd Llewellyn. A lot of that track is also slick rock, so average speed across there wouldn't have broken many records either, and as we crossed the NE/SW ridge, the wind gathered speed and strength so that we could barely walk, let alone run... standing still involved comedic levels of lean into the wind, and footing was still pretty unstable and uncertain.

shelteres side of the ridge
Across there, and we decided to head to the top of the hill in order to gain the ridge going East towards Penywaur-wen. The trudge to the top of the hill was a bit of a slog, going over snow and ice, and looking off down nigh on sheer drops of snow covered ground. Route finding from the top in the thick mist was fairly amusing, but with a map and compass, it was all quite easy, and we turned down the snowy ridge. As we dropped onto the ridge the wind that had been battering us for the past few miles relented, and we ran along a very misty ridge line. Most of the time we could run unimpeded, though there were a couple of spectacular rock steps that needed to be negotiated on feet, hands and bum, steepness and worry about foot grip being the main issues. We eventually hit Helgi Du, with a great scramble tagged on the end of the run, and took a line off the hill which took us between 2 crags and and down some very steep ground. As we did this, the mist lifted and the valley which we were heading down to was spread out before us in glorious relief.
Andy looking for his camera
Camera out, photos.
Andy was a little slow with his camera, fishing about in his bag, and by the time he had it out, the cloud had come in again. Camera safely back in the bag, and it cleared... right. I'll send him some of mine then.
Off down the hill, again missing a couple of crags, opting for steep, (but not sheer) ground. Down and down, through bog and mush, round a few horses which Andy has a mighty aversion to, over a river, up a bog and back onto a path, which would lead us back to the car.
We were up there. In the mist.
The final run back to the car wasn't bad, and we held a decent pace all the way, making it back to the car park about 10 mins after sundown with the light just beginning to fail. Perfect timing.

A decent 26km day out in the hills, never mind reccying for races, THIS is what fell running is about.
And if you are interested, here is the Garmin track

Kit thoughts

Tall tales in the pub
Generic kit in the landy
I kept the Helly and the Vaporise top on all day, with my camera in the chest pocket. I didn't get too hot or sweaty (though I did get a little hot and sweaty... but thats running for you), and covering up with the Proshell, I was expecting to get quite uncomfortable, but despite keeping it on for the rest of the day, it was absolutely fine. The tights were excellent, as ever, slightly windproof, in fact, so windproof that I felt colder in the one place that I have managed to get a hole in the knee than anywhere else. The socks were wet through within about 5 mins, but as long as we were moving, feet stayed warm, the gloves, as ever, were excellent, my hands got wet eventually, but as long as the pace was kept up, they stayed warm. Shoes were great, except, as pointed out previously, on wet rock, but that was to be expected.


  1. The Harveys superwalker map covers the area nicely.

    Great place to run

  2. Thats a 1:40k isnt it? Never got on with them myself, though I suppose I should get hold of one and practice...

  3. The superwalker maps are 1:25

    I find them much clearer and easier to read when running. They dont show access rights as well as OS explorers but i prefer them once in the hills.

  4. Aha! After a conversation in a pub (where else?) The bird has tentatively, and I suspect, correctly, been identified as a female Goosander. Thanks Steve.