John Kelly is in the UK. He's looking at doing the big 3 rounds, connecting them up by bike riding. We should go and help out on the Paddy Buckley as he hasn't got much support...
It's on a Wednesday, which, even though it is half term, means that it is a little bit of a challenge to make things work for pacers. However, I managed to clear the diary for the day and at 1am, Chris knocks on the door.
An easy drive to Capel sees us arrive with an hour to spare which is filled with faffing, coffee and breakfast. The skies are semi-clear, but beginning to cloud over. To the south it looks cloudy, and dare I say it, grim. Andy Simpson, the other pacer, turns up at about 4:10 and we mooch around in the carpark as the first few drops of rain begin to fall.
A text arrives, John has been having technical difficulties and will be a little late.
He arrives at just after 4:30, the proposed start time (the route wouldn't load onto his watch), and after a prerequisite few minutes of food prep and handing out of gear and a vast amount of water... which looking at the rain now coming down, probably wasn't going to be needed, we set out on the round.
The schedule was for a 20 hour round, which, to me, if youre about to do 3 rounds, is fairly ambitious. We had visions of him sprinting off up Siabod, but we settled into a fairly decent rhythm, as the sun rose behind the clouds and we were treated to a spectacular dawn. Maybe the best part of the day. John mentioned that he was going to try and keep his feet dry for this leg of the round.
Oh how Chris, Andy and I laughed.
Up and into the cloud and the rain, and that was pretty much the size of it for the rest of the day.
First we got wet then the wind came and we got cold and wet, and we carried on running.
John's thoughts of keeping his feet dry quickly disappeared (I was going to say "evaporated", but that is certainly the wrong end of the heat scale).
We stormed along the boundry line at some incredible pace, and reached Allt Fawr while still feeling pretty fresh. Doing this leg in the light is certainly a non-debatable point, it speeds things up immensely.
|It looks quite nice here, doesn't it?|
Down to the quarries via the slopey line, still unsure if this is faster than the route off the top - and straight into the moelwyns.
By now, my hands were so cold I could barely tie my laces, let alone feed myself on the run, so I stopped for a moment on the traverse to Moelwyn Bach for some admin- taking on a bagel and a LOAD of tangfastics.
Suitably revived, I caught up and on we went.
I was shivering wherever the wind caught us, but fine in the sheltered places. Down to the quarries again, and then a spectacularly good line from Andy and Me up Cnicht which popped us out pretty much direct on the summit.
Fluffed the descent a little, and Chris came a cropper on a wet and slippy stone, crashing down on his hip which slowed us down a little- but from being 10 mins behind schedule for most of the morning, we ended up at the transition at exactly that - 10 mins behind schedule.
|Yeah - we kind of stopped taking photos because it was too grim... sorry.|
Andy had already left us by then, we picked up another pacer as I changed tops, got another warm pair of mitts out and loaded up on food- John doing all his admin, and picking up another Pole as one of his had broken on the run to allt fawr. (don't worry, we didn't leave it there, I carried it all the way back).
Up onto leg 4, a shorter, pretty leg. Not that you could tell.
The ascent was brutal, we lost the new pacer before we even reached the 2nd peak. So it was Chris and me supporting this leg in rain, cutting wind and naff-all visability- Chris handicapped with a bashed up leg and me being handicapped by going from mild to moderate hypothermia.
Ah - a grand day out.
We were ticking off the summits, bashing through heather, generally getting rained on and getting colder as John forged up the climbs like a monster with his poles. We had real difficulty keeping with him uphill, but regularly dropped him going down, despite our diminished strength.
Across the Nantille ridge was slippy as hell and we were very circumspect. All I could think of was getting off the hill safely - there was no way I had a 3rd support leg in me.
|Chris showing correct food replenishment strategies.|
Down off the hill and into the forest, down to the carpark and the welcome sight of the support vehicle. Damian Hall was waiting there to support on the next leg - John got his stuff together, another layer, and off they went as Chris and I looked forward to some Coke and a hot meal at Siabod Cafe.
In summary, it was a fast, fast first leg, though the wind and rain really made it more difficult in terms of support, navigation and personal admin. The vis was horrendous, and personally, if I ever got around to doing a round, it would not be in these conditions.
Even with mitts and hand warmers, I was not in a good place- "hard man of the mountains" I am not... (and perhaps I need a new waterproof... the OMM Aether is getting a little long in the tooth, it certainly doesn't seem to provide the same kind of protection as it did a few years go, despite reproofings etc).
Good luck to John with the remainder of his Grand round. As of now- 930 the next morning, he finished his PB in just under 24 hours, got a couple of hours kip and is now on his bike on the way to the Lakes for an attempt at the BG. He has an 18 hour schedule on that, which will be interesting to see.