It’s been a fairly hectic run up to Christmas, with wild camping, running, and snowy running.

Busy busy

Written by Haydn Williams

It’s been a fairly hectic run up to Christmas, with weekends in short supply due to being packed full of fun.

The first adventure was a night wild camping in Snowdonia (yes, yes, leave no trace, etc.). We started at Llyn Dinas near Beddgelert, and wandered over Cwm Bychan to Aberglaslyn.

Cwm Bychan always looks great. © Haydn Williams 2017
Cwm Bychan always looks great.
© Haydn Williams 2017

From there we climbed up the lower slopes of Moel Hebog, but abandoned the original plan of a traverse of Hebog, Moel yr Ogof and Moel Lefn due to fading light. Instead our merry band – now depleted by two (due to injury, rather than a lax attitude to group management) – descended to Gorseddau Quarry. It was new to me, and apparently a complete commercial failure during its operation in the 19th century, but quite impressive.

Identifying the route ahead, looking South-West from the lower slopes of Moel Hebog. © Haydn Williams 2017
Identifying the route ahead, looking South-West from the lower slopes of Moel Hebog. © Haydn Williams 2017

In windy conditions we cunningly found a decent camping spot on the leeward side of a big wall, which somehow turned out to be just as blustery as being out in the open. Nevertheless, we were pitched and safely embedded in our tents by nightfall, and passed a few hours with chatting and a brief sing-song (frivolous, I know!). With nightfall coming so early at that time of year, it soon became clear that some members of the party had managed to have a snooze by 8PM before waking up again for mulled wine and After Eights.

The campsite. © Haydn Williams 2017
The campsite.
© Haydn Williams 2017

The following morning I climbed Hebog while the others returned via the fisherman’s path at Aberglaslyn. There was a little bit of snow on the summit: just enough to make descent of the bouldery upper slopes easier than usual. We rendezvoused back at the car, and then returned to the hut for soup and medals. In summary, a most excellent outing.

Looking back towards the campsite from Moel Hebog. © Haydn Williams 2017
Looking back towards the campsite from Moel Hebog.
© Haydn Williams 2017

The next weekend was a visit to the Peak District, and a 20-mile route I devised around the Upper Derwent and Howden reservoirs. Andy, Ian and Simon had willfully submitted to my imposition of the route on them, and fortunately for all of us it turned out OK!

Si and Andy weaving down a trod from the top of Alport Moor. © Haydn Williams 2017
Si and Andy weaving down a trod from the top of Alport Moor.
© Haydn Williams 2017

The forecast had been cold, but it was actually quite nice running conditions as we looped from Alport over Ronksley Moor and back over Marjorie Hill to Lost Lad and Back Tor.

Lower Small Clough. Disappointingly, no-one selling hot chocolate in the shooting cabins. © Haydn Williams 2017
Lower Small Clough. Disappointingly, no-one selling hot chocolate in the shooting cabins.
© Haydn Williams 2017

The wheels fell off a bit after Back Tor, as I struggled with my breathing for some reason and then turned my ankle dropping down towards Fairholmes. Nevertheless, it was a good run at a decent pace, and in excellent company. The hearty pub lunch afterwards didn’t do any harm, either.

Ian dropping down to the stream, just so that we can go straight back up the opposite bank. © Haydn Williams 2017
Ian dropping down to the stream, just so that we can go straight back up the opposite bank.
© Haydn Williams 2017

Last weekend was the Tour de Helvellyn, which at 38 miles was to be my longest ever race (excluding Dragon’s Back, which rather defies classification in the context of my racing career).

My training has been OK recently, but I had some very late nights and early mornings with work in the week beforehand. Nevertheless, I was buoyed by a nice catch-up with the Dragon’s Back crew on Friday night, and optimistic about my chances of a decent day out.

That is not a happy face! On the way up the big climb to Sticks Pass. © Stephen Wilson / Grand Day Out Photography
That is not a happy face! On the way up the big climb to Sticks Pass.
© Stephen Wilson / Grand Day Out Photography

The optimism lasted for the first ten miles, during which I ran well with Dave and Mark as far as Patterdale. Heading out of Glenridding and crossing the snow line I had to bust a gut to catch Tony up a rocky stretch. He always passes me on anything remotely runnable, but I reel him in again on the steep or technical ground, so I knew I was struggling. Stu’s Bridge gave a momentary uplift in spirits before I had to really put in some effort up to Sticks Pass. The descent to Thirlmere was in a decent amount of snow, so it was fun but I realised at the bottom that I’d put way too much effort in and was completely goosed.

From there it was just damage limitation and a lot of walking. I was cold too, despite eating well and wearing two pairs of tights along with all top layers (except my down jacket). It was a little frustrating because running in snow is what I look forward to all year, but I wasn’t particularly grumpy and had to just keep on keeping on. Grizedale was taken at a run in the company of a lady whom it turned out I had mutual friends with through climbing; good conversation distracted me from the pain for a while (thanks Nikki!).

Balaclava and winter mitts. The lady behind me was in a t-shirt. © John Bamber 2017
Balaclava and winter mitts. The lady behind me was in a t-shirt.
© John Bamber 2017

I was alone again from Patterdale, working by headtorch from Howtown. On the climb back up to Askham Moor I saw the halo of a Christmas angel approaching, sent to save me in my hour of need. It turned out it was just Lisa with her headtorch on, but I was very grateful for her company as we blathered our way across the moor and back into the village. The rest of the guys were waiting in the event centre, and after a quick change we de-camped to the pub for a brilliant evening. I finished 140th out of 162, but the actual ‘racing’ bit all seems a bit academic after having such fun catching up with everyone, and 38 miles is 38 miles – it’s all good training.

So there we go, all a bit manic and now being followed up with some more sedate family Christmas time. 2017 has been a pretty good year; roll on 2018.

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