A Long Day

Written by Haydn Williams

With a big work deadline passed, I decided to take a weekend for myself and go for a run. A Big Run. Maybe even the Bounds of Beddgelert, which follows the (allegedly) most mountainous parish boundary in the UK.

05:30 is never a good time to see on your alarm, but I managed to wake myself slowly and left the caravan (just outside Beddgelert) at 06:00. The beauty of the Bounds of Beddgelert is that barely anyone has done it so there aren’t really and hard-and-fast rules. I chose to start from the caravan for convenience, and wandered up to Bwlch Cwm-trwsgl. I’d assumed that seeing the whole route spread out before me would be a bit intimidating, but it’s actually quite inspiring really. Things didn’t start too well though, as I considered cheating immediately and skipping the out-and-back inconvenience of Y Gyrn. That seemed a bit weak within the first 30 minutes, so a quick scramble up and down knocked that on the head and soon saw me heading onto the Moel Lefn – Moel yr Ogof – Moel Hebog ridge.

On top of Hebog, with Porthmadog behind. © Haydn Williams 2013
On top of Hebog, with Porthmadog behind. © Haydn Williams 2013

From the top of Hebog I could see Moel-ddu, the only hill I hadn’t visited previously. I found a less-than-efficient route down from the summit, as usual, and then discovered the first of the day’s horrible terrain. The ascent of Moel-ddu wasn’t too bad, but the line down to Aberglaslyn was thigh-high heather, tussock grass and ferns. Flicking the ticks from my legs before they managed to bite proved an interesting distraction from the horror of the un-runnable ground, but I made it to my first food stop at Aberglaslyn in three hours.

Never been up here before - the summit of Moel-ddu. Route goes straight ahead then along the skyline. © Haydn Williams 2013
Never been up here before – the summit of Moel-ddu. Route goes straight ahead then along the skyline. © Haydn Williams 2013
Very scenic. Must keep running. © Haydn Williams 2013
Very scenic. Must keep running. © Haydn Williams 2013

A previous recce of the next section with Greg had seen us meandering about all over the place in a bit to find the best lines between Yr Arddu, Mynydd Llynau Cerrig-y-myllt and Cnicht. With my notes to guide me this time, the navigation wasn’t an issue, but I didn’t run a single step between the track south of Yr Arddu and the main ridge of Cnicht. The occasional sheep trod makes an appearance for a few yards, but there are no real paths and very little amenable terrain for the runner who isn’t keen on breaking their ankles. An impressive tumble whilst rock-hopping rather took the wind out of my sails, but I soon recovered and saw the first ‘other people’ of the day approaching the summit of Cnicht. An easy ‘brakes off’ descent to Llyn yr Adar felt like proper running again, and the climb to Ysgafell Wen passed without incident.

Head the summit on the left, then follow the rib to the summit of Cnicht. No, there isn't a path. © Haydn Williams 2013
Head the summit on the left, then follow the rib to the summit of Cnicht. No, there isn’t a path. © Haydn Williams 2013

I was expecting the boundary ridge to Pen y Gwryd to be difficult (it nearly killed me last time), as it has a surprisingly large amount of descending and climbing. However, a lack of water (yep, schoolboy error) combined with the interminable combination of boulders and heather meant that I was suffering, despite an enforced positive mental attitude. As I did on the recce with Greg, I collapsed atop Carnedd y Cribau utterly exhausted. Fifteen minutes later it took all my willpower to stumble down to the road at Pen y Gwryd via the minor bump of Cefnycerrig. I think I’d realised somewhere along the ridge that I wasn’t going to make it all the way around, and so I gratefully threw myself onto the next bus to appear from Pen y Pass.

Celestial light bathing the finish line (bus stop) at Pen y Gwryd. © Haydn Williams 2013
Celestial light bathing the finish line (bus stop) at Pen y Gwryd. © Haydn Williams 2013

On reflection, I’m reasonably pleased with my performance. I didn’t start feeling tired until after I ran out of water, and my watch was showing over 20°C for most of the day. I managed food well, and navigation was fine. The real problem was the nature of the ground from Moel Ddu all the way to the end of the boundary ridge; it’s just such hard work that it’s way more physically demanding than running the equivalent distance on decent mountain paths. The route for the day ended up being nearly 21 miles with 2600m of ascent, and took exactly 8 hours from caravan to PYG. One person who has done the whole Bounds of Beddgelert commented that “the route needs sorting from Moel Ddu > Cnicht. The hardest part by far.” and I wholeheartedly agree – this makes it a very different challenge from the Welsh 3000s, but we’ll save that for another day. In the meantime, I’ve got to race a train next weekend!

Map of the day. 21 miles, 2600m ascent, 8 hours, 6 energy gels, 1 pack jelly babies, 6 picnic eggs, not enough water.
Map of the day. 21 miles, 2600m ascent, 8 hours, 6 energy gels, 1 pack jelly babies, 6 picnic eggs, not enough water.

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