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Welcome to my blog which I hope to develop with some interesting material on ultra running both on the trails and road including reports on races and interesting training runs, views on kit and equipment as well as anything else I find of interest. I love running for adventure, opportunity and well being. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

A 2 Day Paddy Buckley Round

Last weekend, with two days clear in my diary, I headed to the hills to do some TMB-specific training in the Snowdonia area with running friend Allen Smalls. We decided to have a bash at the Paddy Buckley Round (PBR) route following a two day format.

The PBR is probably the least known and attempted of the UK rounds, but nevertheless it’s one of the classics. It includes no less than 47 peaks ranging between 466m and 1085m in height, covering a distance of roughly 62miles and 28,000ft of ascent/ descent. The record for the PBR is an impressive 18hours 10mins, held jointly between Mark Hartell and Christopher Near, the runs remarkably being completed on separate occasions.

After a hasty overnight camp in an empty National Trust car park in the village of Nantmor we got off to an early start at just gone six on Saturday morning and were straight into the first climb of the day, Bryn Banog (519m) which forms the shoulder to the more impressive Moel Hebog (782m). Within a few miles we were running fabulous untracked terrain and it soon became clear that this was classic PBR terrain, typical of the less trodden parts of Snowdonia. What struck me was how typically British it all was; sheep tracks, heather, bog, rocky outcrops, damp underfoot, misty rain and non-existent paths. Being very patriotic, there lied a great deal of appeal!

What a contrast to the comparatively manicured trails of California I had been running just a few weeks before. In California the challenge was the heat and altitude but in Snowdonia the challenge of the damp and relative cold, and terrain that just isn’t particularly conducive to a quick progress on the ground.

We soon we had a handful of peaks under out belt and found ourselves on the impressive Nantle ridge which links the peaks of Trum y Ddysgl (709m) and Mynydd Drws y Coad (695m) and providing an exciting level of exposure with good views between the intermittent cloud.

After a short stop-off at Rhyd-Ddu village we pressed on to maintain momentum and soon found ourselves climbing the gentle but rutted slopes of Craig Wen (608m) before joining the ridge up to the more distinctive Yy Aran (747m) and the real start of the Snowdon range. It was obvious we were in vicinity of Snowdon by the streams of hikers we came across traipsing up the well-formed tracks. It was very entertaining to see their reactions to us flying past in shorts and other minimalist kit, despite the cold and wet weather, being quite the opposite to their their head-to-toe Gore Tex outfits. Despite it being mid-July the conditions at the top of Snowdon (1,085m) were grim and wintry but I enjoyed the long climb up taking a different route to my usual from the Llanberis side. Approaching the summit it was a strange feeling to come across so many people, the change from the peace and quiet of the early part of the day was stark and uncomfortable so after a quick touch of the trig point we were down the other side making a fast descent to Cwm Brwynog (674m) via Garnedd Ugain (1,065m). From here we were on to a stunning grassy section starting with Moel Cynghorion (674m) and ending on Moel Eilo (880m) with beautifully graded and even slopes to run between before a long and gentle descent to Llanberis and straight into Pete’s Eats to refuel.

Feeling a little stronger we began the climb up Elider Fach (795m) taking a long-winded and steep route to the summit via Nant Peris – mistake. Whilst this is probably the quickest route avoiding the ‘out of bounds’ quarries, and the one recommended in Allen’s book, we decided that cutting through the quarries and up the inclines was probably the done thing for the PBR – despite not strictly being legal – but an important cut-through to maintain progress and avoid the detour. To compund matters the climb was a brutal one, and we both started to feel it, but we got to the rather disappointing peak eventually and moved straight on to Eildir Fawr (923m) and the start of some superb ridge running across the majestic Glyders range. We worked our way along the ridge, enjoying the many runnable sections, and working our way round to the distinctive standalone peak of Tryfan (915m) with its impressive jagged faces forming a classic glacial pyramidal peak. The sun came out for this, our last climb of day, and somehow rejuvenated us for the final descent of our epic fourteen hour day. It was first time we had been warmed by the sun all day and as I took a moment to enjoy the view at the top of this incredible peak I felt a deep sleep on one of the slabs at the top could easily have been achieved! Allen dragged me on and we took the steep descent down the north face very steadily, eventually reaching our stopover point at Idwal Cottage YH just after 8pm.

Our start to the second day, Sunday, followed much the same pattern at the first. We were out the door just gone 6am, but this time welcome by much clearer skies and higher cloud making us both feel positive despite admitted weariness. The climb up Pen yer Ole Wen (978m) began pretty much opposite the YH, so not much time to warm up, but the steep technical ascent demanded plenty of concentration and not too much time to think about tired legs. We made an impressively fast ascent claiming the first peak of the day within an hour, and followed the ridge to the rocky summits of Carnedd Dafydd (1,044m) and Carnedd Llewelyn (1064m). Dropping off Carnedd Llewelyn to the south east we picked up a new, technical ridge, which lead us across to two further peaks to complete our work on the Carnedds and we then ran hard the descent to the A5 and Capel Curig for more re-fueling at the legendary Pinnacle CafĂ©. Nutritionists look away – I managed to put away a bacon and egg bap, several welsh cakes, a bottle of coke and a cup of tea in the space of about 15minutes. All I can say is that my body was craving it.

But it actually seemed to work to kill of the lethargy I had felt all morning, and our ascent of what turned out to be my favourite peak, Moel Siadbod (872m), was impressively efficient. Impressive too were the views from the top, particularly towards the Snowdon range. The majority of the peaks we had climbed so far were visible, and it was fascinating to see them from afar, and to string together the various ridges and lines the PBR follows.

Descending on smooth grass we had bright blue skies to light up a perfect backdrop, and so the sequence of relatively low grassy peaks that connect Moel Siadbod and the Moelywns was for me the most enjoyable section of running of the weekend. We were relatively care free at this stage being close to the end, so we were pushing hard and taking a few risks. We progressed quickly, eventually arriving at Allt Fawr (698m) around 3pm, with time still in hand to finish the remaining six peaks. But this is where it all went horribly wrong. In a moment of navigation madness during a discussion on the best route option to the next peak, Foel Ddu, we fixed it in our heads that it was directly in front of us. It wasn’t, that was in fact Cnicht, our final peak. It was just was on the final push to the summit that I began to feel that something wasn’t quite right, and when the penny finally dropped we were gutted! But it was too late to make amends at that point, we both agreed to call it day and make the journey home before it got too late. So we ended up completing 90% of the route, ending up with a bizarre twist right at the end.

The two days on PBR certainly provided some excellent training for TMB, both routes having similar total ascent/ descent, albeit TMB being longer in distance. For me it was all about building some decent leg strength, and from the evidence of today when I did another day out in Snowdonia, it’s on the way. Leg strength on the climbs and descents is the key thing for the TMB race so I intend to continue my hill focus as the race fast approaches.


Brian Mc said...

Having completed the WHWR this year I am keen to try out the UTMB next year. Doing one of the rounds over 2 days is a great idea for gaining leg strength. I just need to pick which round to do ... !

Anonymous said...

Jez, The Paddy does go via the quarries. They are officially out of bounds, but FHC turn a blind eye to climbers and runners. We train in them regularly. Basically head through Llanberis, up the zig zags and straight up the paved incline, and basially head straight up to the summit of E Fach.

The diversion via Nant is mentioned as a book cannot advise runners to go over land with no access rights.

Do you not fancy a crack at the record, I reckon it will go down an hour or so yet. I know the route well so can show you the better lines.


Iain Ridgway