Andy Goundry reports…
10 TRC souls and Phil, team driver and masseur, left Truro RFC at 9.15am in what proved to be a remarkably comfortable mini bus to head up the A30 and M5 towards the Welsh mountains of Snowdonia for 2 days of trail and fell running with some navigation training and practice thrown in for good measure. The first “are we there yet was reserved for Devon, with over 200 miles still to go!!
After a pit stop in Birmingham to collect Mark Taylor and pay a visit to that health conscious hostelry of Kentucky fried chicken we headed back into the near stationary traffic of the M6. A quick decision to head across country resulted, as we had a date with a 6 mile run around the lake at Llanberris at 6.30pm to try and make.
We headed into Wales with the usual rainfall evident but the stunning scenery as we entered the Snowdonia national park was still very evident through the window.
6.20 and we just make it to the meeting point in time and Sara Ridgeway our guide and teacher for the weekend is waiting for us. A quick change in the café and off we go to blow the cobwebs of a 9 hour trip away, around the lake with the summit of Snowdon clearing and the rain of the trip up starting to abate. Some gentle hills and a bit of flat ensure that this gentle run gives no idea of what might lay ahead over the next 2 days. Mr Shefford is Mr Enthusiastic, and has a few of his usual sprints away, James Turner looks like a man in his homeland and grins from ear to ear and Paul Middleton, Mark Taylor and Andy Goundry show they are really looking forward to the weekend or just that they are glad to release the pent up wind of the mini bus journey. Meanwhile the girls of Jo Staves, Katie Sharp, Lynne Donohue, Claire Longman, Karen Goundry and Jacquie Brown all look like caged animals unleashed as they enjoy their new found freedom.
Back at the café it’s a quick confirmation of where and when we will meet in the morning (the infamous Pete’s Eats Café for 9.00am), a quick change and head off to find the hostel in which we will be staying and a mad dash to the Indian restaurant in which we have a reservation. The ideal pre run cuisine you will all agree!
Totters hostel at Camarthen proved to be clean, tidy and functional for the weekend. With two dorms of 6, the girls had peaceful night it seems whilst the boys had snoring competitions with Paul Middleton and Mark Taylor vying for top spot, surprising in that Mark had an operation to stop him snoring in the past (ask for your money back!). It was well placed for us to be able to walk to the local bars and restaurants, although a plethora of such facilities is not a term I would use.
Anyway after a very pleasant meal at the Indian restaurant we returned to the hostel and all decided to hit the sack. Apart from the nocturnal (or insomniac) Phil who appears to be able to survive on about 4 hours kip.
Morning comes and Andy is glad to escape the snoring. We head towards Pete’s Eats after Phil has kindly brought the mini bus around to the hostel and we have all had a sensible light breakfast. Guess what, we had to wait for the girls before we could depart. (Well Jacquie anyway.) Then we head for the railway station at the base of Snowdon to meet up with our guides. Well the car park opposite to be precise as we are going to be running up the ridges beside Snowdon, and getting tips.
Sarah introduces us to her helpers. Callum (a 19 year old sponsored mountain climber and former junior Welsh international trail runner) and Anthony a GB winter Olympic speed skater, and part time trail runner) Andy impresses everyone by appearing to know who Anthony is by announcing the speed skater is a short course competitor, (before pointing out it says so on his GB shorts he is wearing!)
Mountain Goat Turner is chomping at the bit and Mr Shefford’s mouth is already engaging at 13 to the dozen. The initial run will be as a whole group allowing Sara to assess our capabilities and then it’s off we go. We appear to be a fairly heavy footed bunch as we compare our styles to the fairy light dancing over the rocks and tracks of our 3 international guides. The weather is kind, no rain, in fact the sun is attempting to poke through the clouds. We all feel a little over dressed and as we start the gentle uphill run (that’s a reference to our pace rather than the incline!) we are all in awe of the surroundings. After an hour or so we reach a bwlch (Saddle) between two ridges and take stock of progress so far, and take a well earned rest.
We stare at the near vertical ridge to our right and then attempt to pick our chins up from the floor as we are informed that that is where we are about to run. Goat Turner, Tigger Shefford and Yul Grinner Goundry are separated off and will be guided by Callumm to complete the full ridge series (making it overall an 8 mile run), while the rest including a very relieved Karen, Katie Jacquie and Jo are informed they will go with Sara and (swoon, swoon) Anthony along with Mark and Paul for what is the slightly truncated version. I mean slightly as its still, 7.2 miles! What an experience, The views were magnificent, its like running on top of the world. The Goat was in his element. Tigger was either struggling or racing ahead and Yul Grinner just kept on grinning. Callum showed us how to walk properly and efficiently up steep inclines (there was plenty of opportunity) and the decent was steep and whole run nothing short of exhilarating. The hills in Cornwall and on the coast pale into insignificance.
Both groups met at the bottom and after a quick packed lunch convened in the hotel for coffee, cake and a few hours training in navigation. Initially in the classroom and then back out for some micro navigation on the lower slopes. 5.30pm and a knackered group head back to Pete’s Eats for various replenishments including Andy’s biggest chip butty ever seen.
Then back to the hostel, rapid showers and off out to sample Carmarthen’s wares. For a sleepy looking town on an early June evening the cafes pubs and restaurants were really busy. We eventually find a Greek restaurant that has space and 15 courses later!!!!! And several glasses of wine and bottled beers the finely tuned athletes head back to bed, or in the boys’ case another night of snoring competition.
Sunday morning and it’s of to Siabod café at the base of Capel Curig. We are split into groups to plan our routes using the previous day’s newly found navigational skills before we set off to put them into operation. James and Andy G (The Goat and Yul Grinner) are separated off and will again go with Callum for 10 of the hardest, most beautiful and challenging miles I have ever, and possibly will ever scale. The first 9 of which seemed to go up and up and up and up and ……. You get the idea. The slopes were of grass, trail, rock, scree and some steps. We were given alternate points to navigate too and all the time Callum danced merrily along, the goat was flying and Yul Grinner hanging on. One slope seemed to be a 1 in 2 and go for ever. Quads screamed on occasion but all I can remember is a permanent smile, jovial conversation, a few re fuelling stops and the scariest descent for the last mile that left my heart pumping with adrenaline and the sense of achievement was enormous.
The weather had been kind all weekend and we sat on a wall in glorious sunshine re living the previous three hours before Callum (who had left his car there and cycled to the café earlier) then gave James and I a lift back to rendezvous with the others at the café. As we supped our coffee (James devoured his milk shake too) we saw the other groups heading down from the slopes opposite all carrying Cheshire cat grins as they returned. We had a stretching session before thanking Sara, Anthony and Callum for their patience and wonderful guiding and then headed back to Camarthen to finish the weekend as expected. Eating the biggest portions I have ever seen in the pub we had previously booked, consuming copious amounts of alcohol, and then to cap it off watching Phil inflict immeasurable massage pain on Paul Middleton before hitting the sack.
The journey back on Monday was a little easier than the trip up.
So would we go again? YES!
- Great company with a fabulous group of friends.
- Clean and honest accommodation
- Stunning scenery
- Superb guiding from 3 very patient and adaptable individuals.
- The group’s abilities were recognised and the weekend delivered accordingly.
- Phil was a willing driver who we all than enormously.
Wherever next years trip is, and there must be one. Karen and I will be the first names on the list.