Saturday, February 04, 2012

Testing Conditions

So in the end I did decide to head to the mountains. A last minute look at the mountain forecast just to check things hadn't deteriorated - safety first, diy second - and I headed out.

I'm never one for taking risks these days - not that I ever did - but I'm even worse these days. I took a myriad of kit in the rucksack which weighed a ton and I was wearing so many layers I looked like the michelin man - but I was nice and toasty. Better warm than cold, I say.

The days training did not, however, get off to a great start. I parked up near the Cider Mill and headed up to Pen Cerrig Calch. Except I didn't get there. In truth I was never aiming to. The plan was to undercut it and follow the path to Pen-Gloch-y-Pibwr on my way to Pen Allt Mawr and beyond... But even that didn't quite go to plan. As I approached the ridge, having climbed about 3/4 of the ascent towards Pen Cerrig, I realised I'd left my food rations and emergency food in the bloody van - school boy error. On a different day, in good conditions, I might have carried on but on a difficult day there's no way I'm heading out for a day in the mountains not 100% prepared. Nothing for it, so back down I went, got my rations and then back up again. After that little hiccup I knew I couldn't follow the planned route so I decided to use the escape route at Waun Fach and head back south-east on the ridge past Pen-y-Gadir Fawr but I'm getting ahead of myself.

The top was snowed out and the paths were difficult to discern but not impossible. Visibility was down to under 50m and it was slow going. Wading through inches of snow is energy sapping and shortly after hitting the ridge it began to snow. A kind of nasty, icy snow. Not the nice, fluffy stuff. The kind of snow that ices up your glasses and stings your eyes when you peer over the top of them. Lovely.

By the time I reached Waun Fach it was in total white out. Visibility was zero. I known my navigation is sound but I have to admit I found it tough going. In fact, I didn't actually find the summit of Waun Fach at all and gave it up as a bad lot.

For the crossing to Pen-y-Gadir Fawr I dropped slightly south of Waun Fach until I was running on a slight contour with the higher ground to my left. I followed the contour and eventually picked up the main path to Pen-y-G. The difficult navigation wasn't over though and I struggled in the stinging snow, to keep my direction, meandering around quite a bit. Finally I stumbled on to Pen-y-G having had to climb through several feet of snow drift on the final 20 metres to the top, not having been able to find the actual path.

From there, the ridge run past Pen Twyn Mawr wasn't exactly text book either. But I kept my wits about me and finally got to the turn off and dropped off the mountain into the valley. Once off the top visibility improved and the snow was less icy. From there I plodded my back round to whence I had started.

It was bloody hard work out there, in possibly the most treacherous and testing conditions I've ever had the delight to run in - all though there was an awful lot less running than I was intending. Still, it was good training if more navigational than actual running but the mileage, at 36km with about 5,000 feet of ascent, is my longest 'run' of the year so far...

Oh, and once again Vera was worth her weight in gold. To be able to climb in the back and change out of the cold and snow was just ace - and she even managed to get herself back onto the driveway in snowy Longhope but it was a struggle. It took me about ten minutes using a combination of low gear and handbrake control to edge her up and over the snowy brow of the hill and down to the house. I don't think she'll make it out out tomorrow though. With the temperature back sub-zero and the snow still coming that's it for us as to travelling anywhere tomorrow.