Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Foel Lus fell race

Race: Foel Lus (Joe Brown midweek series, race 3: 3.5m/2000ft)
Time/Position: 26.30
My debut in the Eryri midweek series after 14 years of mountain running: not too sure why it has taken so long! I had returned from the Balkans on Sunday, and we all headed across to Conwy this morning. As this race starts in Capelulo it seemed rude not to have a quick blast. An excellent short circuit: fast and furious, taking the start of the Pen race route then branching off to take in the summit of Foel Lus before descending to the north and picking up the superb level contouring path visible from the A55. This must have some of the best views in North Wales, right out over the Menai Strait and beyond (perfect clarity tonight: sunny and cool). I picked up a few places, benefiting slightly from my meagre remaining road speed, before a grassy descent down towards Fairy Glen and back to Capelulo.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Galicica mountain run

After a couple of days in Albania, I headed back over the border from Pogradec via the monastery of Sveti Naum. A long wait for a bus meant I didn't arrive in the village of Pestani, perhaps 10 miles into Macedonia, until 2pm. One restaurant was still open: they rustled up a superb meal consisting of 12 cevapi, a mound of fried potatoes and a massive bowl of Macedonian salad. I waddled up the twisting streets above the lake to find my accommodation (not easy!) then set off for a run in the hills of the Galicica national park, which fringes the village. At around 5k, I gave up after the rain (which had slightly marred my morning trip to Korce in Southern Albania) started again. This time it was sleet, and it was clearly snowing higher up. I scampered back, promising myself that I would return next morning at 6am. After a subzero night in a £7 room with no heating (but a fine view of Lake Ohrid), I set off as planned just after 6am. The early morning was very cold, and nobody stirred in the village as I quietly slipped through the streets to pick up the vaguely marked trail I'd found yesterday. In theory, this led for 15k to the top of Magaro, the dominant peak, but as it loomed bright white in the distance it seemed a big ask even with my usual running approach, given that I had to be in Skopje that afternoon. Instead, I adopted a more realistic approach: running at a brisk pace uphill and seeing how far I could get in one hour. This went well, although it was very cold in what were essentially a series of north-facing forests: all moss and lichens, with a sharp ground frost. Views of the lake were intermittent but superb, with the accursed mountains of Albania snowcapped to the west. At a rough guess, I ran via Visoka Krasta to Koritski Rid and turned round at a small spur/side peak above Korita, although I didn't have a decent map. The sun finally hit me on the descent, giving wonderful views of the whole of Lake Ohrid. Then, after a quick shower, I left my room and headed down to the unbelievably tranquil lakeside in the morning sunshine, waiting for transport to Ohrid and Skopje.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Tremadog climbing

Crag: Craig Bwlch y Moch, Tremadog
Routes: Christmas Curry (S:led p.1), Treemudrock Finish (VS 4c:sec), Valerie's Rib (HS 4b:led p.3), Tro (HS 4a:sec)
After yesterday's torrential rain, today brought warm spring sunshine. It seemed likely that the mountain crags would be wet, so reliving a few old easy favourites at Tremadog seemed a logical, if unimaginative, option. I was extremely rusty, having not climbed properly for many months, so kicked off with the first couple of pitches of Christmas Curry. I first did this just over 25 years ago, in February 1992. An easy chimney leads to a few moves left up a steeper wall to the belay (merging the first and second pitch). Having previously done both the normal finish and the completely different Micah finish, Vic led up the central Treemudrock (Plum Duff) finish for a change. This is a fine and under-rated pitch, steep and very direct. The final crack is quite sustained at the upper end of VS, but the rock is superb: solid and unpolished, with just a bit of vegetation given its lack of popularity. A mixture of jamming and bridging, with the odd use of small face holds, allow for a reasonably smooth ascent. The day was now almost hot, so we nipped down and across to the direct start of Valerie's Rib in an attempt to knock it off before lunch. Another route I have done several times before: the direct start makes it quite a bit longer and leads via slabs to the crux traverse which leads right to a stance at the base of the main rib. The traverse is always a tad delicate, but the rib gave its usual delightfully delicate climbing: lovely in the sunshine. I led the scrappy final pitch up  a series of wet walls, before we descended for lunch at the van. We finished with the good single pitch of Tro, at the far right of the crag: also done before. As its name suggests, this is a neat route for the time squeezed, which we both were, as usual. Superb clarity of light as we drove back through Snowdonia.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Chester Parkrun

"Race": Chester Parkrun (5k)
Time/Position: 18.01 (2nd from 195 [1st V45])
With a longer than usual Clwydian run last night in my legs, and torrential rain this morning, this was yet another less than ideal set of circumstances to do a Parkrun (my third). Soon, I will have to do one with some preparation and try for a decent time. The Chester course takes two laps of the small country park near the hospital - sadly, I didn't realise each lap included a cross country section. In the rain, this was boggy and slippery throughout, and I had just my racing flats on: this was unfortunate as otherwise I had a reasonable run given the circumstances. The lack of grip on the XC section cost 20-30 seconds I reckon.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Ras yr Aran

Race: Ras yr Aran (16k+/3100ft)
Time/Position: 1.47.22 (16th from 81)
I was amazed to find that it has been six years since I last did this race. With fairly strong winds forecast, it seemed possible that it would be shortened to Aran Benllyn, as I remember happening in the past, but in the event the full race (quite rightly) went ahead with just the final scree cone to the summit of Fawddwy removed. The weather was not great, but nothing particularly unusual: gusts to 60mph, heavy rain and a notable windchill as might be expected at this time of year. As ever, it is the combination of rain and wind that causes the problems! I had expected to struggle on the long five mile climb, given my usual winter on the roads, and I did indeed. I fell way behind on the initial gradual climb over Moel Ffenigl and only began to make up some ground as the slopes steepen up to Aran Benllyn. This gave some welcome shelter from the worst of the windchill too. Excellent running along the ridge, past the little lakes and the rocky bluffs: low temperatures, poor visibility and strong crosswinds throughout. Navigation is easy on this race though, and I made up some ground and places on the wet and slippery descent, which went a little better than I'd expected it to and was very enjoyable. Buckley won the male team prize, with me counting in third place but only seconds ahead of Steve.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Northern Carneddau run

Peak: Tal y Fan
Area: Carneddau, Eryri
One of those rare early spring days when the mountain air is like champagne: the clarity of light, birdsong and blue skies all combine to make for perfect conditions on the hill. The Northern Carneddau would always be my choice of running terrain in this kind of March weather, so after a night in Conwy John and I headed up to Sychnant in the early morning and set off to the south along the ancient track towards the stone circle. We set a decent pace throughout and reached the top of Tal y Fan in less than 45 minutes. Great views over to the central Carneddau, with a reasonable amount of snow in the gullies of Ffynnon Llyfnant and deep blue skies above. After a lengthy stay on the summit, we pelted down for an equally brisk descent to begin the working day.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Castle Inn climbing

Crag: Castle Inn Quarry
Routes: Nain (f4:led), Cariad (f5:led), Hidden Gem (f4a:led), Wilderness Wall (f5a:led), Butterfly Blue (f4:led)
Although this very short session was squeezed into the last 90 minutes of daylight, surprisingly warm sunshine lit the crag and it was very nice to reacquaint myself with real rock after the usual months of winter inactivity. John was making a short trip to the UK, and as I had introduced him to climbing a few years ago, I thought it would be nice to take him again. After a refresher tutorial, we did a couple of easy routes, finding the mantelshelf on Cariad surprisingly tricky, although a pleasant sun-drenched arete lies above. John enjoyed the longer easy 'ridge' taken by Hidden Gem, and the slightly more technical routes on the slab to the right: delightfully lit by the setting sun. The plan had then been to run to the Cwm Dulyn bothy, but we'd run out of time so opted instead for a five mile blast along the estuary, using the Parkrun route to Deganwy with an extension around the bird reserve.