Late last week, myself and my good running buddy, Ash, heading up to Wales once again for some more Berghaus Dragon's Back Race recce'ing and training. We were excited as this was the section we'd been looking forward to the most, day one of the race, 30 miles of mountains across Snowdonia, finishing with Crib Goch and Snowdon itself.
We arrived in Snowdon to strong winds, and snow capped mountains. We managed to find some shelter to put our tent up out the wind and rushed to the pub for warmth, food and planning.
It had become apparent very quickly, that Crib Goch is unlikely to be an option, the mountain rescue teams were suggesting the need for crampons and ice axes if attempting it in these conditions, that's not to mention the wind. We decided that we would take the Pyg track instead, should weather allow, meaning we can still summit Snowdon at the end of a long 30 mile day, and we could at least take a good look at Crib Goch.
The next morning we woke up, and the weather seemed relatively calm! We were excited to get going and our taxi took us to Conwy Castle, for the start of our adventure. We knew time wasn't on our side due to the shorter days, so we had a plan B which would allow us to get back to the campsite and do Snowdon the following morning if we ran out of time, but we were confident we could give it a good go in one day, as always there was one rule...no faffing!
We started well, the sun even came out briefly, and we hit the first set of hills. All was going well and we starting getting higher, at around 400m (altitude) the rain started and the wind began to make itself known, but it wasn't too bad. We kept going, making decent enough time.
We got to Tal Y Fan at 600m and the wind was getting stronger, thankfully we had the benefit of a stone wall protecting us, so we cracked on...enjoying the mountains and relatively easy terrain.
Then things started to go against us...we started climbing even further up towards Carnedd Y Ddelw (how the hell do you say that?) and then Drum (easier!) and we lost our wall! We were hitting the snow line and the wind was ferocious, whipping hail and snow into our faces and against our bodies. I shouted at Ash that we simply needed to get our heads down and churn the section out, keep moving, then we could reconvene a make see assess our situation when we momentarily dropped down to a road and (hopefully) more shelter. We cracked on...
We didn't get far, at the peak of Drum we were now soaked through, getting battered by the wind and snow and we were both starting to get cold, we sheltered behind some rocks and had a chat.
Me: "What are we gaining out of this?"
Ash: "Not much, maybe hyperthermia?"
Ash: "We've gotta get off this mountain..."
I'd started to lose feeling in my fingers, we hammered down the hill to where the wind was slightly calmer and we were back into rain rather than snow. We'd abandoned our adventure, totally gutted, we'd barely made 10 miles out of 30!
We made our way down a valley to the nearest village.
It was this moment that we realised neither of us had any money or bank cards on us! We ALWAYS make a point of having both on us incase of emergency, and the one time we BOTH forget, we need them!!
We then spent an hour chatting to village folk about how we might be able to get back to our camp with no money, thankfully a nice lady in a pub (one of those pubs that you walk into and think you'll instantly get stabbed! Don't judge a book by it's cover and all that!) called us a taxi, we could pay him when we got back to the tent.
We were cold, disappointed, soaked and had spent a fortune on taxis! We were safe though, and you can't put a price on safety!
Many will be reading this and thinking 'what a bunch of wimps, it's hardly Everest', but you have to make the right call on these things, we were in minimal running kit, we had waterproofs but the wind had started to cut right through us. The last thing we wanted to do was bail, we'd driven 5 hours to get there, but many in the village who we spoke to told us stories of mountain rescue going up that very mountain every weekend to rescue people in our situation. We did the right thing.
What's more, it turns out there was an avalanche on the Pyg track at the EXACT time we should have been there, so if we'd cracked on, then I probably wouldn't be sitting here in my warm office writing this blog today!
So whats the point of this blog post???
Well I guess it's simply to encourage people to always put personal safety first, yes we take risks by running in the mountains, but always have an eye on an escape route, and always carry a frigging bank card!
It's disappointing when things don't work out, but disappointment is better than a mountain rescue team giving up their time to hoist you out with hyperthermia.
Stay safe out there folks.
I own Running Adventures.