Following a bit of weekend horse trading I found myself in a car with Wayne, Karl and Jayne on our way to Llanberris to tackle the Peris horseshoe. Rewinding the clock slightly I was meant to be in the Lakes the weekend before for a Lakeland 100 recce, but had been asked to support a BG record attempt. Shifting diaries around I was able to swap the weekends, but alas with the conditions in the Lakes as they are, it was called off.
As I’ve said before, I think for any mountain runner with a family the planning of weekends is essential to harmony and guilt free excursions. Thus when a day out is planned one has got to be prepared to get out in any weather/ conditions – the weekend is sacred and days out to play with others broaden the possibilities and change the focus – in short they are gold. The cancellation of such a day means either a hasty re-plan or the option of sacrificing it for the greater good. In this case I’m glad I went with the hasty re-plan.
The weather, in my view, has been fantastic recently. Loads of snow on the tops adds a new dimension; coupled with bluebird weather days it is the perfect combination. Conditions like these are reasonably rare in the UK… well, certainly that they happen to fall on a weekend day that is in the plan. Checking the forecast the night before it had -3 to 0 degrees for 950m and above, clear visibility and not a breath of wind. Time to hastily pack before visitors arrive.
Facebook is a wonderful tool, I’d put up on my status that I was planning a day out and was anybody interested in joining. Braddan and his better half Rach decided this was too good to miss – Rach had not been mountain running before (something I didn’t know at the time) and so had decided that a half Peris was a nice gentle introduction! To be fair Rach did know what she was in for, but massive respect for taking such a beast on as a first foray.
Our plan was reasonably simple but easy to fail. Brad and Rach were to leave early and get a head start. The hope being that we would catch them either after Pen-y-pass or near enough so that Brad could join us for the second half whilst Rach relaxed with a good book. As we arrived I knew it was going to be an epic day. Snowdonia looked like the alps and there were perfect mountain reflections a plenty in the various Llyns.
The route heads up following the Paddy Buckley route through the disused slate quarries to the East of Llanberris. The first checkpoint is Elidir Fawr before traversing around to Y Garn and Glyder Fawr – descending the red spot path to Pen-y-Pass. The second half of the loop starts with the miners track before a steep climb to Y Lliwedd to the start of a spectacular (albeit lung busting and steep) ridge run up to Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon). From the 1085m of Snowdon there is an ear to ear grin inducing descent then a stiff climb up to Moel Cynghorion, rolling straight on down to the valley and up to the join the Snowdon Ranger path and the race to the finish. The full route can be found here: http://home.fellrunningroutes.org.uk/routes-information/PerisHorseshoe
We took it pretty easy to start with. Nobody was in a rush and we headed off at a nice relaxed pace, all marvelling at the scenery. A more perfect day weather wise is rare and it wasn’t long before I was sweating buckets. I’d opted for an icebreaker on top of a compression top and with the sun high in the sky it was not necessary. We had a few wrong turns in the quarry which didn’t concern us at all, on the day of the race there will be people in front and marshals to ensure we go the same route as everybody else.
We followed the fence line up and realised we were but a few metres from Elidir Fach so added it in before donning microspikes and heading onwards and upwards to Elidir Fawr. The breathtaking scenery continued throughout the day.
Summiting it was clear we were all enjoying ourselves – the tricky underfoot conditions just adding to the spice. It wasn’t perfect microspike territory as often the crust would break resulting in an unwelcome and unexpected drop, but it certainly had me grinning from ear to ear as we traversed around to Y Garn (my favourite UK peak).
It was here we first spotted Brad and Rach tearing down the hill to get ahead. It was clear we were in no rush so I’d hoped the others would be happy to just join as a group for the red spot descent so Brad could join us. We ran like children down to the style before Devil’s Kitchen a feeling of freedom and surrounding majesty nourishing my soul.
We agreed to join the others rather than pass them and by happy coincidence Wayne arrived at the point where we all came together as he’d parked at the base of Snowdon and walked up the Glyder to meet us. Photos a plenty we all made our way down an approximation of the red spot path (there was no chance of seeing the markers) and stopped in the Pen-y-Pass car park for soup and sandwiches. How civilised – first rate logistics support from Wayne as always.
Jayne decided to stop at the half Peris along with Wayne and Rach – in the end I think this was a very good decision. The conditions were pretty tricky to say the least and whilst it’s easy to be blasé about spending 6 hours out on the fells once you’ve got into it, it’s pretty intimidating and when not use to it can be an injury waiting to happen. Jayne dropping out saved some blushes for Brad who had decided that the wisest approach to a day running across snow is to leave your microspikes in the top drawer at home. That said, this may have been an act of total genius as Rach may not have been so impressed if he was striding on up the hill and she was left skidding everywhere. Brad had the next best thing we could muster as Jayne was able to pass on my YakTraxs to Bard for the second half.
We got going and it was strictly business. A good pace was set around the miners track until we reached Llyn Llydaw; the base of the climb up Y Lliwedd. Wayne had warned us that everybody he’d seen (festooned with crampons and ice axes) had turned back saying it wasn’t possible to get to the top of Snowdon. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one out of the three of us that thought that made the challenge all the more enjoyable!
On the way up we met a couple of groups all head to toe in all the gear, chopping out steps with their ice axes. Eyes wide as we passed in shorts and t-shirt out for a run. The ridge to Snowdon was as spectacular as it was challenging. It was great to see that everybody we passed had all the correct gear and were loving a real adventure in the mountains. The spikes were holding up for us although we were a lot slower as a result (especially after I started sliding and couldn’t stop on one section… squeaky bum time!)
The cafe was closed when we arrived; entrance blocked by a snow drift as we joined the fight to get a couple of seconds next to the trig point. Snowdon was far more accessible from the Llanberris side and there were a reasonable number of people on the summit plateau. A few incredulous looks and comments were made as we started the grin inducing descent.
The climb up to Moel Cynghorion wiped the grin from our faces, but once at the top it was all but over. The direct line descent to get to the path was a matter of controlled sliding – thrice I had the misfortune to have gathered enough speed that when the crust gave way I somersaulted forward cutting my elbows and knees; ice rash. I felt this was nothing compared to the comedy sun tan lines that had been picked up on the day – especially Karl on his face as the woolly hat he’d been wearing had left him with the running equivalent of goggle marks… I did laugh!
All that was left to do was to trot into Llanberris itself – we went too far along the path, but come race day it should be obvious where people are turning. It’s such an epic day out that I will be using it on my Thursdays out. It’s just about the right distance and easy to manage logistically. It also covers part of the Paddy Buckley round so it’ll be good to know those sections well. We met with the rest of the team and got changed before heading for Pete’s Eats. Pints of tea for all except me, I opted for a local ale and a monster omelette and chips. After all the banter on the run it was Braddan who had the final laugh. We’d both ordered the same food so when Brad’s turned up on an enormous plate I was licking my lips. Moments later mine arrived, minus peas and on a plate half the size! Caught in a dilemma between querying it or just diving in I took the quiet option so here is the big warning – running the Peris Horseshoe may lead to fatigue so great that you accept a smaller dinner… run it at your peril!
Wibbly wobbly Peris track – plenty of detors and bad lines – it’s difficult to see when it’s in snow!