Thursday, 30 June 2011

Black mountains recce #3

Too fit for his own good, Jamie was waiting for me by the trig at the top of Pen Cerrig-calch. The sun shone, a light breeze breezed and flat bottomed cumulus ballooned upwards into the blue. It was shaping up to be a good day.

We picked our way through the white stones in the peat and over the flat top to Pen Allt-mawr and then opened up the strides on the springy turf down to Pen Twyn Glas.

After a false start, a climb back up the convex slope and some traversing about we found a fairly efficient line down to the (now) obvious diagonal grassy descent into the valley below.

'Now where is it...?'

'Down there...?'

We skirted the emerging bracken and moved quickly to the stream at the foot of Gadair Fawr where panicked small trout darted beneath the rocks in the clear pools.

After some food we did some more faffing before deciding the best line headed slightly up and to the left past three hawthorns, lower branches strung with sheeps' wool. It was humid in amongst the bright green bracken. A dumpy fledgeling flew clumsily away from me and landed on a bracken tip that furled back on itself.

The climb to Gadair fawr required a steady approach, each hands on knees step equating to a little more progress. The slope eased off and a little re-entrant led to easier tussocky ground and the summit tump itself.

Straight ahead this time and a speedy and grassy descent down the shoulder to the road crossing and a chance to refill the drink bottle in the stream.

Glastonbury performances were discussed on the next climb to Chwarel y fan and then after a gel stop we stepped up the pace along the watershed to Bal-Mawr. We spent a bit of time here working out the best way down and eventually found the right line to the woods below.

It went laughably wrong in the woods. We headed up a firebreak that became more and more nettled and impassable. I pressed on and through slime and was eventually stopped by a fence. Jamie climbed a manky stile into the plantation and we wandered backwards and forwards in the trees looking for a cunning short cut. We did not get very far.

Sctatched and stung, and back on the main path we found the right route - a small opening - about twenty yards further on! We went down through the trees, hit the made-up track, turned right and then left almost imediately down another path and then had a steady run down to the road crossing. Satisfying...

On the forest track that followed, I moved in a semi-hypnotic state. Sweating, aching legs: I was not going to stop. There was no talking, just the sound of feet crunching the gravel and the bright sunlight contrasting with the tall dark fir trees on either side. Further ahead, we ran past old limes that probably pre-date the plantations.

From the dark beneath the trees, the striking colour of foxgloves set againsta backdrop of sunlit greenery... It was getting hard to keep it going...

Past Ffordd las fawr farm and up the gully of a path. I finish my food, grimly striding on. Jamie gives me some jelly babies he's half-inched off his daughter and we run together out of the wood.
There are twinges of cramp in my legs but I manage to run up to the top of Crug mawr.

Then it's just a case of keeping the legs going on the long descent that follows. I'm between a rock and a hard place: it hurts to run, but it would probably also hurt to walk - and walking would last longer.

I now know that it takes 139 left foot steps to run the last climb back into Llanbedr. I know because my frazzled mind counted them...

From 'Wheeze' on the FRA forum:
Race starts outside the Red Lion Pub in Llanbedr and makes its way to CP 1 Pen Cerrig Calch by way of a track that aims directly at Table Mountain from the lane at GR 244207 The route then runs north along a fabulous ridge over Pen Allt Mawr before dropping into the Grwyne Fechan at Pen Twyn Glas. At the northern edge of the forest on the valley bottom, cross the Grwyne to take the BIG ascent to CP 2, Pen Y Gadair Fawr. This is HUGE. Straight over to Grwyne Fawr now where the road exits the forest at 248292 for another steep pull to CP 3 Chwarel Y Fan. Another long ridge run south to CP 4, Bal Mawr and the navigational crux of the race. Run due south off Bal Mawr to pick up the forest trail at 269263. Go south into the forest, turning left of the trail after a hundred yards or so onto a cut that leads to the lower track that meets the road by a bridge at 267252. Straight over the road into the next forestry section, turning left at the cross roads onto the track that goes to Ffordd Las fawr farm house. Go right about 100 yards after the farm taking a track that goes straight up the hill side, straight over first forest road and then left at next forest road to exit forest over stile at 262232. Then head south to final CP, Crug Mawr. Return to llanbedr via Blaen Yr Henbant picking up lane at 240212 and then leaving lane on footpath on right at 243205. Descend to the little bridge and then its a short steep pull into the back of Llanbedr to the Red Lion.

Many of us have used the stream lines coming down the hillside as guidance. I can tell you that most people go too far right and then hit all the false summits. The best route is to bisect the 2 left hand streams. The aiming point is a small rocky outcrop near to the skyline. Pass just to the right of the outcrop and you hit a gentle grassy ramp that smoothes out the first 2 false summits and gives a nice entrant to the actual summit knoll quite close to where the track comes in from Waun Fach. Try it, you'll like it!

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