There are just some days when it is good to be alive and Saturday was one of them. Blaenau Ffestiniog was the setting for this year’s first counter in the British Hill and Fell Running Championship: a ten mile race with an accumulative height of just under 9,000m.
On Friday night I had rested in a trailer park in the Denbighshire flatlands. That left me with a short drive in the morning through the Conway valley into the unfolding drama of Snowdonia. Blaenau itself is a small former quarry town hemmed in by massive slate tips and the Jerusalem Congregational Church. After a few hellos to Glasgow runners (including Kenny Richmond, formerly of this parish), the race started in the main street to the sounds of a Welsh heavy metal band and cow bells. A sprint through the town led 360 souls to barge over the railway footbridge and in to the wilds. A combination of paths and quarrymen tracks weaved in and out of old workings. Further up, the ground shifted between being sound, brutal bog and slate surf. The beautiful sunshine didn’t prepare me for the strong winds cutting across the first peak at Moelwyn Mawr (770). The prize for getting out of the wind was jumping big drops and a scrambling round the ridge to Moelwyn Bach (710). That was absolute fun. The descent form the Bach was a steep one, and refreshments at Llyn Stwain Reservoir were a relief. Trouble with relief however is it makes you relax, and I then had to dig in and climb steadily up Craig Stwaln and Moel-yr-hydd (648). A few folk passed me at this point, and I clutched to the old hymnal for inspiration. The final descents were a chance to savour the echoes of industry and dreams of a nice bath. There were a few stubborn undulations to punish my lack of training near the end but nothing was going to stop me enjoying such a wonderful day.
For the record, Finlay Wild of Lochaber secured a Scottish victory in 1.13, yours truly was 316th in 2.08. Durisdeer next.
Youtube Video by Huw Jenkins – read his report:
Campbells Cottage – Huw Jenkins blog