36th Across Wales Walk
4 September 1999
Phew What a Scorcher!!
The hottest AWW ever! 24 deg C with little or no wind.
This page provides reports and timing information for the 36th Across Wales Walk.
To download a table of entrants and times (Excel 97 format, approx. 75Kb) click here.
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After the usual night in Clun Memorial Hall, followed by a snatched breakfast of tea and toast, the 101 entrants for the 36th Across Wales walk found themselves at the Welsh border at 5:00 am starting off on the annual 45 mile trek across the principality. All were buoyed by the prospects of dry and fine weather, this having been forecast for the day of the event as much as one week ahead.
All progressed well as far as checkpoint 2 at 14 miles where checkpoint staff coped admirably with unusually large 'rushes' of entrants with their usual demands for refreshment. However, soon after CP2 'Jekyll' turned progressively into 'Hyde': the skies cleared of mist yielding bright sun and temperatures of 24 deg C in the shade.
The hottest conditions experienced in the history of the event soon began to take their toll of the entrants. Eight retirements occurred at checkpoint 3, including the hitherto unstoppable 'double-crosser', Clive Lungmuss, who retired on the slopes of Plynlimon after more than 70 miles. Apparently, the heat from the rocks of Plynlimon had been just as debilitating on his outward leg on the previous day! By checkpoint 4 the descent of Plynlimon had claimed a further eight casualties. Finally, at checkpoint 5, one further entrant, Neville Tandy, retired just seven miles short of what would have been his thirty-second completion of the event! In short, the 36th Across Wales Walk was a real 'killer'.
Nevertheless 84 entrants stayed the course. Particularly noteworthy performances were achieved by Martin McGreary, John Newman and David Hickling who recorded joint fastest times of 10 hours 27 minutes, and by Philip Gwilliam and Richard Rosser who successfully completed 90 mile 'double-crossings'. Finishers, retirees and checkpoint staff, enjoyed the usual evening stay at the University of Aberystwyth followed by a presentation ceremony and return coach to Clun on the Sunday morning.
Thanks to West Birmingham Hostelling Group and North Dyfed/Powys RAYNET Groups for their exemplary support on the day. Thanks also to the entrants whose good humour and friendship continue to make this such a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding weekend.
The 37th Across Wales Walk will take place on 2 September 2000. Why not come along and try this linear event with a difference? Loads more information, results and reports are available on this website.
Organiser, 36th Across Wales Walk
A few pictures which hopefully give an impression of the conditons this year..........
|Bob Bills (standing, just) and Nev Tandy at CP4.||Chas Stephenson at CP5|
|Matt Clarke at CP5||Paul Whittaker at CP5|
Thanks to everyone who made this event a success this year, despite the heat!
Meanwhile, if anyone has photos or reports on the event, please e-mail them to me for inclusion on the site.
We arrived in Clun, near Ludlow, in the middle of Friday afternoon and had plenty of time to explore the pretty little town and itís castle before checking into the Community Hall which was being used as the event headquarters. It didn't take long to choose a space to unroll our sleeping bags, but by the end of the evening every available space was filled. We registered for the walk and received our check cards and route descriptions, then spent the rest of the evening checking that we had got the route marked correctly on our maps. There were some photos on the wall to help us over a couple of very tricky sections. Tea, coffee and biscuits were served and lights went out promptly at 10.30. Some people got a bit of sleep but there was such a lot of rustling going on all night that it was quite a relief when the lights came on again at 3.15 am. Breakfast was an unlimited supply of ea, coffee and toast, then, after we had left, the bags we wanted transported to each of the checkpoints and to Aberystwyth, we had to walk down the narrow lanes of Clun to the coaches which took us to the Welsh border at Anchor Bridge.
102 of us set off in complete darkness to walk right across Wales to the coast near Aberystwyth. Luckily the first two miles were along the road so we didn't need torches and we were able to jog a bit. By the time we turned off dawn was breaking and although the track was stony at first it then became grassy and our shoes and socks were soon saturated with dew. Our companion at this stage said he had set off from Aberystwyth at mid-day on Friday and had walked to Anchor Bridge with two friends and they were now attempting the return crossing. We parted company from him when Kathy needed a pit stop. We soon joined up with another group but fell behind them when it was Christine's turn to stop. We quickly learnt that when our instructions said TAKE CARE they were not exaggerating and we had to slide down a twelve feet high steep grassy bank on our bottoms. However we reached the first of the five check points in safety. There was quite a small group of us at this stage but we heard later that when the main body of walkers arrived there were 67 of them within five minutes of each other.
By jogging the down hills and flat bits were able to keep up with the fast walkers, although they quickly passed us when we came to an uphill. We were keen to stay with them as we knew there was a tricky piece of route finding ahead through some woods. Suddenly the leader dived off into the trees on his left and we all followed, only to find he was stopping for a squat and got quite annoyed to have our company. We continued for quite a while with no difficulty in company with a local lad who was on his fourth crossing and girl he had just met. By now it was nearly 9.00 am and we were beginning to feel the warmth of the sun but it was quite misty in the valleys beneath us which gave quite an oriental feeling to the scenery and we were feeling good when we reached the second checkpoint.
Soon after this we came upon our first major problem - a bull! The lad and girl had just gone through a gate when we arrived at it, and he turned round to say 'The bull is all right but don't trust him'. Christine opened the gate and went through but when Kathy started coming through the bull approached the gate and Kathy didn't know whether to squeeze through and shut the gate quickly, or whether to go back out and shut the gate. The bull was very large but didn't have horns so Christine managed to divert him and Kathy came through the gate. The bull knew exactly where we were going so he moved about 20 yards along the path and then turned so that he was standing right across it. Christine got out her camera and asked Kathy to go and stand by the bull, but she refused. It was about now that we noticed a herd of cows looming through the mist higher up the field so after shooing him away again we managed to get to the other side of the field (where we shut a gate that was open). Apparently the farmer had put it there on purpose and turned up later to stop people using the path which is a public right of way. By the time we had coped with all this the others had disappeared (the lad knew a short cut which we shall use next year) and there was nobody in sight behind us either so we were on our own for the first time. We did have a couple more problems with route finding on this section and had to use the compass but we didn't waste too much time and arrived safely at checkpoint three. We changed our shoes and socks here and ate some delicious flapjack.
The next section was the most challenging as it involved crossing over the summit of Plynlimon. It was also very hot by now. To start off with we followed a track which gradually ascended through the forest for two miles and then out into the open. When we reached the edge of the forest we had to climb for three miles on a compass bearing with no track or landmark or other walker to follow. The first quarter of a mile was up extremely steep rough grass and then it was less steep but featureless. However we did really well and eventually hit the boundary fence at exactly the right point. We had just convinced ourselves that the peak with a calm on to our left was not Plynlimon when we caught up with another walker who said it was. We followed him for about a quarter of a mile when the real summit came into view nearly a mile further on and considerably higher up. We were not amused. When we eventually got to the top we had a photo stop and then started the descent. This was the most unpleasant part of the route even though it was downhill. It was very rough and uneven and near the bottom there were concealed narrow drainage channels about four feet deep and if Kathy had fallen in one she would still be there. It was also boggy at the bottom and we were relieved to reach the road and then checkpoint four at the dam of Nant-y-moch Reservoir. Here we were able to sit in the shade with a cup of coffee and recover. Our feet felt sore for the first time.
We joined up with a group of experienced walkers for the
next section including Tom Sheppard of whom more later. There was one bit we
were worried about as the route had been changed to avoid dangerous scree, so
was not marked on the map. Our friends had decided to risk the scree but were
able to guide us on our way and we met up with them again when we rejoined the
route. From here to the next checkpoint was very pleasant on grassy tracks
across undulating fields. We sat and rested again and changed from our fell
shoes into our comfortable road shoes as the last seven miles was on roads. The
first mile was uphill and then the next stretch was such a long downhill that we
were longing for an up so that we would have an excuse to walk again. It was
here that we had our other major problem. First of all a tractor and trailer
came up the narrow, sunken lane towards us and we noticed that the driver was a
boy of about 11, then another tractor pulling a trailer load of hay bales came
along and the hay was touching the hedges on both sides of the lane. Where were
we to go? We had to scramble up the bank into the hedge and hang on to the
branches. By now we had realised that if we hurried we would complete the
crossing in 14 hours so we jogged along as fast as our tired legs would let us,
overtaking several walkers on the way. Poor Kathy had to sprint the last 100
yards but we were timed in at 13.59. We felt obliged to go down on the beach to
dip our feet in the sea (Kathy took her shoes and socks off first). Then we got
taken by car to a Hall of Residence at Aberystwyth University where we spent the
night. The only disadvantage was that our rooms were on the second floor! We
found our rooms then had to go all the way down and up again with our luggage. A
bath and shower revived us somewhat and we went downstairs again for a good cold
meal where we spent a very enjoyable evening swapping running experiences with
several interesting people.
Almost everyone was present at the award ceremony after a huge cooked breakfast the next morning. For this event the only prize is the wooden spoon - a magnificent specimen about four feet long with a carved bowl and inscription - but everyone who completed the course was awarded a certificate. The first people to finish took about 10Ĺ hours so we did quite well. The wooden spoon was not awarded this year although last year's winner (Tom Sheppard) came very close. Apparently he arrived at a checkpoint at the back of a group and the teaspoons were soaking in a beaker of washing up liquid. Everyone had a cup of tea and took the teaspoons and when Tom saw the beaker of pale yellow liquid he thought it was lemon squash and drank it in one gulp. He was quite poorly in the night! Last year he had got completely submerged in a bog and arrived at a checkpoint with a coronet of pondweed. Another man, who had done the event before, climbed two other peaks before he found Plynlimon, but the feeling was he had tried too hard to get the coveted wooden spoon
Kathy did well to stay awake long enough to drive us home after a very enjoyable weekend, but Christine, who was navigating, didn't do so well and missed a not very vital turning. We are really looking forward to next year. It is organised with military precision backed up by an army of volunteers who provided us with lots of food, drink and TLC at the checkpoints.
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