39th Across Wales Walk
7 September 2002
Some early drizzle, occasional heavy showers and strong head-wind, but generally good walking conditions throughout the event.
This page provides reports and timing information for the 39th Across Wales Walk.
|Early morning rainbows from an almost clear sky|
|Checkpoint 2 after 14 miles|
|Martin and Judith serve at CP2||CP2 after a shower|
|Andrew Cookson takes the weight off his feet||Sarah Lamb, Roger Coates and Julian Beck man CP2|
|Peter Stevenson sorts his kit out at CP2|
|Checkpoint 5 after 37 miles|
|Satan puts in an appearance at CP5|
|CP5 with Ray's market stall and RAYNET||Peter Stephenson Judith Lamb and Peter Gretton at CP5|
|Busy times at CP5||Wyn George gets some bread pudding|
|Early runners coming down the Leri Valley|
|The last few through CP5|
|Presentation Ceremony, Aberystwyth|
|Bob Gold presents Derek Norton with his 'modified' gas cooker!|
|Photographs taken by Richard Rosser|
|Martin McGreary and Philip Gwilliam at Clarach Bay, about to run to Anchor on the outward leg of their Double Crossing|
|Mike Pinner, Mike Gammon and Wyn George at the foot of Plynlimon on the outward leg of their Double Crossing|
|The start at Anchor, 5:00 am|
|Doubler Rodderick Hollands with Peter Stevenson|
|Julian Beck, Roger Coates, Stuart Lamb, Fiona Lamb and Sarah Lamb at CP2|
To view a table of entrants and times (Excel 4 format, approx. 114Kb) Left click here. To Save the file, right click here and follow the instructions.
Seldom can I remember the Across Wales Walk coinciding with such a clear transition from summer to autumn as we experienced last week (little did I know that in the weeks to follow we were to experience a true Indian Summer until mid-October!). Clearly we were going to experience changeable and relatively unpredictable weather as low pressure to the north progressively encountered high pressure to the south. The Met Office forecast on the web for Aberystwyth changed progressively from sun, to sun plus cloud and finally to sun, cloud and showers: in the end that's what we got….with a strong west wind thrown-in.
0300 at Clun brought clear skies and a beautiful milky way stretched across the heavens: this weather stayed with us until the start. However by 0800 fine drizzle from near cloudless skies produced an extraordinary series of rainbows in the low morning sun. Thereafter we encountered some quite heavy showers, but they never really turned into continuous rain, the most part of the day being dry but still with a strong head-wind from the west. Conditions underfoot could be described as 'heavy' as a result of the prolonged periods of rain that occurred on Friday.
To the event itself. From 116 bookings we had an unprecedented 20 no-shows or non-starters: we experience great variation in this from year to year with no obvious cause. Of the 96 entrants who left Anchor, 89 completed the course. The 7 retirements were as follows: one at CP2, one at Van, and five at CP3.
The fastest time this year was set by Ian Doherty who, with an average speed of 5.2 miles per hour, finished at 13:46 with an overall time of 8 hours 39 minutes. <<Ian received the acclaim of those present. I then asked the following question: The question was raised: "Ian, have you got the mask?">> I've heard of masked wrestlers, but never masked runners. For those of you not present at the opening of CP5, Ian arrived dressed as Satan himself, raising the hideous, horned mask only to consume a bottle of strange red liquid before re-donning the mask and running off towards Bow Street!
Next in were the 'extended SMERFS' Stephen Hooper, Paul Minnett, and Philip Gwilliam in 10h 39m closely followed by Paul Courtney, Martin McGreary, Will Etheridge and Graeme Miller all with times under 11 hours. Philip in second place and Martin in seventh are to be particularly congratulated as both these entrants were on return legs of double crossings! <<The 'extended SMERFS' received acclaim>>.
Having mentioned 'doubling', with the exception of Philip we had entrants predominantly new to this sado-masochism completing double crossings this year: Wyn George Martin McGreary Philip Gwilliam Roderick Hollands Mike Gammon Michael Pinner
Well done to you all! <<This year's 'doublers' received acclaim>>.
One name missing from the regular doublers is Peter Stevenson. However, Peter was not content with crossing Wales 'the easy way'. Instead he started on Wednesday from Cardiff taking the Taff Trail to Talybont then, after bivying at Llangorse, he proceeded via Hay on Wye and Offa's Dyke to Kington. He then made another bivvy before meeting us at Anchor! <<Peter was asked whether he enjoyed his walk 'Up and Across Wale's to which he responded that it was delightful. Peter received acclaim of those assembled.>>
<<Certificates were then presented to those who had completed the event. The confines of the Lecture Theatre C22 required acrobatics from Bob Gold in order for the certificates to be quickly distributed: Peter Stevenson received his most unconventionally through Bob's legs!>>
<<Those retiring during the event were then asked to fight the pain and stand to receive recognition from those assembled.>>
<<Bob Gold then described how, in June and July of this year, members of West Birmingham Hostelling Group crossed Wales, not in one day, but in four days over two weekends, breaking-up the route at Llandinam, CP3 and the head of Nant-y-moch Reservoir. Bob explained how the logistical organisation had worked-out perfectly (because he had organised it!) and that the weather had been superb over all four days (Bob had of course organised this too!). Certificates were then handed-out to West members present who completed this event. Bob then explained that a secondary benefit of the four-day crossing had been the opportunity it gave to test possible route revisions such as those presented by the opening of Glyndwr's Way. Three routes off Plynlimon were also tested: a show of hands and comments confirmed that the revised route north from the summit, identified in the route description as 'Option 2' was very well favoured by entrants. This will be specified as the preferred route in future.>>
<<Bob Gold then described path clearing and improvement activities on the route this year, specifically: the approach to CP1, the steep bracken-covered path approaching Aberdaunant, both of which were carried out by the Lamb family two weeks before the event, and digging of the Craig-y-Pistyll scree path by Stuart Lamb on the day of the event. Appreciation was shown for these efforts. Bob went on to describe how the Lamb family spent over one hour in Mochdre Brook on Bank Holiday Monday building a masterpiece of civil engineering in the bed of the stream for the walkers to use. However, having lobbied for a bridge for the last three years, construction started the very next day rending our efforts unnecessary! In 'normal years' this would have certainly earned the coveted Across Wales Walk Wooden Spoon. However, having not awarded it for three or more years, Bob explained that, like London busses, three such candidates had emerged this year!>>
<<Bob then called long-standing checker and former organiser Derek Norton to the front of the Lecture Theatre. "What me?" he timidly gestured. Bob then described how Derek loves to be at CP2 and cruelly cook a breakfast of bacon for himself whilst other checkers and walkers can only savour the smell. Bob then described how Derek had then used his stove at the Finish and, in the dark, had packed it away and left it underneath Martin Child's van for loading-up. In a moment of cripplingly funny theatre Derek, unaware of its fate, was then presented with the 'U'-shaped wreckage of his stove, Martin having driven over it as he left the checkpoint! The cruel tragedy of the situation, the look on Derek's face and the complete uproar from those assembled combined to make this one of the most memorable moments that I recall at any Across Wales Walk presentation ceremony>>.
<<Despite the highly deserving nature of Derek's misfortune, Bob explained 'the Academy of Incompetence' who assess nominations for awards of the wooden spoon had decided that, incredibly, there was an even more deserving case for this year. Bob then called Steven Rose to the front of the theatre whilst describing his experiences on the Across Wales Walk. Steven had been experiencing pain in his toes since leaving Anchor. He had examined his feet at a number of checkpoints and, at CP3 he had resorted to cutting his toe nails in order to relieve the discomfort. However, it was not until reaching CP4 on meeting his wife that the cause of the problem became apparent. Amazingly, Steven had completed 32 miles wearing one of his own boots on his right foot, and one of his wife's boots, a full size shorter, on his left foot! Steven received the spoon with great dignity and to much acclaim from the assembly!>>
<<For the next phase of the presentation ceremony, and as we were in a University Lecture Theatre, I donned my mortar board and employed the AV facilities at our disposal to give a presentation entitled "Mine Leats Across Wales: a brief introduction to Mines and their Watercourses Visible on the Route of the Across Wales Walk". The background to this is that I pledged (foolishly!) to write a book about the Across Wales Walk in time for the 40th event in 2003. Page one is proving a little slow and the 50th Across Wales Walk is now my target. However whilst browsing a friend's library on Industrial Archaeology, it became apparent that the 45 mile long strip of land which we know so well passes some very interesting sites which, in combination, have put a whole new spin onto the country through which we pass. I hope to provide a synopsis of my findings elsewhere on this website.>>
To the regular letters and e-mails slot. This year I received an e-mail from SMERF Paul Courtney saying how much he enjoys the Across Wales Walk but that the marmalade we serve at breakfast is rubbish! The question is how would he know? Well Paul runs a marmalade factory!! The upside is that Paul offered to provide us with free samples of the very best of his products and, from what I saw and tasted, they were superb: thanks go to Paul.
And on the subject of breakfast at Clun yesterday, you may have noticed that we were even more chaotic than usual. This was a result of a number of circumstances: Judith set the alarm of our square alarm clock whilst it was on its side. Thus it was set to wake us at 0900 and not 0245! Martin and his van containing all the bread and toasters for Clun had a full day's driving around the M25 before arriving at Clun at 0215 yesterday morning (let no one be under any illusions, checking is very hard too!). Whilst sleeping in his car, Bob's alarm watch fell between the seat cushions rendering the alarm inaudible, hence he didn't get up until 0400. …on top of which I was fiddling with my barcode entrant time recording system! I apologise if the cracks showed-up a little!
I wonder how many of you remember Susan Denham-Smith, the first woman to complete a double crossing? Well I received a very nice card from her in which she wishes us all the best for the event this year and apologises that she cannot be with us this weekend as, having passed the trials in The Brecon Beacons, later this month (September 2002) she will be taking part in the filming of a BBC programme "SAS Jungle Selection: are you tough enough?" in Borneo which will be shown in March 2003. Susan completed her letter by reminiscing about a God-forsaken crisis point for many Across Wales entrants (particularly 'doublers') namely Bow Street. She describes this village as a point "where time stands still and distance doubles!". A comment with which I feel all who have completed the Across Wales Walk can relate.
It is now time to thank all those who contributed to the success of the Across Wales Walk this year. First the valiant checkers: Jill and Roger Coates Bill Thomas Martin and Gareth Child Peter Hatcher Derek Norton Pat Meredith Maggie Gold Julian Beck Fiona and Sarah Lamb Peter Gretton Nev and Anne Tandy.
Special thanks go to Judith (Lamb) for her total assistance with the administration and the other hidden work that is necessary for this event to function…and for keeping me on the straight and level in what has been a very difficult year.
Special thanks also go to Bob Gold who looked after the marshalling of resources on the day.
Yesterday we fielded 14 Checkers. RAYNET who handle our communications fielded 14 further radio operators plus supporters. Once again, they stationed operators as far away as Devil's Bridge in order to maintain links across Plynlimon. <<Those present expressed their thanks to all the groups of helpers and supporters.>>
<<Peter Stevenson then made a response on behalf of the entrants making reference to the efforts of all concerned and expressing his enjoyment of the event as a whole. In reply I would like to thank Peter and the other entrants for their appreciative comments.>>
<<Nev Tandy then promoted the Reservoir Roundabout and Mid Wales Mountain Marathon, the former along with the Across Wales Walk will be celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2003.>>
The 40th Across Wales Walk will take place on 6th September 2003. Keep an eye on www.acrosswaleswalk.co.uk for details from mid-April 2003 onwards, and we’ll see you all next year!
So ended the presentation ceremony for 2003. Thanks to all who made it so enjoyable!.
Organiser, 39th Across Wales Walk.
PS If anyone has photos or reports on the event, please e-mail them to me for inclusion on the site.
This year there were certain aspects of the service provided by The University of Wales, Aberystwyth that did not meeting their usual standards, in particular the salad meals on Saturday evening. These issues were immediately raised with the Conference Office who have promised to give me a comprehensive response beyond their initial expression of concern and assurances that things will improve next year. I will advise entrants of the outcome as and when I receive such.
I first took part in the Across Wales Walk in 2001, doing a Single Crossing and spending the evening shuffling around Aberystwyth University's Penbryn Halls with legs so stiff that possibly the biggest challenge of the weekend was descending the endless flights of stairs from our bedrooms to the canteen etc. Somehow ascending the same stairs seemed easier but it still begs the question why we are put at the top of this elevated hall of residence. The following day I was still shuffling (a bit) but I had decided by then to have a crack at a Double Crossing in 2002. I took inspiration from Susan Denham Smith's successful Double the previous year and I also liked the idea of a pure traverse - assistance free - of the Principality. I got off to a good start at the end of 2001,slipping on snow covered steps and stuffing my left knee so badly that I missed a week of work as well as the Reservoir Roundabout. However I gradually regained full use of the limb and various Challenge Walks put me on track for a realistic attempt at the 90 mile Double. I left for Aberystwyth early on Friday 6th September with the intention of breakfasting in the town before setting off at 11:00 ( the earliest one can start for back to back 18 hour crossings). The omens looked bleak as I endured a lousy journey in very heavy rain arriving in Aberystwyth at 10:40. On with the waterproofs and into town I went, visiting the beach at 11:20 before a cafe breakfast and the away proper at just after 12:00 into that ubiquitous rain.
My late start meant I had a solo crossing ,I met no other walkers whatsoever. I was behind the other Doublers although I initially wandered if I was last because previous accounts tell of starts at 13:00 or later. The first mile was on the A 44 before I turned onto a minor road through Capel Dewi and Cwmerfyn. By now the rain had stopped (it was to pose no further problem for the rest of the Crossing except for a light shower when I was in Llanidloes), but there was wispy mist, even at 360 metres as I climbed out of the valley and skirted round Llyn Syfydrin. I was sad to see the gaunt wreck of a burnt out car at this beautiful spot,it was eerie and so horribly incongruous that it made me shudder and I quickly continued on my way. The streams were in full flow after the heavy rain and some stretches of path over the lovely rolling moors of Disgwylfa Fawr and Pen Cerrig had become temporary waterways. In contrast, Nant-y-moch was well below capacity - the rain was needed. I skirted round the reservoir to its dam where I stopped for some refreshment. I resumed my Crossing at 16:15 following tarmac to the reservoir pump house from where I struck due east for Pumlumon's highest point, Pen Pumlumon Fawr. At 752 metres it is the highest point of the walk. The summit was enveloped in mist and compass work was required to attain it. From here a boundary fence is followed towards Pumlumon Arwystli, this guided me back out of the mist and I was able to sight the Forestry track which would take me to the Hafren picnic site. It was eerie on top of Pumlumon, almost surreal on the parts sheltered from the wind; lovely as it was I did not hang around for I had far to go, including a number of miles in the hours of darkness.
Footprints in the mud and heading my way just before the picnic site, I took to be those of other Doublers ( I could not think that anyone else would be on Pumlumon in that weather) - how far ahead were they? I found out in Llanidloes which I reached at 20:40. I visited the traditional Doublers haunt, the fish&chip bar to the left of the town hall where I took on liquids but no food. The proprietor said I was an hour or so behind the last group. As I left into a light fall of rain at 21:00 I was advised that I had 19 miles to Anchor Bridge and it would take 6 hours. I had checked out the next part a few weeks back as I knew it would be covered in the hours of darkness - it was a worthwhile venture for I had an uneventful approach and ascent to the wind turbines on the Blue Lins range, a stretch where navigational errors could easily be made. The rain soon stopped and the clouds lifted to reveal a starry sky, it made for great viewing as I climbed the track from Rhiw-ysgyfarnog farm to the wind farm on Waun Ddubarthog. The darkness was not total and the turbines could be seen from a distance away, but the unique sound they make certainly added to the experience of a night crossing. Once I was on the turbine service track, route finding was straightforward and I enjoyed the crossing to the second wind farm on Waun Lluestowian and on to the highest point on the A483. A short bit on this road and then a track to Black Gate where the route the event takes is met. It was now 01:00 on Saturday 7th September. A short walk on the B4355 took me to the Kerry Ridgeway, the dogs at the Cider House went bananas when I opened the access gate to the track - I bet their owners were pleased. On to the B4368,I was nearly there. Anchor Bridge seemed to take ages to reach but I was tired and my legs were stiff. I finally crossed into Shropshire at 02:55 - the chip shop boss knew his facts. I had carried a bivi bag and lightweight sleeping bag hoping to get more 'sleep' than the hour or so that I had now. I could not be bothered with getting it all unpacked and re-packed for so little time so the roadside by the bridge was my 'bed' until 04:30. Some time was spent removing kit not required for the return crossing and tending feet, one blister on the left foot, then I dozed for an hour. It was way too cold to sleep, besides which I had parked my behind in the hedge by the junction with a minor road; several taxis carrying youths home from a nearby party stopped right by me, their lights making me look up - the occupants faces on seeing me said it all. Thoughts remain as thoughts but I knew what they were thinking and somehow I wandered whether I was not in agreement.
04:30 arrived and the first car,a participant being dropped off. I was so cold that I was shaking, they let me in to warm up which really helped, it was a kind act. Soon event helpers arrived with coffee and jam sandwiches and other Doublers appeared. We were given our event tags. I handed over my surplus kit and 'fuelled up'. Two coach loads of walkers arrived and after a short talk from Stuart (Bob actually - SL) we set off on the event at 05:00. It was great to have company - talk about one extreme to the other. My friend George was on the event, I soon found him and we carried on together under a starry sky which gave way to a clear morning. I soon lost the stiffness in my legs and we progressed at the back of the field through the first control enjoying the amazing sight of perfect rainbows against a blue sky. A few clouds did gather to produce an occasional shower but the event was mainly dry. On the Severn Way beyond Llandinam I looked across the valley to the wind farms - the track I had climbed to gain the plateau was clearly visible. The turbines were busy, it would be windy on Pumlumon - against us. We slowed a little between Cefn-bach and Hafren controls and I became anxious. I did not want to run out of time for two reasons--besides the obvious was the fact I was raising funds for two charities I held dear and I had been given great support. I needed 'time in the bank' for Pumlumon. George had agreed for me to go ahead should the need arise and I reached Hafren a few minutes up on him at 13:45, just 45 minutes before the control shut. We were not here long, in fact one of the controllers prompted us with regard to our dwindling time reserves - I needed no second bidding.
The forestry track to the foothills of Pumlumon climbs gently, it was great to get stiff legs working again. I again went ahead over Pumlumon and did not see George until the finish. The range was free of cloud in contrast to the previous day,it was a pleasant traverse but hard work in the wind. The long but direct descent to Nant-y-moch pump house from Pen Pumlumon Fawr was tough,but time had been made up and I was more relaxed at the control by the dam. A brief stop here and now I began to suffer. The road around Nant-y-moch was hard on the feet after 77 miles and I walked on the verge as much as I could. I was glad to leave tarmac for the tricky- but softer underfoot- path skirting Llyn Craigypistyll. I had wanted to take on the scree at Craig y Pistyll but that was 80 miles back. Down the fire break, and that wasn't easy either - crossing the exit stream of Llyn Craigypistyll certainly adds to the fun!
The farm track to Elerch was a gentle meander and the penultimate control was reached at about 19:15. Only the 7 miles of road to go and I was fearing this after my struggle round Nant-y-moch. Another brief stop to avoid stiffening up but departure was at a shuffle. I loosened up when on the road and actually made good progress whilst enjoying a super sunset over the sea. My feet felt fine in spite of it being tarmac underfoot, and knowing the road helped. I feared one thing, the big descent into Bow Street. It was dark when I reached this and it was awful - descents are bad news for tired legs and this one hurt! I grovelled through Bow Street briefly succumbing to one of its benches, and was approaching the Clarach turn when a familiar voice called out. It was my father. He and my mother had driven over from the Midlands to welcome me at the finish. As it was my father walked the final 2 miles with me which was a real help. That last stretch to Clarach was oh so hard. I finished at 21:50, continuing to the sea a short distance beyond the control. Will I do It again? Yes. It is a great experience. I was doubly glad to see George and gather that he completed inside the time. Oh yes, the famous stairs at the Penbryn Halls played their part again, I was on the top floor.
Roderick J Hollands. L.D.W.A. no:20977.
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