51st Across Wales Walk
6 September 2014
Ideal conditions throughout the entire event. .
This page provides reports and timing information for the 51st Across Wales Walk.
2014 Photo Gallery:
Thanks to the following for allowing their photographs to be reproduced on this website:
To view a table of entrants and times for the main event in Excel format Left click here. To Save the file, right click here and follow the instructions.
After the wonderful celebrations which accompanied our fiftieth event in 2013 it was back to the usual formula for the ‘Cross Wales’ in 2014. But in no way was the event less noteworthy. In fact the fifty-first AWW turned-out to be one of the most memorable editions of this event in recent times.
And why was this so? Well after what has seemed like more than a decade of indifferent or, in some cases, atrocious weather, 2014 was ‘pay-back’ time: a long-promised weekend of perfect conditions was delivered to us and most graciously received by walkers, checkers and organisers alike.
The weekend started conventionally with Friday night spent in the Memorial Hall, Clun, followed by breakfast. Then coaches delivered the entrants to the start at Anchor on the Welsh border for a 5 am start. The early mist progressively cleared revealing mid-Wales in all its spectacular glory. So agreeable were conditions that checkpoints were set-up in the open air without the need for tents or other forms of shelter: this was completely unprecedented in recent years.
The perfect conditions persisted as the 124 starters made their way through some of the best countryside which mid-Wales can offer. The centrepiece of the event, Plynlimon, was clear throughout the majority of the day affording sensationally clear views of Cardigan Bay for most of the entrants. Some were treated to short-lived local sharp showers but these were soon shrugged-off and did little to spoil what were essentially ideal event conditions.
Of particular note this year was the sensational display of gorse and heather in flower, particularly on the approach to Craig-y-Pistyll scree and around the head of the Leri Valley. Truly wonderful!
Based upon the prevailing conditions we experienced a surprisingly high retirement rate, almost all of whom succumbed at or before the 25 mile mark was reached. This showed once again that the unrelenting undulation of mid-Wales is not to be taken lightly, particularly by those attempting the event for the first time or, despite warnings, in a poor state of preparation.
Ultimately, however, 108 entrants completed the course, the fastest home being Dennis Jolly in a time of 7h 51 minutes: a new course record for the post 1996 route! Second home was the previous course record holder, Mark Lewis, in 8h 44 minutes followed by Andy Robinson 14 minutes later. In complete contrast, last home was Malcolm Blakemore in a measured completion time of 17h 41minutes.
Four attempts were made to ‘double’ the event with Iain Prentice, Bill Lancashire and Chris Pritchett ultimately completing the course within the 36 hour limit. However this is not the full story of ‘extreme’ completions for as the ‘doublers’ were leaving the coast on the preceding Friday on their outward leg, they were joined by Brian Layton who had already crossed from Anchor where his ordeal had started on the previous day. Brian then made his way back to Anchor before commencing the event proper with his third consecutive crossing. Thus Brian became only the second person to complete a Triple crossing of the Across Wales Walk covering 135 miles in 52 hours. Incidentally after his momentous ‘double Hundred’, the first man to complete a ‘triple’ in 2003, Rod Hollands, is rumoured to be contemplating a ‘quadruple’ AWW in 2015, and based upon his recent performance, few would doubt his determination or ability to do this. We’ll just have to see!
After a comfortable night in Aberystwyth University Halls of Residence, the usual joyous presentation ceremony was held in one of the lecture theatres on the following morning during which performances were celebrated and certificates awarded. This also provided a fitting opportunity for the AWW ‘fellowship’ to honour one of the most notable members who had passed away in the last year. Nev Tandy was not only the first to complete a double crossing in 1984 but he had also completed a further 32 conventional crossings making him the most prolific participant in the history of the AWW. His humour, larger-than-life character and commitment to the AWW, and mid-Wales walking in general, was remembered and celebrated with much affection.
So as the entrants returned to Clun by coach, a truly memorable event was brought to a close. It’s one we will never forget, for all the right reasons!
Thanks go to former members of West Birmingham Hostelling Group and the welcome band of friends and walkers-turned-checkers who once again made the event possible. Thanks also go to RAYNET who provided their usual superb communications between checkpoints.
A date for your diary: the fifty-second Across Wales Walk will take place on 5 September 2015. See www.acrosswaleswalk.co.uk for details of this event in early May.
What a way to loose weight. Or my little adventure crossing Wales 3 times! by Brian Layton
On Saturday the 6th. of September last year the 51st. running of the "Across Wales Walk" took place. This event involves the complete crossing of mid Wales from Anchor in Shropshire, England, to the west Welsh coast at Clarach Bay, just north of Aberystwyth. It also involves crossing the highest point in mid Wales, Plynlimon at 752 Mts., and covers a total distance of 45 miles. Plynlimon also has the distinction of having the source of both the rivers "Wye" and "Severn" on its flanks. There is a time limit of 18 hours. You can run or walk, the record is around 7 hours and some minutes.
I first did this event when I was 59 and thoroughly enjoyed it. At that time I became acquainted with, what I thought was rather crazy at the time, the long standing tradition of "Doubling" the event. This involves starting on the Welsh coast and making your way, unsupported, across Wales to the start of the main event at Anchor at 5am. and turning round and going all the way back. Some hardy folk have done this nearly 20 times.
I missed the event for the next 2 years due to other commitments but was then persuaded ( I did not need much persuading ) by a good friend to have a go at the "Double". I was now 62 so it seemed like a good idea. I completed this, in absolutely appalling weather, feeling quite strong at the end. It was during this event that I was told about the even crazier challenge of "Trebling" the event. A feat which had only been attempted and completed by one person, 10 years before. This said person, one Roderick Hollands, was also the first person to ever complete a "Double" LDWA 100 mile event. A feat he achieved last year in appalling weather conditions. 47 % of the 482 that started did not complete a single 100, let alone go round again, much respect.
Fast forward to last September, I am now 63, and you know what's coming. I am signed up to have a go at the "Treble". The basic rules are, (1) You are only allowed 18 hours for each crossing, (2) The first 2 crossings are free route choice and unsupported, the third must go through the 5 official checkpoints, (3) I must touch the trig point on the summit of Plynlimon each time ( my own rule ) and (4) be honest and complete the challenge fairly.
It's now 5pm. on the Thursday evening and I am standing, all alone, on the bridge at Anchor, just inside England. I am far from sure of the outcome but am very excited at the prospect of what lies ahead. I wait until 1 minute past 5 just to be inside the rules. I am off. I had planned my own unique route which had a little extra ascent and distance than was absolutely necessary, but with the advantage of easier navigation during the night in case of bad weather. I also had no time to recce the route, a fact that would bite me quite hard in a few hours time.
I start at a very steady pace knowing that, if things go wrong, I could be at this for up to 54 hours. The early miles, a mixture of quiet lanes, off road trails, ridges and off piste come and go without trouble. I soon leave the main event route and head for the infamous "Wind Farm". This is a very large area of hill tops, over 500 Mts., covered in about 100 wind turbines. A very spooky place in daylight, this crossing, and especially so in pitch black, my return crossing. As yet I have never seen one of them turn so much as an inch. I am pleased with my navigation through this lot and descend quite quickly. I had planned to use a well mapped public right of way, about a mile cross country, how foolish of me. I ended up trapped in an impenetrable forest, in several unmapped gardens of several unmapped houses and nearly savaged by a very large and very hungry looking unmapped dog. This had turned out to be the longest shortcut of my life as I had to eventually give in and back track around the problem for about a mile and a half. My map is 8 years old, the mapping is at least 30 years out of date. Once clear of this problem I was soon descending into Llanidloes. Over the next 12 miles I steadily ascend 600 + Mts. to the summit of Plynlimon, the last 3 miles being totally open fell, ranging from hard runnable ground to a fair amount of bog trotting. I hit the trig point spot on, such a relief. It is now about 1-30 in the morning and it is absolutely pitch black. I turn off my head torch for a moment and cannot see my hand in front of my face. A truly magical moment that I will remember forever. The sky is absolutely clear but the wind is now very strong indeed. I am stationary too long and quickly get cold for the first time. I also suddenly realise that the nearest human being is at least 5 miles away. Time to move on and "Brian, be careful, no mobile signal and no rescue for at least 8 hours, if not more."
I descend the steep slope very carefully and drop 400 Mts. in a mile and a half. A complete change of terrain now, 3 miles on the road around the southern edge of Nant-y-moch reservoir. I leave the reservoir on a very stony and lake filled track. The next 3 miles are on open fell and it's still very dark, so I am careful. I reach what is arguably the most dangerous part of the whole route, the screes. I have done this tricky cliff path in the daylight up and down and it is pure delight. In the pitch black it is a whole different story. Only about 300 Mts. long it seemed to take a lifetime. I was acutely aware that there was a 30 Mt. vertical drop on my left, from which there would be no recovery any time soon. At times it felt like I was descending into an abyss.
As if to tease me, once I had descended the worst of it, daylight suddenly started to appear over the mountains behind me. The next 8 miles was straight forward with more downs than ups to the sea at Clarach Bay and that all important dipping of toe in sea. I had just crossed Wales. It was 7-43 in the morning and my first crossing had taken 14 hours and 42 minutes. I now had to wait until 11am. before I could start my second crossing.
I sorted out blisters, wet clothes, food etc. and prepared for No.2. My friends arrived about 10-30 to make sure I was O.K., this was a very special moment and picked me up no end. They were then taken up the coast to Borth, where they were going to start their double from.
I started my second crossing at 11-05 in good sunshine. I had decided to reverse my first crossing to try and "nail" the dodgy bit in the middle, which I did, at about midnight, with much satisfaction. A different crossing altogether. The scree path was once again a delight, the views over the gorge spectacular. The summit of Plynlimon was amazing as I could see for 20 miles in all directions. I got carried away over this section and pushed a little too hard. By the time I was descending into Llanidloes I hit my first very bad patch. If I was to have one this was the best place to have it as I was due to meet, if possible, the 4 doublers in our favourite chip shop. I know I said unsupported but this is tradition. One of them was already there and the other 3 joined us soon after. I new I was in trouble when I just could not eat: a problem I never normally have. I stayed there for about 2 hours, feeling sorry for myself, letting the others go as I was doing a different route to them. The chippy expects us and locks us in for as long as we like while they clean up, good people.
I knew the rest of the night would be a cold one so put on more clothing and set off for the wind farm. After leaving Llanidloes I did not see a single person until I reached England and then it was only 3 bodies, in poly bags, asleep on the grass verge. It was 4-17 in the morning and I had taken 17 hours 12 minutes for my second crossing and I was wrecked. I tried telling myself "only 45 to go" then immediately told myself to get lost, I can't think why.
No sleep for me then, with a mass start in 40 minutes it would have been lethal. I dare not sit down for the fear of not being able to get up again. By 4-45am. a stream of head torches came down the road as the first coach had arrived. It's very strange being among 120 people who are hyped up to the eyeballs, all fresh and raring to go, when you are absolutely cream crackered and wondering if you are going to make it up the first hill. The organiser finds me out, asks me how I am doing and gives me my tally card for the main event. Oh well, no way out now I suppose.
We start at 5-06am. and I try very hard to keep up with the middle order as I know that some of the tail enders will not make it. This is now hurting like hell. A world away from my single crossing 4 years ago when I was up with the leading bunch and finished 10th. in 10 hours and 40 odd minutes. I settle down, generate some heat and try not to destroy myself. This is now about survival, not heroics. I just keep going and crawl into checkpoint 1. This was my lowest point and the only time I slightly doubted if I could finish. I eat, drink and take stock of myself. It's simple I tell myself, "no bloody way are you not finishing this as if you don't none of what's gone before counts, nothing, you get nothing."
At this point I just dug in. At checkpoint 2 I am met with great enthusiasm as the organiser is there and they all know what I have done. I tell him I am about to go into unknown territory as this was 105 miles and I had never been further than this before. From then on, and I know not why, I just got stronger. I was slowly taking people all the way to the summit of Plynlimon. I then had my best "moment" of the entire event. From the trig point down to the reservoir I passed about 30 people in 16 minutes and not one of them passed me before the finish. I arrived at Clarach Bay at 8-49pm. and completed my final crossing in 15 hours 43 minutes. I had just covered 135 miles with approximately 18,000 feet of ascent and descent.
Shortly after finishing I was taken to Aberystwyth University where we were staying for the night. I just about remember collecting my kit bag but have no recollection of finding my room or falling asleep, thankfully, inside it.
The next morning, after breakfast, was presentation time. A truly memorable occasion where every finisher is presented with their certificate. I must confess that it brought tears to my eyes when I received the loudest and longest applause, along with a special certificate acknowledging my triple crossing. After all of this had finished I boarded the coach for my return journey back to Anchor, Clun, England and reality. A truly memorable experience and one that I would not have missed for the world.
I nearly forgot the crash diet. I lost 15 pounds in weight in 52 hours: not recommended. Sadly most of it has found it's way back on in spite of my best intentions.
I also nearly forgot, how could I, to thank, most sincerely, the small but very dedicated contingent from B.B.N. who, much to my surprise, were manning checkpoint 4 on the main event. I do not know all of your names so will not name you for fear of missing somebody out but you know who you are. I must tell you, most truthfully, that you have absolutely no idea how much of a tremendous lift you gave to my spirits when I saw you as I was feeling very fragile at the time. This carried me through to the end for which I thank you, again, most sincerely.
This truly is a most unique and marvellous event, the single crossing I mean, and should be on the wish list of any serious long distance walker, if only the once.
Brian Layton (L.D.W.A. No.15203).
Thank you for yet another fantastic walk with superb organisation and great back up from the team of cheerful and very helpful checkers. We are now home and relaxing but you are no doubt still working so once again thank you.
The Bayes crew etc etc
Just a quick e-mail to say a big ‘thank you’ to you, your family and helpers for a really first class event yesterday. As a ‘first timer’ I was a little unsure what to expect. However the wealth of information available on the website helped a lot with the preparation and the excellent organisation on the day itself combined with good weather made for a very enjoyable day in a beautiful part of the country.
Many thanks and I hope to see you on another event in the future.
Steve from Stoke on Trent. (You gave me and Paul an early morning lift to the start at Anchor!!!)
Just a short note of thanks for a really enjoyable walk. It was exceptionally well organised. Marshalls and helpers were friendly, route description was spot on, breath taking scenery and you even managed to arrange for good weather.
My only regret was that we could not stay over for the presentation on Sunday. This was due to Paul, who runs his own business, having to be back in Doncaster. I certainly intend adding this event to many annual walking list and will be joining in with the socialising in Aberystwyth next year.
Again, many thanks Stuart and hope to see you next year.
Just to say thanks for yet another great event. Your attention to detail is incredible. Have you considered wedding planning.
Good afternoon Stuart
I hope you are having a well earned rest.
I would just like to express a not of thanks to yourself and all those organising the across Wales.
Getting the certificate and the kind words you said about Dad was a moving moment.
I can now see and appreciate why my father comes back year after year.
It was an experience I will never forget and for Juliet to get the 1st woman home was something else. The alliance with the SMURFS proved to be a good one.
The weather was particularly kind and that just enhanced the experience.
I look forward to coming back next year and who knows a double may be on the cards.
I look forward to next year and please let me know when entries are open.
Yours in all adventures
Firstly to thank you and your family for doing such a fantastic job of organising such an amazing event as a first timer I went in with some apprehension, but blessed with wonderful weather, and supported by your wonderful helpers before, during and after it made for a truly memorable experience. I suppose that I have to return and see what it’s like in more typical AWW weather conditions!!
All the best wishes,
As usual thanks for a brilliant weekend, you even managed to get perfect weather and dry ground, in 18 previous crossings I can't remember it being as good. The views from Plynlimon were fantastic, I stayed on the summit for about ten minutes and took it all in, as it may be a few years before we get that view again. Thanks to yourself, Judith, Sarah and the team, I'm looking forward to next year already.
Regards Rob Young
Dear Stuart & Judith
Thank you, all the marshals and helpers for yet another fantastic weekend. Having been involved in this year’s 100 I can appreciate how much effort is required to organise an event on this scale.
The walk from CP4 to the finish was a delight in the glorious sunshine in stark contrast to recent years and the display of gorse and heather on the scree path was absolutely stunning.
Hope to see you next year,
Rob & Jill Richardson
Many thanks to you, your family and the rest of your team for what was yet another wonderful weekend. As always, a well run event from start to finish. It is without a doubt the best event on the long distance walking calendar that is largely down to the professional way it is organised and managed.
All being well I will see you at next year’s event.
Thank you so much for once again providing such a wonderful Across Wales walk. The whole experience was, as usual, brilliantly organised and even the weather behaved itself! Lovely sunshine and sunset!
This is such marvellous countryside to be walking through, I love every mile of it!
The views from Plynlimon were spectacular and the crossing through Craig-y-Pistyll with the gorse and heather was beautiful - it's one of my favourite bits.
Many thanks to you and all the helpers for
making this such a wonderful event; the amount of time you all must put into
this is incredible, I'm sure, but it really is appreciated.
Many, many thanks; hoping to get in again next year!
Gill Howe and Andrew Gilbertson
Just a quick thank you for another well organised event this year. As always we were happy with the warm welcome we received from everyone involved with this fantastic event. Please pass on our thanks to everyone on behalf of Team Dry Socks and we hope to see again in the near future.
Darren Jones (Team Dry Socks)
I just wanted to say thank you for fitting me in for the 51st Across Wales.
It really is a lovely event. I hope to return many times.
Unfortunately we had to leave early on Sunday morning to get to Paris. I hope the rest of the event was a success.
Thanks Stuart to you and your family and team for your efforts last weekend. Now that a few days have passed I can safely say that I really enjoyed my double crossing, enjoyed the company of the few others taking on the double (though we met up only sporadically and it was mostly a solo effort, it still felt like part of an informal team), and Brian's triple crossing was pretty inspirational of course.
Thanks a lot, beautiful route in great weather and a really enjoyable weekend
Now that the dust is starting to settle on a most enjoyable and memorable A.W.W., I would like to say, most sincerely, a very big thank you from all of us for all of the hard work you and your family put in to stage this most unique, efficient and highly enjoyable event.
My very best regards and thanks once again,
Thank you, the family and all supporters for yet another great weekend.
Only disappointment was after spending a large sum of money on an all signing dancing jacket I did not have the opportunity to break it in, which after previous crossings would have guaranteed it being worn, oh well there is always next year, hopefully.
Thanks again and hope to see you on the Cotswold Challenge
Thank you for your email - glad to hear all went well on the day - was there any doubt that it wouldn't?
We thoroughly enjoyed the day and what makes is easy is that those taking part are so friendly and cheerful. Paul in particular found it fascinating and rewarding seeing the event from a different angle, although he has said he may do just one more!!
Thank you very much for allowing us to be part of the day. Your organisation of the event is first class and the checkers just turn up and do the job - easy! We really do appreciate all the hard work you and Judith do behind the scenes before the day.
Many thanks and love to all
Hi Stuart and Judith
Thanks once again for another splendid weekend. What a nice change to have a clear passage over Plyn.
See you next year,
Yet again, thanks to you all for your appreciative comments, Stuart.
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