Archive for November, 2011

Late Autumn Sunshine

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Tryfan from Careg Mianog

The warm autumn weather this year encouraged people out and the November meet at Capel Curig was almost full – in fact we had trouble fitting people round the table in the evenings.  Rob had also brought his Movember  'tash.   A full pack of mountain bikers was there, with the obligatory start – an On The Spot repair of Annies bike by Pete the Pie. The weather on saturday was beautiful, so while the bikers biked, the climbers headed for the rocks- except for Simon and Carmen who fancied an 8 hour run round the Carneddau.

Rob, PeteB, Angela and me headed for Tremadog to bask on the sunny rocks like lizards. After a lengthy gossip in Eric's Cafe, me and Angela headed for One Step in the Clouds, a 3 star VS which I have wanted to do for ages. It was as good as I had hoped, an easyish start then a delicate and exposed traverse followed by an airy hand traverse along a flake which finishes at the prettiest belay ever, a mossy rock ledge surrounded by holly bushes and rowan.

We arrived at this point late in the day as we had to divert part way up the route to help a team on Hail Bebe who had a dramatic fall after going off route. Neither was badly hurt, but the belayer was pulled from the stance and was unable to get back up by himself due to rope burns. So I was very glad Debra and me had been on a self rescue course the year before which helped deal with the situation – thanks, Paul! There was a slightly surreal moment when another member of their club arrived by abseil announcing "Hello, I'm a doctor". For one moment I expected him to whip out a sonic screwdriver and take on the Cybermen.

Next day was still dry but a lot chillier, so while Angela and a friend headed for Holyhead Mountain, where she did her first ever trad lead – well done! – and Simon & Carmen headed for Tryfan,  I teamed up with Rob and Pete who were heading for Careg Mianog, an obscurish but accessible crag with a reputation for catching the sun. Which I'm sure it would have, had there been any sun to catch…

Biceps Wall, allegedly Vs 4c

The walk in was flat but marshy so probably took us about 40 minutes. We found the crag wet in places, and all the grades seemed on the stiff side, the phrase "[insert grade here] my arse!" was used a few times. However we had the place to ourselves and it felt wild and woolly, with spectacular views of Tryfan.  In particular we thought Biceps Wall a complete sandbag at VS 4c – tough moves and not very reassuring protection at the start. We ran out of daylight and bailed from the second pitch, managing to get across the marshy section just in time to avoid complete darkness.

The best OMM for years

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

This year's OMM was held in the Breadalbane area of Perthshire – little visited by walkers other than those slogging up Ben Chonzie, one of the contenders for the most boring Munro. The area had never before used for mountain marathons – too often there is a very good reason for this! But it turned out to be one of the best events for a while.

As the weekend approached the forecast was for persistent heavy rain, gale force winds, and low cloud all weekend. In other words, perfect conditions for those of us who can navigate reasonably well but aren't fit enough to do much running. The event centre was at Cultybraggan Camp, an old WW2 POW camp – very different from the traditional marquee-in-a-field! We didn't get to see much of it though, as we arrived well after dark on Friday evening, and had an alarmingly early start the next morning, catching a bus at 7.15.

The first surprise as we crossed the start line and collected our map is that other than a final compulsory 10-pointer, all controls on the long score course were worth the same, 20 points, so there was no obvious incentive to go for the outlying checkpoints. This had the effect of spreading teams out rather more than usual, there is often an obvious line of high scoring controls to take, but this time there were several equally likely-looking options.

We set off with a rough route in mind, but were going well after a couple of ours, well ahead of schedule, so added on an extra loop. This almost worked well, but after wasting 15 minutes looking for a control in the clag we were forced to miss out our final intended control. Still running short of time we made a very long sprint for the finish, covering the final 5 miles in just under an hour to finish with 30 seconds to spare out of our allotted 7 hours!

It had rained pretty much all day, but just after we'd got the tent up it got much heavier, and we ended up staying put for most of the night, glad that we'd opted for our slightly heavier but much more comfortable tent. All our clothes were either wet or damp, as was my sleeping bag (the waterproof bag wasn't). We were 45th out of 144 starters and 137 finishers (24 other teams entered but for some reason never turned up), and were one of 12 teams all on 210 points. The first 5 mixed teams were all taking part in the chasing start, luckily we were 6th so escaped the added pressure (and super-early start).

Sunday's weather was better than Saturday – still low cloud and windy, but only occasional showers and even some sunshine. The controls reverted to tradition with different scores for each, and we chose to start by a long climb up a hill behind the camp for a 30-pointer followed by a descent back almost to where we'd started. After this, all went more-or-less according to plan, until we were ambushed by a camera crew filming for a forthcoming documentary of some sort. Despite my streaming nose they decided to point the camera at me, so after muttering a few inane sentences I duly led us off in the wrong direction, and we ended up at the wrong control, a mile or so from where we'd been meaning to go. At least they didn't capture that bit on camera!

This detour meant that we didn't have time to get tempted by a final extra 10-pointer (well I was tempted anyway but luckily Carmen's caution won out). We eventually finished with 13 minutes to spare and a score of 180 – 41st on the day, and 40th over all.

We really enjoyed this event, the terrain was interesting with some difficult navigation, and the route choice extensive. Although we never got to the top on our course (some courses had a control on the summit), Ben Chonzie failed to live down to its reputation – most of those who call it 'boring' probably choose the normal ascent via a long landrover track that goes almost to the summit, missing out entirely on its cliffs and corries.

Full results here.
No more photos – although I carried a camera round all weekend, other than a handful of shots on Sunday morning I never turned it on!