Race Report: 14 Peaks Ultra

This race follows the Welsh 3000 route, covers the 14 Welsh peaks over 3000 feet, and with the organisers badging it as a “sky race”, it is definitely a bit unnerving in places. Three of us travelled down together, Matt Walker kindly accepting the role of designated driver and his friend Matt “as well”, joining us at Hexham station on Friday afternoon. We were all using this as a recce for the Dragon’s Back race in September this year, as it is very similar to day 1 (of 6) of that route. I also wanted to have a go at Crib Goch which looked a little worrying from the map and photos I had seen, before facing it on the Dragon’s Back.

It was an early start as we were loaded onto buses at 6:00am and taken to the start line at Aber Falls distillery. The first section is about half the course distance with some good runnable sections. There were some wild ponies in several places, which were nice to see. Other than scree (which I’m not a big fan of going up or down), I found this section really enjoyable, making good time which lulled me into a false sense of security. Coming into checkpoint 1, you pass a lake called Llyn Ogwen, and I spotted what I thought was an osprey. At the checkpoint I filled my water bottles and met one of the tea tent ladies from Cape Wrath in 2023, who must spend a lot of time volunteering at these things. Coming out of the checkpoint, I passed a guy who was looking over the lake with binoculars, so I asked if he had seen an osprey just to confirm my sighting. His response of “Dunno mate, I’m just watching the runners coming down that hill” confirmed he was just a weirdo and I continued without any further communication.

Next we headed up Tryfan which is the first grade 1 scramble on the route. This was very hard work and was more like climbing (it was actual climbing) in places. We came across a lot of real climbers with ropes and helmets, which made for a nervous ascent at times. There were some ravens at the top, so the birding was still interesting. Summiting Glyder Fach, a herring gull flew overhead and gave me a piercing keow to which I may have over reacted by telling it to **** off. At this point, without the aid of a family member telling me to get a grip and eat some food, I ate some food and felt much better for it, although I’m not sure I’ll bring a pasty next time as I found they are not ideal for eating on the run. Arriving at Nant Peris sometime later, checkpoint 2 had far more on offer, but I stuck to the plan and just refilled my bottles, refusing the offer of a seat or any of the food. I did have some Coke just because I’m usually not allowed any at home, as it just makes me run around the house being naughty. 

Next up was the bit I had been really worried about, with more climbing, pulling ourselves up rock that put a lot of us out of our comfort zones. There was a massive scree slope to contend with to reach the ridge, which then lived up to expectations. This is a knife-edge ridge with large drops on either side, and the wind had picked right up making it much worse. Progress was slow, but getting to the end of that ridge, we hit another ridge, and this was even worse as the wind had become even stronger at this stage. At this point I thought Matt “as well” had caught me up, and went leaping and skipping across the ridge like a big horn sheep, but then had a bit of a wobble on one of the higher bits for dramatic effect. It turned out it was just a doppelgänger and his name probably wasn’t Matt, but I’ll call him Matt “Too” for now. 

Crib Goch

We then hit the Snowdon track, did an out and back to the summit and the temperature dropped significantly. Visibility was quite poor, but I knew we were just about to lose height, so didn’t bother putting a jacket on. The Snowdon path is pretty good and it turned off to go through some fields on an even better track, so I picked up the pace catching a few runners including Matt “Too” who must have spent all his energy on the mountain goat impressions earlier on.

Coming over the finish line, I was a bit worried that Matt One had the van keys with all my dry kit in, so I was planning on handing myself into the lost children person so they could return me to Matt when he arrived, but thankfully he turned up so there was no need for that.

We were entertained by DJ beats (or Evaaan as his Mum called him) who was playing tunes from the current hit parade, so possibly a bit much for a post-race marquee and our musical tastes. We were given a baked potato with vegetable chilli, and the lady assured me that it was vegan and promptly offered me cheese to top it off, and whilst she checked the ingredients of cheese to see if it was vegan, I managed to decline the kind offer.

We had one of the Welsh-est people they could find doing the announcements. We built up a small translation guide for people to use next year, feel free to pass on as desired as I’m sure it would be invaluable.

Rrrrrunaaa – runner
Bownsee – Bouncy
Ohme – home

The overall distance on my watch was a little more than advertised at 34.5 miles (32 stated) with a bit more climbing at 4100 meters (3900 stated) but it was a good test for Day 1 of Dragons back with most days averaging about 40 miles.

There are some results, we all had fun, and nobody died horribly…
They died peacefully…
Only joking, nobody died…
That we know of!!!!

Dave Moir

Permanent link to this article: https://www.tynebridgeharriers.com/2024/06/26/race-report-14-peaks-ultra/

1 comment

    • The Badger on 26th June 2024 at 21:23
    • Reply

    Top race report Mad Dog. Good luck for the Dragons Back.

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