With the rest of the UK enjoying the soaring heat on the beach, in a lake or with a beer, Lisa and Bo had decided that last weekend (7-8th of July) was our first outing on the official Dragon’s Back race route. The 2017 route map arrived just in time for us to plan our first recce, which combined public transport, hitchhiking/getting lifts to make our point-to-point route possible!
With 55 km (34 miles) the second day of the race is comparatively short, but the large ascent and pathless moors more than make up for its length! We decided to split the race day in two, and run the longer section from Maentwrog to Llanelltyd on Saturday and the shorter section from Nant Gwynant back to Maentwrog on Sunday. We started off strong on Saturday by getting lost in some farmers fields. We knew the navigation would get much harder than a couple of fields with cows, and focused to read the map properly and use a compass. The lack of clouds had one advantage: perfect visibility. Once on the moors and in the mountains we could relatively easily identify our next checkpoint and pick our route towards it. For the rest of the day we found the navigation fairly straightforward and found lots of useful trods, one exception was finding a good route down Rhinog Fawr. We didn’t traverse far enough east so had an exciting scramble boulder strewn heathery slopes while we were trying to get back to the path we could see below us – something to practice again.
The absence of the clouds did come with a very hot, sun-soaked day for us. The temperature kept rising during the day and by the time we got to the big hills we were running low on water. The lack of rain meant that most streams have dried up or have been reduced to a tiny trickle! Some dodgy water with purifying tablets later, we pushed on and finished our run with the most amazing – SHADY – downhill forest trail. Our swim in the sea afterwards did leave us wondering if our skin just got less, or more, salty?!
Sunday somehow was even hotter. At 8am having breakfast we were already too hot and we had only moved from the tent to a picnic bench. Thankfully today was a relatively short day for us so we decided just to take it easy and enjoy the views and maybe swim in a tarn or two along the way. On the way up Cnicht we met some very friendly locals out who helped us route find the best way down the mountain, they also helped us with some Welsh pronunciation – something we definitely need to work on to avoid embarrasment! On the next mountain, Moelwyn Fawr, we bumped in to Caz and Lawrie, friends from volunteering at Cape Wrath, who gave us yet more route tips. We couldn’t keep up with them hurtling along to Moelwyn Fach but we enjoyed the rest of the route at our easy pace (whilst compulsively checking twitter for news of Kilian’s progress on his record-breaking Bob Graham round).
A great weekend, and really useful recce. Looking forward to the next one!