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Monday, 16 September 2013

14th September - belated Oggie 8 in aid of Ogwen Mountain Rescue

Sorry for the lack of blogs lately, I've been out enjoying the nice weather and enjoying my allotment so there's been no spare time. Most my summer adventures will have to go unreported for now!

We'd entered the Oggie 8 challenge walk - tackling 8 mountains in the Ogwen Valley for the Rescue Team. It was being run at the start of August. Just before the event though my Achilles tendon was giving me some major grief, and leading up to the event I could barely put any weight on my right leg, it was made especially worse by going down hill. Mike also managed to put his back out. We had to come to the annoying conclusion that we were just not able to take part as there was no chance we would even get up the first hill based on how we were feeling.

So after 3 weeks of rest, and 2 weeks of getting back to fitness in Scotland we were finally ready to be able to give it a shot. We were doing the event without Marshall support so timings etc were up to us.

We travelled down on the Friday day time, intending to have a short stroll before checking into our very central bunk house in the Valley. Our short stroll turned into a bit of an epic - my fault for trying to make a nice easy linear walk a circular one. We were only out 4 hours or so but got totally soaked and had to use some very overgrown footpaths. Not ideal the day before doing a challenge walk, and I'm not sure I was too popular by the end of it!

We went to bed reasonably early, but  I could not sleep at all. We'd had the heaters on to dry off all our wet gear, and the room was roasting. When I tried opening the windows the wind blowing outside rattled the blinds, and that kept me awake too. I'm pretty sure in the end I only got a few hours sleep before my alarm started going off at 6.

We blearily assembled outside the bunkhouse, and welcomed the arrival of Kirsh who was joining us for the walk. It was reassuring to have someone local and knowledgeable on our team. Our team was a total of 5, myself, Lee, Mike, Pete from Caving and Kirsh. We headed off to the Oggie Rescue Base which was a short distance from our bunkhouse. The team had given us permission to follow the start of the Oggie 8 route which was over private land.

The lack of sleep, and steep ascent hit me straight away. I was soon at the back of the group and struggling to keep up. I had a bit of a moan at that point and Pete agreed that the pace was too fast for him too, so we slowed up a bit. Kirsh had said at the start of the walk that she was worried about her fitness levels, but it was she was the fittest of the lot of us! 

Views of our final mountain on our way up our first mountain - Tryfan on the otherside of the valley

We eventually got onto the Carneddau ridge proper at Bwlch Cyfrwy-drum & headed around the flank to tackle Yr Elen first. We didn't pick a great route around the flank, the rock on the Carneddau was incredibly slippery - we had to be careful we did not slip over on it. I was starting to doubt my ability to complete the route at this point - the pathless ascent + this scrabbling about on wet rock was not doing much for my confidence - I think it was also the unfamiliarity of this section which did it too.

I was glad when we got to the summit of Yr Elen, it was good to stop and eat a banana and chocolate, and it felt great to be on our first mountain. It was still fairly claggy and a little chilly, but not all that bad considering we were moving into autumn. 

From Yr Elen it was a short retrace back to the ridge, then onwards along to Carnedd Llewelyn.

It was good to be on the ridge in reasonable conditions - we had really lucked out with the weather. Last time I had been up there we'd been battling freezing temperatures and icy/snowy rocks. We didn't have anyone on either of our number 1 or number 2 mountains to take our photos so had to set the camera on 10 second delay to take a self timer one - it was a challenge trying to balance it on rocks in the wind!

We went back along the ridge to Bwlch Cyfrwy-drum to head up Carnedd Dafydd, it seemed to take a while to get there, and I recalled the story of the haunted bothy and the chap we met on the ridge once who'd had a terrible night's sleep in there once. 

The mist was starting to lift and it was amazing to get views from the Plateau itself. I've never had a view from there before and it gave an amazing scale being able to see the sea and the teeny tiny villages below. I was a bit worried we'd miss Pen Yr Ole Wen, having missed the top by mistake once before in the mist, but it was much easier without mist and freezing cold temperatures and winds! The view back along to Carnedd Dafydd was astounding. We still didn't have anyone to take our photo so we attempted a self timer, it failed as the plateau was so flat we had nothing to really balance it on!

Oh dear!

A better view of the summit itself

I was glad our route down was fairly gentle - there is a steeper way off the hill, but it's not used for the Oggie8 - presumably due to path erosion. The view down to Cwm Loer was amazing, the lake looked so clear and blue I wished we could go there for a swim. No time for swimming on this route though :(

There was a small scramble on the route down, but it was barely worth putting the walking poles away for. 

We were soon onto the farm land which follows the Afon Loer (a very pretty stream with small falls cascading down it) back down to the valley below. I was glad the marker posts on the farm land had been replaced as the way over it was much clearer than the last time I had done the route. Either than or we were just more with it! 

Our route then followed the far shore of Llyn Ogwen back to Idwal cottage where the cafe and visitor centre is. The path above the Llyn shore was boggy and undulated. I was hungry, but not really wanting to stop till we got to the Cafe The path also had some rather dubious styles on it, one in particular was half up in the air! We passed the Pill box which my Dad and brother had slept in when doing a 3 day backpack there once.

We arrived at the Cafe around 1.15 ish, in the actual Oggie 8 event the cut off time for continuing with the route was 2pm, so we were pretty much on schedule. The Cafe has recently been redeveloped, and visitor centre added. It was nice to see how sensitively it had been done and we enjoyed a hot drink whilst sat on the benches eating our lunch. There are no lunch photos, I was too keen to eat to be messing round with my camera!

The next bit was the tough bit - a complete re-ascent up the other side of the valley up Y Garn. I'd not been on the path we used before having only visited it via it's neighbour Foel Goch.

Foel Goch

It was a good engineered path up, which made the going allot easier than our ascent onto the Carneddau earlier in the day. 

Urgh! Up we go!

Pete was beginning to tire as his knee was giving him grief. I was glad of the excuse not to go fast and hung back a little. I also took a few photos as the view was amazing, probably one of the best I've ever had in the valley.

Looking back down on our route up

Even better!

Elidir Fawr

Once on the top of Y Garn Pete decided he'd had enough and would head down the Devil's Kitchen path, it was fine weather and he was confident of route finding back to the valley. 

Summit of Y Garn

We made fast progress down to Llyn Y Cwm, said goodbye to Pete and it was back up the other side of the mountains to ascend Glyder Fawr. 

Mike stopped to give some route advice to some other walkers at the bottom of the slope, so I enjoyed a rare moment of not being at the back for once! I'd been down the scree before, but never up it. It certainly hurt with tired legs.

Scree hurts..

Once on the top of Glyder Fawr we grabbed some other walkers to take our photo - the only ones we'd been able to grab all day!

We were very grateful they had taken our photo and I stopped to eat some food. I was feeling a bit sick after the hard ascent up the mountain and my body was crying out for some fuel. We all shared various sweets and treats, which had been a bit of a theme for the day - the greatest revelation being Lee's aniseed mint cake. Everyone had much nicer things than I had to share. We'd also made a bit of a fau par by buying non vegan sweets which Kirsh couldn't share (will remember next time though).

Our route on was nice and easy, we'd all been there before. We avoided the scramble over Castell Y Gwynt taking the bypass path - I certainly didn't have the energy to head over it! 

Our tired brains made a bit of a mess of the Glyder Fach summit and we took longer than usual trying to pick a good line onto the very top. I was worried about making a mistake so went extra slow. I didn't want to risk losing my camera down a hole so we took photos of each other. I found it hard to believe my daughter had been up this mountain age 6, we must have found an easier line to take to get to the top!

Tryfan still looking a fair old way away..

Due to our dilly dallying around on Glyder Fach we were running short on time to complete Tryfan, our last mountain, by nightfall. Although it is not part of the Oggie 8 route we decided to descend Bristly Screes, not a descent route I would really recommend mainly due to the lose rock and risk of knocking rock onto someone below.

We were soon at Bwlch Tryfan. I was relieved I wasn't feeling too bad at this point, although as soon as I started scrambling I hit the wall. Tiredness had well and truly kicked in, and despite being used to rock scrambling (being a caver we do allot of that underground!) even the easiest of moves was a struggle. When we reached the 1 main exposed bit I had a bit of a wobble and nearly decided to head back down. With some encouragement from Mike and brute strength I made it up and we soon on the summit of Tryfan our last mountain. We had it all to ourselves and it was amazing to just sit and take it all in. The mist and sunset swirling around looked fantastic. I ate loads of food and realised that despite eating lots all day my tiredness on the way up was mostly down to hunger as I' burnt off everything I had eaten previously - the perils of having no body fat!

Due to the lateness in the day we deviated from the Oggie 8 route for the second time and headed down the West face of the mountain. It's a bit scrambly at first but soon turns into a good path straight down to the road. Although we were all well equipped and capable of walking in the dark we all preferred to take the safest way down. Once at the road the light soon disappeared and we had the route march back to the bunkhouse. The others commented on how my pace had suddenly increased - I was just thinking of the fishcake and chips waiting for me in Bethesda, and pint of cider waiting for me in Cobdens! We got back around 8.15pm, after 13 hours in the hills, not a record breaking time, but we were simply enjoying the day too much to rush.(I wasn't capable of rushing either!)

Moon over Tryfan

We had an amazing day, and I really appreciated undertaking the route with such a great group of people - there was no way I could have done it on my own. I found the route unbelievably tough - not living in North Wales makes training for something like this especially difficult, and was hampered somewhat by injuring myself in August. The route is a grand show case of what the area has to offer, but also a stark reminder of some of the challenging terrain the team have to tackle when having to rescue someone from the hills. It's all too easy to take the attitude of 'I am careful/well equipped, It won't happen to me', but no-one can know when they might have a health emergency or a trip or a slip, it can happen to anyone. These teams of volunteers are there to help out whatever the weather might throw at them. I cannot begin to think what it must be like having to say goodbye to your family and head out onto an exposed plateau in poor weather to rescue someone. It's a comfort to the families of those of use who enjoy outdoor pursuits that there is help available should something go wrong. It is also a comfort to the families of missing people to know that help is at hand when needed to provide the police with extra support. The level of expertise and training these teams of people have is imminence,  and is not something I would even attempt to describe on here. If you have enjoyed reading this report or just want to show some support please donate to the Rescue Team here