‘The Oggie 8 mountain race, yeah we should do it next year.’
And I was fairly sure we meant it, although these things tend to drift unless they’re committed to, and we’d made the mistake of not doing that.
This was a shame, because fast forward one year and we’re closing in on the date, I had no team mate, wasn’t booked in the race and the only other people I knew who were interested, had pulled together and created their own team.
Things didn’t look great, so I pulled out all the stops and got together with John, a friend who often trains with me in the mountains and I approached Ogwen mountain rescue to see if they would consider accepting a team of two – this was their event and what an event it is.
The Ogwen Valley is an incredibly popular location in North Wales, slicing through Snowdonia National Park and is the starting place for many classic scrambles, walks, climbs and even swims. This popularity sees many visitors each year and of course the downside to this, the risk of accidents. Ogwen MR provides an incredibly essential service here, rescuing people in trouble and saving lives.
They need support in order to give this incredible service and so the Oggie 8 challenge was born, teams of competitors come together for one day in August to pit themselves against each other and against the mountains.
There are eight mountains that surround the valley, each of the eight topping 3000ft and it’s these that form the race, totaling a cool 18.5 miles and 7415ft of ascent, a hard day for most, for those who are running perhaps even harder, still it didn’t stop people entering and by the time we’d been given the go-ahead by the organizers there were 83 competitors arranged into 22 teams.
On the morning of the race the weather was looking good and at the rear of the mountain rescue base, right in the middle of the awesome Ogwen Valley, overlooked by some of the most incredible mountain scenery in Wales, a group of nervous and excitable runners and some walkers had gathered. The ground was wet and those who could found a suitably sized boulder or stone to stand on to save wet feet too early on.
A speech from the mountain rescue team, this was their 5oth year after all, and the siren sounded, the clock clicked through it’s first second, and it was begun. Some took it easy, no doubt knowing what was in front of them, straight up one of the highest of the 8, others moved as quickly as they could, determined to seize the advantage, yet others (John and I included) followed them, not wanting to lose too much ground and not knowing this part of the route having a target to focus on would be really useful!
The climb up was a challenge, although the day would throw in plenty more of these, and we struggled to keep on any sort of path, this meant the current 3rd placed team caught us up and overtook, leaving us in 3rd and with a bitter taste – we could have been ahead if we’d known the route!
Spirits wavered, we reached the bwlch, ahead was the bulk of Carnedd Llywelyn and Yr Elen across from it, we opted for another route we didn’t know, hoping to gain some time and overtake team 2.
The plan, relied on John remembering the route and he came through in great style, threading us across the scree slopes perfectly, our first summit in the bag. We’d also taken team 2 and were now in second position, although as the morning wore on they gained ground on us and overtook at Ogwen lake as we restocked water by an outflow – had we realized water was available over the road we’d have saved time but it was too late, they crossed the wall of the dam and left us by the waterside.
From Ogwen, Y Garn rises from the road like some kind of huge armchair, a massive mountain with a stark uphill route to the summit, the East ridge. It was on this ridge we caught up with team 2, and from here across the plateau of the Glyders we battled each other alternatively for 2nd and 3rd place, it was only on the descent of Tryfan, that incredible sharks fin like mountain that we overtook team 2 for the last time, and raced down Cwm Tryfan together, forcing ourselves to keep the pace, to push on, to get back to the base and the finish line and that clock, still counting down the seconds, for us it read 6hrs 46minutes and 34seconds, not bad for a first attempt.
If they run it next year we’ll have to book in advance.
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