Fastest Known What?
Holidays give us time to reflect on the kinds of things that otherwise we wouldn’t get the chance to do.
I’ve just spent a week in Snowdonia and had some great weather to go along with it which gave me the opportunity to do a little hiking and some mountain running.
During the week the possibility of making a crossing of the Carneddau Mountain range popped into my head, I’d walked it North to South years ago, but never run the entire distance.
I had the time and the opportunity so I went for it.
I’d recently read of an American Ultra runner called Travis Macy completing a Fastest Known Time across a National Park in the States, and whilst this wasn’t the same sort of distance, it held personal meaning for me, and that was reason enough to crack on and give it a go.
For a look at a trip I took to the French Alps, take a look at this post Alpine Adventures
The day dawned bright and the drive to Aber gave fantastic views of the Ogwen valley, the mountains of both the Glyderau and Carneddau ranges on display.
I started from the public car park at Aber, with any FKT attempt it’s really important to get an accurate route written down, in case others want to challenge for the time in the future or someone is simply interested in understanding how the route is laid out.
Mine took me along the beautiful Afon Rhaeadr Fawr, up through the forested hillside until I was standing over the top of the Aber Falls, a really stunning place in Snowdonia, if you have the chance to visit do check it out.
Ok, forgetting my compass was definitely a silly mistake, I’d checked everything I needed was packed in my bag, I had no idea why my compass wasn’t included, but here I was, just up in the mountains proper and sitting on the side of a rapidly disappearing path ready to check up on my map.
Luckily the weather was treating me well, despite a bit of cloud hanging around at 3000ft things were clearer where I was and so I orientated my map, and realised not for the first time that I was in a part of these hills which I’d never visited before, it was quite an exciting feeling and really took me outside my comfort zone.
I followed the river then crossed the waters as they flowed out from a waterfall, contained within almost perfectly straight sided rock walls, and then worked my way up the steep and in parts rocky slopes of Bera Mawr or in English, Great Pyramid.
I’d been really looking forward to getting up to the Beras – both peaks are extinct volcanoes, their last outbursts of lava now turned to stone and situated on the summits of both peaks.
It was up there that the last Prince of Wales was finally betrayed by one of his own Countrymen after fighting a guerrilla war from these hills against the English.
I took the opportunity the summits provided to work out the quickest way to cross onto the main ridge, a ridge which I was well familiar with, that of the Welsh 3000’s race, which passed close to where I was running today and which I was going to piggy back onto for a couple of miles.
It was the first time I’d been back on the route of one of my favourite mountain ultras, and it was good to be on familiar ground, if only for a short while.
The object of a Fastest Known Time Race is, as the name suggests to cover the route as quickly as possible. However you don’t have to be in an organised event, this could, as in my case, simply be a route set out by yourself, with no support or company.
One particular aspect I enjoyed was that the route was linear, I ran from Aber to Capel Curig which lent the day an air of adventure, especially so when I was crossing unknown ground.
I was soon at the summits of both Foel Grach and beyond it, Carnedd Llewelyn, before turning off what you could call the main route through these mountains to follow a ridgeline across Pen yr Helgi Du and then Pen Llithrig Y Wrach.
It was along this ridge that I stumbled and landed hard, saving myself from smashing into the ground completely, but cutting my hand open in the process. After this a further stumble took me by surprise, and I realised that tiredness was starting to have an effect – my concentration had wavered and this was the result.
I needed to get my head back into what I was here to do.
I scrambled up to the summit of my final mountain, a really rewarding part of this ridge and the weather was superb too.
Here I stopped for a short while to take in the stunning views before running off the hills into the village.
It had been a fabulous journey through the Carneddau Mountains and I’d enjoyed every minute, despite the challenging nature of the terrain, especially given this was an ascent from almost sea level to one of the highest mountains in Snowdonia.
Aber to Capel Curig
Distance: 14:00 Miles
Duration: 5 hours 14 Minutes and 50 Seconds
Route: Aber – Top of Aber Falls – Bera Mawr – Bera Bach – Foel Grach – Carnedd Llewelyn – Pen yr Helgi Du – Pen Llithrig Y Wrach – Capel Curig