Abergavenny – Saturday 28th March 2015
No it’s not a spelling mistake-this event is a called a Trial and that’s exactly what it was yesterday. Without doubt the most brutal, difficult and energy sapping event I’ve ever done. Nearly pulled out twice! Only nearly mind you. It is of course also a Trail run because of the terrain it takes you over. It’s an event for walkers (but runners also do it) who have 4 choices the Gold route (20 miles), Platinum (17), Silver (15) and Bronze (12).
So you just register any time after 0700 hrs and just go on your route and it’s up to you to finish. But you must take with you a map, survival sleeping bag/blanket, whistle, torch, 1st aid kit, rations and waterproofs as the conditions can be treacherous as they were yesterday.
So I left home at 0530, signed in and started the Gold route at 0745 hrs with a jog to the foot of peak 1 the Blorenge (1700 ft) along with many walkers and a few stupid runners. The next hour + was pure hell as the ascent reduced us to barely a walk then the last section is almost vertical so crawling on all fours was the best way forward. Finally we reached the summit where the wind literally blew us over such was its force. Plus the rain, mist and clouds. Dreadful but we still had a mile to go across the top to check point 1. The downward trip was not much better as there are no paths just boulders, heather and mud but we eventually reached the canal at the bottom where I decided to run back along it to Abergavenny and call it a day. But a lady walker persuaded me that the rain would soon cease and convinced me to carry on. So I did and she was right-the rain did stop 45 mins later!
Then across country again towards peak 2 the Sugar Loaf at 1800 ft and another killer of an ascent but on foot this time. At the checkpoint on top the clouds, rain and mist meant that you couldn’t see anything anywhere but fortunately having done this event countless times I knew the way so several others followed me down to the next check point at the pub some 4 miles away again on boulder strewn trails then finally on a track passing Upper House Farm (one of several around here farmed by my great grand dad). I had already decided to quit at the pub and jog back down the road to Abergavenny but 3 Welsh ex rugby players convinced me to carry on. A no brainer really then.
So off to peak 3 we went until we saw Skirrid Fawr (a mere 1450 ft) looming vertically and ominously in the distance. There are no tracks up to this you just find your way but the Skirrid is neo vertical and that’s the only way up to the checkpoint on the top (remember this John Aylmer?). So again it was on all fours for much of the final section but by now the wind was horrendous and standing up was suicidal as we would have been blown back down the side. Finally at the top check point the rangers warned us to get off the ridge as best and quickly as we could because he winds were some of the worst they had encountered at possibly 90 mph. But the ridge is only a few yards wide and the 90 mph side wind literally blew us all over the place and at times people were huddled together en masse for safety and moving along in that fashion. Finally the descent started and a gentle 3+ mile jog back to the HQ where showers, food and drinks awaited us plus a Gold Certificate for finishing.
I’ll have to think seriously about the 20 next year but the good news is there are lesser distances. The 12 sounds OK to me.
Dave Phillips 6 hrs 45 mins.