Article: changing up a gear - dabbling with mountain running

In a past life I would have described myself as a runner. Never a fell runner mind; I’ve always preferred running on tracks and trails. Definitely up and down but never high on the mountains instead taking in the contours of the hills around the lakes and forests. These days due to a lack of stretching and plenty of days walking up hill, I’ve developed tight quads, ITB’s and hip flexor so running hasn’t really been on the cards. However a recent desire to sort this had opened the potential door to go faster again.

Last week, I had a ton of irritating life admin to do and as the Friday was forecast to be fairly wet and miserable I thought I’d better crack on. But as the sky lightened and the rain stopped, excesses of coffee had us bouncing off the walls and looking for an escape to the hills. Becky suggested taking our guest canine friend, Nonny onto the Moelwyns as it was many years since she had been up Cnicht. This was once a major stomping ground for me for leading groups for local outdoor education centres so I was happy to go along as I love that area of Snowdonia.

 South West ridge of Cnicht

South West ridge of Cnicht

One hour after deciding to go we were parking up in Croesor and jogging slowly up the track to the start of the south west ridge. Cnicht viewed from this angle looks incredibly pointy and steep but the gradient stays pleasant. After the summit you have approximately 1 and 1/2 kilometres of gentle down to a small col marked by a cairn above Llyn yr Adar. From this point we followed the vague path due south to the workings at Bwlch Rhosydd.

 Halfway round, the far skyline still to go

Halfway round, the far skyline still to go

This area of Snowdonia is heavily influenced by the slate quarrying activities of the previous couple of centuries, but these days the busy industry has disappeared. Slowly the houses and sheds are toppling and being enveloped by the moss. In fact during the whole day, we saw only 2 people, both in the distance; a pair of shepherds gathering their flocks.

Leaving behind the slate tips we followed a more modern hill eye sore, a stock fence, high up onto the shoulder of Moelwyn Mawr. At this point it was quite windy, well worth layering up with my Rab Vapour-Rise. The summit ridge heads fast down, then undulates and although good running I was by this stage grumpy as my legs felt tight and somebody had forgotten all the food.

 Fast down and god rays

Fast down and god rays

The last pull up onto Moelwyn Bach was well worth it for the sweeping vista over the Dwyryd and Glaslyn estuaries and the fantastic running terrain of the grassy west ridge. Firing down, I thought, I might do this again…

Simon Verspeak