Leaving this peak I was much more confident. I knew the route quite well and led our happy band down the mountain and up Cribyn, 2608’ and down again and up Fan y Big, 2359’. That was our Peak 10. Around a long, cliff edge path where the others were beginning to doubt my navigation but I was quite sure of where I was going and finally to the optional peak, Bwlch y Ddwyallt, 2474’. Now only 28 minutes behind 2015. And 10 minutes ahead of 2013! I was starting to feel pleased. Just the bog section to go and the steep descent from Carn Pica down the mountain. It was all looking good!
Some head torches appeared on the summit plateau – the other runners? But they were coming from an unexpected direction and had enormous rucksacks. Who were these people up here at 2352? A group of three lads on a night hike. At least they knew where the cairn was! Great, I dibbed and quickly moved over to Pen y Fan, 2907’. Had to follow the compass carefully – visibility was practically zero in this cloud.
Same problem on the highest point in southern Britain. Although the summit cairn is massive, I couldn’t locate it and the summit plateau here was much larger, involving larger circling and criss-crossing. And the wind was vicious up here – the hood had to go up as well as thermal hat. Round and round I went until the gang of seven arrived at 0014 and again seemed to have no trouble finding the cairn. What was wrong with me?
On the path I was taking there is quite a descent in the middle to cross a stream by I’m sure should have been a footbridge before continuing the climb. When I got to the stream there was no sign of a footbridge and the stream was in full spate. Had it got washed away? I wonder if this had anything to do with why runners were directed onto the other path??
Wet feet, but that was nothing new today!
Got up to Corn Du first but it was thick cloud up there and I couldn’t see a thing. Where on earth was the summit cairn? I’m sure it was near the top of the path but even after criss-crossing the small summit plateau I could see no sign of it. The wind was getting very strong, and it was cold. I would only find the cairn by literally walking into it and so round and round I would have to go until I did find it (as well as keeping warm).
And so, the Storey Arms with its burger van and the chance for some hot food and a cup of tea. Unlike previous years I was anxious to get going on the next and most strenuous part of the course and so didn’t even sit down. I reorganised my kit and got going up the tourist trail to Corn Du. I’d gone several hundred meters up the track when a very large searchlight was directed onto me and a loud voice came out of the darkness, “Oi, you! What’s your number?” Oh no, not a DQ or at the very least a telling off from Mountain Rescue? I had overheard, but not been told directly, that this path was closed to runners and the alternative from the Pont ar Daf car park was to be used (the one we had come down on hours and hours earlier). I couldn’t really see a reason why so I had furtively slipped off, headtorch off, but not furtively enough it appeared. “2-0-8”, I said, fearing the worst. “OK”, said the voice, “good luck”.
I had the enjoyable experience of climbing up to Corn Du, 2864’, completely on my own. About three-quarters of a mile away I could see the headtorches of the others climbing on the other path. The race was on!