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Andy Davies Paddy Buckley Round

Andy Davis from Stretton had been planning an attempt at a Paddy Buckley Round for a few years now, but he didn’t just want to do the normal PBR he wanted to do a little extra and attempt to Break Rob Woodall’s 1998 record of 52 Welsh peaks in under 24 hours, this of course would include all the tops usually included in a Paddy so it was a double attempt all rolled into one big effort on 25th & 26th May 2013.


The omens looked good, training had gone well, and the weather forecast for the day look superb, so at 10:00am Andy set off from Capel Curig with Jim Mann, who is one of the elites of the Long Distance fell running world, with Moel Siabod and the 9 summits of boundary ridge the first section on their schedule.


A lot of work had gone into preparing for this attempt, and one aspect is to work out a time schedule, it’s important make sure you set off at the right pace and make sure everyone is in place to give the correct support, but with such perfect weather, under foot condition being firm and fast and Andy been in such fine form it was only natural that he could pick up minutes in the opening sections. A lot of preparation had also gone into making sure everyone knew the route, navigation was also going well with the best lines been hit and no time lost there, even so it came a little bit of a shock to back up team in Rhosydd Quarries when Andy and Jim arrived 23 minutes early, a vital drop off much needed food and drink was almost missed,


The good conditions and fast pace continued over The Moelwyns and Cnicht with the two arriving at the first road side check point in Nantmor 40 minutes up on schedule, this again cause panic, Paul Cadman was due to be taking over from Jim, had not arrived, for a while we where even to thinking we may have to send out a replacement, and Adrian Donnelly got all kitted up and ready to go, but was not needed in the end as Paul arrived in the nick of time.

Jim had paced, or more like hung on to Andy for over 16 mountain tops, Paul now had the job for the next 9, from Nantmor, over Moel Hebog and toward Nantile Ridge, from the second road side check point at Pont Cae’r Gors just outside Bedgelert the two could be seen in binoculars at several vantage points, so there was no surprises this time for Pauline Richards and her road side crew when Andy came in early again, now 50 minutes up on schedule.


On the third leg over Snowdon toward Llanberis Tom Roo was to pace Andy, the pacers job is to act as witness that all tops have been visited, help with navigation making sure the best lines are taken, although Andy does like to do most of this himself, but most importantly to carry food and drink, on such warm days, and trying to keep up such a high pace, even the pacers need help, so Dave Nicholls and myself once again set out to meet the runners on route, following the near miss in Rhosydd, no chance where taken this time, we fair raced up Rhyd Ddu Path to make sure we got there first,


The views on top where magic as the sun set over the Irish Sea the long shadows throwing the mountain into relief, Tom later said it was one of the best nights he’d ever spent in the mountains. The extra fluid was passed on, but worryingly Andy refused any extra food saying he was having problems eating any solids. Leaving Snowdon at 20:15 they went off to Crib Goch the first of the extra summits, a contouring line across the scree slops of Carnedd Ugain apparently take you straight there, although I have to say to the naked eye its hard to see, on the return journey the runners follow Grib y Ddysgl picking up Carnedd Ugain before heading down the Ranger Path, picking up another 4 summits on the way to Moel Eilio then down into Llanberis to meet the road side crew and the next pacer, things had not gone so well since leaving Grib Goch, Andy was still struggling with his stomach, he’d tried for over an hour to force half a sandwich down, but he just could not swallow, as Andy struggled with his stomach the pace slowed and some of the early time gains began to slip away, but he was still over 30 minutes up on schedule.


Andy set off again this time with Adrian Donnelly who is to attempt his own Paddy just in just three weeks time. It was now just gone midnight, with the long climb up through the Dinorwig Slat Quarries, the blue sky’s much darker now, but it never felt really dark, the stars where out and giant sized moon lightened the sky, almost making head touches unnecessary, the only clouds that could be seen where well below runners, filling the valley of Nant Gwynant to their right, unfortunately Andy’s stomach problems continued, more time was been lost as they headed over the Glyders, even though they still picked up their second extra summit of Castell y Gwynt.


Pauline managed to catch just a couple of hours sleep before setting up the next road side check point at Ogwin Cottage, there she met Dave Hindley from Cheshire Hill Runners another runner preparing for his own Paddy Buckley in just a few weeks time and Lawrie Jones from Wrekin Orienteer’s a regular supporter of long distance adventures, they were going to pace Andy over the Carneddau, there were six peaks that needed ticking off here, but with the possibility of 4 or even 7 extra peaks, Dave Nicholls was going out again for the third time with extra supplies.


Meantime Adrian and Andy tried to push on, hoping that by some miracle Andy’s stomach problems would go away, and the strength would come back into his legs, but minutes was been lost on every section, time gains where slipping into time losses, the road side crew had no idea what was going on, flashing lights could be seen on the side of Tryfan, but what appeared to be coming down, then appeared to be going up, then disappeared all together, day light started to break, the rock faces around Devils Kitchen and Y Garn light by an alpine glow, eyes peered anxiously up towards Tryfan, then back down at watches, calculations where made on how much time could be lost, and how many of the extra peaks would have to be missed


Eventually the runners were spotted, slowly coming down the western gully of Tryfan, it was almost painful to watch, we could tell there must be something wrong, Adrian could be seen waiting, Andy seemed to be turning round and lowering himself down slowly almost crawling, a rescue party was sent off fearing the worst, he must be hurt


Andy arrived in Ogwin at  about 5:15, an hour later than scheduled, nearly 2 hours later than expected, no injuries, just very tired, Adrian’s report on Andy’s mood did not bode well, he slumped in the chain in the little car park by the youth hostel, Pen yr Ole Wen must have looked twice its normal size, I don’t think he really wanted to go on, maybe another day, but Pauline had been here before, it was pep talk time, and a little cajoling, and three anxious pacers ready to go Andy took the hardest step of all, the first one out of the chair, off he set up one of the steepest slops in Snowdonia, we watched him every step of the way from our road side vantage point, for just over an hour before he disappeared from view.


Theoretically it was still on, mathematically a completed Paddy Buckley was still possible, but extra summits and the record were now impossible, to be honest we thought the clock was going to win, we went off to the finish in Capel Curig, it was going to be a very long a anxious wait, Adrian, Pauline and Skelly couldn’t stand it and went for a drive up the road to see if he could spot them on the ridge across Crag  yr Ysfa, I found myself a vantage point looking up at slops of Pen yr Helgi Du and Lithrig, time ticked by, Adrian P & S returned and went in the Café for breakfast unable to see any signs and fearing the worst.


Mean while I’m still staring at summits when I notice a lone runner approaching the stile a mile away from the finish, I expected it was one of the support runners, coming back with news but couldn’t tell who, still expecting worst I didn’t get excited, then a moment later I saw Andy with the rest of the crew in tow, just a mile to go and it was still only twenty past 9, I rushed back to not knowing where the rest where, all of a sudden breakfast was abandoned, we were there outside waiting and cheering, he made it with time to spare.


I’m not sure if Andy thought it was a victory or not, he was a little disappointed to say the least that he’d fallen short of the record round he’d set off to complete, but it was definitely an awesome achievement, one that will be remembered for a long time, and it just goes to show the sort of stuff these long distance runners are made of, well done Andy and all the crew that supported him every step of the way,


Keith Richards

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