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Llangollen to Barmouth (Leventon's Line 24th June 2012) by Helen Skelton.

Leventon’s Line, created by fellow Mercia Fell Runner’s Charlie Leventon and Rick Robson, first appeared on my radar whilst trying to find something a little further than the ultra-distance races I’ve been competing in during the past two years, but not as far as the 24 hour classics rounds such as the Bob Graham.  Having never run over the 10 hour mark, I was looking for a challenge to test the water.

On investigating the route of almost 60 miles and 14,000ft of ascent, I realised that much of it was pretty wild and pathless and with very few people completing the extended route and not much information to go on. This appealed to me as I relish the opportunity to have a go at navigating, especially during long days out recce’ing.  However, not having a huge amount of knowledge of the area, I knew that an attempt would require some considerable groundwork beforehand. 

Realising this and trying to put together a pretty packed race plan for the year, I put it to the back of my mind until a chance conversation in the pub with Andy Davies in March 2012, where he mentioned that he was going to have a go – and would I be able to help with some support running?  The opportunity was too good to miss, so in May I accompanied Andy on legs 2, 3 and 4 on his record completion.  The sections from Milltir Gerrig to Bwlch y Groes filled me with horror at the prospect of the whole challenge being like that, having spent several hours trying to keep up with Andy through knee deep heather and tussocks, with the occasional relief of the odd bog to fall into!  I was secretly having second thoughts about attempting it, but knowing that it passed over some of the nicer sections of the Berwyns and Cadair ridge, I tried to remain optimistic.

With the help of Simon Daws and Nigel Glaze of Mercia Fell Runners, I set about recce’ing the rest of the route. This also enabled me to get a feel for timings so I could try and formulate some kind of plan for my support crew.  The Berwyns turned out to be beautiful, as did the rest of the route that I was unfamiliar with. A 16 hour schedule seemed the most realistic, so that became my aim, along with using it as an opportunity to get my pacing and nutrition right.

dc514276f3ea423abfca04cc107bdcf5So on 24th June 2012, along with a small group of willing volunteers, I set off from the Dee Bridge in Llangollen at 5am with Mark Bollom in rain that was forecast to improve. However, by the time that we reached the first trig point of Y Foel, the rain was torrential and we were being blasted by side-winds.  The heavy rain the previous week had changed the small puddles and boggy sections on the way to Moel Fferna into large muddy lagoons, at points I was disappearing up to my thighs in cold gloop.  Visibility was poor on the approach to Cadair Bronwen, only being able to look up enough to see the way forward as our faces were being blasted by our British summer weather!  On leaving the ridge and trying to run through the waterlogged ground to Milltir Gerrig, I had a sense-of-humour failure and really thought that continuing was going to be futile, especially if the weather remained this inclement on the higher ground around Aran Fawwdyw.

My next support runner, Andy Davies, was stood ready to go at Milltir Gerrig, keen and eager to guide me thorough the next three legs, so off we went, with the thought that I could reconsider whether to go home at the end of leg 2 and sit in front of the fire with a glass of wine.  A passing car pulled in and it’s driver looks at me, with rain dripping off my nose and peat all over my legs.  “Where are you off to?” he asked, “I’m running to Barmouth” I replied, as my support crew start laughing and the driver shakes his head in disbelief.

The weather improved slightly, and I was navigated with expertise across the vast expanse of bog and heather in the clag. Following the track down to the support van, Charlie Leventon pops out of his car earlier than I’d expected see him; to take photos....I can’t give up now!

d41e4550ed624b6aaa2496628fb04010Time passes, as do many peaks and comedy falls and splats into bogs.   Bwlch y Groes is a welcome break.  It signifies the half way point in distance, but with a major proportion of the ascent still to tackle.  We acquire a mascot in the form of an overly friendly sheep in the car park, who seemed keen on joining in.

The weather is still not great, but improves as we run off Foel Hafod Fynydd to see Creiglyn Dyfi at the base of the scramble up Aran Fawddwy, my favourite part of the route. The cloud level obscures the summit, but just getting to this point means that we are on easier, although steeper ground from now on.

I reach the lay-by on the A470 at Bwlch Oerddrws ahead of schedule and was greeted by a hot mug of sweet tea and a new set of supporters (Adrian Donnelly, Clive King and Misty the Dog) and I take time to eat some food.  The relatively short leg over Cribin Fawr, Waun Oer and Mynydd Ceiswyn was a pleasure, the cloud had lifted and we finally got to see some stunning views.

 

 

1dda792a2fea420e8f1c1af52cb528cbThe final leg begins with a very steep scramble to get to the summit of Mynydd Moel.  I’d recce’d a nice little path onto the plateau, but Adrian assures me that he knows a quicker, more direct route.  I’m starting to feel tired now, but suddenly wake up with a rush of adrenaline as we contour an exposed craggy area, interspersed with bunches of heather and bilberry bushes – complete with full visibility, just when a bit of clag would have been helpful in blocking my view of the big drop below me!  I have a little grumble, but we are soon onto the plateau and it becomes immediately apparent that it was the best line, although a little scary.  We trundle over Cadair Idris, Craig Las and Craig y Llyn, the cloud has finally lifted and we can see the Mawddach estuary in all its glory in the evening sun and I have no doubt now that I can make it.  As we leave the last trig (Pen y Garn), we follow the ancient track ways down to Barmouth Bridge and running feels effortless, there is nothing left to trip up on, jump over or fall into!

 

31189f218d0540c88192cff176b3e222The bridge feels like a long way, but we’re greeted by Andy and Charlie at the hut at the end and Andy accompanies us up the High Street to the railway station, where I touch the door and grin from ear to ear.  15 hour 27 minutes - the first female to complete the extended route.

 

Running Support: Mark Bollom, Andy Davies, Adrian Donnelly, Clive King and Misty

Road Support: Adrian Donnelly and Charlie Leventon. 

Many thanks to Simon Daws and Nigel Glaze for help with recce’ing the route, to Rachael Bollom for help at the start, to Stuart Cathcart of High Sports for encouragement and enthusiasm and to TORQ (gels and energy drinks).

More of Charlie’s photos @ http://www.flickr.com/photos/11502741@N03/sets/72157630280354960/

Helen Skelton, June 2012.


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