Many clubs and societies have their own traditions that they cherish: for some, a varsity match that they usually win, others have a sunny picnic by the beach, some have a WILD social; for Cross-Country and Athletics, the first weekend of November holds a special place in the heart of most regulars: a weekend trip to the St Mary’s Hut in Caernarfon in Snowdonia National Park.
With the trip occurring for the third year since its inauguration, the squad left London Friday afternoon, packed for whatever weather the Welsh mountains had in store for them, along with snacks and drinks for the journey.
After the inevitable stop in Asda near Birmingham, the team continued their fairly bumpy ride up North, before reaching the National Park. While the scenery is outstanding, all most members remember of that night’s drive were the country lanes and motion sickness of some few unlucky members.
Having reached the hut after the first car convoy, the minibus squad got home late in the evening and enjoyed a drink with those who had arrived earlier and started the fire already, happy to find the hut nice and warm. Most went to bed quickly, excited about the adventures to come.
The next morning, all rose after a good night’s sleep, fuelled on porridge, peanut butter, bananas and chorizo for the most calorie-hungry ones, and got ready to tackle on Mount Snowdon as the wearher looked promising and the sun coming out every now and then.
However, the first stop of the day was neither a perilous ridge or a path in the woods, but the Cwellyn Arms: this traditional Welsh Pub in the village of Rydd Dhu serving 9 real ales 9 days a week, in order to watch the final of the RWC. After 80 minutes of cheering fuelled with tea or beer for those who like their morning pints, the group set off to forget their sorrows and burn all those breakfast calories.
The first run of the trip was the technical climb of mount Snowdon from Rydd Dhu. About 900m of elevation over roughly 7km seperated these mountain goats from the summit, so all of them set off to a good pace, but the steep gradient led all of them to slow down their efforts and approach some of the segments as a hike. Upon reaching the summit, the team opted for a classic team photo, paused for everyone to have some water and some snacks, before setting off for the much more rapid and rather fun run downhill.
Rather than going down the same way they went up, they opted for the Mountain Ranger path, taking them by a couple of lakes, as the rain began to get heavier. However, no raincloud could dampen their spirits as they all took in the splendid views and made the most of a great afternoon.
Having made it down the mountain, the group then ran back the few miles from the bottom of the Ranger Path that seperated from Rydd Dhu where they had left the minibus and car. Upon their arrival, rather than heading straight home, the team decided to stay for a bit and spend an hour in the pub, with some well-earned chips and drinks by the fire.
They then returned to the hut, with a brave bunch deciding to take on Mynydd Mawr before dinner. The near - 600m extra elevation meant that when they returned, wet and tired with everyone well-rested and showered, the decision for an early and high-calorie dinner was swiftly taken. An early dinner, a wide range of games and plenty of chatting later, the team headed to bed looking forward to another great day of trail running.
In the morning, some were feeling more fresh than others after the evening’s antics, but all set off with a smile on their face, ready to climb up Mynydd Mawr, some for the second time already. With their legs tired from the previous day’s demanding efforts, the shorter distance run still felt very much like a strong session. Reaching the summit, the group huddled up for a while before taking another summit picture and dashing off down the steep hills between them and the hut. With no need to take the minibus to go back to the hut, those most keen to shower went particularly quick down the hills, thoroughly enjoying all of their potential gravitational energy turning into kinetic energy, even when some stumbled and went for fairly conventional mudslides.
With everyone back, the squad showered, had lunch, and started packing in order to leave early to head back to London early as most were keen to have a nice dinner early and get a good night’s sleep.
All in all, a pretty great weekend which shall happen again, with some more likely to happen this year. If you’re keen on joining, email the club at firstname.lastname@example.org!