Downpours, changed plans and the best downhill run ever

We’re parked in a lay-by close to Llanberis. Beyond the car windows, rain is bouncing back out of the puddles. It’s Saturday morning, but it has stopped getting light. 

The plan was to run to the summit of Wales’s highest mountain, Snowdon, but the cloud base is barely above the surface of Llyn Padarn. Despite the early start, the miles driven, the gear and the instant porridge scoffed in the back of the car, it’s clear that a thousand metres of ascent, in near zero visibility and a deluge, wouldn’t just be unpleasant, it would also be unwise. 

We’ve travelled to North Wales to run off-road. Routes have been mapped and recced. A 25 km Snowdon route is scheduled for day one, and a lower level, shorter distance to ease the tired legs back into movement is planned for Sunday. At ten o’clock on Saturday, however, instead of starting the ascent, we’re checking into our accommodation and looking out at the rain. 

Lodge Dinorwig turns out to be the perfect antidote to any gloom. We’re welcomed inside. The onsite café is warm and cosy, bright and cheerful. We dump bags, we order coffee and when it’s drunk, we decide that we’re still going to run. Sunday’s forecast looks a little better for heading high, but with a bit of a rethink, there’s still time today to get two shorter blasts out on the trails. At eleven, suitably dressed, and fuelled by the caffeine, we’re out running. 

LTR routes are always well planned. They head off the beaten track. Each is a voyage of discovery, with varied terrain, features and views, but one thing we discovered this weekend was how adaptable the LTR experience is. Whereas others might have cancelled an event or stuck to their original plans leaving runners to endure horrible conditions, LTR guides have the know-how that allows them to make alterations when it’s appropriate. Instead of a grim trip up the Welsh giant, we enjoyed a couple of hours following woodland trails around Llyn Padarn before heading back uphill to the Lodge for a very welcome spot of lunch.

There’s nothing like a bit of hearty food to set you up for an afternoon’s exercise, but full of good grub and without a fixed schedule, a short snooze seemed like a good idea. The bunks were very tempting, and while we dozed, the skies brightened, and a stiff breeze worked at shifting the cloud. 

Think we were being lazy? You’re wrong. By five, we were heading out of the door again for a quick 11 kilometres around Llyn Peris, taking in the former slate quarries and the so-called “Electric” Mountain – the carefully concealed hydroelectric station. Huge amounts of water are needed for such schemes, so perhaps it was fortunate that it started to pour again just as soon as we set out. Fortunately, the Lodge was well supplied with footwear drying technology, so we popped the sodden shoes onto airing racks before popping down to Llanberis to eat.  

The 25km planned single run had changed into two routes that totalled 25km. More than enough distance to have earned the pasta, the curry and a couple of pints. Listening to a cracking playlist, we put the world to rights and shared plates of sticky-toffee pudding. 

Sunday’s weather forecast was better. The reality didn’t, however, look promising. We checked weather apps and got stuck into a cooked breakfast which everyone – either scoffing the meaty, veggie or vegan option – agreed was top-notch, and then we went out to face the wet stuff. 

A year earlier, on a previous LTR Snowdon trip, we’d been beaten by the weather. Strong winds had proven too dangerous and sense had prevailed. Surely, this time, we were due a break? We headed back to the lay-by and set off in steady drizzle. But this time we did make the summit. Yes, conditions could have been better – it was perishing and blowing a gale up top – but we were rewarded with breaks in the cloud and enjoyed what one runner described as ”the best downhill run ever” when we returned to Llanberis via the ranger path. Of course, as we descended, the wind finally punched enough holes in the cloud for the sun to gain a hold. Back into the village, almost 22km done, we piled into a café for bowls of steaming red lentil soup. 

It wasn’t the weekend that had been planned. The routes were adapted and the timings were changed. Two runs became three, with a few little snoozes and a lot of food between, but we got up the great big hill, clocked loads of miles and had a brilliant time. And yes, after a very soggy Welsh weekend, we drove home in lovely warm sunshine. 

Big thanks are owed to Lodge Dinorwig for their fantastic facilities and hospitality. I’m afraid all those damp trail shoes had a certain odour for which we should apologise. Hopefully, the team at the Lodge have managed to air the place. Hopefully, next time we’re in Wales, we’ll see a bit more of the sun. Definitely, we’ll keep on running.  

Kate Woodward

 

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