MDC News – Solstice Christmas Yuletide or merely BFP Edition 1996
Old Greybeard’s Festive bit at the front.
Hi ho, hi ho, its up the Blorenge we go…hey, this uphill running is tough, I’m glad
running down is easiiieeeeeee**@@&!!P
This month’s foreword is brought to you from the A&E Department of Nevill Hal
Hospital, Abergavenny, where OGB was taken in a bloodied state (can we say that in a
family magazine?) after his brave attempt to catch up 500 yards on young Mr. Collins
in a single stride off the top. A month later the ribs aren’t quite as painful and the scar
up my arm will be a talking point for years to come…”arr, when I were a lad fell races
Anyway, many thanks to those who helped me off the mountain and to those who
phoned or wrote to encourage my recovery. I’m taking Rod Casino’ Jones’s advice
and am avoiding putting my hands in washing-up bowls full of water and standing
behind vacuum cleaners when they’re switched on, and I’m feeling much better thanks.
Congratulations to Dick Finch on being the only reader to point out that the vernal
equinox is in the spring, not the autumn as the previous bfp indicated. Obviously he’s
been watching Mastermind instead of training… anyway he wins this month’s star prize
of being the checkpoint marshal on Fan Fawr in the next Transfan race: that should
give him plenty of spare time to eat another encyclopedia!
So to the wintry solsticial bfp (correct me if I’m wrong). In this snow-covered edition,
in no particular order, we have:
Roy Ruddle on his summer holiday being shot in the Caucasus…(painful?)
John Darby on his summer holiday seeing the sights of Galloway.
the 1996 Golden Dap Awards…. .
latest Winter Hill Series positions and race results updates…
1997 dates for your diary including Welsh Championships and International dates..
and party into the new year with MDC’s annual dinner-come-knees-up and the
Annual Presidential Luncheon (ie run and scoff at Fred’s). Details inside!
If you’re really lucky and the computer hasn’t overheated through all this work, your
FREE copy of the 1997 AAW Mountain Running Calendar may also be included. Or
it may not. Remember, members of other clubs have to pay good money for this
To finish, Mrs. G is nudging me painfully in the ribs to remind me to mention in large
friendly letters that 1997 SUBS ARE NOW DUE. Cross Kay’s palm with a greasy
fiver next time you see her or preferably send a cheque (payable to MDC FRC, not
Kay Lucas or the John Darby ski fund) to Kay Lucas, MDC Treasurer, at Chestnut
View, St. Brides Major, Vale of Glamorgan CF32 OSY as soon as you like.
The I Can’t Karrimor 1996- by John Darby
Why do we subject our bodies to such torture? I suppose coming third in last year’s
Karrimor in the Brecon Beacons is an incentive to continue. You also get to see some
1ovely mountain views. Last year we were third in the A Class, which is supposed to be
easier than the top class of Elite,
This year’s terrain underfoot in the Dumfries and Galloway region of southwest
Scotland was very rough with tussock grass and bog and very few paths. we ran on
only three forestry tracks over the two days, and had to cross streams in flood, which
personally I hate despite my large size. The weather forecast was wind and rain on
Sunday, but most of this came overnight whilst we were at the campsite.
Mark Saunders got us to the campsite on day one 12th overall, some 55 minutes
behind the leaders in the A class, so we were in the chasing start on Day 2. Alwyn
Nixon and Roy Ruddle were at the campsite, in the Elite class. Roy took a photo of us
in the tent to prove we were there.
Oh no, Mark forgot the soup, noodles and muesli! So for breakfast we had a hot drink
of chocolate with six chocolate digestive biscuits each. Would we make it round day
two? We set off up the first big climb with me struggling and Mark running like a
whippet. They say eat less to live longer; in Mark’s case it should be to run faster! OK,
So we did have our muesli bars to eat on the run, but conditions were very hard. Mark
kept going tast and I was still struggling to keep up, but we were overtaking runners.
At the last but one checkpoint the marshal stuck his head out of the tent on a very
Windy ridge and said that we were 6th
Wow, with aching limbs and a tricky descent through fir trees we sprinted to the finish.
I sat down knackered in the kit checking area 6th in the A class. I’m sure that
rucksack of mine was heavier on day two, or am I getting older?
Alice ran with Menna Angharad in the B class and came 11th overall and first all-
female team. Menna was the only person I could see who could un back to the car
after the event! I said to Mark ‘never again’ but next year’ s Karrimor can’t be as tough
as this one, can it?
Back for more in the I can’t Karrimor!
Puffed out Billy
The FOOD Page!
(Yes, Mark, there are puddings involved!)
Golden Dap Award 1996
The Tuesday night gourmet club runs this summer were generally well attended, with
quite a few new faces coming along and being surprised how much they enjoyed this
fell running business. Highlights were the full Maen Llia circuit from Storey Arms on a
very pleasant evening, and a successful barbeque and overnight camp at Cwm Llwch-
although getting to work the next morning was a bit of a struggle! The run from Trefil
to see the famous Inscribed Stone at Dolygaer almost turned into an epic, with huge
black storm clouds encouraging a brisk road run back to the pub.
The post-run curries (for newcomers the metaphorical Golden Dap is metaphorically
awarded for the best ‘curry arf n’arf on a Tuesday night) were of a consistently high
standard with the exception of the Black Cock, Caerphilly Mountain, where service
and staff attitude were awful. The sight of our Alice drawing herself up to her full 4
foot 12 to remonstrate with the manager was missed by Mark, who was hiding under
the table. ‘Never seen her before in my life!’ A £20 voucher and an apology were not
enough to avoid the award of a rare Black Dap. We won’t be back.
At the other end of the scale, the Rose and Crown at Eglwysilan set an early high
standard with fine food around an open fire, but the judges deducted marks for the
twee horse brasses advertising the little boys’ and little girls’ rooms. The Butchers in
Pontsticill scored extra marks for feeding Sharon’s pet lamb and for fitting a reversing
Siren to the skip of chips, but missed out on the title for having country and western
muzak. So after missing out narrowly last year, the 1996 deserving winner is the Nant
Ddu Lodge, on the A470 south of Storey Arms, where mountains of food were
delivered very promptly. Mrs.G’s venison seemed to be half a stag- definitely not a
bambiburger. No free bottles of wine or lamb-feeding facilities, just excellent service- a
Speaking of food….
MDC ANNUAL DINNER/ PARTY 1997
This year’s post festive nosebag and jollity will be held(again) at the Greenmeadow
Community Farm, Cwmbran, on 11 January 1997 (Darren race day). I missed it last
year, but apparently it was a fine do. Old Cheesemaker himself (John Sweeting) is in
charge, and he needs to know now that you will be there, as deposits have to be paid .
Cost is likely to be about £14- ring John now on 01495-752961
Still speaking of food……….
MDC ANNUAL PRESIDENTIAL LUNCHEON 1997
Sounds posh but it means we all go along to Fred’s for a bit of a jogette and he then
very kindly offers Sunday lunch to all comers. We have had a seriously good time in
previous years, and I’m putting this in my diary straight away. This year’s version will
be on Sunday 2nd March 1997 (the day after Mynydd Maen). Fred advises that all
are welcome but please ring him/in advance (01633-423664) to let him know
numbers. Clean daps please!
You are very foolish …
As many of you know, Im part fell runner, part climber. Almost every year since 1983 I’ve
spent some time abroad in one of the world’s great mountain ranges, from the Alps to Alaska and
the Himalaya. This year it was the turn of the Caucasus (Russia, home of Elbruz, the highest
mountain in Europe) to play host to myself and 10 other climbers. We were all part of the Alpine
Climbing Group/Alpine Club “Greater Ranges Meet”, which simply meant that one person
organised the trip and the rest of us said “yeah, I’ll go”. Once there, I climbed independently with
my long-time friend, Robert Durran. Here are a few extracts from my diary.
Thu 18 Jul. Fly to Moscow. Visited Red Square in the evening twilight, when there were few
tourists, The atmosphere and light was quite fantastic, not only for St. Basil’s and the Kremlin, but
also for Stalin’s huge Gothic buildings, which would look perfect on a Batman set.
Fri 19 Jul Fly to Mineralnyje-Vody and then transfer by bus to the Baksan valley in the
Caucasus. Prior to this trip I knew two people in the group. The rest seem “odd”.
Sat 20 Jul Planned to trek into the Dongosorum valley and spend a few days there
acclimatising. We got there, but then got shot at and escorted, at gun-point, back down to
Baksan. The next day the local Border Guard’s commander came to apologise. His troops weren’t
meant to shoot us, our permit was valid.
Sun 22-Thu 25 Jul Horrendous weather in the Adylsu valley. One thunder storm lasted
eight hours and, at times, the ground vibrated from the sound. Russians have a real
attitude-problem, when it comes to litter; popular camp sites and bivouacs here are a mess of
discarded tin cans, glass and plastic.
Fri 26 Jul Walk into the Adyrsu valley with food for a week (huge packs, 3 5kg) and then
continued to a high bivvy.
Sat 27 Jul. Climbed Sarikol (4160m) in superb weather, “almost a trekkers peak” (Bender’s
guidebook), if you call Scottish 2 and an abseil descent trekking! The views towards the Bezingi
valley were truly awesome. Unlike the Baksan mountains (Alpine scale), Bezingi’s peaks have a
Size and stature that is larger than many famous peaks in the Himalaya and we were heading there
in one week’s time.
Mon 29-Wed 31 Jul Camped at the Donkin Pass in my tiny little Bibler tent. We climbed
the superb granite spire of Kichkidar (4370m), scaring ourselves during an avalanche-prone
descent, but threatening weather killed off hopes of climbing Jalik (4533m) the next day.
Fri 2 Aug Transfer to Bezingi Alpine Camp. We’d completed our two week “warm up” and
acclimatisation and were now due to start the serious mountaineering.
Sat 3-Sun 4 Aug. Up to the Kel Pass (3500m) for an attempt on Lyalver (4350m) and then
sat out a storm for a day. The Bibler’s a true oasis at times like this, keeping us dry and ready to
climb as soon as the weather improves, despite the half inch of rain that fell outside.
Mon 5 Aug. Climbed Lyalver. Set off at midnight, got lost on the approach (Bender’s
guidebook, the only one available, is so error-ridden it’s not funny). Summited at 6am to watch
dawn and look at some spectacular mountains around us, Seconds after we started descending
Robert screamed at me to get off the ridge. His ice axe had started to fizz and his hair stood on
end; imminent possible lightning strike. No problem, we ran away and at 10am returned to our
camp on the glacier. Later that day we returned to Bezingi Alpine Camp.
Wed 7-Thu 8 Aug. Ascended the Kunjum-Mishirgi glacier to the “Flat Iron bivvy” (3900m).
This valley is one of the most spectacular I have ever been in. The glacier is barely half a mile
Wide and, with steep walls of more than 2000m on the S side, resembles a gorge more than a
valley. Thankfully, the icefall is easy this year. The echoes are another matter, just speakjng louaiy
Its enough to send your voice bounding back. Oh for the effects of a big storm
FT9 Aug The Russians have fled, ordered back to Camp by radio. There’s a big storm
Coming, but we’ve hung in here, hoping the Bibler will allow us sufficient protection to climb
Ullu-Auz-Bashi (4670m). We set off at 3.15am, moving together all the way up a glacier,
Tollowed by technically easy rock to an ice-field at 4400m. Sunrise was spectacular, a Strepsil-like
Sun Tising as a big red lozenge up through the middle of a cloud bank, quite unlike anything I have
seen before. The gale-force blast of pre-storm winds continued as we moved together up hard
45-50 degree ice, resting on opportune rocks. The views though, particularly of Koshtan-Tau’s
(5150m) N face were spectacular. We paused briefly at the summit, looking at lenticular (high
wind) clouds on Elbruz and Shkhara, before racing off down the S gully, reaching our bivvy again
in less than two hours. Relaxed for the rest of the day. Now lI’ve been having a real problemn
remembering the names of the peaks around us (shades of Wales!), so we spent the rest of the day
renaming them; Sarikol became “Trekkers’ Nightmare”, Ullu-Auz-Bashi became “No Storm Yet
Peak” and Khrumkol became “That Peak Over There Beginning With K.”
Sat 10 Aug – Mon 12 Aug. Descended to Camp. Big storm hit, dumping a lot of snow. Tried
out my recipe for sweet and sour porridge (curry and sugar). Yumm!
Tue 13 Aug. Walked up to the Austrian Bivvy (3300m), hoping to climb the SW ridge of
Dych-Tau (5198m). This mountain, first ascended by the nineteenth century British superstar
Mummery along with his Swiss guide Zarfluh and graded Russian 5a, remains a hard and
committing route, which was way ahead of its time.
Wed 14 Aug. Soloed up to the “scree ridge” (4150m) in less than four hours. Decided to
bivvy there, partly because rocks were beginning to fly down the couloirs above us. I dream a lot
when I’m under stress. Last night I dreamt we had an argument about penguins. Robert was
convinced they could fly, but I knew they couldn’t.
Thu 15 Aug. Dreamt a penguin flew off with Robert’s boot. Started climbing at 3.45am, after
quarter of an hour gazing out of the tent door at the Perseids meteor shower. I was able to give
Robert a tutorial on this annual display, because I used to study such things. We soloed up snow
and ice gullies for three and a half hours and then climbed five pitches up rock and ice to beneath
the “Tower”. At 4700m I spotted a perfect site for my Bibler tent and, as we weren’t going to
reach the summit that day, stopped early and relaxed. It was 9.30am. Later in the day we
compiled a list of “good mountaineering equipment”. Three items led the way; our perfect bivvy
consisted of my Bibler tent (1.5kg of shelter in which we’ve sat out many storms in comfort and
confidence), HobNobs (food) and a Jilly Cooper novel to relieve the boredom.
Fri 16 Aug. Off at 4.30am, Bender’s route description was worse than useless, but we
climbed fast until we were on the fourth gendarme (or so it later turned out). I aided a desperate
pitch (HVS at close to 5000m in big boots and a large sack). Then Robert took over as we
traversed the ridge, pushing on in closing weather, Above the final technical pitch we sheltered
from snow flurries in a natural cave, before racing 60m to the summit (2.50pm) and back. Tve
never spent so little time on a summit (less than 15 seconds), but we were really worried about
lightning. Then we descended, abseiling the steep parts and climbing together down other
sections. Near disaster struck just after I’d crossed a steep ice gully, my ice axe holster shattered
In the cold and my only axe accelerated away from me. It’s sobering how fast things move under the influence of gravity.
The filth gendarme crackled with static electricity and, as we had to traverse it s top, We
sheltered underneath for some time. We probably weren’t safe from a lightening strike, but it was
the best we could do. Carrying on, we descended slightly and an hour later were far enough below
the ridge line to feel safe again.
More down-climbing and abseiling, up over the Tower, one stuck abseil rope and then we
reached the tent. 9.30pm. A 17-hour day. We were dehydrated and exhausted, but delighted to
have reached the summit and descended this far in a competent style.
Sat 17 Aug Up at 4.30am and by 12pm we had reached the Austrian bivvy again. The route
Was over and we could now relax. We were the first (and only) team to climb Dych-Tau this year.
Despite its classic status, few Russian teams seem to attempt it at the moment. The Russians had
advised us to go over the top and to descend either the S gully (stonefall danger) or the N Ridge
(easier than the SW Ridge, but a hard route to do on sight in descent). We followed our 30t years
of combined experience and knew that, by descending our route, we could use a high camp and
go lightweight to the summit. Light means fast and speed means safety. The Russians don’t like
people who use their own mountaineering judgement. “You are very foolish” they said, when we
told then what we had done; descended a known, objectively safe line which was also our line of ascent. Strange people.