A tour of South Eryri (Snowdonia). 9th December 2022.
What is a Corris Round?
The round is a circular route taking in the 12 Hewitts around the village of Corris - approximately 56km, 3300m elevation. Hewitts are hills in England, Wales and Ireland over 2,000ft (610m).
I’d wanted to do the Corris Round since I first heard about it through Rob Johnson’s film of locals, Tom and his Dad, creating and running the route in 2020. Things never seemed to line up well enough for me to make an attempt however, and I always had the usual excuses of having not recce'd the route, not trained properly, or the weather not being right.
I definitely wanted to do it before the year was out though and recce'd most of it earlier in the year. The other week I realised that I was leaving it a bit late so when the weather came good in December I started to think a bit more seriously about it. I kept checking the forecast and realised it could be alright for an attempt. It was also a full moon. A very happy coincidence? Or the universe telling me to go for it? I didn’t really think that much about it.
So, on Friday 9th December I parked up in Corris and started the run just after 5am. It was the most perfectly clear night with a full moon and thick frost. The route heads steeply uphill from the village through a forest, popping out on a nice long grassy ridge leading up the first summit: Tarren y Gesail. I knew this bit well as I run it often (usually just as an excuse to go to the wonderful Idris Stores for amazing coffee afterwards). The summit was perfect; there was little wind and the full moon was starting to set over the sea to the west.
Tarren Hendre was the next summit. At this point I noticed how easy it was to get disorientated in the dark; even when you know the route well everything is very different in the day. My tip would be not to panic, just trust you know the way and it will be fine.
The Tarren range was done and I headed down through forestry and the most beautiful waterfall valley into the village of Abergynolwyn. I ran straight though the village (I didn’t want anyone to see my ski sock/running legging combo) and around to the Cadair Idris side of the valley. I felt like I was going incredibly slowly at this point (probably only 3.5hrs into the run). The ascent to the first summit on the Cadair range felt like it took forever. Two things helped at this point: reaching the sunshine - it felt like a warm hug - and singing to myself about how I was running the Corris Round. Glad no one else was about to hear that.
I knew I should have been eating more and that was probably the reason I was finding it so hard, however, I just didn’t feel like eating anything. At the summit of Craig y Llyn I forced down an egg sandwich, and a bit a later a date and nut bar – still didn’t feel great. Thankfully, when I’d topped up with water before the ascent I also added Tailwind to one bottle. I think this saved me. So glad I shoved a couple of sachets in my bag.
The Cadair range was beautiful. It always is. I saw about 10 people, the most all day. I probably confused a few of them as I was going back and forth to tag each of the summits before the main one! During the ascent I was mostly thinking about how I didn’t think I could finish the route.
The uphills just felt way harder than they usually would for me and I knew I’d be out for longer that I thought (before I started I was aiming for 12hrs, but secretly around 10hrs was my aim). I realised I only had these negative thoughts on the uphills and there wasn’t that many uphills left, so I just had to get on with it. Also, I really like walking and I knew that I could just walk to the end if I had too. I had to remind myself that the reason I was doing this was because I just wanted a big day out in some of my favourite hills. What time I finished it in didn’t really matter. I was also doing this solo, in winter - that’s pretty hardcore.
On the final summit, Maesglase, I got a message from my partner saying he was currently in a hail and thunder storm on the coast (five miles away). By this point the final three summits were in and out of cloud and I could see, as I looked west, the dark grey sky of storm. The thought of thunder made me move a bit quicker as I knew I needed to get off the hill if it was coming my way. In the end, it didn’t make it as far as me but I could see further south where the storm had passed and left a snowy trail on the hills behind it.
The sickness and lack of appetite hung around for most of the run. I forced down some left over brie (thanks Cara!) and even ate some homemade apple cake on the final ascent of the route. Weirdly, I craved fresh tomatoes at many points that day. On the final grassy ridge section before you drop into the valley I actually used a honey energy gel that a runner had given me in the summer (I was obviously desperate at this point). I’ve never used energy gels and although this one was just honey with some electrolytes I probably won’t use one again. It just tasted a bit artificial and made me feel a bit strange. I don’t think it helped me move any quicker either, as by this point I felt like I was barley moving forwards.
The last 9km felt like a lifetime. The section is really nice along the river back into Corris and everything was coved in a heavy frost so it looked pretty special. I got back at approximately 16.20, just before it got dark. I returned to find my van, the water I'd left inside, and my shoelaces had all frozen solid! I managed to get back home in time to go for dinner with friends in Aber (I did have a pre-dinner dinner before we meet them) and even managed half a cider and some live music. I definitely slept well that night.
I didn’t do any proper training for this run. I really wish I had. At least one 6-hour training run would have helped me out hugely. Next time I’ll be more prepared. Famous last words?
I knew most of the route before doing the round. Earlier in the year I made an effort to recce a few a sections as, at that point, not knowing the route was something I felt was holding me back. I was glad I knew most of it, especially the start and end as these were/could have been both in the dark. Recce runs are great training runs too (although I don’t think it counts if you recce 6 months before and then don’t do anything else to train!).
I went into the run with the mindset that I would stop if I got injured. That was the only reason I would give up. I didn’t get injured (just generally heavy legs and tired ankles) so even when I wanted to give up, I knew I couldn’t as I could still walk.
A short message from someone close saying “You can do it” is way better than any food/gel/energy drink in the world for morale.
FOOD AND WATER:
I took 1lt of water, filled up at two rivers. Used two Tailwind pouches – though I had most of one left at the end. I ate one egg sandwich, one slice of apple cake, a chunk of brie, one Lidl date/nut bar and two blocks of Dairy milk chocolate. I think I should have eaten far more, but I just didn’t want to on the day. This strategy probably won’t work well on multi-day long distance runs - unless you can eat loads in the evenings. Definitely something I need to work on.
I started in way too many layers and ended up running in t-shirt, thin long sleeved top and waterproof jacket most of the day. I wore a pair of long ski socks over my leggings which worked wonderfully – not the most fashionable but they were about the only pair of socks I own without holes in. I wore thin gloves and a buff around my neck and head all day. I removed the waterproof on some of the climbs.
Shoes: Altra Lone Peak – I love Altras because they are shaped like your feet. These were great, but I wish they made a version with the grid of an Inov8.
Bag: Montane Gecko 12+ - I’ve been using this bag for two years now. It’s generally great and the side pockets allow you to fit loads of food in for easy access. The chest strap is a bit rubbish as it will fall off unless you sew it on (I can see everyone who owns this bag agreeing with me here) and I think the main opening on the bad could do with being larger. But it is super comfortable and gave me no issues.
Jacket: Montane Women’s Pac Plus Waterproof – really great winter running waterproof. Love this jacket.
Watch: Suunto Spartan. I’ve been using this watch for about 5 years and it died during the run. I’m on the look-out for a different brand of watch now (Please Santa?).
Apple cake: my own secret recipe!