Summary: A splendid, short’n’sharp, muddy up, down, around, and back up and down the shapely outlier of the Black Mountains, Skirrid.
Both Annika Davidson and Andrew Wood had sung the praises of last year’s Skirrid Fell Race so I duly entered the 2020 edition.
As has become the new normal, Covid-19 meant no mass start or pre and post race bantering; rather just a case of parking the car, picking up a race number and joining a small, socially distanced queue to start at 30 secs intervals. However, the wonderful Welsh countryside and a cracking route up, over, down, round and back up Skirrid before a swooping descent remained unchanged. It also offered incentive to turn my legs quicker than I had in a while.
Before getting to grips with the climb up Skirrid, a short lap of the start field provided a warm-up. Following a week of heavy rain, conditions underfoot were somewhat squidgy and my daps of choice, Mudclaws, were immediately put to good use; staying upright on the downhill sections was going to be a challenge.
Leaving the start/finish field, the way ahead was obvious with the shapely peak of Skirrid dominating the view. The gradient and effort level gradually increased as the route squelched its way across sodden fields to get to the open access slopes of Skirrid proper. Trying to catch up runners who had started in front, and stay ahead of those who started behind, provided further onward impetus.
The ascent to Skirrid’s whaleback summit ridge was runnable for some but had me resorting to a “brisk as I could make it” walk for most of the way. The walking pace provided opportunity to take-in and relish the ever-expanding views as elevation was gained. Having reached the summit ridge, it was immediately left by a short descent and a technical, rocky traverse under Skirrid’s summit to reach its very steep North ridge.
‘Skirrid’ is derived from the Welsh ‘Ysgyryd’, which means to shake or tremble. The short, sharp hands and feet ascent of its North ridge to the summit trig point certainly had that effect on my legs. There was no respite though; the way on was an immediate, and equally steep, quad testing descent. Initially heather clad, the slope, whilst precipitous, was reasonably secure underfoot; in its lower reaches loose soil and bracken replaced the heather however, providing less stability and more entertainment. Thankfully the braken contained no bramble snagging hazards. From there, it was a simply splendid splish-splash, gravity assisted dash to the finish line.
There was of course no post-race hydration and sustenance at the Skirrid Inn; fingers crossed for a return to the full race experience in 2021…
Huge thanks go Andy Creber of Rogue Runs , and his team of merry helpers, for providing the opportunity to “race” amidst these uncertain times. Andy always provides memorable and entertaining race routes and Skirrid is no exception. Being a marked and relatively short course, it is also a great introduction to the pleasures (and pain) of South Wales fell racing; if you want to find out more, fellrace.com provides all you need to know about the entertainment on offer in
the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons…
All pictures courtesy of various ace marshalls out on the course.