Having seen this challenge a few year's ago on the internet i put it on my to-do list and this year decided to give it a go.It has been running since 1963 by the Cardiff Outdoor Group and is the third oldest event of it's kind in the U.K. There are 4 categories,namely the Platinum route which is a linear walk of 17 mile with 5,000 of ascent but is classed as the hardest because of the navigation involved,the Gold route which is a 20 mile walk with 5,000 feet of ascent taking in the 3 mountain's that surround Abergavenny,namely Blorenge,Sugar Loaf and Skirrid,the Silver route a 15 miler with 4,000 feet of ascent taking in Blorenge and Sugar Loaf and finally the Bronze route,a 10 miler with 2,000 feet of ascent taking in a circular walk up and down Sugar Loaf.I decided to test myself and entered the Gold route.Waking at 4.30 a.m. me and Julie left the house at 5.15 for the 100 mile drive to Abergavenny and we pulled into the busy car park at 7.40,i quickly donned my boot's and went to register in the scout hut which was bedlam as there were 900 people taking part this year,150 in the Platinum,450 in the Gold,200 in the Silver and 100 in the Bronze categories.Registration complete i said my farewell to Julie (who was having a day of retail therapy) and set off at 8 o'clock on the dot.
The route leaves Abergavenny going under the A465 and into Llanfoist,goes under the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal and rises steeply up through a small woodland,here everybody was stopping to take layer's off as they were warming up on this overcast day.Leaving the tree's the going got a little easier for a while.
Then we hit a really steep killer of an ascent,man alive it hurt.
View back to Abergavenny from half way up the steep bit.
Eventually we topped out and this left a half mile walk to the trig point where the first check point was.
Blorenge is 1,841 feet high and although only 3 mile from Abergavenny the ascent gained is 1,600 feet and it had taken me 1 hour and 15 minutes.My card stamped by the checker's i set off following 4 ladies but they slowed me up as the were struggling descending the boulder field and i couldn't pass them,once they had got through it they broke into a slow run downhill so i tagged along jogging behind them.A lot of walker's were taking a more northerly ascent but i heard the ladies talking about the quickest way off the mountain,which they were taking and i continued to follow them.We caught up with a few other's lower down near the Blaenavon road,the ladies made a toilet stop so i latched onto the next faster group.The route they took descended into Govilon by some back alley's,i would never have found this quicker route had i been on my own and would have had to take a longer route to and through Govilon.Crossing the canal i stopped to take a photo and watched which way the group i was following went,i followed them down an entry but they had disappeared,so i got my map out and navigated a route to Gilwern.I didn't see another person for about 20 minutes so i checked and double checked my map to see if i was going the right way,just then 2 runner's ran past me lifting my spirit's and said hello and good luck.Heaven's only know's what route the other walker's were taking but as i left Gilwern and made my way to the next check point in Glangrwyney lot's of them started to join the road i was on from a side street,i was well happy because in them were the group i was following and then lost by the canal.
Below leaving Blorenge and heading for the B4246 and following the running ladies.
Check point 2 in Glangrwyney where water was available which took me 1 hour and 30 minutes from Blorenge.
Passing an open caravan manned by the police who were serving free tea,coffee and biscuit's which i didn't stop at i noticed the underneath of my feet were hurting badly but i carried on,across the busy A40 and up through Cwm Gwenffrwd i got my first glimpse of Sugar Loaf.I was feeling peckish so stopped for a sandwich and a drink and took my boot's off and to my horror discovered that i hadn't put my insoles back into my boot's after taking them out to dry,no wonder my feet were killing me.I took my trouser's off here and put my short's and boot's on and headed off for the summit.
The more direct path lost a bit of height and 90 per cent of the walker's were taking that route but i didn't fancy losing any height so followed a few people up to my left to pick the shoulder up that lead's to the summit,although i imagine this was slightly longer the ascent wasn't so steep.Some cloud covered the summit for a while and it rained lightly for 5 minutes as i neared the summit but the big shock was how cold it was up here,must have been about 5 degree's C.
Sugar Loaf (or Mynydd Pen-y-Fal) was 8 miles from Blorenge with an ascent of 1,700 feet to reach it's summit which stand's at 1,955 feet and i arrived here at 11.30 and after having my card marked i had my photo taken and set off once again.
Descending the mountain my feet were absolutely killing me i was seriously contemplating pulling out of the walk.Looking across to Skirrid Fawr below.
I really didn't want to quit as i had come so far so i decided to see if i could contact Julie,hoping there was going to be a signal,i phoned her and she answered and i arranged to meet her at a lay-by on the A465 so i could change my boot's for my comfortable walking shoes.I painfully descended to the next check point outside the Crown Inn in Pantygelli,my pain was worsened when i saw the checker's were drinking cider,oh that was naughty.
Through a farmer's field and over the railway bridge Julie was waiting for me and i quickly got my boot's off and put my shoes on and had a walk around,my feet were in agony but i was determined to finish.Shedding weight out of my bag i demolished a bottle of pop and posed for a quick photo before setting off again.
It was now 12 o'clock and i gave myself 1 hour to reach the summit of Skirrid Fawr and 2 hour's to get back to town so arranged to meet Julie at the car park at 3 p.m. A 1.5 mile walk up a quite steep lane led me to an un-manned check point where i needed to note down a letter to prove i had been here.I now entered the very steep field to reach the bottom of the mountain and the last bit of (very steep) ascent in the day.I pushed myself really hard on this ascent and when i reached the top i was very nearly sick.
Skirrid Fawr (Ysgyryd Fawr) stand's at a height of 1,594 feet and the ascent involved from Sugar Loaf was 1,200 and after having my card marked i set off along it's long ridge in the direction of the B4521.
With the slope easing i got some food down me as i continued walking and when i reached the road turned right on it,passed another police van serving tea and coffee and walked the 2.5 miles back to Abergavenny passing through Bailey Park to reach the checking in hut.
I handed in my check sheet and received my certificate and commemorative badge after completing the challenge in 7 hour's and 15 minutes.The distance i walked was 20 mile with 4,800 feet of ascent and i quite fancy trying the Platinum route next year.