‘The Spine’ race is one of those events that takes over your life – for the competitors it’s the culmination of months of planning and training, but the members of the support team also had to prepare for a week on the road, with no idea of what the next day would bring. Then suddenly, it was all over, and life returned to normality. In my case that meant a walk out on my local hills.
I’ve written about the Clwydian Hills before (see posts #79, #99 and #105) and our house nestles against the northern edge of the range. Driving into North Wales via the M56, the Clwydian hills can be seen in the distance, and on a clear day it is possible to identify the highest (Moel Famau) by the remains of a stone tower on the summit. The Offa’s Dyke Path runs along the skyline, a route we have taken several times, but this time we decided to head up from the village of Cilcain.
Heading out of the village, we hit the snowline almost immediately. The route passed through fields and woods before starting to get steep. Chris really doesn’t like ice beneath her feet, but we had our secret weapon with us – Kahtoola Microspikes. My first pair were freebies from last years Spine Race (2012), and within a month I had to buy a second set to replace the pair that Chris had pinched from me!
The Kahtoola’s made short work of the steep, icy sections and we were soon at the edge of the forest that lies to the east of Moel Famau. A last steep section brought us to the Jubilee Tower at the summit.
The tower was started in 1810 to commemorate the golden jubilee of George III, but the money ran out and the incomplete construction was wrecked by a major storm in 1862. The remainder was demolished, leaving the square base that is visible from the English border.
We didn’t hang around long as a cold wind was blowing, and soon set off for Moel Dywyll. Along the way we passed a couple of walkers heading in the opposite direction who warned us that it was icy ahead. I tried not to look smug as the Kahtoola’s bit into the ice beneath the snow, but there were sections of the route where skis would have been equally useful – I made a mental note to come back some time for a ski trip.
And then, all too soon, it was time to leave the ridge to head back towards Cilcain. We had been late starting out, with the trip being a last minute idea, and we were watching the clock closely – if there’s one thing Chris hates more than sliding about on icy hills it’s coming down from icy hills in the dark! As it was, we were down in plenty of time, and too early for the local pub to be open – it looks as though a return trip will be called for.
Text and images © Paul Shorrock
p.s. Three days later, and as I write this I’m looking out on to green fields – a sudden thaw has stripped the hills of snow, even the nearby higher mountains of Snowdonia. A kestrel has been enjoying the sudden warm spell, but it looks as though the skis will be staying in the cupboard for now.