Initially during lockdown 1.0, twelve year old Tom was content with local walks, some climbing and watching videos on YouTube. As the days he passed and it was clear that lockdown was not going to end quickly he decided he needed a project – his own version of The Bob Graham Round that he could do from his front door.
He got out maps and guidebooks, roped his Dad into exploring with him and together they came up with the Corris Round – his very own, Nicky Spinks inspired, Ultra Run from his front door.
Along the way he learned about a famous neighbour – John Disley – who used to live on his street and went on to found The London Marathon, win an Olympic Medal and collapse on the Welsh 3000 challenge due to lack of food. Not a mistake that Tom will repeat thanks to help from his Mum & sister along the way.
It was a big day out – together they covered 56.2 km, 12 Hewitts and 3315m of height gain which took them 11.5 hours.
This film premiered at the Kendal Mountain Festival in the autumn of 2020 and won the “John Muir Trust Wild Places Film Prize” at Fort William Mountain Festival in 2021.
Length: 20 mins
Presented By: Montane
“Inspired by the lockdown watching of youtube videos of Nicky Spinks and Kilian Jornet running long distances in the mountains and by the fact that one time Welsh 3000s record holder and Olympic Medalist John Disley was born on the street that we live on Tom and me dreamt up a little running round of our own.
The Corris Round as we’ve called it starts and finishes from the door of the Corris Institute in the middle of Corris much as Cumbria’s famous Bob Graham round starts and finishes at the Moot Hall in Keswick. There was a bit of evolution as we settled on the exact route but the criteria soon became to take in all of the Hewitts (Hills in England, Wales and Ireland over Two Thousand feet) that could logically be linked into a journey starting and finishing in Corris. There are twelve of those and quite neatly they are all of the Hewitts contained in the three groups of hills that surround the village.
Those groups of hills are firstly the Tarren group with Tarren y Gesail (2188ft) and Tarren Hendre (2080ft). The Cadair Idris group which west to east contains Craig y Llyn (2041ft), Tyrrau Mawr (2169ft), Cyfwry (2661ft), Mynydd Pencoed which is also known as Craig Cau or Craig Cwm Amarch (2595ft), Pen y Gadair (2930ft), Mynydd Moel (2831ft) and Gau Craig (2241ft). Lastly the Dyfi group containing Waun Oer (2198ft), Cribin Fawr (2162ft) and Maesglase (2211ft).
Getting ready for the run has taken some time and for the last few months Tom and myself have been running twice a week with a long run in the mountains on or near the weekends and a shorter run mid-week. It’s been fun to get back into running a bit and it’s entirely down to Tom’s enthusiasm that I’ve done so. His enthusiasm isn’t however entirely to my advantage as if I let up with reigning him in the pace can become a little uncomfortable for my liking.
We were probably ready to make our attempt a couple of weeks ago but the weather has meant for a couple of delays in setting off. As well as waiting for favourable running conditions we’ve been biding our time in waiting for weather that will show off the scenery of South Snowdonia to best effect as my mate Rob is working on making a short film of our run.
Whilst Storm Francis was battering the country on Tuesday Rob and me had spied an opportunity for Wednesday in the synoptic chart. The storm looked to be travelling remarkably quickly and despite a lengthy power cut limiting the last minute checking of that to a transistor radio and the shipping forecast we reckoned that we were on for a 10 am start.
As expected Wednesday morning brought news of flooding, landslides and fallen trees but as hoped for it also brought a significant drop in the wind speed and more than a few chinks of blue skies. With that and in keeping with the long standing tradition of the Corris Round (long standing since yesterday) Tom and me rapped the door knocker of the Corris Institute at a little after 10 am and were on our way.
It’s straight up into the woods from Corris. Up the zig-zig path from the Institute then across the road and steeply up through the broadleaf trees behind Braich Goch Terrace. For a long circuit in quiet hills you might expect some rough ground and a bit of undergrowth to bash through, but in the whole journey it’s only the 200 metre link between our first path and the first bit of gravel forest road where that’s the case. With a bit of pre-recce to find your aiming mark this little stretch is rendered quite harmless. Recce of the route up onto the open north ridge of Tarren y Gesail is also well worth doing as once the secret is known there’s good and direct travel on a mountain bike trail all the way through the conifer forest right up to the heights of the ridge.
Popping out of the woods gives an instantly magnificent view to the east and south looking across the Dyfi Valley to the Cambrian Mountains and Pumlumon. Rob’s drone was up as Tom and me loped along the ridge encouraging us to run a little more of the uphills than we maybe would have done had it not been for the camara. Thanks to the help of Dan and the team at Dyfi Bike Park Rob had been able to drive up high into the forest and reach the summit of our first Hewitt of Tarren y Gesail before us.
Leaving Rob to move on to our next meeting with the camara at Abergynolwyn Tom and me enjoyed, at this still fresh state of our journey, the lovely easy and open running along the high ridge line to the Tarren group’s second Hewitt Tarren Hendre. The cloud dropped down just before we arrived but until then we’d enjoyed great views of Cadair Idris to the north and the Dyfi Estuary to the south.
Breaking out of the mist it’s a rapid descent for a fell runner to head north from Tarren Hendre and dart down a super steep and rocky chute into the woods again and on to the village of Abergynolwyn. Rob was lurking with the camera as we closed in on the village along the beautiful and well maintained woodland trail that runs alongside the tumbling Nant Gwernol.
The three groups of hills that we were traversing link themselves very nicely together and having trotted through Abergynolwyn it was only a few hundred metres of tarmac to endure before nipping across a lovely bit of pastoral hillside with Castell y Bere capturing our gaze to the front as we swung on round through the fields to the tiny hamlet of Llanfihangel y Pennant with its delightful little church.
Llanfihangel was the first of our route’s two stops and it was a pretty good picnic that Jo and Martha had waiting for us there. Nicky Spinks and Kilian Jornet might well have faster transition times but on the videos that I’ve seen they don’t seem to have as much tea, sandwiches and cake on offer as there was for us.
The next long stretch up into the Cadair Idris group and the first Hewitt here of Craig y Llyn was a stretch that we’d had a particularly tough time on during an earlier training run. Despite legs beginning to feel a little heavy it didn’t seem too bad this time. In part this was due to Rob being alongside on a mountain bike which helped in a smug and selfish way as peddling with a big bag he was clearly having to put in more effort than me and Tom to cover the same ground. Rob’s revenge was shortly there for the taking though as having parted company at Hafotty sheep pens he fair chased us with the drone up the long and near relentless grass slope that leads to the top of Craig y Llyn.
If it had seemed a big effort to gain Craig y Llyn then the consolation was that the rest of the Cadair Idris Hewitts came relatively thick and fast. Craig y Llyn links to Tyrau Mawr (or Craig Las depending upon which side of the mountain you view it from apparently) with splendid views of Llynnau Cregennan and the Mawddach Estuary. Rob was waiting for us once again at the bwlch that marks the top of the Pony Path and we leap frogged again on our way up to Pen y Gadair. Rob took the route direct whilst Tom and me first detoured left to Cyfwry and then right to Mynydd Pencoed.
There’s something that makes it noticeably more tiring when you know that you’re running against your general direction of travel and it was on the detour out to Mynydd Pencoed that I felt the first twinges of my right knee and hip creaking. On the pull back up to Pen y Gadair I’d been trying to get a gauge on Tom’s state of strength. That he leapt straight up onto the trig point so that Rob could photograph him suggested that he was feeling fresher than me.
Whilst Rob blasted back to Llanfihangel on two wheels thankfully easy running on the short growing grass of Cadair Idris’ summit plateau took Tom and me comfortably enough on two feet to Mynydd Moel. I must confess to not really knowing the rules as to just what constitutes a Hewitt but it can’t have much to do with independent height gain as there’s almost none of that on the way to Gau Craig. That shoulder of mountain though does have a lovely little ‘top’ circled as it is by a walled enclosure and furnished with a sizeable cairn. The views from there including the Rhinogau, Rhobell Fawr, Llyn Tegid, Aran Benllyn and Fawddwy as well as the whole of the Dyfi Hills where we were headed are quite magnificent.
The second super steep descent of our route quickly followed with the cannonball and most definitely none knee friendly descent to the top of the Tal y Llyn Pass (also going by the name of Bwlch Llyn Bach although the Llyn has long since been drained) and our second and final rendezvous with Jo, Martha and a meal time.
Following another good feed and a change of socks we were off again, but this time with the trump card of having picked up fellow Corris runner Matt to help us around. The addition of a new team member at this stage of the game is often gold dust. They can’t of course provide any physical support but what they do give is a fresh dose of enthusiasm and the foil to the good for nothing feeling of self-pity which when things start hurting can be all too easy to slip into.
With Matt keeping us on the pace the top of Waun Oer came quite easily as did, following a sharp down and back up, the top of Cribin Fawr. In Graham Uney’s book The High Summits of Wales he suggests dropping your rucksack and spending a mad 10 minutes dashing around the various heathery knolls of Cribin Fawr to be certain that you’ve taken in the true summit. Tom and me had a slightly more scientific approach in having taken the time on a training run to use bearing and pacing to confirm the exact location of the spot height marked on the map.
The only hill left then was Maesglase, another out and back effort having first covered the stretch of lofty running between Cribin Fawr and Craig Portas. Although of course expected, the onset of darkness was becoming an increasing factor in the forefront of our minds. Thirty minutes on the return journey to Maesglase and another thirty to reach valley bottom in Cwm Ralltgoed from where we’d be happy to don head torches. Our timings worked out to be fine but there was little let up in the pace when Tom had a nose bleed and Matt and me just offered him a fistful of moss to hold against his nose.
My head let me down on the run in along the Afon Dulas I think. Combined I would think with the wearing off of the ibuprofen that I’d taken at our last stop. I had foreseen that the final part of the run would be hard but that didn’t ease the pain of it at all when it was. When you know that you’ve all but finished your subconscious can sometimes have a nasty habit of ceasing to tell you that you’re fine. Tom could have dropped me at any time on the home run up Minffordd Street and he clearly had far more energy than me to knock the knocker on the Institute door.
A huge thanks to Matt for accompanying us on the final leg, for Jo and Martha for the truly fantastic support and to Rob for all his efforts in documenting the event and for the great Montane kit that we ran in. Finally, just for the record. The Corris Round is 48.6 km long, has 3165 metres of ascent, includes 12x Hewitts and took us 11 hours and 28 minutes to complete. ‘If you finish before it gets dark you haven’t made it long enough’. “