Bagging the Welsh dragon in the Black Mountains
Crossing the Black Mountains, starting at Pandy and moving on to Hay-on-Wye, the route has incredible views and a line of trig points ending in one decorated with a Welsh dragon.
Mary-Ann Ochota looks at the equipment mountain marathon runners use to compete in the challenging Dragon’s Back Race. It’s a good starting point to think about what to take when you're hillwalking – whether you’re planning 100km or 10km!
In May this year, 402 people took on the challenge of the Berghaus Dragon’s Back race – over five days they run almost the length of Wales, 200 miles, from Conwy Castle to Llandeilo near Carmarthen. Along the way, they take in the major mountains of Snowdonia (Tryfan, Glyder Fach, Crib Goch and the whole Snowdon Horseshoe, the tough terrain of the Rhinogydd and Cadair Idris).
Then they travel through the hidden valleys and remote heights of the Cambrian Mountains in mid-Wales, and finish with the sting in the Dragon’s tail – the Black Mountain, and the summit of Fan Brycheiniog. It’s an intense endurance challenge that only top international mountain running athletes even consider attempting.
Those Dragon-taming runners carry key equipment when they head to the hills. If you enjoy the hills – at any speed – their kit list might give you a few things to consider.
Most mountain races and endurance events have a mandatory kit list. If you don’t have these things, you can’t begin. Why? Because if you have an accident, these are the things that could save your life.
If you want to be self-sufficient and prepared in the hills, carry a small mountain first aid kit. Be selective about what’s in there, though – you’ll want a way to stop bleeding, dress a wound and strap up an injured joint. You might also want a tick tweezer, painkillers like paracetamol and ibuprofen, dispersible aspirin (emergency treatment if someone’s having a suspected heart attack) and blister protection.
You can keep blister plasters and painkillers in a waterproof bag in handy pocket so you don’t need to root out your whole first aid kit if you feel your shoes rubbing. Also think about doing a mountain first aid course so you can practice those skills in real life outdoor scenarios.
A bothy bag (aka a group shelter) is a lightweight circular shelter, a bit like a small parachute. Take it out of its stuff sack and pull it over your heads, so the whole group are sitting inside. You’ll be out of the wind and rain, and your body heat will keep you warm. Mountain runners don’t carry one because they generally don’t stop for breaks with their friends! But if you’re walking in a group, they can be a godsend. Perfect for a lunch stop on a windy summit, checking the map and treating your blisters, or for dealing with a first aid situation.
A few lightweight items and your time out in the hills can be easy, fun and safe.
Pick your route and enjoy the ride!