It’s that time of year again. UTS was last weekend and I’m still buzzing from it as I’m sure all the other volunteers and competitors are. This is only the second year but already this event is special and it will only get better.
I must have done something right last year as Mike, the Race Director, asked me to run the Mountain Checkpoints. Now, this started off with six handpicked volunteers running two checkpoints and ended up with twelve legends split over five checkpoints. I pored over my plan for weeks beforehand, and after three re-writes it was done and I can honestly say that on the weekend it ran almost to the letter.
I arrived along with a couple of volunteers on Thursday evening and straight away the calibre of volunteers was evident. I recognised a few faces from the previous year and even though Mike was out getting the shopping everybody chipped in and began sorting the HQ and CP supplies; even early bird runners were pitching in as is the community feel of this race.
Come Friday I had my full team of twelve assembled and we had a final briefing before setting out to our respective CPs. I was on CP5 along with Neil, Robert and Matt and we set off from CP4 following the route that the runners would be taking later in the day. This turned out to be a mistake as we had to cross a really sketchy ridge followed by a full-on grade 2 scramble with 30kg packs and unfortunately this was too much for Neil who went back to help the other CPs.
The remaining three pushed on to the summit of Carnedd Llewelyn and set up our home for the night. We had a gloriously still night and kept the fresh coffee flowing and tunes blasting for all of the UTS100 athletes. When the last athlete was through we grabbed a couple of hours sleep and then headed off the mountain by the shortest route.
The rest of the team had been busy manning CP6 and 7, and whilst some went for some shut-eye we headed to Pen-y-Pass to hook up with Jimmy and Steve for our next detail: a whole 24 hours on Snowdon Summit manning the races final checkpoint.
Over the last couple of weeks Mike and I had fretted over how we’d get all of the equipment up to the summit for CP14. After the Mountain Railway ghosted us we begged the land owner to let us drive partway down the Miners’ Track, but on the day the path was rammed so it was the hard slog up the Pyg Track, this time with slightly lighter packs.
At the summit we desperately searched for a suitable place to set up camp for the night but it was the busiest I’d ever seen it and there wasn’t a single spot without a pair of boots or flip flops. We finally found a spot at the top of the Watkin Path and set up for our 24 hour stint.
The night was windy and cold but the runners came through regularly and kept us all busy. Just before 0500 we received an SOS call form one of the runners’ GPS trackers and in the dark we could see a head torch flashing in the distance. I packed a bag with my sleeping bag, first aid kit and some food/water and headed out to investigate. It was about a mile away but luckily most downhill and I made it there in about 20mins. When I got there, there was a runner on the floor in his survival bag with another runners survival bag over the top. There were three other runners looking after him and once we’d got ‘Danny’ into my sleeping bag I sent the other runners off to finish their own races.
At first Danny was cold and mumbling, claiming that he couldn’t move.I checked him over and he wasn’t injured; he’d just given everything he had. Mountain rescue had been called and I updated them with an accurate grid reference. I nursed Danny, feeding him gels, salt tabs and cola and as the sun rose and he warmed up he became more responsive and his spirit returned. I convinced him to accompany me to our CP and Mountain Rescue were stood down. Danny spent some time at our CP while his energy returned and he continued on to finish the race.
Drama over, we all enjoyed the beer I had bought from the cafe the night before and looked after the last few runners as they transited our checkpoint. The sun continued to rise and melted the frost that had formed on our tents, creating another glorious day in the mountains. Once the last runner was through we packed up and headed down to mark the end of our epic weekend.
Again, this event did not disappoint. One year I will run it, but when it’s so much fun to volunteer it won’t be next year. If you’re reading this with and eye on the race I’d urge you to volunteer first. It’s the volunteers that make this race what it is and it will give you a unique insight into what it takes to complete this beautiful but brutal race.