In 1983 a team of four officers from Gloucestershire Constabulary got permission to enter this event, a gruelling 19 mile trek over 7 peaks with a total ascent of 7,600 feet. Organised by North Wales police, the race was originally created in 1974 for teams of police cadets but had just been opened up to officers, retired officers and support staff.
With ten days to go, two of the officers withdrew from the Gloucestershire team. The remaining two, 51 year old Ron Evans and Bob Collier, decided to travel to North Wales and take part unofficially. Now a police pensioner, Ron has been reviewing 1983 diary entries with his friend Elaine. This is his contemporary account of what happened:
“On Monday 15th August 1983 the North Wales police-sponsored 7 Peak Mountain Marathon event is to take place. Well before this date, due to the prodding of Tudor Davies and Rob Berryman, Bob Collier and myself decide to have a go. We obtain the necessary permission and backing to enter from our illustrious Chief Constable Mr Soper. But 10 days before the event Tudor and Rob get cold feet and pull out so we have to cancel our entry, which is for a team of four.
Bob Collier and I, in perverse old age, decide to have a go on our own. So on the afternoon of Sunday 14th August we journey through sunny Herefordshire and into North Wales, to set up the faithful old ‘Good Companions’ tent in a field between Betws-y-Coed and Capel Curig. We have a couple of pints nearby and then an early night, but the weather is already beginning to break up. At 9.30am, half an hour after the departure of the last official team, we head up the Miners’ Track towards Glyder Fach. The path goes up steeply to the wide saddle of moorland, and we can see the cone of Tryfan in the distance. There is a mixture of mist and cloud and breaks, but the uphill grind is a sweaty chore. I am trying out a new pair of lightweight Scarpa boots and find them comfortable.
We turn left to follow the ridge. Then it’s on to the Cantilever Stone where Bob poses for a photo, as so many more have done and will do.
Further on, through real rocks, is the first official check point where they are packing up shop. The Police crew manning it are well equipped, with excellent radio communications to their command post in Nant Peris.
The track goes round and down, the cloud clears in fits and starts giving fine views over Tryfan. Down the dip we go and up towards the weird pile of Castell y Gywnt, the Castle of the Winds.
It is some time since I was last in North Wales, and I had forgotten how tough the going can be – no walking in the Brecons is as hard.
All the way up the slope to the crest of Glyder Fach we have a view of 2 women in boots, shorts and fibre pile jackets, who are keeping up a cracking pace. They plunge off down towards Cwm Idwal as we reach the Fach crest, where we stop briefly. Then it’s down over screes and rock to stop for a bite and brew by the side of that lonely little tarn of Llyn Y Cwn, where a solitary seagull tries to steal every bit of food we have. The wind is very sour and chill.
The mist and cloud come and go. Uphill we go to the crest of Y Garn, then downhill into the saddle, followed by a gentler climb up to the top of Foel Goch. On the way we encounter an elderly gentleman ambling along in boots and Burberry all on his own. God Bless the British eccentrics. We encounter another check point crew who are packing up shop. To our surprise we discover that we are only three quarters of an hour behind the tail enders, that 2 teams have dropped out and that another team is lost. Part of the North Wales Mountain Rescue Team is at the check point, with an Alsatian and a grand-looking Collie, and they all go trotting off at a speed that makes me feel old and tired, which I am.
Another minor descent and a long slope up to the crest of Elidir Fawr and a rest before tackling the long descent to Nant Peris, which proves to be the most demanding bit yet. The strain on the knees and ankles is very great despite zigzagging down. It is a relief to reach the main road. The Command Post is in a lay-by near a roadside shop. We buy a pint of milk each and a whole box of the best Eccles cakes I have ever tasted, which soon disappear like snowflakes in a furnace! The mist comes down and it starts to rain in savage splatters.
We unofficial rag-tags go along the road to the spot where the route goes up to Bwlch Goch, which is shrouded in rain and cloud. We commence, but the rain belts down. The leaders are already on the crest of Snowdon, and we have had all we can take. ‘I’ve had enough’ I say to Bob. “So have I” is his reply.
The sweaty slog up the Pen-y-Pass is cruel, and the downhill is the last touch. We reach our snug tent and have a thankful brew. The rain teems down. At 9pm we decide it is better to pack up, so we do so under the flysheet, then roll up the wet fly, bung it in the boot and head for home.
Once out of the mountains, the clouds break and the moon appears. We stop for a meal and a pint in Llangollen. Back on the road, Bob snugs down and sleeps like a baby until beyond Hereford. To my amazement I am quite awake and able to drive well and can fully appreciate the beauty of the night. I drop Bob off at his cottage. The tiredness hits me like a hammer between Lydney and home. I end up feeling absolutely shattered but with the happy, quiet satisfaction of having achieved more than I had hoped for by doing six Peaks out of seven. One thing for sure: the 7 Peak Marathon is a Fell Run not a walk, which is something we were not aware of when we tried it for the first and LAST time!”
In memory of Bob Collier – “Any day out with Bob is a good ‘un”
Postscript: West Yorkshire police won the 1983 (senior event) 7 Peaks Race completing the route in 4hrs 32 minutes. It wasn’t until 2016 that Gloucestershire fielded a team in the open category.