Lenticular clouds forming over the Welsh mountains at sunrise - day 1
I’ve been lucky enough to witness a number of amazing feats of endurance in the mountains while shooting film for outdoor brands. Having focussed primarily on rock climbing when I started out, my work now often features mountain runners. I’ve been constantly inspired by the people I’ve followed through the mountains. There’s something special about the simplicity of it all - just grab your shoes and go….and go, and go, and go! As someone who grew up in the Lake District and knows the hills here well, I’ve been a good choice as cameraman for Nicky Spinks’ Bob Graham record, her double Bob Graham, Killian Jornet’s incredible Bob Graham record, and number of adventure races such as the OMM 50th and the Saunders. In 2015 I made a short film for Alpkit featuring Nicky Spinks. It tells the story of her recovery from breast cancer, life on her farm in Yorkshire and her motivation to run.
Recently I was really pleased to get a call from my friend Ellie at Summit Fever Media to say that Nicky had a new plan! Having run a double Bob Graham in the Lake District and a double Ramsey Round in Scotland, she had her sights set on the final double of the trilogy - the Paddy Buckley in North Wales. So I set off with my assistant Jake for our own feat of endurance, following Nicky through the mountains of Wales for as long as it took her to complete 200km of mountain running.
Nicky at the start of the Paddy Buckley Round - Capel Curig
As ever, Nicky had a strong support team around her. At the centre of this was Charmaine, Nicky’s right hand woman and driver of the camper van base camp that is critical to Nicky’s success on these challenges. Charmaine provides food, shelter and a rest spot for Nicky at the end of each leg, and also co-ordinates the volunteers and pacers who support Nicky in the mountains.
Nicky resting in the camper van with Charmaine
For the first 24 hours Jake and I, and Matt and Ellie dotted our way around Snowdonia catching Nicky wherever we could. The running team is a moving target but with a map and a tracker it’s possible to catch them at critical points along the way. It was a pleasure to get to know the mountains better in Wales - you always learn so much more when you have to travel to parts of the landscape that you wouldn’t normally choose to.
Llanberis slate quarries
Nicky was behind time as she finished her first loop of the Paddy Buckley. With a slight navigation error and fatigue setting in she dropped an hour, but Nicky is a seriously tough woman, and the next round was an unbelievable demonstration of bloody minded determination. The hours rolled on, Nicky had slowed with fatigue, but she kept on going and going and going. At many points we wondered if she might drop out, the 48 hour guide time was long gone but she still kept running, determined to finish what she had started. You could see the weight of responsibility on her shoulders at times when she looked at the team that had come to Wales to support her, she didn’t want to give up.
Dropping down off Glyder Fach to start the last leg - about 50 hours in
57 hours later Nicky ran in to Capel Curig. Still smiling she sipped Champaign and chatted to her friends who had gathered around. Nicky had run 200km through the mountains with 15 mins sleep. It was an unbelievable thing to witness and by far one of the most inspiring things I have seen in my time as a filmmaker in the mountains. The film will be produced and edited by the Summit Fever team in the coming months, and will be be available to view in 2020, dates tbc.
Nicky and Charmaine making the most of the finish line refreshments