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Backyard runs in North Wales

by Daz Clarkson

Walking in on the cresta run

April showers that come in March, the welcome down pour making the wipers of the car flick faster and faster. We get the old battered guidebook out, what will be running? What has been left undone for a while? After work we set the GPS grid reference and head for the Tegel. A lesser known Ffestiniog river, the guide offers only a short paragraph of description but we dont care. Class 5+ and steep. 

Without undue scouting we put on, within 50yards the box canyon walls close in and our 1st 30ft fallthe landing is shallow. Encased in the box canyon we have only 2 eddies to rest before a blind horizon20ft booftastic. So perfect that a big neon sign hangs from the tree saying boof here, a siren shouts boof now the landing is sweetthe pixies of middle earth dance on the bank, lalalalalala they swing together holding hands. Thats how perfect it is. Alas the 1st fall, shallow, saw me almost break my ankle the following day. This is class 5+, pushing the limit of the guide. The rest of the river is nice, top end class 5, peachy rides and funky falls, undercut chasms and siphonssweet afternoon out.

With our kit wet in the back of the car, we wake, and set off for another dayJust outside Bala the Lliw offers our next challenge. The cataract of the Lliw gorges. About 500 mts of class 5-6. Water is flowing at a medium level, so before breakfast we launch in, its nice. Not impossible. Still dressed in the IR union suits we grab lunch in Bala Spar then watch some TV..boy oboy this is the rock and roll life! In the afternoon we head back to the top of the Tegel. Thats when it happens, the suspected broken ankle, the impact from 30ft. It is no pretty sight. The piton onto rock!

Sleep comes only with codine. As the morning sun bursts the clouds from the sky. The day is perfect. I stumble into my car. Drive, painfully up into Ffestiniog. The Goedal is at a perfect level. In front of tourists we put on, blue sky and blue water. We could be in Norway or the Alps, it is so perfect.

Those that can paddle the Goedal dont need a guidebook, its full on 5+, the scene of near deathportage is on the site of necessity. It pushes all the buttons that fire our soul. It has more drops than you can shake a big shitty stick at. All but 1 go, but water levels are so important. It throws no gauntlet down, those that do venture into the gorges do so because they want to. It is not a river to be ticked off it makes the Fairy Glen seem like a class 3-4. It is a magical river to end a magical few days on the water.


1. LOWER CYM MYNACH. Steep slide drops, class 5ish. It is a roadside run but the road offers no support. A few drops you have to run blind, the stoppers can hold boats and bodies. Tree damage changes after every storm. 

2. CRESTA RUN,  Fast.faster than it looks, only safety is available after the plunge pool. Short walk in through a woodland glade. Big free fall apx 40ft after a long slide.

Upper section

3.GOEDAL. World class, deep hidden gorges, support and safety are minimal. Interesting footpath system. I fine line.


4.RHAEDER MAWDACH. Its a big drop onto rock, it will give you a beat down and watch the mine shaft. Only seen a handful of descents. Put on below!!!

5. UPPER MYNACH. It is a grade up from the lower, steep creek, full of trees, few eddies and nasty tow back stoppers. A blast. If the lower is running then the upper will be low. If the upper is running then the lower will not go.


1.      Use a creek boat, obvious. Dont try a river runner hybrid or playboat. Big fat round nose boats with rocker. The Gus is an exception, if its good enough for the Kern brothers it is good enough for Wales! 

2.      Elbow pads, Split paddles, strong helmets, harness pfds, pin kit and multiple throw lines in the group. More important know how to use them.  

3.      Understand that gravity will win in the end. On big drops its the lead in that matters. Knacker that, and you will fail your line. 

4.      Rolling will hurt loads. Swimming will hurt even more. Dont boat in board shorts and sandals. Use strong footwear and cover legs. 

5.      Water levels are important, these rivers are too important to sneak in summer flows. Dont cheat the river as you only cheat yourself.