The origins of the Snowdonia 7’s goes way back to 1973 when Cynan Davies an officer in the North Wales Police Training Department decided it would be a good idea if the Police Cadets were to be able to undertake some ‘adventure training’ as it was then called. Being blessed with the Snowdonia National Park on the doorstep he chose the mountain environment as the location to develop them.
Having got the Cadets learning about the mountains, equipment, map reading and hiking long distances, he decided that it would be a good idea challenge other force’s Cadets to a mountain test, an event that would test their Fitness, Teamwork and Endurance.
He devised a seven summit route that they must complete which would truly test them physically, ensuring that they would need big helping of the above three attributes.
Invitations went out and most forces entered a team of 4 Cadets to take on the challenge. Thus the race was thus born in the summer of ‘74, and was named the Snowdonia Seven Mountain Trial.
The rules were simple, each team had to consist of 4 Cadets and each team had to remain together whilst traversing the route and visiting seven named summits. They had to carry a specific list of equipment and wear mountain boots, of a minimum weight of 2lbs each! This basic ethos of the event has remained to this day.
Having been deemed a great success the event was repeated the following year and then repeated each year until 1983 when it became clear that many forces were abolishing the recruitment of Cadets, making the race no longer viable as a cadet only event. So the race was opened up to also include regular officers who wanted to take on the challenge. This format of Cadets alongside Seniors continued for some years, until sadly the last Cadet team raced in 1994.
It was a nice ending for the cadets section as West Midlands Cadets rallied to make them winners of both the first and last cadet race.
In 1996 a relative newcomer to the force and veteran of a mere two ‘Sevens races, a young PC Craig Jones had the temerity to suggest that the race was modernised and that competitors be allowed to use shorts and running shoes. He was promptly rebuked and told that it would be far too dangerous for officers to move in the mountains wearing such minimal equipment!
In 1997 North Wales eventually won their own event for the first ever time, and repeated the feat in 1998. Up to this recent point the regular front runners had been multiple winners Warwickshire, Nuclear Constabulary and Northumbria.
Over the years the race has faced many challenges outside its control, for example Foot and Mouth closing footpaths and a fuel strike meaning that competitors had no fuel to get to Snowdonia!
In 2005 the route was changed to start and finish at Llanberis, the traditional home of Welsh fell running, and this remain the case. Unfortunately for some this also lengthened the route slightly making it 22 miles and 8000 feet of ascent.
The event has gradually modernised into the event it is today. Competitors whilst sticking to the original ethos of the event are now allowed to wear fellrunning shoes, shorts and vests if they choose to do so. However if they choose shorts and vests they must continue to carry the long clothing as well as the full equipment list as stipulated in the original rules, sticking to original aim of encouraging each team to move quickly in the mountains with proper full kit.
Over the years we’ve had some memorable moments, with each and every individual having a story to tell; whether they are competitors or marshals, or were just making the tea, the event has had a positive impact on their lives in some way.
And with any ‘extreme sport’ there will always be the odd incident, and the ‘Sevens is no exception, with Ysbyty Gwynedd enjoying its fair share of limping or stretcher borne victims of the mountain. There have been some cracking injuries (literally) and even exciting helicopter rescues, but thankfully nothing that those involved haven’t been able to smile some time later, albeit quite some time for one or two!
Over the years new categories have been introduced to make the event more inclusive, with female and mixed categories and the most recently introduced category is the Super Veterans category, where every team member must be 50 years of age or older. It is remarkable to note that there are a number of competitors who competed in the very first race in 1974 and who still continue to compete!
One thing that comes to a race veteran’s mind when you think of the Snowdonia Seven is the event mugs. Introduced in 1993 the event sponsors at the time Police Mutual Assurance Society actually came up with the idea, but it’s an idea that has endured. With a different design each year they have become collector’s items amongst the longer standing competitors. Even the year of the fuel strike a mug was produced, and we decided to send them out anyway as a consolation to those who had entered. So that year’s mug is unique, the race that never was.
So where are we now and where do we go from here? Well we’re still going strong with the event’s popularity seeming to remain as high as ever. It doesn’t get any easier to organise, with limited money (we are funded entirely from entry fees) and the event is organised entirely by a band of volunteers made up of serving and retired North Wales Police officers and staff. Getting new volunteers and marshals is like pulling teeth and we rely on the same bunch of hardy stalwarts’ year in year out, and we are eternally grateful to each and every one of you.
This year, 2019, is another milestone and the 45th Edition of the race so our t shirts etc will reflect this fact!
It would appear that the original aims of encouraging ‘Fitness, Teamwork and Endurance’ have stood the test of time.