The Snowdonia 7’s goes way back to 1973 when 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.
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 and of course in more recent time Covid 19.
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.
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!
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.
Last year, 2022, we were back after a Covid induced break and it was also the Platinum Jubilee year and so our t shirts etc reflected this fact!
It would appear that the original aims of encouraging ‘Fitness, Teamwork and Endurance’ have stood the test of time.