Thursday, June 28, 2007
This week has been all about getting work sorted out, cleaning, replacing and repairing kit and getting the food ready - all over again!
We are in pretty good shape now and will be killing Pete on the uphills! (he will be joining us again for this last week) . My feet are a bit tender and looking up the syptoms on the web, it looks like they are suffering from being damp for too long. I have invested in some Sealkins merino inner socks so I can wear my Sealskins more next week if its damp.
Last week, while the rest of the country was suffering with horrendous weather, we were very lucky. Hopefully, we'll have good fortune this week too as it's the best terrain of the walk.
I read the Rhinogs bit of the 'official guide book' when we got back and learnt a couple of things...
1. The reason the Cambrian Way didn't get national trail status was because the Rhinogs are too dangerous and mountain rescue crews did not relish the increased numbers in the range.
2. The way we came off Rhinog Fach is NOT recommended - come down the same way you went up!
Lessons learned? RTFM before you go!
Saturday, June 23, 2007
After the midge horror that was Cwm Bychan, we climbed for a while in hot sunshine to the base of Clip.
We had decided the night before that if the promised storms came, we would use our low level escape route off the Rhinogs which would mean a few hours of boring farm tracks and roads.
Once we reached the pass, the weather was looking good so we started the scramble up through a rocky stream/path/wall and it started to rain! We are both wearing Salomon trail running shoes for this trip and they are great on some kinds of wet rock and like roller skates on other. The climbing is ok but descending in wet conditions is slow and slippery.
We got to the top of the ridge and had a fantastic couple of hours of sunshine and showers with the best views yet of next weeks trip, with Snowdon and the terrifying Crib Goch in full veiw lit up in the afternoon sun.
We had a long tricky walk off the Rhinogs through some very wet marshland, across the nuclear powerstation dam (didn't make water here, although I am sure my new filter can cope with radiation) and through some horrible FE forests with gloopy paths and fallen trees.
We arrive at our campsite to brilliant blue skies and warm evening sunshine and pumped 20p pieces into the shower to wash off 3 days of Rhinog muck and sweat.
We hobbled a mile down the road to the village pub and had dinner and a few pints of Old Empire (5.7). Next thing we knew, it was time to get up and catch a bus to Portmadoc.
This has been a very tough week. Over to Cadairistic, then up it twice, the 3 days crossing the Rhinogs. The Rhinogs must be the wildest range in Wales, they are not huge when compared to the mountains of the north, but it is one of the few places in Wales that can give you a true wilderness experience - you make up your own paths, you don't see a soul for days and there is a suprise around every corner and over ever summit. We will definately be coming back for a more leisurely visit.
We have both coped well, although we are more tired than when we completed last weeks stretch (even though it was 30 miles less). My feet are in a bit of a state through being damp for a week (although the weather was very kind to us again, the ground underfoot was rather moist!). I am going to bring my Crocs next week for the evenings to give my feet a chance to dry - I am now strong enough to cope with the extra weight! Oh, and a pee bottle and teeth cleaning chewing gum for midgey nights.
Thanks to Matt and the guys at work for keeping everything running as smoothly as ever. Thanks to Jackie and Sarah for letting us do this. Only one more week and we'll be back under your feet again!
Back to work for a week and then back up to complete our Cambrian way - Porthmadoc to Conwy via some of the best mountains in the world.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
We came off the west face via a decent path that soon turned into downclimbing hell on steep wet rock and scree - good fun normally but challenging with a backpacking load on! We were both pretty battered after the 2 hour 'get off' and I had ripped my tent drybag after arse-sliding down too many gullies! Soon fixed with tape when we got into camp.
Once we had walked/scrambled down to the start of the next climb up to Rhinog Fawr, it started to rain so we made the decision to skirt the mountain and look for an easier way up it's north face.
We made up some time on fairly good paths and forest tracks and then started the climb towards the roman steps in sunshine. At the top of the pass at 440m, we planned a late lunch and a mile detour to bag Rhinog Fawr. During lunch, a downpour dampened the rocks and our enthusiasm for an hour of climbing, so we decided to descend the roman steps to our campsite at Cwm Bychan.
We knew there was a site at Cwm Bychan from the OS map but I couldn't find anything about it online. I emailed Rhys, the Visit Wales fishing guru who lives up here and he said there was a sort of campsite at the lake with an honesty box for paying the fees.
We arrived hoping for at least a toilet and a sink (Alan was hoping for a clubhouse with a selection of good ales) but found a field full of sheep shite and two portaloo's, with no running water apart from a stream and the worst midges we have encountered so far. And all this luxury at a bargain five quid a night!
Whilst researching our trip and trying to find info on this site, I found forum threads asking if anyone had stayed... I have now! My advice is stay high, take water from the many clear streams, dig a cat hole and save yourself a fiver!
Blimey, a squirrel just poked his head under my flysheet as I was typing! I just heard Alan telling it to bugger off as it was climbing up his flysheet!
Big day tomorrow over the last of the Rhinog range, skirting Llyn Trawsfynydd and then dropping down to the Vale of Ffestiniog and hopefully a fully featured campsite so we can wash before going home to our wives. Then another week back at work and then the final and best stretch of our Cambrian Way trip - the big stuff!
Duncan (Aktoman), if you are reading this up there in Scotland, what time do midges go to bed? I'm busting for a pee!
It was pretty windy as we climbed out of town, but the weather was perfect again. Once at about 2000 feet, we could see for miles, including the first ever Welsh hill I climbed...
Mum and dad took us all to Blackrock Sands when I was about 8 and bought us all a pair of red and blue canvas walking boots. We all climbed the 'mountain' behind the beach, which is only a few hundred feet, but it seemed like Everest to a young lad from flattest Kent!
Thanks ma and pa - I'm back, over 30 years later - look what you started! When we get to Porthmadoc, I'll have one of 'those' ice creams and think of you!
We carried on along the ridge towards the Rhinogs (lots of up and downs). We were watching the weather come in from the south and all of a sudden, a downpour replaced the light showers and sunny spells. We put on the 'proofs and marched the last 2 hours, knocking off another couple of 2000 footers in zero viz.
We topped out our last climb before our planned wildcamp next to the lake below Rhinog Fach and the cloud blew off and the sun shone until sunset allowing us to pitch and dry our kit in the most perfect spot ever, I'll get some photos up when I get back. Money couldn't buy this experience.
Today was everything I love about backpacking as opposed to day hiking. We were 'forced' onto the hills on a day you would normally stay at home, and you see weather situations and experience dramatic conditions that make a complete mountain experience.
Just spoke to Sarah, missing them all again - I am a crap adventurer! Had a great home dehydrated meal, eaten out of a freezer bag with the titanium spoon I saved from certain death yesterday - prawm jumbalaya.
All kit is great including the new water filter and the Montbell down jacket that Tak got for me when she was in Japan last week. The Z55 is so comfy that I forget I have 30lbs on my back.
Al is going great guns - I hope I can walk as well as him when I'm 72!
Night, night, got to get some sleep as we are (hopefully - depending on some thundery showers that the met office say are coming) going to climb Rhinog Fach and Fawr tomorrow and have another wildcamp above a decomissioned nuclear station!
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
The views were amazing from the tops and we had lunch perched out of the wind on the 811m saddle above the Pony Path with views of the 1 mile Barmouth footbridge that we would need to cross later that day. My ultralight titanium spoon blew away and settled on a rock above a 1000 foot drop. I crawled on my stomach to save it. Maybe I'll ask Bob to source a weight to attach to the spoon to stop it floating off.
Alan has a rather eccentric taste in trail mix - the usual GORP but with added choc chips, cheese biscuits and liquorice. He's on his own!
We walked down the rather boring Pony Path and crossed over to the Barmouth 1 mile footbridge (70p toll) across the very windy estuary.
Barmouth was an odd mix of tasteful and utter tat (but had the best toy shop I have ever seen - remote control everything and crossbows, catapults and loads of other dangerous looking lads stuff), but our hotel was at the posh end (a Victorian 'castle' with loads of original features, like leaks!) and Al had his usual steak with several pints and I had seabass and a good bottle of Kiwi Sauv' Blanc.
I love roughing it!
Weather was good again, Sarah says its been awful in Swansea and everyone is feeling sorry for us!
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
As I woke, I heard rain pattering on the flysheet but once we had dragged ourselves out of our bags, the drizzle had stopped and we managed to have breakfast and strike in the dry.
We walked out of Dinas Mawddwy on the A470 and then took a damp path through a steaming forest up to about 350m - all on steps cut into the hill. It was so humid we were drenched by the time we exited the forest onto a tricky traverse around Foel Dinas.
We climbed up to Maesglase then a couple of tough up and down and up again's to the magnificent Waun-oer(670m).
What a magnificent view... Close you eyes, face south and imagine...
In the far, far distance, the Beacons range, barely visible, then Plymlimon and then the Cemmaes windmills, passed last week. Turn 180 degrees and see Trawsfynydd nuclear power station with Snowdon towering in the distance. Turn a few degrees west and see the whole of the Rhinogs range spread out like a 3D map. Another few degrees and there is Cadair Idris...wow! A bit more and the seaside town of Tywyn, then miles of sunny sea then Aber' then the Beacons pop into view again.
After picking my jaw off the floor, we marched down to the Minfford Hotel into the safe hands of Michelle, a lovely gal from oop narth who's hubby was in 'ospikkle recovering from an operation. We were treated like lords. If you want to climb Cadairistic, stay there, eat and drink there, it is the best.
Monday, June 18, 2007
We set off at around 11am after a breakfast that had the calorific value of the rest of our trip. We climbed up a well maintained and sustainable path (top job, path building chaps), hitting cloudbase at around 2000 feet.
My fear of heights was not evident as I could stand on the edge if a 1000 foot abys and not see further than 30 feet.
We summited at 2900 feet and the rain came down for an hour - at least we had the chance to try out our new Berghuas Paclite gear (OK, but my Montane Atomic trousers were far less sweaty). Tried out the sealskin merino socks with our Salomon shoes - result! I will never wear boots in the wet again.
After some creative navigation, we took the wrong 'path' off the hill and ended up heatherbashing for a couple of miles, including a near verticle 'ice' climb of 100 or so feet through wet heather, above a nasty looking drop, using our pacerpoles as ice axes and our toenails as crampons.
We made it back drank a large percentage of the small Minfford Hotel bar while being entertained by a 2nd hand caravan salesman and his wife from the north of England - lovely folks, but reminded me of a several Harry Enfield charaters.
Tomorrow - same route up Cadairistic, but veering off to Barmouth.
Again, treated like lords at the Minfford Hotel. Darren, the chef, heard I was a veggie and knocked me up a mush' strog' to die for. Come and stay here, service like this is blinkin' rare.
On with the Goretex and back down via Mynydd Moel to a good hot bath.
Mike: Cadairistic is brilliant!
Hope you all enjoying Monday in work ;)
Saturday, June 16, 2007
We had an interesting train journey full of excited families from the Midlands on the way to the fleshpots of the north Wales coast. Does anyone recall Vic and Bob's 'Slade' sketches?
We are just about to go for a couple of pints of Rev James and some food in the Red Lion here in Dinas Mawthwy. Last time we were here, the pub was bouncing due to a birthday party. Hope someone else in the village has a reason to celebrate tonight!
Had a lovely early Fathers Day suprise from Sarah and the boys (and the bump) yesterday - the 50th Anniversary set of Wainwrights books. I have never looked at them before. As a designer, I find them fascinating - so much detailed so well presented. I am looking forward to reading them before our family holiday in the Lakes in August.
Friday, June 15, 2007
Saturday: 6.45am train to Machynlleth - then a day to Cadair Idris, couple of days on Cadair Idris, over to Barmouth, couple of days crossing Rhinogs then into the Vale of Ffestiniog and back to Porthmadog to catch a train back to Swansea.
Weather may not be as good as last week, but I can't wait to get back out there!
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Check out Cameron McNeish's podcast here. He climbs Foinaven and Beinn Dearg and as ever, has some interesting thoughts on the matter of Munro status.
Our biggest mountain here in South Wales is 2907 feet - but are we bovvered?
Monday, June 11, 2007
Over the next few days, I'll add some photos and additional copy and comments in blue so you don't have to read the same stuff over again!
I am off to see my GP this afternoon with a horrible looking tick bite. After all of the recent talk about Lyme Disease, better safe than sorry I suppose.
A new filter has been ordered, all the kit has been cleaned and aired and the food prep starts again tonight. The gear and food worked faultlessly (apart from the filter), but I'll see how it all copes after the next 2 weeks.
One last thing... a very kind chap called Ben from the US BPL forum kindly agreed to purchase and send me a couple of Simblissity wallets (Simblissity don't ship to the UK). The wallets arrived safely today - Ben, thanks soooo much, your kindness is appreciated and the wallets are perfect. Let me know if I can return the favour.
Friday, June 08, 2007
Now a week back in work and then on the trail again. I'll fill in the details and get some pic's up when we get home. Right now I have beer to drink!
Thursday, June 07, 2007
We left devils bridge after a great breakfast and had an 11 mile day planned, but we pushed on to 16 miles (9 ish PM) to try and make up some time as Fri was looking hectic with 17 miles and 3338 feet to cover before closing time.
We came off Plynlimon (a fantastic hill) and had a great (but midgy) wild camp just outside Dylife.
Today, we pushed on to Commins Coch and caught a bus into Mach' and are spending an evening in the Wynnstay Hotel. We had an excellent meal including squid and scallops to die for (the chef deserves a knighthood) and too many pints of Rev James.
My MSR Sweetwater filter failed today ( piece of utter crap ) after only 50ish litres. It came first in a 'Trail' test. I am going to have to order a real filter rather sharpish for our next leg. Katadyn I think. MSR - stick to stoves.
All other kit is awesome - I'll write a bit more once back home and have a real keyboard.
BTW - excuse speelling mistakes over the past few days, I don' think blackberrys have a spellchecker:)
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
The day started with several miiles of heather bashing across stunning mountains being buzzed by military jets flying the valleys. We had lunch under cloudless skies with our feet in the river and then decended, asceded and decended again into Devils Bridge.
We showered and washed the salt out of our clothes and went for dinner and a few pints in the Hafod Hotel.
All of a sudden, Nick Crane walked by, complete with bamboo handled brolly, being followed by an 8 strong film crew. He was staying in the hotel for a few days - not sure what he was filming though, the hotel barman was clueless.
My feet are killing but everything else is working well! We are on Plynlimon for a couple of wildcamps for the next couple of days. Big miles and big ascents. We hit the 100 mile mark sometime today, only 140 to go!
Midges out in force (ahhhh), headnet on to go for a pee and then dive into the sanctuary of the Akto.
Missing Sarah and the boys. Hi mum and dad - I'm fine and still alive (just)!
We have had a long day (14 miles, 2400 feet of upwardness). We are both a bit sore and I'm a little dehydrated after a very hot day.
We left Ty'n Cornel after being treated to toast, homemade marmalade and fruit salad by our wonderful wardens, Paula and Peter. They even supplied us with a good red wine for our wild camp - two of the best!
Feeling good at the moment, day three is always better tha day 1 and 2. Getting used to the pack weight and gear. Pacerpoles now feel part of me.
This is the best wildcamping spot I have stayed in for years. I love the Cambrian Way, it is everything I expected and some.
Right, couple of ibuprofen and off to sleep. Tomorrow, Devils Bridge and a few good pints.
Sunday, June 03, 2007
Just arrived at the hostel, hasn't changed since we were here about 8 years ago! The yha sold it and Elenydd Wilderness Trust purchased it to save it for future generations. The wardens, a lovely retired couple from Dorset who's son belongs to the Trust, treated us very well... Like house guests in fact! A long way from the old days when you had to do a chore before you left.
Still no mobile signal so these posts will all hit at once.
The packs are bloody heavy but get lighter by a couple of pounds every day. We are going to be supermen when we get back.
We have a 14 mile day tomorrow, up to a wildcamp - more tomorrow.
Again, we saw several red kites during today's 7 miles.
We spent a very pleasant evening in the Royal Oak sampling several excellently kept ales and had a slap up meal to fuel us for tomorrows 11 miles up thew Doethie Valley to Ty'n Cornel YHA.
Friday, June 01, 2007
The man is a genius - I wish he was my next door neighbour.
I am frantically carbo' loading using a box of half decent US Chardonnay.
I daren't phone Alan because I know he will be up to his eyes in chaos.
Oh well, this time next week, we would have done 100 miles and climbed the equivalent of half way up Everest. (Kenton Cool, eat your heart out).
And devoured 12lbs of food... hopefully.
Next edition, technology permitting, will be live from the Royal Oak in Rhandirmwyn (just about my most favourite place on the planet).