Archive for the ‘Wales’ Category

Sometimes its Just About Getting Out   10 comments

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A short post and a few photos from a walk up Ysgyryd Fawr several weeks back after we’d returned from France.

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It had everything I dislike about walking in August. The air was still, it was overcast, humid, and the bracken was smothering the hillsides. The flies were a nuisance.

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We sweated our way to the top, feasting on flies as we went

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We were glad of a breeze on the summit ridge to cool us down a bit and a blow the flies back to where they came from

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We watched a guy flying a small model plane on the summit to keep us entertained

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And some brighter interludes before we headed down. Not the absolute most enjoyable walk I’ve taken this year but better than sitting at home

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Sometimes its just about getting out……

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Posted September 18, 2018 by surfnslide in Brecon Beacons, Wales, Walking

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Road Trip – Carn Fadryn Makes Clouds   12 comments

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Our trips to the Llyn Peninsula would not be complete without a walk up Carn Fadryn – the poster hill of all small hills in my view. Me and Mark were clearly tuned into the same wavelength as we both thought that watching the sunset from the summit would be good idea. We made plans and ate early for a change but the weather looked like it was on a very different wavelength. The summit had been shrouded in cloud all day. There were signs that it might clear (the clouds over the campsite had dispersed) so we went for it anyway.

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We ascended through moist damp mist and the signs were not looking good. Still its a fine walk in any conditions and we still had hope. As we approached the summit there was definitely a semblance of light and possible views. What we got was extraordinary and magnificent.

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The very moist air was being blown along by a strong wind and pushed up over the mountain. As it rose the water vapour condensed and formed clouds while we were watching. It was Orographic Cloud formation in action and we were right in the middle of it

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The kids seemed not quite as excited as the adults but they are smiling in this photo so they must have been happy. DB Junior would have been happy as this is his Birthday Hill and we’d climbed it even though his Birthday wasn’t for another couple of days

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The views along the peninsula would appear in stark clarity and then just as quickly disappear again as the cloud washed over us

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It was hugely impressive although its looked like we weren’t going to get a sunset. As well as the cloud swirling around us there was a bank of cloud over the Irish Sea that was going to cover then sun. We did get some sunlight reflected off the sea and that combined with the weird clouds we were watching was more than enough for a worthwhile climb

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It was pretty damp and most of us were inappropriately dressed in T-shirts and shorts so it was time to head down. I’m not sure why but me and EWO lingered for an extra couple of minutes. Just enough for the sun dip below the cloud and light it up with an ethereal other worldly glow

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The light was just amazing and we called the others back for a look (the kids were long gone by now)

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The light was like nothing I’ve ever seen

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Very difficult to capture on film with such fleeting views and poor light. I probably should have taken some video – that only occurred to me this evening over a month on!

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It felt like the show went on for ages but it can’t have been more than a couple of minutes

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The sun then dipped behind the cloud bank, the light returned to a grey gloomy and we were damp and cold, but completely fulfilled. A magnificent outing, not quite the sunset we had in mind, something much better

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Last lingering shot of the setting sun over the farm

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Carn Fadryn – the mountain that always delivers!

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Posted August 21, 2018 by surfnslide in Llyn Peninsula, Wales, Walking

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Road Trip – Towyn Farm   12 comments

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On to our summer hols. We had a major three week trip planned with some of our old friends and families who regularly appear on the blog. The main focus of the trip was France so what better way to start than a 3 hour journey in the opposite direction to North Wales and the Llyn Peninsula. For a variety of reasons we had to do the trip in the early part of the summer hols but we didn’t want to miss out on our annual trip to Towyn Farm so we just combined the two legs into one long 3 week holiday. Lots of driving but always good to get in a 3 week break from the rigours of work.

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Right on cue the endless hot summer broke the day we travelled. We’d been on the road 10 minutes before we saw rain. We pitched the camper in slanting cold drizzle instead of hot evening sunshine. Despite the fact that we had rain overnight and a few very damp misty mornings I seem to recall sunshine on most days and by the time we moved on the heatwave was back in action

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The routine for these trips is simple. Get up late, eat breakfast late and lazily, wander to the beach, play some games and swim, eat lunch lazily and late, back to the beach, eat tea late, back to the beach in the dusk and dark. We normally throw in a trip up Carn Fadryn (later post) and sometimes a walk further afield but the general tone is one of relaxed and unhurried pottering and play.

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It was also the first time out for our upgraded camper. The old aluminium poles have been replaced by inflatable Air Beams and its amazing. Its now genuinely quick to pitch. I can have it unhitched and ready to inhabit in around 30 minutes. The beams seem amazingly strong although they have yet to try out a UK storm. The awning is new and is also supported by air beams

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The air was still warm and humid so it was wonderful sitting on the beach and playing, Despite the hot weather the sea was bitingly cold, possibly a result of the cold winter with sea temperatures always lagging behind the land. Might be good for swimming in October!

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The game of choice is Kubb (or Plop as me and EWO are want to call it – gives you a very clear idea of my puerile sense of humour)

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Who would have thought a game of throwing wood at other wood could be fun but it is. Especially enlivened by our little gang’s propensity for over-reaction, baiting, gamesmanship, barracking and the like

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We played many, many times over the course of the holidays and it was always fun and generated many laughs and recriminations (including me knocking a block over and seeing it right itself – everyone thought it was hilarious insisting I hadn’t knocked it down when a post holiday check of the rules confirmed I was right – outrage!)

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Playing Kubb remains one of the abiding memories of the holiday

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Evenings were always a highlight. We ate outside and BBQ most nights in a very convivial atmosphere

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I even bought some special BBQ marshmallows although it wasn’t entirely clear how these differed from ordinary marshmallows

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And of course this spot deliver some stunning sunsets

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Our upgraded camper minus its awning

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Dusk and the rising moon

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And another sunset

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A view to Carn Fadryn on our last morning. The clouds hugging the summit were a feature of our stay and it delivered a memorable experience when we climbed it. More on that in the next post

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Another great trip and I’m hoping that we can persuade the kids to keep up the tradition of these visits as they start to move into their new lives as University for some of them approaches

Posted August 20, 2018 by surfnslide in Llyn Peninsula, Wales

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Wild Swimming in the Nedd Fechan Valley   20 comments

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Before I get round to telling you about summer hols let me take you back to the earlier part of the summer. You remember, endless days of hot sunshine, blue skies, warnings of hosepipe bans, England doing well at the World Cup. The hot summer gave us a chance to really explore my Wild Swimming guide as a means of outdoor exercise (too hot to hike).

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My last post detailed some of the local spots in the Wye Valley but the premier location in South Wales are the valleys of the Mellte and Nedd Fechan. Each has a series of gorges, cascades, waterfalls and deep pools tailor-made for swimming. In the hot weather the cold (in fact VERY cold) water was a welcome relief from the hot sun and the tree-lined gorge meant perfect conditions for river based fun

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We took two trips. The first one was an all too brief visit before a picnic and heading home for an England game

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We parked up at small and hard to reach car park at Post Melin Each and wandered downstream to the first waterfall Scwd Ddwli. Its a beautiful cascade falling into a deep pool but not ideal for swimming. It’s stony to get in and there are no jumps but it wins on location

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All but TJS took a swim and even in the hot weather it seems pretty quiet. I’d assumed that everyone in South Wales would have discovered this spot but it’s very hard to get to and that seemed to keep swimmers away. Most people we saw were walkers

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It was nice to swim in cold clear water and then sit in hot sunshine to warm up – rare in the UK

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Me and TJS took a wander downstream to the next set of pools at the Horseshoe Falls.

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These were much better for swimming. Deep and clear with much easier ways in and loads of ledges for jumps. I took a couple of jumps and a quick swim before heading back.

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We had a rather fine picnic in the grassy meadows by the car park before heading home and vowed to return for revisit to the Horseshoe Falls

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That return visit was a week later as the endless hot weather continued. We were back at the Horseshoe Falls which not only has great swimming and jumping but a series of flat clean rocks for sunbathing

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We spent the whole day here, in and out of the water and another luxury picnic

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I was particularly happy scrambling about on the rocks and in the trees looking for ever higher jump spots

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Pretty much perfectly designed for wild swimming

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Up stream was an equally fine waterfall but no pool for swimming

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Me and TBF left the other Funster in the sun while we took a stroll downstream

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We reached the slender and almost dry Lady Falls (Sgwd Gwladus). This is closer to the main road and was very busy (including the usual clutch of people who don’t seem to able to go anywhere without a loud thumping music!)

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We returned to the tranquility of our own spot

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More swims and another look at the upstream waterfall and little video of what its like to stand under it!

 

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I suspect we have a long wait until we get weather set perfect for this sort of day but even a walk along these valleys and their dozens of waterfalls and cascades is a worthwhile trip. I’m hoping we can revisit again once more this year if we get a final spell of good weather

 

Another Solo Wild Camp   18 comments

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Back a couple of weeks before the weather turned too hot to venture into the outdoors with a heavy pack, I took another Friday night out in the mountains. I wished for a bit of breeze to keep temperatures and insects at bay and certainly got my wish.

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A glorious evening of clear skies and warm sunshine. I chatted to a lady van-camping in the car park with her very friendly Jack Russell pup chewing my laces. No sign of the promised breeze as I set off.

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It was a hot climb through the fly infested bracken as I headed for a summit pitch on Pen y Gadair Fawr. Still no breeze and I felt that the midges were eying me up for a buffet supper

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As I crested the top, the breeze finally kicked in. Less a breeze than a very significant and very chilly wind that I was struggling to stand up in

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It would have made a superb summit camp, lots of flat thick grass but it was just too cold to enjoy the surroundings. I’d also hoped to pick up some water, figuring that at least one of the numerous springs that rise on the summit would be running. No such luck. I decided press on in the hope of finding a sheltered spot

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Trouble its a pretty exposed spot up here and the wind was roaring and grass is in short supply. The compensation was that it was cool and walking along a high level ridge in the late evening is a simple joy

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The bog cotton was giving everything an almost frost-like feeling. The photos can’t do justice to how beguiling it was

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They have massively improved the paths up here so I made swift progress over Waun Fach without ever finding a respite from the wind. I tried a few grassy groughs, but none were suitable

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Eventually I had to plunge a hundred metres or so down the Y Grib Ridge and found a sort of level pitch on a terrace of deep lush grass. What it lacked in comfort it more than made up for with a  superb sunset vista

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There was just enough wind to keep the insects at bay without it being too cold and I sat outside, read and drank many brews of tea before turning in well past 11pm

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Tough to tear yourself away from views like this

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I expected a blazing sun to cook the tent and have me outside early. I awoke at 8am with no sign of the sun. I was in the cloud again. Looking up was clear blue though and the sky was surely to clear and on queue as the water boiled for my last cuppa before I ran out of water, it did

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It was an amazing morning. The east wind had cleared any haze from the air and the sky between the wispy clouds was a deep azure blue. Pen y Fan and Beacons poked above the cloud and I thought of TBF on her 25 mile sponsored walk around the range. She was on Pen y Fan summit round about the time I too this photo

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I decided to walk all around the escarpment to Lord Hereford’s Knob and on a day like this it was amazing. It really puts a spring in the step to have views like this to accompany you and I covered the ground swiftly

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There were several D of E groups out most of whom seemed cheerfully incompetent, walking in various directions none which seemed to be the right one!

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I topped out on the Knob and where the panorama across the Wye valley is breathtaking

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Despite the glorious day I had this very popular and easily accessible summit to myself but it was still very windy and bit chilly. Added to the fact I’d not had breakfast and had no water pushed me onwards to resupply and take on calories

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I had to walk much further down the Nant Bwch stream before the water was flowing sufficiently well to be drinkable. I found a fine spot and set about making my bacon sandwiches and several cups of tea to re-hydrate

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I had thought about dropping down to Capel y Ffin and walking back over the ridge to the car. The fact that out of the wind it was still really hot had me thinking of a better plan. I retraced my steps back toward the edge and the curved off towards the summit of Twyn Talycefn.

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The strong breeze was keeping the skies clear and the temperatures perfect for walking. Much better to be up high in weather like this

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Looking back to the ridge I’d walked the previous evening

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I dropped down to the Grwyne Fawr Reservoir with an idea of a sneaky swim.

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I don’t normally like swimming in reservoirs as they do have their dangers but I found a stunning little spot on the banks and took a short dip without straying too far into the water.

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Another cup of tea seemed in order as I felt like I had the whole place to myself.

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Then it was a simple matter of the long walk back down past the dam to the car

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A nice easy angled path to finish the day with grand views back to the dam and the deep greens of the valley under the still totally clear sky

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Another superb one-nighter although I would have enjoyed a bit of company as I’ve done most of this years trips solo. 15-16 miles over the two days with the aimless wandering I did looking for a pitch and just enjoying being out.

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May be the last such trip for a while. The last couple of weeks have been just too hot and sultry for walking so I’ve been getting my exercise in the water with some wild swimming, more of which in future posts. Then its holiday time for me and the family as we head to Wales and France for some sociable fun with friends

 

Perfect Midsummer Sunset   20 comments

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In the midst of a UK heatwave the best place to spend the night is on a cool mountain summit. Another stunning day and another chance for a wild camp. I headed to mid Wales for a camp on the summit of Pumlumon Fawr (or Plynlimon depending on which name you choose). Its not that high and you can drive to a high access point giving less than an hours walk to the top. A worthy consideration as I had to carry several litres of water to keep the brews flowing. It was the day after the longest day and the views were wonderful as I parked up and set off. I should warn you that I took a lot of photos so settle in for the feature presentation.

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Its a short climb but has some steep bits which I found hard work after a day at work and carrying all that water. Luckily there was a decent breeze blowing to keep the heat at bay

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My target summit in shot

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Sheep watching me on the horizon

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Looking north over towards Snowdonia

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A final steep slog brought me to the top. Stunning view to mountains and across Cardigan Bay

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Its a perfect summit for a wild camp, flat with plenty of spongy moss and grass. The vegetation is only a couple of inches thick though so anchoring the pegs takes a bit of work although in weather like this it hardly matters. My usual routine was initiated. Stove out and water boiling for a brew while I put the tent up.

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The setting was magnificent and I was in the perfect spot to watch the setting sun over the next couple of hours

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I sat, drank tea, took in the views, wandered about, ate jaffa cakes, drank more tea, ate more jaffa cakes, you get the idea

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The moon even put in an appearance.

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There was a grand view of the Llyn Peninsula where I’ve spent many happy weekends and holidays. I was chuffed that the sun went down just behind one of my favourite small hills, Carn Fadryn.

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I didn’t have the whole summit to myself. A couple of friendly chaps and their equally friendly dog shared the sunset with me and provided a nice foreground for a photo

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My bedtime view

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The mountains of Snowdonia

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Nant y Moch reservoir

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And a darker shot of the moon

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An isolated hill, overlooking the sea with a flat spot on the summit. One of the finest spots I can recall to watch a sunset. Simply magnificent

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I never sleep all that well when camping but in weather like this it hardly matters. I got up around 3am to answer the call of nature and watched a spectacular moon-set over the bay (no photos alas). I awoke to a hot morning and got up for a pre-breakfast stroll around my camp site

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Sadly the wind had dropped and the midges came out to have their breakfast, namely me, while I had mine

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I packed up in a cloud of midges but as I finished up the breeze picked up and blew them away. The breeze stayed with me so insect problems – other than a few clegs – kept them away

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I went for a stroll around the hills to the east, normally pretty soggy but after a dry spell the going was easy on springy dry turf

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I headed down via the Nant Felen stream which has some pretty waterfalls and pools. The one below was just deep enough for a quick skinny dip in icy cold water

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This part of Cwm Gwerin is rough pathless terrain with plenty of tussocks but its stunningly beautiful and untouched

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I wandered past the spot where we camped a couple of years back and found a breezy spot for an extended lunch

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Al that was left was the return along the broad Hengwm valley and along by the reservoir to the car. The valley was as tough and rough as always, albeit much drier than usual. It looks like there is a much better path on the north side of the valley which I need to try next time I visit as I surely will

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The route below is hand drawn so I’ve no accurate idea of how far I walked, maybe 10 miles in total with my summit wanderings. Still, it wasn’t a trip about clocking miles

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A memorable outing and I’m really enjoying these one-night outings straight after work on a Friday. A real pick me up and still time left in the weekend to spend with the rest of the family. Another one coming in the next post

 

Wild Camp on Cadair Idris   14 comments

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We had a pretty successful wild camp trip last summer with many of the kids and wanted to repeat this year. Unfortunately Mark and his gang couldn’t make it and the Hard Man’s youngest couldn’t be persuaded so it was a more exclusive group this year. I pored over maps and decided that a camp by the wild and rocky Llyn y Gadair under Cadair Idris would be a fine spot so we agreed to meet in Dolgellau for lunch prior to setting off. The forecast wasn’t great but it did say it might stop raining after lunch and Sunday might be ok so we decided to go for it.

We had to start further away than we planned as there is no overnight parking rate at the main car park (why don’t they offer this for backpackers!). We drove down the road to the free car park at Cregennen Lakes, in the end not a bad plan as it’s a fine spot in its own right and the walk back to the climb up to the mountain was rather nice.

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The lakes are dominated by pronounced nose of Pared y Cefn Hir.

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Blue skies seemed to be approaching from the west

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The walk around the lakes and over to the valley that marked our ascent was exceedingly fine

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We had some sunshine and smatterings of blue sky and for a while even the summit of Cadair Idris came out of the clouds. It was however a fleeting appearance and was soon enveloped again never to re-appear, at least for this weekend

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After a short road walk we started the climb

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Steep at first but then easing into a nice day easy angled approach to our target

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As we climbed pretty well all the nearby summits became smothered in dark clouds but there was bright light and sunshine on the lower slopes

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We reached our target, the dramatic corrie that holds Llyn y Gadair. I’ve climbed Cadair Idris many times but always from the south so while I’d seen this place from above I’ve never visited up close and personal

It’s a rocky place and flat spots are very hard to come by. After a little searching around we settled on a spot between the main lake and a smaller sibling. A bit rocky but it did the job and the setting was magnificent

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Unlike our last group camp it was chilly and windy so the midges didn’t bother us

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We made the place our home and cooked tea including a pudding of Guinness flavoured chocolate cake brought up from the cafe.

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Appetites sated we set off on one of the joys of a wild camp, a gentle stroll around the surroundings

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In this case a circuit of the lake and the small knolls and outcrops that surround it

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There wasn’t a sunset as such but there were some interesting light effects and we had a great evening poking about the area, chatting and looking for other potential spots to camp

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We kept hoping that the summit would make an appearance but it never did.

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Still, our wild site and the setting were hard to beat. A real big mountain feel

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We returned to camp for another round of brews before deciding it was too cold to sit outside and turned in for nights sleep, hoping for some clearer weather the next day

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Sadly, that was as good as it got. We were in the cloud when I woke up and while we eating breakfast the light drizzle increased in intensity and set in for the rest of the day. Despite the forecast stating “mainly dry” or words to that effect, the rain was relentless. We took a slightly longer route back and whilst we had the wind behind us and then walked through the trees it wasn’t too bad. When we emerged from the trees and walked into the wind and rain for the last hour back to the car it was utterly miserable and we were soaked through when we reached the car.

Didn’t make much of a dent in the enjoyment of a good trip though, slight disappointment that in the midst of what’s turning into a pretty sunny summer we picked the only wet weekend for a trip out

Only one way to finish off. A return to the superb cafe in Dolgellau, TH Roberts, that we’d started out from. An exceptional range of home-baked cakes and meals, exceptional value and all served with a smile. Well worth seeking out when you are in the area

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I’ve been trying to make more effort to get out and camp this year. This was the third outing for me with another one to come in the next post

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