Day 1, BarmouthPie aficionados gathered either side of Afon Mawddach in glorious sunshine for a few days of eating beer, drinking pies, backpacking and luxuriating in good company. The Plan didn’t quite go to plan….but that’s the stuff of adventures….innit.
The first bit of not going to plan-ness was our tea at The Last Inn. The place was full so we had to search around the town and eventually, after passing LOADS of closed eateries, nosh was obtained in a local Chinese restaurant….actually a dining room tacked on to the side of a Chinese takeaway.
Back at the campsite we enjoyed a lovely sunset. And then we went to bed.
Sunset over Bae Bermo. That’s foreign for Barmouth Bay y’know.
Day 2, Barmouth to Dolgellau
The next morning Mike had arranged for us to meet up at
Greasy Lizzie’s Rosie’s Diner in downtown Barmouth for an exercise in artery clogging. That’s not a dance by the way.
I think his idea was to sabotage the health of the (incomplete) A Team so as to ensure a slow walking pace for the period of the expedition….and probably a lot longer than that. I couldn’t manage the Gut Buster, but Mike, who shall remain nameless in case his Fat Nurse finds out what he’s been up to, shifted his ginormous plateful of cardiac-arrest inducing comfort food with a minimum of effort. Dawn and I settled on the safer option, The Bloody Huge Breakfast.
The B Team were staking out the south end of the footbridge whilst we enjoyed our third mug of tea – essential for washing down the enormous amount of cholesterol we’d just consumed.
Eventually the A Team prepared for action, went to the toilet, and set off for the south side of the estuary. We walked slowly.
The weather wasn’t brilliant but it was fine for walking – it wasn’t to start raining for at least two hours. This was almost Scottish weather.
Our Plan was dead easy – walk along the Mawddach Trail until Dolgellau, put up the tents, and go to the pub. The Plan was executed with military precision…..apart from the bit when we stopped at the George III en-route to Dolgellau. This variation from The Plan was acceptable – members of both the A and B Teams are only too aware of the dangers of dehydration when on an expedition such as this.
The weather had improved considerably by the time we arrived in Dolgellau, we had warm sunshine and dryness. Better still there was a chippy and a pub serving decent ale.
The A Team came to up to full strength here, Judith and Laura, had joined us – we were now ready for anything. Our combined forces of Teams A & B was made up of Judith, Laura, Dawn, Mike and Alan and his two friends – Teg & Rich. Oh, and I was there too.
We had walked, ooh, around 10 miles.
Day 3, Dolgellau to Cadair Idris
Next morning dawned bright and clear – it was going to be a very hot day indeed.
We were on parade by around 9am and both teams set off with grit and determination. Fortunately we managed to get rid of both fairly quickly.
The route was up, up, up. It was only 7.5 miles but it was damned hard work. We were all carrying water which slowed us down considerably, without it we’d have really struggled. I carried nearly 2 litres and it was only just enough.
Upness towards Cadair Idris
I’ve not walked around this area for around 20 years and I’ve forgotten how dramatic the scenery is. It’s definitely an area I’ll be going back to sooner rather than later.
This was intended to be a relaxed and laid-back trip but the extremely hot heat of the day meant we need to take more rest stops that normal. This was A Good Thing, I don’t do heat at the best of times and the stops were welcome.
I was a bit surprised (pleasantly so) to find that many of the stiles in this area are identified with their map reference – very useful for navigation in poor visibility:
We were all running low on water and we were keeping our eyes open for running water. It didn’t help that we were walking high on a ridge and any running water would likely be much lower down the hill side. A small bubbly spring was found – running with crystal clear water, it was wonderful! We drank our fill and then filled up our water carriers – our next quarry was a nice bit of flat ground for our overnight stop.
About 800m east of Carnedd Lwyd a suitable camping spot was found. It was a little breezy but absolutely fine. Within a few minutes the area had been transformed into a village of tents:
The evening wasn’t without it’s moments: A naked man, surprisingly clean, was seen lurking around the tents, The Pieman attempted to burn his new Akto down, someone was seen licking clean the inside of her rucksack…..there was probably more. All very odd.
Anyway, back to the plot: We were still high up and so had the benefit of tremendous views over Barmouth Bay and much of Snowdonia:
Some of us stayed up late (9.50pm!) to watch the sunset:
The cloud formations were unusual, a bit swirly in places….I should have twigged that this was an omen.
By 10pm it was a bit breezierer (that’s Timperley dialect by the way), nothing to worry about – I was in my Akto anyway. I zipped up the tent and was zonked out within not a lot of time at all. I stayed that way until, er, around midnight. So I got at least 2 hours sleep.
Day 4, The Great Wind and and the walk back to BarmouthI woke to a slap in the face – it was the tent inner flapping around in the wind. I later learned that Laura in the tent next door spent most of the night sitting up in her tent trying (successfully) to stop it from flying away.
All was okay with my tent but it was clear that the wind was strengthening – it didn’t help that we were pitched on an exposed ridge. At 2am I plotted an escape route off the ridge and packed as much of my stuff as possible into my rucksack. Then I tried to go to back to sleep. The BBC World Service helped by keeping much of the racket of the howling wind from my delicate ears.
At 4am I popped my head out of my tent to see a light on in Dawn’s tent, I didn’t know it at the time but she was struggling too – a tent peg or two had popped out and her shelter had lost some stability.
At 6am I heard voices outside my tent but the BBC meant that I couldn’t tell what they were saying. I made my breakfast, had a couple of mugs of coffee and then decided to have a look outside. It was a bit of a shock to see everyone’s tent being packed away. The buggers were going to leave me, I’m sure of it!
Mike’s original Plan was to continue along the ridge but it was decided to escape the ridge as quickly and directly as possible.
Our party left the ridge at around 6.45am and headed down to a sheepfold where those who hadn’t eaten could have their breakfast – that was everyone apart from me!
Breakfast Stop No1
The lower we got, the less strong the wind became. It wasn’t long before our warm layers were packed away and we made our way to Breakfast Stop No2 at Llynnau Gregennen:
Unfortunately we’d lost Mike by this time, he went off to bag a hilly, humpy thing. He got a bit lost too.
Crossing the slab bridge over the Afon Arthog close to Llys Bradwen
Then before we knew it we were back in Barmouth….and very welcome ice creams and cold drinks.
We’d had a good few days that didn’t go quite to plan, but what the hell – it was fun. I’ll probably go back follow the intended route at some time, hopefully it will be a bit cooler and nowhere near as windy.
More photos here