It’s been somewhat remiss of me not to have visited this area before as in the 1990s I lived in Aberystwyth for three years (during which period walking was a heavily neglected past-time). Last week I decided that it was time to put right my complete ignorance of the area.
Off set me, Husband and a chap called Mike from the car park at Nant-y-Moch reservoir on Saturday morning. Within the hour we’d met gun wielding farmers, had to detour to get across a raging stream and had been assaulted at some length by a prolonged hail storm: it was looking like it was going to be an interesting trip – particularly as the forecast for the weekend was for heavy rain and gale force winds.
For Mike it was a bit of a baptism of fire, as this was his first backpacking and wild camping trip since he did his silver D of E at school. I don’t know precisely how long ago that was, but I do believe that he said that he’s been in his current job for 30 years, so I’m guessing that it was at least 30 years ago. Still, he had a Hilleberg Nallo to test out and had borrowed a few essentials items from us, so he was sufficiently well kitted out to survive a weekend of poor weather.
Our first objective of the day was Pumlumon Fawr, the pull up which took us a while (but what fantastic views behind us when the sky cleared – good excuses for a few pauses), not helped on the upper reaches by the strong wind that impeded progress and kept trying to force me off course.
After a quick lunch in the summit shelter, the ridge line was followed for three miles or so through increasingly severe hail storms (my goodness, pea sized hail smarts when it hits you with a strong wind behind it, doesn’t it?).
With the day marching on, we omitted a bit of our intended route and after crossing over the Severn Way decided to drop down into the valley with the intention of finding somewhere sheltered to pitch on the other side.
The going was rough and boggy down in the valley, but our attention was soon diverted from that fact by the river that runs down the middle of the valley. It was deep and fast flowing and we needed to cross it. I found a place that looked to be leapable, much to the interest of a couple who were out walking along the other side of the valley (who brought the tally of people seen to six; the first four were all on the summit of Pumlumon Fawr) who unashamedly stood watching us (waiting for one of us to fall in?).
With relief I found that I had gauged correctly that I could clear the width of the river and with a running jump I was soon on the other side, swiftly followed by three backpacks and two (much longer legged) men.
Climbing up the other side of the valley sufficiently far to be out of the marshy land, we found a couple of patches of flat ground and even got as far as putting the tent up. Then I expressed concern that being as exposed as the pitch was, and with the wind expected to increase, we were in danger of having a sleepless night listening to flapping nylon. As a result we moved down to a lower pitch, which (as you’ll see if you read the post below) turned out to be somewhat less than ideal.
As it went, the tent was so incredibly stable that I think that we would have been fine on the exposed pitch, and no doubt the Nallo could have taken the on-slaught there too.
The stats for the day were 10 miles with 2300 feet of ascent. With the rough ground, substantial patches of bog to negotiate and the batterings of hail storms, it felt longer. As enjoyable as it was, I was certainly pleased to crawl into my sleeping bag at the end of it, albeit I didn’t expect to get much sleep in the stormy weather that was predicted.
To be continued…