The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Before Llyn Cwmorthin to Trawsfynydd

Sunday 29 April (0715-1135)

Distance: 11 miles

Weather: VERY wet and VERY windy!

As I mentioned in the note at the end of the last post, it was a wild night. Susie Superlite got an absolute battering, but she stood up to it admirably (I don’t think that we even incurred any more curves in the poles, but they’re already so wiggly that it’s difficult to say). With the wind still gaining strength at getting-up time, and with the forecast rain not having yet started, there was, for once, no time wasted in getting ourselves up an packed away. It was also one of those rare days when the tent got packed away completely dry: no rain, and no condensation.

Surprisingly, in exiting the tent, we didn’t find a big ship washed up next to us (at 1000’ above sea level!). Surprising, because something very near to us (probably the wind on some of the metalwork in the sheep pens adjacent to us) sounded exactly like a ship’s fog horn going off!

Having pondered, during the disturbed night’s sleep (tent sounding like it was going to take off; ship’s fog horn a few metres away), whether we would have been better pitching further down the valley, we found out this morning that the answer was no. That wind was everywhere and we didn’t encounter a single bit of shelter as we staggered our way along Llyn Cwmworthin. At one point we were both knocked off the path moments before watching a mini-tornado whip up a spiral of water and carry it right across the llyn. Eeek! Nervous looks were had at trees before we passed under them.

The rain held off until we were an hour into the day, but from then on we were being battered by the wind and the rain. The saving grace was that, by having changed the direction of our walk, it was mainly on our backs. During the two (relatively short) sections that it was hitting our faces it really was unpleasant.

With the weather not being conducive to lingering, it was a bit of a route march, although we did take full advantage of Duallt station on the Ffestiniog Railway line, by sitting in the waiting room there for an early second breakfast. Another (bandstand-esque) shelter appeared alongside Llyn Trawsfynydd at about elevenses time, although it’s a mystery why the designers decided to put all of the benches outside of it!

Mick’s opinion of the day was ‘It’d probably be quite a nice walk in better weather’. I think he was probably right, but as it was I paid little attention to our surroundings, with my hood up and my head down.

By quarter to noon we were sitting in the car, with a cup of tea in hand, eating lunch and watching the horrendous weather outside. We were glad no longer to be out in it. I then slept most of the way home (except where Mick woke me to point out fallen trees partially blocking the roads).

So, that’s the length of Wales walked, albeit in a ‘section hike’ sort of way. A really excellent walk it was too, and one that I will undoubtedly revisit – starting with the high-level route for the northern-most section.


Llyn Cwmorthin in the rather brighter conditions of yesterday afternoon, with a big slag heap in the right-hand foreground

Llyn Cowlyd to before Llyn Cwmorthin

Saturday 28 April (0800-1815)
Distance: 17 miles
Weather: dry, bar a few spots of rain, some sun, windy
Number of times we briefly misplaced the path: 5
Number of times brief misplacement of path led to a yomp through a bog: 3

That was a hard day! Rewarding, but definitely hard. There was lots of up, and even some of the down was less than a stroll in the park.

The day started with snow falling on the tent. The pitter-patter, combined with a definite chill in the air, meant that some procrastination took place during the packing process. It paid off, as by 8am the snow had stopped and there were hints of brighter sky.

Along the llyn we went before dropping down the (bog-fest of a) hillside, with terrific views of Tryfan. Our route took us straight through a campsite and with so many people milling around, getting ready for their day, I'm sure that no-one noticed two interlopers helping themselves to drinking water and using the toilet facilites.

With the tops mainly free of cloud as we ascended Cwm Tryfan, it may have seemed a nice day to be climbing one or two of them. They weren't on our agenda today though, thanks to the MWIS forecast predicting 40-50mph wind, gusting 70, locally 80, (particularly around the main ridges of the Carneddau).

So, we only made it to 800m before we dropped down the other side of Glyder Fach. That was the killer ascent of the day. Steep and rocky = slow going!

The roadside parking by the turn to Pen y Pass was full to the gunwales as we passed on by, down to Llyn Gwynant. We paused for lunch on the way, where the wind picked a piece of cheese straight off my oatcake and deposited in some sheep poo a short distance away.

The next ascent didn't hold much promise of nice surroundings, but I was very pleasantly surprised. It's a delightful path through some woodland and there were even duck boards over some of the boggy bits (why not all, that's what I pondered as we waded some more).

Popping out on a road at the other end of that path is, I think, where we rejoined the route of the Cambrian Way, although I couldn't swear to it. Mick did swear, although in his case because he thought we were done with big ascents for the day. He didn't realise we still had a couple of thousand feet to go.

Our originally intended stopping point tonight was Llyn Llagi, but in view of tomorrow's dire weather forecast we had already decided to walk on. I'm pleased with that decision on three counts: 1) I wouldn't have wanted to share Llyn Llagi with the two D of E groups already there; 2) I wouldn't have wanted to try to naviate through the ensuing terrain in hissing rain and low cloud; and 3) by doing the next three miles in clear weather we got to appreciate the fantastic surroundings. What a lovely walk it was!

Small lumps and bumps interspersed with a multitude of llyns, followed by the hugest remains of slate mining that I've ever seen. It's only a shame that the time of day and the building wind prevented a greater exploration of the remains.

Leaving the main mine workings, we were on the look out for a pitch, and one was found that, in a lower wind, would have been perfect. Flat and grassy and with a stunning view down onto Llyn Cwmorthin.

We didn't walk much further. We're tucked away in amongst some other remains of the mine, a bit further down hill. We may not have a view, but we are protected from some of the wind*, although as it's swirling around a bit, we are getting violently buffetted every now and then. We'd been in the tent all of twenty minutes when it started to rain.

So, another good walk, and one that I'd recommend.

(The photo: looking back on Tryfan from the high point of our day)

(Alan: glad you're getting some good weather - hopefully a bit less breezy than here!
Martin: the weather would be perfect, but for the wind! You'd probably not have thought anything of nipping up those hills this morning, but you have to consider that I am a girly wuss and thus find strong winds off-putting!
Robin: by good fortune the northerly wind dictated that our view was up the llyn last night. In fact, we couldn't even see the dam from where we were, so it was all good!)

(* Post Blog Note: 6am on Sunday morning. Actually, maybe we weren't that sheltered after all. That's was certainly in the top three of windiest nights spent in a backpacking tent. It may even take top prize. Consequently it's also a competitor for least sleep achieved. At least the tent's still standing (wonder how we're going to get it down - one of us spreadeagled across it, I think))

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Conwy to Llyn Cowlyd Reservoir

Friday 27 April (1300-1915)
Distance: 12 miles
Weather: fine

We didn't really start at Conwy; we started at Llandudno Junction, as that was the easiest place to get to by train. But, it's only a short hop over the estuary to Conwy, where, to my surprise, we found a walled town with a substantial castle.

I don't recall having been to Conwy before (although I'm sure I must have at some point in my teens), and it looks to be a town worthy of further inspection. In fact, given my fondness for poking around castles, it took some will-power to walk on by today.

Field paths, woodland, marshland, lanes and more marshland formed the terrain for most of the afternoon, all of which required (in the absence of waymarks) a lot of attention to the map. It was actually a pretty nice day for the ridge route (which would have given far easier navigation, I'm sure), but if we had embarked on it then we would have been forced to camp high tonight (or descend unnecessarily), as we wouldn't have been able to make the full distance in the time available.

The surroundings changed remarkably as we climbed up and over the dip to the east of Moel Eilio. Out we strode along a grassy track, into a rugged landscape, marred only by the cuckoo calling to our right, and a big hydro-electric pipeline to our left.

Our progress over the final mile was the slowest of the day, as we kept stopping to investigate potential pitches, all of which got rejected. Just as we were wondering where we would end up tonight, we climbed over a stile and found some dry, short grass, right next to a stream. Even better, we've got a cracking view over the reservoir below us. We're happy campers tonight!

Friday, 27 April 2012

LoW The (Not Really) Continuation

It's been a bit of a frantic morning. Even with the loss of the house and car keys just as we were due to leave home (eventually located under my backpack), and a quick pitstop en-route, we were making reasonable time on our three hour drive back to North Wales. Then, in the last twenty miles of the journey it was like a comedy of delaying factors. Road works and very slow lorries at every turn.

We pulled into the car park nine minutes before the bus was due. We got to the bus stop with four minutes to spare.

Now it's a train journey ahead of us. By 1pm we should be out walking, but not to continue from Barmouth.

We're tackling the issue of the northerly wind (and the lack of public transport on Sunday) by travelling up to Conwy and walking south. We're tackling the forecast high winds by taking a lower-level route. We're tackling a lack of time by omitting the section between Trawsfynydd and Barmouth (justified on the basis that we've walked that section 3 or 4 times before).

So, not really a continuation of our walk, but still three more days of walking, which will mean that, in bits and pieces, we will have walked the whole length of Wales.

I'll be putting the LoW on my 'unfinished business' list as, in better weather, I really do want to walk the high-level route north from Barmouth.

(Alan R: I duly made up some brown sauce straws yesterday. Pity they're still sitting on the side at home!)

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Tuesday, 24 April 2012

LoW Day 8 - by Waun Oer to Barmouth

Tuesday 24 April (0630-1430)
Distance: 15 miles
Weather: glorious!

When I announced what time we were going to get up today, Mick did audibly whine. But I really wanted to get into Barmouth early enough to attend to some errands, plus I was clutching at the 'frosty at dawn' bit of the weather forecast, which suggested a nice start to the day.

A nice start it was too. We were soon above the mistiness and looking out at a sea of lumps. Even Mick had to concede that the vista from the top of Waun Oer, just before 7am, did justify being up before daylight had taken hold.

There's no denying that the landscape around here is a lot more interesting than our area of the Midlands, and we drank it in as we walked the ridge after Waun Oer.

As no-one has yet thought to built a bridge from that ridge over to the Cadair range, we then had to lose some height before starting our big climb of the day.

It was on that descent that I started to doubt that I'd plotted the right line on the map, as looking across at Cadair our ascent route didn't look overly feasible. Once we got there, a path was, however, found and up, up, up it took us, often steeply enough to make the calves complain. The bit that didn't look feasible from a distance was a short bit of a mild scramble and then it was simple to get to the top.

As Mynydd Moel came into sight, it was in the cloud, which was disappointing, but we couldn't really complain as the day had been so fine to that point. Then something happened that never happens to us.

Usually (including the last time we went up Cadair) the day is fine until we are nearly at the summit, and then it clouds over. Today, the summit cleared as we approached.

Incredulously we then saw the cloud drift away from Pengadair itself. Mick would confirm that I almost broke into a sprint in my keeness to get there before it clouded over again. I left him trailing in my wake (or at least, I declined to stop when he had a shoe faff).

Not only did it stay fine until we got to the top, but it continued fine (and warm when out of the wind) as we sat up there behind a wall for an early lunch.

About this time I came to think about a number of facts:
1) The weather forecast for the next few days is for head-on rain;
2) Our route from here is high and walking up high without visibility and with rain in your face isn't fun;
3) We have some things at home that we need to attend to (although in the absence of (1) and (2) this wouldn't be a deciding issue); and
4) A return train-fare home would cost about the same as the intended B&B in Barmouth.

So, the decision was made to put a brief hiatus in our journey. We will return later in the week (please at least let the wind swing by that time!) to finish the walk. In the meantime, we still had 7 miles to walk and, in the usual way of these things, our usual pace would see us arrive in Barmouth having just missed one train and with a 2 hour wait for the next.

A sprint was put on. We've walked that walk into Barmouth on quite a few occasions, so we knew exactly where we were going. It's a lovely route too on a nice day, especially down the stream to Arthog.

Crossing Barmouth Bridge in almost wall-to-wall sunshine, it was difficult to believe that it could turn nasty again.

We did make it to the station in time for the earlier train. Made it onto the platform a whole 60 seconds before the train came in (we had paused to buy snacks on the way - we didn't really cut it quite that fine).

So, there's part one finished. Watch out for the continuation in a few days time.

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Atop Cadair Idris

In the sunshine!

LoW Day 7 - By Commins Coch to Before Waun Oer

Monday 23 April (0735-1655)
Distance: 15 miles
Weather: Dry and mainly sunny!
Number of slugs found in our food bags this morning: 3

What a lovely day for a walk through Welsh lumpy bits! It's so nice to be able to see the area through which you're walking, and the end of today, in particular, was well worth seeing.

The day started fine, with just some cloud clinging to the valley bottom, but that had burnt off by the time we made our way down the short distance to Commins Coch. We took a bit of a short cut in getting there and found ourselves in someone's garden. Fortunately, being before 8am, there was no-one around, so we crept through and let ourselves out of the gate (displaying a 'strictly private' sign on the other side). It saved us a bit of road walking!

Just under 3 miles later we reached the village of Cemmaes, where we had been fantasising that there may be a tea-room, but our fantasies were all in vain. All we got there were some good public conveniences, with hot water, soap and litter bins (it's rare enough to find hot water in public toilets out in the sticks; litter bins are really rare). With clean hands and with our rubbish of the last few days discarded, over to the other side of the valley we went.

I did point out to Mick that I was taking him over 2 lumps unnecessarily. We could have just walked a shorter distance along the road, but we decided that it was a nice day for standing on a lump which promised good views. In fact it gave us a view of where we would be had we followed the Cambrian Way for this section (along a nice-looking ridge, albeit through a wind farm).

Descending from the second lump turned out to be something of a trial. We managed to locate where the path entered the forest, and it didn't bode well that a fence had been constructed across it. Beyond, we could see that the obvious old track, but it was so overgrown that after battling our way along it for a few hundred metres we could see the futility of trying to cover its entire length. It was impassable (and we've battled our way through along some pretty poorly maintained paths). Clambering back up out of the forest and hopping over a fence, around the outside edge of the forest we went (more or less - a few detours were made to gateways).

Having descended from those small lumps (885' was the highest), the proper climbing started, which was to form the bulk of today's 5000' of ascent. As we wandered along a forest track, looking out for the footpath we wanted, we had visions of finding the same lack of maintenance as we had earlier. Not only was this one clearly signed, but it's obviously still in use too. It was rather a nice path, actually.

Then came the highlight of the day. If you have mapping for this area then have a look at the ridge which runs from Bwlch Siglen, across Craig Maesglase, then over Craig Portas to Cribin Fawr. All those escarpments! I'm not sure my mother would have approved of us being so close to such an edge, but it is an impressive bit of landscape that I've only seen from below and from across the valley before.

An extended aqua-faff was had above the waterfall at Craig Maesglase, to refill our drinking bladders and to put on another layer (I was down to my windshirt and base layer - the first time my jacket's been off on this trip - but now we were high and in the wind it was getting nippy). We'd then intended to pick up water for camp when we got to the next stream, a mile and a half further on. However, when we got there we decided that rather than carrying the extra water for a couple of miles, we would extend our day by 2.5 miles, which would allow us to camp by water. The other key motivation of the extension was that today's weather was still fine, whereas tomorrow's doesn't look so good (thanks again Alan for the info - keep them coming!).

Our resolve faltered just half a mile after the intended end of the day. The wind is strong, and we were concerned about getting shelter to camp. As an added incentive to cutting short, a shower was seen approaching, and we didn't want to have to don waterproofs (although in the end it skirted us anyway). So, we left our route and dropped down the hillside a bit to find a pitch. It's not the high-level pitch (although still at 1800') with extensive views we'd hoped for tonight; in fact, in a repetition of last night we're pitched just off a forest track. We are near water though, and are reasonably sheltered from the worst of the wind, so it'll do the job nicely.

It's an early start tomorrow, as we have chores to do when we get to Barmouth, so the earlier we arrive, the better. As for which route we take to get there, that depends upon the weather. Fingers crossed the low cloud and heavy showers hold off till mid-morning!

(JJ - is that section of the SWCP violently lumpy, per chance?
Alan - I suppose I can just about forgive this weather in April, but a bit warmer and a bit drier would certainly be appreciated!)

Sunday, 22 April 2012

LoW Day 6 - S of Pumlumon to by Commins Coch

Sunday 22 April (0825-1715)
Distance: 16 miles
Weather: Morning laughably wet with rain, sleet and hail. Afternoon dry with some sun
Red kites seen: 0 (they've been plentiful for the last few days. Must have passed out of the area covered by the feeding stations)

It was a chilly night, featuring an almighty downpour at about 1am. I may not have noticed it, except (with impecable timing) I'd just come in from using the en-suite and thus we were both awake when it hit. Mick was back in the land of nod and I was just dropping off when someone flashed a bright light through my closed eyelids. I looked around wondering whether it was lightning, or whether there really was someone with a torch wandering around Pumlumon in the early hours. When the thunder rumbled my mind turned to the wisdom of us camping so high, but counting the gap between the next few flashes and bangs, it was a long way away and going away from us. I went back to sleep.

Alas, this morning the delaying tactics didn't help us get a dry and sunny start to the day. As we set out we were still in very dense cloud and it had just started raining. For the next two hours it rained, sleeted and hailed constantly and heavily, and we saw nothing. In fact, it was thoroughly horrible weather to be on a hill. That meant that the straightforward navigation that I remembered from last time we walked this exact route over Pumlumon (December 2007, in pretty bad weather also, except for better visibility on that occasion), turned out not to be so simple today.

Even so, when the rain was reduced to regular showers after three-and-a-bit hours of walking, and we sat down in a dry spell for a combined second breakfast and elevenses, it was pleasing to see that we had covered 6.5 miles already. That must have been thanks to the blistering pace set by Mick in between the navigation faffs. He did have a point in his pace - at least it was keeping us reasonably warm.

With the cloud base having risen, along with us having descended, the views opened up before us, and they weren't too shoddy. I don't know how I managed to live in this area so long without noticing how empty it is. Maybe it's because those were the years during which I dropped walking as a pastime, and thus only saw the area from a car window.

A bit of distance was knocked off at Esgair Geulan forest, as we shunned the meandering forest tracks in favour of just marching straight up a sheep field. The short side of a right angle triangle, rather than the two long sides. We then added that distance back on later in the day when we missed a turn (don't think we saw a single way mark today, other than finger posts where we crossed a road). When I realised what we'd done and worked out where we'd gone wrong, it turned out to be at the exact point when I said "We're not going in the right direction; we need to be careful not to wander off down this track" (pointing to the map). We then managed to convince ourselves that the track swang back right and we didn't check again for a while. It was only when I next checked the compass and couldn't find any way to convince myself that south was a useful direction when we should be heading north, that we realised our error. A descent down a ridiculously steep hillside soon had us right.

A passage through another forest got us to where we intended to camp, and a suitable spot was sighted from a distance. The problem was the amount of descent required to get water, and from a distance the stream looked more like a bog than a stream. So, we considered the map, we considered tomorrow's monster day and decided to continue and hope that something would turn up in a couple of miles time.

By virtue of failing to get my phone out for a photo at any point during the day, tonight's photo is of our pitch again. As you'll see, it's not the most attractive, being right beside a forest track, and we've not even got the benefit of the views, thanks to the wind direction. I was always expecting this to be the most difficult/least attractive camp of the trip though, and it certainly could be worse.

As we sit here waiting for our tea to rehydrate, we see that the sky is almost clear now* (another cold night then!), and can't help but notice that it's remarkably warmer than last night. Is that a sign of improvement in the weather or the fact that we're not up high tonight?

(Conrad - I can't really claim that we're walking the Cambrian Way as I've made quite a few variations - mainly lopping off the meandering bits. But, we are following the general gist of the route and it is a good one.
Bob - I was only thinking this morning as I lay in my sleeping bag that I might just post route maps when we get home (maybe without including the bits where we went slightly awry!)
Alan - thank you for the forecast. Sounds like a reversal of the trend of the last few days which has been wet mornings and dry afternoons. Have to make an earlier start tomorrow to make the most of the drier morning!
*Post-blog note: I spoke too soon about the clear skies. Tea has just been eaten with the sound of light rain gently pattering on the fly sheet. Hey ho - at least we're not out in it.)

LoW Day 5 - Llyn Fyrddon Fawr to S of Pumlumon Summit

(In the last post I said I'd forgotten to attach the photos to this post. It seems that I forgot to even send the post. Too focussed on food, methinks!)

Saturday 21 April (0725-1810)
Distance: 17.5 miles
Weather: morning mainly wet, afternoon dry, some brief bits of sun.
Number of ladies encountered in sidecars with burst hot water bottles: 1

To the sound of Canada geese honking, we set out this morning into the cloud that enveloped us. There were already hints that the sun was trying to break through, and soon enough the cloud was breaking up. Given the terrain, that made the navigation a lot easier.

It was the navigation that slowed us down today, more so than the terrain (although, unsurprisingly, we did find more bogs to wade though). I spent half the morning with compass in hand, but it was worthwhile so as not to throw any unexpected detours into what was promising to be quite a hard day.

The weather this morning added a bit more spice too as the brief sun, as the cloud burnt off, was soon replaced with a period of snow, which eventually gave way to hail, and then rain as we descended.

Descending down into Cwmystwyth we were met by a farmer brandishing a gun, asking us where we were going. It turned out that there was an organised shoot on (trying to get the fox which has killed 22 lambs to date), and he was concerned that we were going to stray into that area. As it was, we were about to veer off in the opposite direction.

Devil's Bridge was reached at 11.45, just fifteen minutes before the Post Office shut, so we wasted no time in going to pick up our supply parcel (although the store in which the PO is located is open all day and they had said we could collect it at any time before 5pm).

Back down the road to the cafe we then went, perversely picking the empty cafe over the busier-looking Station cafe. We thought for a while that we may have erred in our choice, but both of our all-day breakfasts were excellent, and being the only customers we got to have a good chinwag with the owners. It was an hour before we dragged ourselves away.

There are two obvious routes out of Devil's Bridge - a mile and a half north up the main road to pick up a path to Parson's Bridge or a big loop to the north-west to another bridge whilst staying mainly off-road. In bad weather we may have picked the former route, but as the conditions weren't too bad we took the route that involved three miles walking to make one mile of northerly progress. It also involved the big descent down to the river and then, instead of taking the longer but gentler track up the other side, we took the straight-up-the-hill, killer option. That's one steep valley side to climb head-on - particularly when you've just re-supplied!

A bit more winding around (and more upness - up was a big theme of the day), we found ourselves on the A44 for half a kilometre, and it wasn't until I got there that I realised that it's the road to Aberystwyth that I used to drive all the time (having lived in Aber for 3 years). That short section houses a petrol station/shop and seeing that it has toilets I decided to avail myself of the facilities. Perhaps it was a bit cheeky to use their hot water and soap to wash my smalls, but I used to be a customer many years ago, so I didn't feel too guilty. (Incidentally, it was here that Mick encountered the lady in a side-car who found that one of her feet-warming hot water bottles had burst. Her feet were as wet as ours!)

Off down the road we then went with my smalls hanging off my walking pole. It's a very effective way to get things dry!

The final killer-ascent of the day was up towards Dyll Faen forest, the north side of which was our destination for the night.

We've got ourselves a very scenic pitch with fantastic views (and a phone signal - they've been few and far between to date), but we are pitched on a bog (where wouldn't be waterlogged after all of this rain?). Still, at least most of the snow has melted. We're at over 600 metres and there are still some patches of old snow, but the fresh covering that was here yesterday has now gone.

(Mike: you'll be familiar with where we are tonight too, from your Pumlumon Challenges.
Bob: trying to keep your area all to yourself eh? 'Fraid I might have to rave about this walk though. If it's this good in this weather, it must be truly fantastic during a more settled spell.
Conrad: once your new knee's up and running you'll have to have a look at the Cambrian Way guide. I'm impressed with how remote the route is, as well as with the surroundings. Hard going, but so far it's been worth it. As for the source of the Wye, we do go past it, and the source of the Severn too.
Alan: could get any weather, and have been getting any weather. It'd be nice to hear that there is some change somewhere on the horizon - and preferably before the end of the walk!)

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Saturday, 21 April 2012

Day 5 Photos

Ooops! Forgot to attach the photos to that last post.

One is our pitch tonight, the other is an example of a benefit of wet weather!

LoW Day 4 - Ty'n y Cornel to Llyn Fyrddon Fawr

Friday 20 April (0750-1750)
Distance: 16.5 (plus accidental detours)
Weather: rainy morning, interspersed with some violent hail; sunny intervals in the afternoon (yay!)
Number of accidental detours taken: 2

It was a day of four parts, three of which looked to be particularly hard-going. On two of those sections I also had straight lines plotted on the map, in the absence of any marked paths - which always suggests to me that the going will be slow and hard, particularly in the bog-fest conditions which continue to prevail.

Happily, things didn't turn out to be quite as difficult as I'd expected. I don't know what animal(s) had formed the trods through the first two miles of mountainous knotted-grass tussocks and bog, but by taking a path over the top of the lumpy bits and following those trods the going was a touch easier than it looked from a distance.

The second section, in contrast to the tussocky, rolling nothingness of the first, looked more like grazing land (so far the farmed land we've crossed has probably been 99.9% sheep farming, a notable number of fields full of horses, and just two fields of cows), and was more rugged. Our path was low-level and took us through many bogs as the rain and hail alternated with each other. But even so, I was rather enjoying the surroundings.

After a very confusing passage through a forest (the presence of waymarked bridleways which don't exist on the map served to cause the confusion, misdirection and backtracking), we arrived in Strata Florida, a place which comprises only a very small chapel, a very large graveyard, some abbey ruins, a car park and some toilets. The latter served us well, as I brewed up some tea in the shelter of the ladies and we sat in the lee of the building for our lunch. As an added bonus, there were hints of sunshine and the oppressive cloud cover of the last few days had become less threatening, fluffier clouds. I was even so brave as to take off my overtrousers!

After our third 'official footpath rerouting' of the day (I'm all for the diversion of footpaths such that they don't pass through farmyards, but it would be nice if the diversion was made clear before you've walked 250 yards too far!), we headed up into llyn country. Bizarrely, along the perfectly good track, there were waymarker posts galore. We'd seen none on the indistinct bridleway of the morning.

After a little road section, we got to the fourth part of the day, which I expected to see us down to 1mph. It's lumpy bumpy terrain, with no paths marked and with the suggestion of bogginess (yes, more!). That section turned out to be a positive joy.

First there was the stumbling across of a bothy. Often when we see a remote building marked on a map I'll joke about it being a bothy whereas usually it's a ruin or a sheepfold. It hadn't even crossed my mind that this one would be anything interesting, but it turned out to be a bothy with a gas cooker, hot and cold running water and a flush toilet. With two chaps, John and Mike in residence, and with a massive fire burning, it was so very tempting to stay.

We did stay for a cup of tea and a chat, and mumbled about the possibility of cutting short and getting up mega early in the morning to make up the distance. However, tomorrow is looking to be another hard day (as is every day except Saturday week, actually), and the desire not to make it even harder won over the desire for another night of comfort.

To round off the day nicely, the arduous yomp to our night stop turned out to be a reasonably straight forward yomp. Like this morning, by taking a line over the tops of some lumps we avoided the worst off the tussocks and bogs and found vehicle tracks for much of the way.

We had wanted to walk a little bit further than we have, but we employed the rule of 'if you see a really good pitch within half a mile of the end of the day (or within half an hour of sundown), then use it'. It's a tad breezy, having no shelter at all, and that wind is chilling indeed, but it's a good pitch in a spectacular spot in this lumpy landscape speckled with llyns.

So, another enjoyable day inspite of the weather (and the constant wading through bogs). I imagine there'd be superlatives galore if we could have a day of sunshine!

Friday, 20 April 2012

LoW Day 3 - Llandovery to Ty'n y Cornel

Thursday 19 April (0800-1600ish (didn't look at my watch!))
Distance: 17 miles
Weather: drizzly morning, showery afternoon (some quite violent), but some brief sunny spells
Number of sheep incidents: 2

I might have been a bit over-optimistic when I said we'd be awake until at least 8 last night. There was much tiredness going on in our tent, and much sleeping took place overnight, so much so that neither of us could say whether it rained.

We certainly know that it was raining at 6am though, which didn't bode well for the day ahead.

As it turned out, by the time we left the excellent Erwlon campsite (fantastic facilities and a bargain for backpackers) the rain had passed and the morning turned out to just be a bit on the drizzly side.

Out of Llandovery (which turned out to be a bigger place than I expected) our way was along little lanes, joined by a section of track, for 4 miles, through rolling green grazing land. It was along there that the first sheep incident occurred as three ewes and three lambs had escaped from a field and did what most sheep do when they see people approaching - they ran away from us, along the road. Unfortunately with the road fenced on either side, giving us no way to skirt them and giving them no escape route, we herded them so far that I began to have visions of us walking into Conwy with six sheep ahead of us. Finally, we were saved from our sheep-herding when a farmer happened to come out of his house just as the sheep were about to pass, and with some skillful arm-waving he managed to turn them back in the right direction. He told us that the farm they had come from was a good couple of miles back along the lane.

Onwards along tracks we went to pick up a path along the River Tywi. We had to cross a field to reach the riverside and just as we were about to go over the stile to exit the field I happened to look back the way we had come, only to notice that the field gate was open and one sheep had already wandered out. Eeeek! Down to the ground our packs were flung and we legged it back across the field. Fortunately only one sheep had escaped and we soon had it back on the right side of the fence. The second time, we made absolutely sure that the clasp was secure.

To recover from the second sheep ordeal in 2 miles, an early elevenses was taken alongside the picturesque river. A bit premature as it turned out as, had we walked just a little further, we would have found some benches.

The surroundings now were more rugged and, well, Welsh-looking, as we continued to follow the river along some delightful paths (plus a few lane sections which always involved gaining lots of height only immediately to descend back to the river - it's been a bit of a theme of the last couple of days).

Lunch was had overlooking the tumbling, falling out-flow from Llyn Brianne Reservoir, as it falls into the River Tywi. That's one of the photos above. It was a lovely lunch-spot, not even marred by the showers which passed through every few minutes. The next shower after we got going again wasn't so friendly. And coming from the north too - surely we should be enjoying southerly winds?

More showers battered us as we walked the length of the Doethie valley, but even that couldn't disguise what a stunning valley it is (the other photo above is looking back along a section of the valley). If you haven't walked it then I'd say that it's a worthwhile outing.

We weren't the only people walking it either. A group of twelve passed us, going south, and we had another chap within our sights for the entire length.

He had just disappeared into a shed at Ty'n y Cornel when we got there and, sticking his head out of the door, he asked if we would like a cup of tea. Did we ever!

It transpired that he is Neville, the volunteer warden this week at the hostel, which having been sold off by the YHA in 2007 (and thus no longer marked as a hostel on the map) was saved by the Elenydd Wilderness Trust (, which set itself up purely to save this and nearby Dolgoch hostels. Having learnt that he had no-one staying that night, and with the fee being £12 a head (or £6 to camp) it seemed rude not to give him some custom. We were only going to walk on another couple of miles anyway, and we were already a mile and a half beyond the original plan.

The location is truly stunning, we've been seldom without a cup of tea in hand since we arrived, and there's even been cake handed around. If you're not familiar with this area then this hostel (basic though it is) would be an excellent base to explore.

So, all in all, a very pleasing day in very nice surroundings. I've not been to this area before, but now that we've sampled it I'm sure we'll be back. Big grins all around at such a surprisingly good day!

(JJ - any hint of better weather down on the SWCP yet?
Louise - I suggested to Mick that the current poor weather was building up to a very fine May that wouldn't see any rain fall between the 11th and the 24th. He laughed.)

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

LoW Day 2 - S Side of Black Mountains to Llandovery

Wednesday 18 April (0800-1610)
Distance: 17.5 miles (on paper!)
Weather: showers
Number of other people seen: 0

It rained in the night, and I don't just mean a couple of showers. My goodness, that was a good test of Susie's newly sealed seams, and one that I'm pleased to say that she passed with flying colours.

The rain did make us a bit late getting out of our sleeping bags, but happily by the time we came to de-pitch it had calmed down to just light showers. It stayed that way for a couple of hours too, before the next proper rain arrived.
There was no respite from the water, though. We experienced three underfoot conditions today: standing water, running water and tarmac. The first 7 miles of the day fell into the first two categories and it was slow going, taking us 5 hours to wade and splosh our way (often pathlessly) through (would have been longer if all the long grass through one of the bogs hadn't been burnt off - based on today's evidence the mind boggles at how that area could possibly be dry enough to burn!).

Admittedly there was a bit of a delay when we came across a raging torrent of a river (probably usually just a tame stream). It was, once again a trousers-off crossing for me, and even then it was deep enough for me to come within half an inch of getting wet underpants. Even worse, it was raining at the time, but that probably added to the enjoyment of getting dressed again on the other side and feeling the blood turn my purple knees back to their proper pink state (the toes took a bit longer).

I felt sure that in nicer weather I would have been exclaiming at length about our surroundings for the first half of the day. From what we could see it all looked quite lovely and it had a very remote feel with no signs of habitation within view (albeit the views were often curtailed). We'll just have to return in nicer weather to confirm how nice an area it is!

Reaching tarmac was, today, a relief and at the first suitable opportunity we paused for lunch. Being well sheltered in a church doorway, we didn't have to rush when it started to rain again.

As is our tendency, the route was contemplated as we ate (oatcakes and Thai chilli tuna, if you're interested, followed by custard creams) and given the inclement conditions we decided we couldn't face more bog wading, thus we took to tarmac for the afternoon. There was one off-road interlude, but the presence of four killer dogs at a farm, which resulted in some considerable diversion and trespass, didn't make that a happy experience (nice path when we found our way around the trained killers, mind).

By Llandovery even the plethora of BBJs (lots of red kites, a few buzzards) wasn't distracting us from the tiredness, so we were more than ready to stop by the time we reached the campsite. Nice hot showers have revived us and we'll probably be wide awake until, oooh, at least 8pm now, maybe pushing half past!

As for today's photo, you'll notice that it's of the same subject as yesterday's (it's the only time my phone came out of my pack today, and then only for about 5 seconds, given the rain). I took it a few moments before Mick gave his shorts a good dunking!

(Bob: we were about 2km NNW of Cwmgiedd last night, on the top corner of the forest - at about 780134. We found ourselves a dry patch in amongst the bog - except it was no longer a dry patch by this morning!
Alan: not ideal weather, but it could be worse. Having seen a top-level forecast for the next five days it's not looking like we're in for anything much better either. Good job we went belt and braces on the waterproofs!
Louise: I fear that I'm going to give the impression that Wales is a rainy place with lots of bog...)

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Length of Wales (LoW) Day 1 - Swansea to S side of Black Mountains

Tuesday 17 April (0820-1645)
Distance: 19 miles (+ the walk to the start point)
Weather: sunny intervals, one short shower
Number of long distance walkers encountered: 2

Setting the compass to south, we found our way to the sea-front at Swansea this morning, where, having paused for a few photos under glorious clear skies, an about turn was made and north we headed, up the River Tawe.

Cycle Route 43 was our route for much of the day which gave us easy navigation (cycle routes always being well signed) and kept us off roads. Just a pity that it was tarmac under foot. About 16 miles of the day were on hard, flat surfaces, which are always hard on the feet and legs.

We'd barely cleared the outskirts of Swansea when we encountered Lee and Ross who set out from Newcastle 17 days ago and are in the middle of walking between all of the Premiership football stadiums (stadia, I suppose?), aiming to finish their walk at Wembley on cup final day. With 800+ miles to cover in 35 days, they've certainly set themselves a target, but they looked fit and happy when we saw them. You can find out more about their journey (raising money for Shelter) at

Leaving the river for the tow-path of the long-disused Swansea Canal wasn't a favourable swap. The canal has the appearance at that point of a cross between a silted-up brook and a dumping ground. It was nice when the canal disappeared and the cycle route put us back on the riverside.

Even better was the sight of a big 24hr Tesco on the other side of the river, with a footbridge for access. With a cup of tea in mind, over we went. It hadn't even occurred to us that a store of that size wouldn't have a coffee shop, so we were disappointed when we got there.

A couple of miles later we abandoned the cycle route for a while, in favour of more canal. A good move, as this section was entirely different, having been taken back by nature (and, indeed now designated as a nature reserve).

Back once again to the river and the cycle route, we put bets that a bench wouldn't appear until about 50 yards (and just around a bend) from where we stopped for lunch, so it was a pleasant surprise when a bench appeared just at the right time. That so rarely happens!

It was then just a 6-mile hop, skip and a jump (including a bit of seduction by a newly tarmacked bit of ex-railway line, which lured us away from our intended route) to the village where we left flatness and hard surfaces and headed up to the open land.

Today's photo was taken on that last leg, about half a mile before we camped. It was a trousers-off crossing for me, and that water was certainly a little on the bracing side!

If we'd camped at the first potential spot we saw, then we would have had the tent up before the shower hit, but today we weren't to be quite that lucky. Still, it didn't amount to much as we crossed a wide bog to see what shelter could be had behind some forest (forecast to be wet and windy tonight).

And so now we're pitched in a reasonably sheltered spot, beside a bubbling stream, braced for another night of rain (hope that the newly seam-sealed Susie turns out to be waterproof now, or this could become a very short trip!).

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Pennine Way (top bit) Day 5 (Which Wasn’t On The Pennine Way At All)

Wednesday 11 April (0835-0920)

Distance: 2 miles

Ascent: Too tiny to count

The plan for today didn’t involve much of the Pennine Way to start with, and the reality didn’t involve any.

I didn’t want to walk the section over to Greenhead for two reasons. Firstly, I intend for us to walk Hadrian’s Wall at some point so we’ll cover that ground then, and secondly, the section from Greenhead to Alston is reputed to be an uninteresting day which serves simply to join more interesting things. I also didn’t want to walk straight down to Alston along the South Tyne Trail, because we did that walk northbound in 2008 and I as I didn’t enjoy it then I didn’t see value in wasting a day on it now.

So, the plan was that we would walk the 7 miles down to Lambley and jump on a bus to Alston, then walk out beyond Garrigill to camp the night, which would position us nicely for Cross Fell tomorrow.

The reality of the day was that we walked the 2-miles to Haltwhistle train station and caught a train home.

We omitted the summit of Cross Fell in 2008 due to foul weather, opting to skirt it instead. We also didn’t get to see the golf-ball on Great Dunn Fell, even when standing at the fence of the radar station, because it was so cloud-bound. I’d really like to see both of those places, and their views, in reasonable weather. I certainly didn’t want to be standing atop Cross Fell in the lashing rain and feeling cold and miserable – which looked the most likely scenario if we pushed on this week.

So, we’re home and all of the kit is now being cleaned and dried, ready for the next trip, which is, after all, only 5 days away.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Pennine Way (top bit) - Day 4 - N of Bellingham to N of Haltwhistle

Tuesday 10 April (0730-1640)
Distance: 19 miles
Ascent: 2500'
Weather: yes, and lots of it
Number of other people encountered out walking: 0

I was lacking in dexterity as we set off this morning. I find that a level of dexterity is lost with each pair of gloves donned and this morning I was wearing 3 pairs. It was something of a cool start to the day and it seems that my neshness has reached new heights.

Happily I'd warmed up enough to lose the overmitts by the time we reached Bellingham, but the other two pairs stayed on almost the entire day, along with a ridiculous amount of other clothing. You'd think that I was off for a polar expedition the way that I was dressed! And, the only time at which I even got near to too warm was at about 11.50, as we got to the top of a long pull up through the forest. I muttered about maybe taking my fleece off.

Half an hour later I was so glad that I hadn't.

Until noon we had, incredibly, been blessed with dry weather. After a night of rain, the bogginess had taken on a whole new dimension and accounted for about 75% of today's terrain, but at least it wasn't raining. Granted it was relentlessly windy, making every boggy step hard won, but wind-blown rain (in our faces) would have been worse.

It was exactly at noon that the first drops of rain fell. It was a little while later that the deluge started. Oh my! What rain. And hail. Within minutes our Paramo trousers (and Mick's jacket) could keep it out no longer and for the next hour we were not only being lashed by fierce rain/hail, but were sodden too.

Getting cold with it, I overlooked the fact that earlier in the day I'd been too tired to contemplate today's full distance, suddenly found some hidden energy, and put a sprint on. I managed to maintain that sprint for the rest of the day, although I would happily have called it a day half way through the forest. That wasn't to be as Mick was being a hard task-master. My mitigation was to find the fastest way to our destination and whilst the re-route didn't knock off any distance it did keep us (mainly) on faster surfaces.

The rain did finally abate, and what should we then find before us but a bird hide? We were going to get a lunch break after all :-)

The weather remained reasonable for the rest of the afternoon, with the heaviest rain passing to either side of us, but even so I was mighty glad to reach the campsite.
So, that was a hard old day (and the wettest I have ever been when out backpacking). Still, it was quite good fun (apart from the soaked-and-cold bit) and it did feature not just one, but two tea-breaks. There's a farm with a self-service tea-shed which appeared just at elevenses time, then the stop in the bird hide brought our own stove out in an effort to stop my shivering. And just now I think I'll leave this nice warm laundry room and venture back out to the tent, to don my down trousers (happiness in the form of trousers!) and put the kettle on.

(Sorry no photo today - phone remained safely wrapped up and I can't get the bag open with that many gloves on!)
Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

Monday, 9 April 2012

Pennine Way (top bit) - Day 3 - Chew Green to N of Bellingham

Monday 9 April (0800-1630)
Distance: 18 miles
Ascent: 2500'
Weather: showers

The first thing that I noticed this morning was that it wasn't raining. With the weather forecasters having had me believe that we wouldn't see a single inch of dry weather today, I made haste: we had to grasp the dry weather whilst we had it. It stayed mainly dry whilst we tackled the first bogs of the day (Alan, I did offer to carry Mick, but he politely declined), but once the first shower hit that was the trend set for the day. Still, a day of light showers, even if many of them were prolonged, was nowhere near the 12-hour deluge expected.

The thing that struck us both about today was how neither of us has any recollection of the second half of it. If you'd plonked us blindfolded on the southern edge of Redesdale Forest and walked us along the PW without telling us where we were, we would both have sworn we'd never been there before.

To an extent that was explained when we reached the vicinity of our night-stop, when we came to a sign-post saying 'Pennine Way' and 'Pennine Way Alternative Route'. Suddenly I recalled that even though there is only one route marked on recent maps, previously we opted for the alternative route. As for the other chunk that has been erased from our minds, perhaps it's just because it's featureless moorland, so there's nothing there to remember?

On reaching our intended night-stop we found that the exceptionally discrete place we'd thought to pitch was deep in sheep droppings. So, we're not quite so discrete, but even though we're vaguely within sight of a farm house and only metres away from the path*, I wasn't put off from popping the tent up before 5pm. I'm getting quite bold in my trespass these days, you know! (*We've seen a grand total of 2 people out walking today - I'll be surprised if anyone does pass by - but then I've been surprised before when camping so boldly...)

(JJ - thank you for the weather info. I do hope the Beeb is either right or erring on the side of caution. If this is the worst weather of the trip then I'll be happy (although I'd be happier if it was warm and dry!).
Karen - we're just doing the top section, down to Dufton. I did the lower section 2 years ago and the middle section last year so this will finish my second walk of the route (kinda - if you ignore the bits I'll have missed out of this one!). Haven't got time to do the whole thing - we've got Wales to walk starting on Monday.
Louise - boo hiss to contining lurginess. Hope it abates soon. I'm pleased to say that mine has responded well so far to the fresh air and exercise - let's hope it doesn't make a revenge attack as soon as I stop!
Andrew - good point (although even looking at it objectively, sitting behind a desk and being generally lazy for 9 months has taken its toll!))

Pennine Way (top bit) - Day 2 - Hen Hole to Chew Green

Easter Sunday, 8 April (0845-1700)
Distance: 15.5 miles
Ascent: 2800' (felt like 6000')
Weather: showers
Number of times we didn't fall over: 187

It was a two-cups-of-tea morning and a late start. There seemed little value in getting going whilst we were still enveloped in cloud. The delaying tactics worked to a degree - by half past eight not only could we see Hen Hole, but, being now below the cloud we could see its edge a few miles away and sunshine beyond. We were hopeful that we would find views atop The Cheviot.

Our optimism was just that. By the time we had huffed and puffed (or maybe it was just me huffing and puffing - I was finding it disconcertingly hard going) up to Auchope Cairn we were in the cloud. By the time we started on the out-and-back detour to The Cheviot it was raining again.
I was determined to go up to The Cheviot today, there being no certainty that I will find myself so close again, and having omitted it in 2008. In hindsight (and having been there in such poor conditions) I have to say that it wasn't an interesting summit worthy of the detour for any reason other than to say that I've been there.

There were patches of snow at various points during the day, most extensively on The Cheviot detour. Some were firmer than others, as I found when I fell straight through one snow bank, landing with both feet in the pool of water lying below. Mick mocked me for my lack of care, yet I managed not to be too smug when he had the same mishap befall him on the return leg.

Two women, Mollie and Carmen, were met as we rejoined the Pennine Way and a good old chat was had. They were jubilant at being 8.5 miles from Kirk Yetholm, after a 15-day walk from Edale which has seen them basking in shorts and wading through snow. Their first walking trip too - hats off to them.

Various others were met between there and Mozie Law, some of whom commented on how slippery the wet flagstones were. We were glad it wasn't just us - we were teetering along slipping every few paces, although miraculously neither of us found ourselves hitting the ground with a bump.

Pausing for lunch just before Mozie Law, we were already fatigued enough to want to stop. Yet more ups and downs and more bogs through which to meander (don't remember the bogs from when we were last here, but it had been a dry spring) were in our path and when, at 1530, we paused for a sit-down in the shelter of the Lamb Hill refuge hut it was tempting to call it a day.

Somehow we managed to stir our weary, aching selves and motivate ourselves for the final 3.5 miles. It's mind-boggling to think that just 9 months ago I wouldn't have baulked at walking 25 miles over this terrain, but such is the current level of fitness that today's 15.5 miles felt longer than 25.

We did, of course, make it to our intended destination - which you'll see in the photo above (and yes, those are the remains of a dead sheep next to the tent, but long-dead and skeletal, so not maggot-ridden and smelly!). I've got an almost identical photo (but without the dead sheep!) from last April, as we're pitched within 5 yards of where we stayed after walking through Otterburn Range last year.
Hopefully the bodies (did I mention that they ache?) will be a little more resigned to the expected activity tomorrow. Don't think the weather's going to play ball, though, is it?

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Same view as in the last post

This is the same view (or lack of) this morning. Seems to be a little bit of low cloud about us...

Pennine Way (top bit) - Day 1 - Kirk Yetholm to Hen Hole Refuge Hut

Saturday 7 April (1440-1805)
Distance: 7.5 miles
Ascent: 2400'
Weather: overcast with drizzle later

It was a long old journey to get to Kirk Yetholm, starting with a 2-hour car journey last night and ending with a bus, two trains and two more buses today - and, with the lurgi still lingering, we coughed and rattled the whole way through it.

Having had the obligatory faff on the green at Kirk Yetholm (because 9.5 hours of travelling hadn't given enough time to complete all of the necessary faffs...) off we set. "What a fine pair of honed athletes we are" said Mick as we coughed and wheezed our way up the lane.

Just before the junction was reached, where the choice is given of taking the low-level route or the high level route up to the Schill, we had a conflab. We'd taken the high route before and we each have rattling chests, it was a no-brainer - low we would go. We lasted about 3 minutes before we wavered. It looked a good day for the high route, and surely if we took it slow and steady we would be okay.

It was a good decision. I love this area, with all of its unspoiled lumps and bumps, and it is definitely best appreciated from up high.

Some of those lumps and bumps were on our route, and some little bits of that route were under snow, but the going was easy enough and we knew we weren't going far.

What was hampering us was the weight of our packs. Figuring that we may as well get used to something approaching the weights we'll have to carry on the PCT, we've brought with us almost all of the food we need for the whole trip. When I've carried 5 days food previously I've bitched and whined about it. Today I thought I'd best man-up and get on with it (but let me tell you, it was heavy!).

Anyways, we got to the Hen Hole refuge hut at 1805 with great hopes of kipping inside and thus keeping the tent (Vera) dry for tomorrow. Alas someone left the door open last week (inconsiderate arse! There's a bloody-great bolt which makes it perfectly obvious whether it's locked or not) and there's still a snow-drift inside.

Even worse, we found that no renovations have taken place at the hut since we were last here and there is *still* no hot-tub outside for the soaking of weary bones. I really would have appreciated a hot tub tonight!

(Post note: Mick would like me to mention that I reneged on my usual camp chores tonight and issued a firm refusal to fulfil my task of fetching water. Therefore it was Mick who (and I quote him verbatim here) 'had to walk 4.5 additional miles with 7000' of ascent, with pleurisy' to fetch the water. For that I was very grateful.)

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Plans: June

Previously I announced our plans for April and for May. April (as you may have noticed) is suddenly upon us, Mick & I are once again (gainfully) unemployed, and it is but a couple of days before we set out for our first trip (providing that the house full of lurginess abates in time) – and I haven’t yet announced the biggie of our ‘not really big’ walks for this year.

Plane tickets are now booked, a wilderness permit is in hand and somewhere I’ve got a campfire permit too (not that we intend to have a campfire, but apparently in California a gas stove counts as a campfire) – so we’re all good to go for a jaunt along the Pacific Crest Trail.

Not all of it, I hasten to add; that really would be a long walk. A modest section of California will do for us this year. We’ll be walking northbound, joining the trail at Agua Dulce (which is south east of Lancaster on the third map below) and walking around 500 miles into Yosemite (to somewhere south east of Lee Vining in the first map below). So, that takes us across a corner of the Mojave desert (hot, hot, hot!) and through the Sierra Nevada.


All of the photos I’ve seen promise that it’s going to be quite spectacular.

It’s going to be quite a logistical challenge too, as you may notice that we don’t cross a road for the vast majority of that middle map. There are going to be some heavy loads of food being carried!

Happily, it’s been a remarkably low snow year in the High Sierra, so the going should be easier than it was in last year’s high snow year.

We’ll be staying in LA for a couple of days when we get to the States to sort out our food parcels and pick up some other bits and pieces and whilst we’re there I will be trying to sort myself out with a local mobile phone so that I can blog as we go (or as much as the limited reception on the route allows).

We’re off on 29th May. That’s not far away now, is it? <skips excitedly around the room>