You know, like when you sometimes have had a few meals over the last few days and then there comes the point where you want to just finish the leftovers so you open the fridge and put something together.
I’ve been ticking off Welsh 2000s ever so slowly over the last years but now was the time to finish off some of the ranges and move on to new territory. The Beacons were done, New Radnor Forest done, Plumlumon d.. wait. There was this one hill left there that I had planned to climb three times now and three times I had been denied.
Friday – Pen y Garn – 6.5k, 283m elevation gain
Pen y Garn is neither an unusual name nor an unusual or even remotely exciting hill. But it’s 611 metres high and in my books in a group with the Plumlumon hills. As far as leftovers go, this is the bit of fish at the very back of the fridge that you somehow never really fancy.
First time at its foot I had just come off an overnight camp on said Plumlumon hills and was just tired. Second time I camped at Elan valley with Rich, but he was quite ill and not in any shape to scale a mountain. Third time we stayed again at Elan Valley but the hill would’ve been a bit too much for our then five month old pup.
Fourth time lucky or so I thought. Set off from Bristol much later than hoped on Friday evening at 6pm. Brand new tent and brand new backpack to get their first outing! Arrived bang on 9pm after a very long 10mile drive through Elan Valley with the sun right in my face, at times rather sketchy I had to go walking pace cause I couldn’t see a thing on the narrow twisty road.
I had everything ready to go so parked up, hoisted my pack and off I went in good spirits. I thought I had just about enough light to make it to the top and put up my tent.
The first half an hour was easy. Broad gravel path through the plantation. I was going at a brisk pace and despite the late hour got a proper sweat on. It was still 18C or something.
Then came the bit where the path cut through the plantation to the open hill side. On my 2 maps it ended before that. In reality it did, too. The waning light didn’t help either as I tried to find a way through to the other side. Bumpy mossy ground and fallen trees didn’t help. I abandoned ship and consulting the map there should have been a forest track cutting back to the main path. It was there indeed but I got stuck once more being blocked by fallen trees all around. Headtorch on.
After bashing through the plantation to cut back to the woodland track I was finally back on the gravel path having lost half an hour or so. Decided to stick to this one and go the long way around which eventually worked and got me to the final ascent to the top of Pen y Garn. What a b…h!
It was pretty dark now. 22:30. Glad I had pitched my tent in the park a few days earlier. So I knew what I was doing and 5mins later it stood on a mossy not quite level bit of green.
Drenched in sweat I settled in, changed into something dry and abandoned dinner after pouring water over my stove.
Saturday – Cyfrwy, Craig-las, Craig-y-llyn – 22k (6k + 16k), 1051m elevation gain (90m + 961m)
Sticking with the leftovers metaphor… This one was done but sitting heavy. I hadn’t slept well at all. The earplugs I had bought before the trip where very uncomfortable and didn’t block any noise. So the tent rustling in the slight breeze had kept me awake quite a bit.
Got up at 6am eventually, stove had dried out enough to heat water for my pot noodle and a coffee. Set off 7am hoping for no more surprises. None came on the return route which in retrospect was the much nicer one. Easy path down to the plantation with okay views, and the path through the trees back to the car was rather lovely. 8:15am. Despite lack of sleep I was in a good mood.
Next up more leftovers. I’ve been on Cadair Idris three times now and know it as well as a dish I’ve cooked time and again. So this was gonna be one with no surprises and I was really looking forward to ticking off the remaining three Welsh 2000s on the ridge.
Parked up at the car park just after 10am and already it was hot, hot, hot! Sweating in my socks had gotten me sore heels Friday night, taped up Saturday morning to no avail. So got the compeed out now and added tape on top. C’mon, what more could I do?
Up I went in tank top and gym shorts. 10:45am. Lack of wind and the relentless sun and I was quickly drenched in sweat again. It was literally pouring off me. Reached the ridge an hour later and then took the Pony Path all the way to where it forks off to either Penygadair or – my objective – Cyfrwy (The Saddle).
Reached the 811m top 12:45 and was all alone whilst everyone else was labouring up to “the big one”. The views were just as good here. What a day. The Arans, Rhinogs, Moelwyns… They were all there. Barmouth, the estuary, Llyn. Plumlumon to the South. And the other two hills for me today just across further down along the ridge. It looked like hard work.
Made my way down Cyfrwy’s stony slope and then up the grassy but at the end rather steep flank of Craig-las. I had changed compeed-tape arrangement during the break as it just wasn’t doing the trick. Going uphill again was really painful for my heels full of blister but I was determined to keep going. The weather doesn’t get this good very often.
More stunning views from the top of Craig-las. Absolutely incredible. The scorching temperatures and lack of any shade all day were taking their toll now, I was getting pretty tired. My last hill was just ahead, but it was gonna be quite a walk. It wasn’t really one to call it a day and come back for. There is no quick way up so I pushed on.
Down and up and down and uuuuup. I have to admit, Craig-y-llyn is a very shapely hill with a sharp edge falling down to a Llyn surrounded by an amphitheatre of hills. A thing of beauty that is not admired enough, being just a bit too far away from the highest summit on the ridge to see much of human feet.
Dragged myself up to the top. This one was like the super tasty steak that unfortunately is just a bit chewy and whilst you really like it, you’re just glad when you’re finally done.
The way back down was long. Very long. I couldn’t see myself going back over Craig-las again and found a path avoiding the top. Still there was one last bit of uphill to do before I was back at the Pony Path 16:30. Legs burning, heels killing me and still my body was able to keep pouring sweat. I had drunken two litres by now and not once needed a wee. Ouch.
The path down to the car was easy but it took forever (well 45mins of foreverness). Feet hurting now as well, knees getting stiff, back getting stiff, lack of sleep, brutal sun all day.
I shuffled the last metres back to the car totally knackered. It hadn’t been a crazy distance or height, but adding the weather, not beeing fresh and not having done this type of exercise in a year’s time I think I was alright to be knackered.
Washed my arms and legs at the stream running past the car park and drove to Dolgellau. The 10mins it took I made up my mind to call it and drive back home.
No desert for me. I was just so full. Another two Welsh 2000 had been planned. Two miles uphill to Waun Oer and camp up there. Walnut sized blisters on each heel made the thought of anything uphill a painful one. No way! Feeling sticky as Duct tape made the thought of a sleeping bag around me equally unpleasant.
Hunting for a place to stay with a shower was pointless, too. Everything was going to be booked out and I couldn’t see myself climbing any mountains the next day.
So I got myself a chippy (earned it, yes!) and drove the 3.5hrs home. Arrived just after 10pm and just at the edge of having to stop and sleep in the car. I was shattered! Shower and bed straight away.
What a trip!!! Yes, I missed out on two more hills and a few more the next day. But I wasn’t sad about it. Sometimes you just know you’re not up for it and then it’s fine to call it a day. I can happily fight my way through horizontal rain and still enjoy it. On Saturday night I knew I wasn’t going to enjoy it. So what’s the point, right?
And it gives me something to come back to. The next trip to look forward to. Another weekend well worth driving 3.5hrs each way. Bring it on!