Thursday, 2 September 2010

Pembs. Coast path -Newgale to Porthselau

One advantage of being retired is that I can wait for the right weather before packing the kit.  On  31st August and 1st September the forecast looked good and I could again pack the micro tarp, use my new Alpkit bivvy bag for the first time, not to mention a new titanium mug.  Boys toys!

My initial plan was to park somewhere in St. Davids and catch a bus to Porthgain and walk south back to St Davids.  Once again I was fortunate to park close to the cathedral, despite the place packed with tourists.

My walking plan changed when the first bus to come along was going south and so I decided on Newgale as the start point.

As I walked west I saw few others.  The views were clear and I realized it had been a very long time since I last walked here.

Near Pointz Castle, owned by the National Trust, I came across 4 ponies who were busily keeping the undergrowth down

On then to Solva, one of my favorite places.  We have had a number of family holidays here and last week brought our grandson for his first time.  I took the opportunity to refill one of my drink bottles here.

Once I reached Caerfai Bay I had the chance to stay at a camp site but with the good weather it seemed a wild camp would be preferable.  So I carried on with one eye looking for a suitable site. One was found not far from Chanters Seat a nice ledge just off the path and reasonably sheltered from any strong westerlies which may blow up.

I brewed up and had my evening meal and then erected my tarp etc. with views overlooking the bay and a little later of the sun setting.  As the light faded the tankers and cargo ships anchored off shore put on their lights.

I woke about 0630 watched the sunrise, had breakfast and was walking by 0730.  My camera had now decided to run out of batteries so no pictures of my bivvy etc.

I walked through Porh Clais and up onto the headland where I phoned home to report that I had not been eaten by monsters.

Picture by Philip Clarke

I rounded the headland with views of Ramsey Island and the infamous Bitches.  Years ago I had kayaked out here a few times to watch my youngest play amongst the huge standing waves and generally throw himself into the watery holes.

As I reached St Justinians I had the opportunity to catch the coastal bus, but I would have had to wait 40 minutes.

Picture by Philip Clarke

So I continued, eventually coming off the coast at Porthselau taking the path that led south easterly to the lane which led back to St Davids.

Picture byBernard Griffiths

Cracking two days.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Backpacking - The Hills around Talybont on Usk

The Hills Above Talybont on Usk (2nd August to 3rd August 2010)

My brother in law, Andy, had a window for two days backpacking on the above dates. We agreed on the Brecon Beacons and I would look for a venue. His son Ewan would also be joining us as a practice for his D of E trip in September.

I leafed through the routes in Trail Magazine and found an ideal trip on the hills surrounding the Talybont Reservoir as described by Tom Hutton.

The weather forecast for the Monday was good with mist and sunshine on Tuesday.

We parked up in the village of Talybont and set off onto the Taff Trail heading south west with views of the reservoir coming into sight. 

 The route was a steady incline up to pen Rhiw Calch where we had some lunch. It was here that Andy realised that they had forgotten to pack rice for the evening meal of curry. Fortunately he had brought noodles – similar!.

We continued now with wide views all around. The route led us to Pen Bwlch Glasgwm, Darren Fach, Darren Fawr and onto the trig point near Pant Y Creigiau. 

We had a break here before descending down hill to the road and then climbing back up the opposite hillside. 

The obvious footpath was under repair although we did not know there was a diversion as we joined it after crossing the Nant Bwrefwr. 

The suggested wild camps did not appeal and so we walked on and found a fairly flat site just below Craig y Fan Ddu.

Andy had brought a tent for himself and Ewan, whereas I used my micro tarp. After food and a short walk to look down the valley of the Caerfanell valley. We were in bed before 2100!.

I woke early to hear rain falling on the tarp and very heavy mist. After breakfast and packing up we set off having to use the map, compass and GPS to ensure we stayed en route. We followed the edge of the escarpment to the path running east on Waun Rydd. We then turned to follow the edge of Cwar y Gigfran after visiting the Memorial to the Canadian crew who perished in their Wellington aeroplane, bits of which were still on the ground. 

At Carn Pica, where there is a superb cairn which shows the path down to Twyn Du and then down to the reservoir and back to Talybont.

Once again a great two days and looking forward to more.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Mynedd Du (Black Mountain - Western Brecon Beacons)

Within one week of my first back packing trip I was on my second!

Andy, was coming south to pick up his son who had been staying with us on work experience at the National Botanic Garden of Wales. There was a loose plan to go canoeing or a hill walk on Saturday, but Andy suggested an overnight on Friday and walk on Saturday - perhaps
his wife could drop him off en route and I meet up with him.

We agreed to meet at Llangadog and then proceed to the Black Mountain. The forecast looked promising and I packed my rucksack, this time ensuring I had my bivvy bag!

The plan was to camp near Llyn Y Fan Fach and then walk the ridges and mak
e a return journey below the ridge. Although I am sure it is safe to park the car on the grass at the end of the road which leads to the hatchery I decided to park it at the Red Lion Youth Hostel and walk in. A donation was made and we were off. The forecast pinned up at the hostel was somewhat different to the one I had seen earlier that day and it now looked like rain may be expected.

We set off up the track which leads eventually to Llyn Y Fach, a steady pull up hill into the bowl of the hills which shelters the lake which was very low in water. A quick look int
o the rescue shelter showed that unless the weather was dire it was not the place to stop. Why can't people take their litter home and leave a place tidy - compare this shelter to the Arenig bothy.

We found a suitable spot on the north
ern shore and erected our respective tarps. The wind was blowing, but not in one particular direction, so the advice to pitch the tail into the wind was hit and miss. Our evening
meal was then consumed and we sat around putting the world to rights - we failed! Before turning in we noticed another wild camper on the southern shore.

Although I had used my bivvy bag on a few occasions it does take some
body distortion to clamber inside the liner then the sleeping bag and the bivvy itself. A little later I realized I was too warm and had a major wriggle to remo
ve my fleece jumper.

Looking out, the mist/low cloud was slowly descending and then rain began to fall but I was pleased that my micro tarp and bivvy bag kept me warm and dry - a result.

I woke at 0545 to see very little and drifted back to sleep until 0730. A leisurely start saw us pack up and begint our ascent up the western ridge and on to Bannau Sir Gaer. By now the weather had cleared with expansive views all around and showing off the red sandstone of the cliffs.

We made our way over the switch back of hills to the trig point and shelter at Fan Brycheiniog. We met last night's neighbour here who
was on a walking holiday which seemed to take in most of Wales. I suggested the Pembrokeshire Coast and the hills surrounding Llyn Brianne dam as a worthwhile diversion.

We took advantage of a photo opportunity at a steep cliff looking down to Llyn Y Fan Fawr. It was here that Andy took a tumble landing on his ruck sack like a stranded sheep! he was lucky he didn't fall over the cliff - that would have ruined our day.
At Bwlch Blaen Twrch we headed down on a narrow path which led under the escarpment and then took a line to meet up with the path back to the hatchery and had a stop for lunch.

We inadvertently started a habit on our last walk and finished that walk with a cup of coffee and sticky cake at the Tryweryn White Water Centre. This time we came across a lovely tea room at Blaenau Farm where apple tea cake and coffee refreshed us in the sunshine. For potential customers, this only opens at weekends from May.

Within half an hour we were back at the Youth Hostel and the car. Roll on to the next trip.

I had not used walking poles before this new pastime of mine, but with a heavier pack and of course to hold up my tarp I have found them to be a benefit. However in two trips I have broken two sets of poles, albeit very cheap ones. The locking mechanism has failed on them both. At least I will help the recession by now having to buy something more substantial and quickly.

Monday, 28 June 2010

My First Bacpacking Trip Arenig Fawr/Moel Llyfnant

My First Backpacking Trip

How did all of this start? Well I have been hill walking for some 25 years or more, but always from a base, be it camping, Youth Hostel or cottage or daily trips from home. I have

also wild camped on numerous occasions but this is from an open canoe where weight has not been a concern.

Having listened to the pod casts of Bob Cartwright published on the Out

door Station and read numerous pod casts of other back packers it seemed a good idea to join their ranks.

I had already started to lighten my loads for my day walks and at my age it was certainly the way forward. I began by walking in trail shoes, which made a difference and now only revert to boots when the going is likely to be very wet and/or muddy – an occupat

ional hazard in West Wales! I had also bought a down sleeping bag from Argos, which so far has proved acceptable despite my paranoia about it getting wet.

Last Christmas the man in red brought me a Go Lite Jam ruc sack and an Exped short sleeping. I already had a tarp but my brother in law, Andy with whom I share my adventures arranged for a micro tarp to be made following the instructions from an article in

All that was needed now was to put this altogether and get on

with it. So on the June 25th we set off in the late afternoon to Arenig Fawr to spend the night near the summit and then spend Saturday walking to summit and ridge and then on to Moel Llyfnant.

I was pleased with my bag packing, but realised the heaviest item was the water. With days of sunshine and apparently continuing to remain dry the chances of coming acro

ss running water were not hopeful and we therefore carried sufficient suppli

es. I did have the Travel tap with me but with this full of tap water I had no need to use the filter. It was a useful tool in Scotland earlier in the year when canoeing.

We set off up the track, which leads to the dam on the reservoir and paid a visit to the small bothy, but this was not a requirement tonight. W

e continued up the hill and found what we initially thought would be a good bivvy site and erected our tarps. This is when I found that the bag I thought contained my bivvy bag was occupied by just a ground sheet! I would have to make do – with thoughts of a soggy down bag.

We made our evening meal, Andy

with sandwiches and noodles. I had a dehydrated meal supplied by Be-Well Foods which was more than enough for me and quite tasty. By now we had realised that we had erected our t

arps in the banqueting suite of the local midges. A quick survey higher up the hill saw us dismantling our kit and re-erecting it in a much better location with better views a

nd a little nearer our Saturday destination.

As the light faded we had a beautiful red setting sun in one direction and a full mo

on in the other. It was so peaceful as

we turned in to our respective homes for the night.

I woke at 0600 to see the promise of another clear day. The views took in the Moelwyns, Rhinogydd and in the far distance the Snowdon range. I quietly eat my pre made muesli and dismantled my tarp etc. Thankfully my sleeping bag had stayed dry with the make-do bivvy bag I had constructed. By 0830 both of us were ready to set off.

We first went to the north end of the Arenig Mawr ridge and then back to the summ

it and read the plaque relating to a fatal crash on the hill in the 2nd World War – so far from their American homes.

We then carried on along the south ridge and down to the saddle with Moel Llyfnant and then up to the summit of that hill. We enjoyed more long distance views and after lunch walked downhill heading back to our car. The heat was now just about bearable but I was feeling pleased with myself having just completed my first back packing trip.

I will now be looking to lighten my load and give the man in red another list for Christmas 2010.