A Cambrian Caper


Four of us set off early on friday 4th November for the Elan Valley in mid Wales and a weekend backpack.
This is the route I had planned, which bears a strong resemblance to Martin's walk here.  It pained me slightly to do such a similar route but then Martin does put together good routes, so what can you do!

It was a good little bimble over mostly easy gentle hills, notwithstanding the bog, groundwater and tussocks which were considerable.  On the first night we found a great pitch by a small river, just before it started to rain.  For the remainder of the weekend, the weather was fairly mild and very clear.   On the second night we stayed in the Claerddu bothy owned by the Elan Valley Trust.  It was beautifully kept and whisky was imbibed.  The last day we walked the Monks Trod, a muddy but ancient path with some access issues.  We saw star jelly, fox moth caterpillars (not rare) many red kites and 2 cormorants, practiced a little timing/pacing, had to cut corners on the route in order to complete the walk without breaking ankles in the dark, but it was still nice to get some wind in the sails again after a month or 2 back in the city.  Before we dashed back to Babylon we stopped at the Cornhill Inn, a friendly local boozer in Rhayeader with a wood burner and superbly kept ales that change weekly.

If I had to change anything I would make better use of the limited daylight hours and set off by 7.30 or 8am - now that the clocks have gone forward, its pitch dark by 5.15pm in the hills.  I would also dispense with following some of the paths and stay on the tops, although it was fairly boggy up there too.

For the first time I wore trail shoes (not boots) with a multiday load (albeit only 2 days food) - something I have been building towards gradually for about 18 months, and it worked out fine.  Strengthening legs and feet needs to be done over time, I think, or maybe its just a confidence thing... but I wouldn't put money on that, probably its both.  My friends all wore leather boots and had wet feet too - no chance of keeping dry through bog and tussock - but I think I've seen the last of soggy, heavy boots for myself in 3 seasons.  Jury still out about full-on snow/ice footwear for me at the moment.  I adopted joe's method of using thin neoprene socks, specifically the NRS 0.5mm sock, purchased from the UK distributor, Rapid Kayaks, who were extremely quick and helpful.  Worn with just a merino liner sock, this caboodle stopped my toes getting too cold, even when stationary - the volume is small so circulation was fine,  its a good setup.

I felt energised and fleet footed at about 7.5kg all in, bouncing along on the walk, even jogging up little hills.  Things are getting easier and evolving.

Here's a few more photos on flickr