My final overnighter before the TGO took me to the Berwyns in Wales, for a 34 mile (55 km) overnight trek taking in the main high points of the range; Cadair Berwyn 830 metres (2,723 ft) , Moel Sych 827 metres (2,713 ft) and Cadair Bronwyn 784 metres (2,572 ft) .
The Berwyns are a favourite of mine. Being far less popular than their Snowdonia neighbours, there’s few better places within easy reach on a bank holiday weekend to get away from the crowds and have the mountains all to yourself. Once away from the valley bottom I met only two people in the hills over the two days. Bliss.
The area can also provide some quite rough and tiring walking with large expanses of deep heather broken in some places only by bog and wet ground. Certainly good for checking if you’ve managed to get your legs into decent shape for the TGO. It also gave me a chance to check out the boots and shelter I’m thinking of taking to Scotland.
It was a pretty standard route starting at Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant and following a figure of eight over to Cynwyd and back, crossing the high ground twice via Bwlch Maen Gwynedd.
The first few miles up the valley toward Maes and Votty, followed by a short but steep climb up to Mynydd Tarw showed it was going to be a pretty warm sunny day. The back of my neck already felt like I should have slapped some sun block on it.
The boots I’ve been trying for a few weeks, Karrimor KSB Brecon, continued to feel great and at least this time they have a half decent vibram sole for such a cheap boot. I really needed these boots to be problem free on this trip, with only a few weeks to go I’ve really got to get this decided. I normally stay away from cheap boots but the Karrimor last (is there is such a thing) fits my feet well so I’m always willing to give them a try. These KSB’s have way too many individual pieces of leather and too much stitching for my likes, too many potential points of failure. But boy are they comfortable.
The ground on from Mynydd Tarw was unusually dry and not nearly as boggy as normal. In fact all the way over the minor tops to Bwlch Maen Gwynedd it was pretty much a pleasant stroll. The long stretch from Cadair Bronwyn to Moel Fferna though soon reverted back to Berwyn type, rough tussocks and heather with enough unavoidable wet patches to check if the boots leak in bog. So far, so good.
After a quick dash up Moel Fferna it’s then a short retrace before a pleasant decent across the moor and down through the forest to Cymwyd. After 20 miles (32 km) my feet were still good to go. I’d thought about splitting the walk somewhere around Cymwyd and leaving the return loop for the second day, but after a couple of pints in the village it was still such a glorious sunny day that I decided to carry on for a couple more miles. In the end I walked about 23 miles on the first day, camping on the way back up just below Moel Pearce.
After getting sunburn on the back of my neck during the day, a pretty rapid drop in temperature and wind picking up as the sun set created quite a chill, even a bit of frost over night. I’ve been using a BearPaw Pyranet with then Trailstar over the last year, which does a decent job of keeping bugs at bay, but of course does nothing to keep out the breeze or retain a bit of heat . It’s just a mozi-net. I’ve not been able to get it pitched perfectly inside either, the net sides sag a bit even with the Trailstar pitched high. Still needs a bit of tinkering at home. Could also do with cobbling together something to use as a door for the Trailstar as I’m sure Sean at Oookworks is snowed under with last minute TGO orders for his version.
So it proved to be a colder night than expected, just on the verge of being too uncomfortable to grab some decent kip.
After a bit of a shivery nights sleep, the next morning started sunny enough but soon clagged in with the wind picking up as I set off back up to Bwlch Maern Gwynedd for the second time. Couldn’t have been more different from the previous day. By the time I got back up to the broad ridge and climbed up toward Cadair Berwyn the mist had all but obliterated any views. A real shame as it’s a cracking walk along the edge between the line of tops. So I didn’t hang around long on either Cadair Berwyn or Moel Sych, and after a short rest for a snack I headed on down to Tan-y-pistyll for a mug of tea and cake….sat outside the cafe in the sun.
After that all that was left to do was walk the last few miles back down the valley for a pint in Llanrhaeadr now that the sun was out again. Only 11 miles on the second day, but a decent 34 overall.
So there we have it. A successful couple of days out checking a couple of bits of kit for the TGO.
The boots performed great, no blisters, rubbing or wet feet. In fact pretty darned comfortable. Due to the unusually dry ground I didn’t manage to give them a proper soaking so that’s still a little question mark, but after 34 miles I felt like I’d been for a short stroll in a pair of trainers. Nubuck is not normally my thing, looks great for five minutes in the shop but can rapidly take on a glass like sheen after a few miles. But my feet like them so all is forgiven Karrimor.
And the Trailstar will definitely be coming along, all be it after a bit of tinkering back home. There’s just way too much nice space to leave behind, it brings a strange sort of comfort having all that room to sort yourself out in. I’ll probably shorten the front guy for the door to a simple loop to go over a trekking pole, and have a separate double guy for the pole itself. Should give a bit more flexibility to shift the door round if the wind direction changes, and cut down on drafts. But will certainly see if I can cobble together some sort of door too with a bit of tyvek. And I need to sort out the flappy netting on the Pyranet.
That’s it then, full TGO kit decided. All I need to do now is type it up and get it posted.