I’m guilty of dreaming big, planning little and taking a chance.
Sometimes it pays off and I have an awesome trip.
Other times, it doesn’t quite go to plan. At the very least, most of my preparations went into ‘preparing to fail’
Case study one: Welsh 3000ers
It was carefully planned. We had glanced over a map, got some info from the internet and got some advice from the locals. We would climb all 14/16 (depending on the source) summits in Wales that are over 3000 feet in 24 hours. If I remember the distance correctly, this would involve a walk longer than a marathon with several thousand metres of climbing inbetween.
We bivied on top of Snowdon and some horrible weather and had set the alarm to go off at 530am. With very little sleep, we woke up to winds, mist and sideways rain. It was cold and miserable. If it was the winter, I would understand the foul conditions, but this was summer and it was the longest day to. The weather made for slow progress, we were careful with our footings and were getting behind schedule (we had 14 hours before the last train). We had ticked off 3 summits and were half way up the route to summit number 4 when we realised ‘Petes eats’, a climbers café was a mile down the road.
We were soaked (well, I was but Jack okish). My base layer was dripping and it seemed silly to carry on. We took stock of our situation and retreated back down the hill to the café! I guess if you go out in the hills enough times, you’ll always get a day were your waterproof coat can not take anymore rain. I guess, this was my day.
Case study 2: Voices in the night
This is an strange case study. With the hills of the UK, mainly Wales and Scotland are mountain huts that anyone can stay in for free. Its an open door policy, you can have the hut to yourself and end up sharing it with a group of like-minded people (read; weirdos!).
I loaded up my bike with a nights worth of camping equipment, minus the tent and jumped onto the train heading to Wales. My final destination was 5 hours away once I departed from the train. It was a hilly ride over the Snowdonia mountain range to the mountain hut by Dulyn reservoir.
At times, it was hard going. I had to push my bike up some hills and due to the amount of kit I was carrying (slightly inexperienced in packing as I took a lantern, head torch and bike lights!), I was unable to give it full gas on the descents, but I think with touring, that’s hardly the point.
About 30 minutes away from the bothy, I could see it from the distance. It looked small and quaint. My excitement grew knowing that soon I would be sheltered and I could get a well deserved nights rest. It didn’t look like anyone else was around and I had not passed anyone for several hours.
Thankfully, when I arrived no one else was there. The night was drawing in, so I took the chance to get the stove going and collect some water. I finished my tea and settled down to reading a book but I couldn’t relax. I felt as though someone was watching me but I’m in the middle of nowhere in a hut on my own, so this cant be true.
After a chapter of the book, I swore I could hear voices. I really could not settle after that, so I went outside to take a look into the valley. As far as I’m aware, there are only 2 realistic options to getting to the hut, either the overgrown, boggy ground way (which I couldn’t do by bike) or the scramble down from the outcrop of rock nearby (the route I came down).
I could not see anyone. As it was now dark, no sign of people or head torches approaching me and I could still hear voices nearby, I had two options to take, stay put and get on with it or pack up and ride home in the dark. After several years of night riding, this didn’t phase me, so I packed up my stuff and set off.
I scrambled out off the valley and looked back at the hut I had stayed at. Bearing in mind that hut had no electricity, I saw lights flooding out from the windows. Ghosts or just someone who had arrived at the hut after I had left?
I rode like a mad man back to the station. I took the easier road option once out of the valley so I could be sure of getting the train home. Whatever was in the valley had spooked me enough to do two days of riding into one. Its funny how you can push yourself when needs be!
Case Study 3; Local bivy ride
My most recent trip with Jack ended as the two trips above. We had zero plans for this except to follow the course of the River Dee post-work, find a pub meal and have bivy somewhere along the Dee. The plan was going well, the bikes were packed and we were soon rolling along the banks of the Dee.
Part of the path had given away to erosion, the nettles has overgrown but we pushed on. After a small battle with the plant life, we crossed the Iron Bridge and rolled along farm tracks to a village several miles upstream. The sun was setting and we were both treated to a beautiful red sky. Pictures taken and small chit chat done, we searched for the nearest pub that served food. In the two villages (Holt/Farndon) that are separated by the River Dee, only one pub out of 3 served food.
Burgers and chips (plus a free extra portion of chips) consumed, we set off to follow the River once more for our bivy spot. We ventured down some farmers that the map indicated would lead us to our spot. The ground was dusty and progress was fast.
We were riding with our lights on, the darkness had crept up on us whilst we were having beer and burgers. We entered into a field and thought we were almost there and then our lights flashed some large animals. Cows! I bloody hate cows. Large and unpredictable to the untrained eye (i.e. ME!), we decided that would have to by-pass them to get to the banks of the River. We bravely rode in-between the herd and thought we got away with it, Jack was flying along.
Then, a dead end. The field lead to nowhere. Jack told me the reason for his burst of energy, the cows gave chase. Damn! Now we were stuck, we were in a field with some pissed off cows, riding in circles in the dead of night with only our lights for navigation. I was just hoping that the farmer had gone to bed early that night!
Jack’s suggestion of circling the field to find a different way out or at least, avoid the cows paid off. We were back onto the farmers tracks in no time and heading to a small woods that would be our home for the night. The wooded area was more nettles than woods and was somewhere we could of stayed the night if we were going ‘point to point’, but as our homes were only 30 minutes ride away, it was deemed pointless to spoil a top night with a rubbish camping spot…
Jack getting ready for a sleepness night on top of Snowdon. The weather was grim to say the least. It is said that you either wake up a poet or a mad-man from sleeping at the summit. I cant rhyme…
- Dulyn Bothy from a distance
- Dulyn Bothy close up, looks alright to me!
- Inside the bothy (photo taken from the internet). Looks alright during the day, but wait until the dark descends…
- The Iron Bridge that crossed the river Dee
- Everyone loves a sunset