Monday, 27 July 2015

Mountain Biking the Hill Boundary of Powys - Day 2

25 years ago today I set off with a good friend; Mark, on the second day of our attempt to circumnavigate by bicycle Wales’ largest county; Powys.  To add interest to the venture we planned on visiting the highest point of each of the eight 2,000ft hill ranges within the county, which are all situated around its periphery, bikes included.  We were backed up by Hazel and Barry; without whom our little adventure would not have taken place.  Prior to setting off and during our trip we raised money for the British Heart Foundation and the Ystradgynlais Mountain Rescue team.

The following is an account of this ten day expedition with each day’s journey appearing on the Mapping Mountains blog 25 years after it had taken place.

The county of Powys with the eight 2,000ft hill ranges positioned around its periphery

Day 2

27.07.90 – The Berwyn – Bwlch y Groes – Dinas Mawddwy

As I opened the tent flap I was confronted by a misty scene with the hill ridges and blue sky of the previous evening now replaced with a lowering cloud base and a chill in the air.  We were soon up and met the local farmer who was heading up the near track, we chatted for a number of minutes and told him all about what we were doing and the route ahead, he wished us luck.  After washing in the steam which trickled past the tent only a couple of metres from where we had slept, Hazel brought out breakfast from the back-up camper van, this we devoured as we got the bikes ready.

Our first camp site with Mark taking an early morning wash in the stream

We arranged to meet Barry and Hazel on top of the Llangynog to Bala road at approximately 12.30pm and then waved our goodbyes as we headed off into the mist.  The route we had opted for to get to the high point of the Berwyn continued on a track to the head of Cwm Maen Gwynedd before entering a small conifer plantation, the track continued through this wood and gained height toward the main Berwyn ridge. 

As we left the conifers high on the steepening eastern face of Craig Berwyn the mist was being whipped around the hillside by wind, which also brought rain, we wrapped up and continued uphill carrying the bikes as best we could.  Thankfully a gap in the mist appeared and we made a mental note of our route up onto the main ridge.  I found carrying the bike in worsening weather conditions to be absolutely knackering and wondered what the next nine days had in store for us.

Arriving on the ridge near to the summit of Craig Berwyn

When we reached the summit of Craig Berwyn I took a photograph of Mark with bike in hand beside the summit rocks, one down, seven more to go!  We set off from the high point over Moel Sych and continued through the mist, wind, rain and heather on a compass reading.

Mark at the summit of Craig Berwyn, the high point of Y Berwyn.  One down, seven more to go.

Progress was haphazard and slow as heather is not conducive to fast mountain biking, time and again the bike would hit a large tussock and flip over throwing each of us onto a soft cushioned landing to the heather below.  At one point Mark just lay in the heather not wanting to move.  Eventually we spotted the road and yelped for joy and cycled northward to our pre-arranged meeting place with Barry and Hazel.  When we arrived we were met with cake, butties and mug after mug of tea.

Mark taking a rest in the heather

By now the rain had stopped, but this was only an intermission as by the time we left the comforts of the camper van it had started again.  The four miles downhill toward Bala was bliss, it felt great to be making quick progress after a morning’s exertion in mist and heather.

As we neared Llyn Tegid we left the B 4391 and turned left onto the B 4403, it was here that we met two men out on their bikes; we couldn’t resist the temptation to stop and take a photo. 

We did think of asking them if they would like to join us

Cycling along this B road with the lake on our right was peaceful as hardly any vehicles passed us, we turned left just before Llanuwchllyn onto a narrow lane that heads south beside the Afon Twrch, this road culminates at Bwlch y Groes and it is the second highest public road in the whole of Wales, it was a road that I had driven on, on a number of occasions over recent years, but I had never cycled up it.  The going was decidedly slow and although the mist was still low on the surrounding hill tops the rain was now lighter and would soon stop.  We met the back-up vehicle at the large parking area on top of the road, had a rest and chat and then continued down toward Llanymawddwy.

At the top of Bwlch y Groes - the second highest public road in Wales

It was great to cycle down this road but by this time any minor uphill as we continued toward Dinas Mawddwy was a struggle and I felt completely knackered, to the point that when we arrived at the camp site on the outskirts of the village it took me hours to recover.

At our camp site on the outskirts of Dinas Mawddwy

When we did arrive Barry and Hazel had set up our tent and soon afterwards a meal had been prepared.  I tried busying myself with a few things that needed to be done, but all I wanted to do was rest and recover.

Tomorrow:  Dinas Mawddwy – Machynlleth – below Pumlumon     

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