Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Mountain Biking the Hill Boundary of Powys - Day 4

25 years ago today I set off with a good friend; Mark, on the fourth 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 4

29.07.90 – Pumlumon – Devil’s Bridge – below Drygarn Fawr     

It proved a struggle to get out of the comfort of the sleeping bag this morning, and when I did the previous evening’s beauty of clear skies had been replaced by mist and wind.  This was the third morning of our trip and the routine was beginning to be set in place as it took an hour from waking up to get going on the bikes, the same time as it had taken us yesterday morning.

The route we had opted for up Pumlumon followed the access track toward Llyn Llygad Rheidol, we’d walked this route earlier in the year and met fierce winds as we crested the ridge near to the summit of Pumlumon Fach, on that occasion the winds were so strong that they blew us over and the only way to reach the high point of the hill was to crawl.  We had also walked an alternate route up through forestry from the south-west, but it was this track that gave best access for bikes.

We cycled the lower part of the track past the small llynnau of Llyn Pen-cor-maen, and up towards the larger lake at the base of the cirque of cliffs below the summit of Pumlumon.

Cycling up the access track to Llyn Llygad Rheidol

The mist was down on the tops and it was now raining and quite windy, not an ideal day to take mountain bikes up a hill.  Reaching the lake a small path heads around its western side, we followed this and then carried the bikes up a grassy runnel toward the summit of Pumlumon Fach, if conditions had been better I would have dumped my bike and visited this hill’s summit but it was cold and wet and we needed to press on up toward the main summit.

Our route toward the summit of Pumlumon took us up a grassy runnel into the mist and rain

We reached the trig pillar on the summit of Pumlumon and met Kevin Dawson at the top, we had a chat with him for a few minutes and he kindly gave a donation toward our charities that we were raising money for, two hills completed, six more to go.  As the wind blew across the top we had time for one quick photograph and then we were away cycling down the hill on a compass bearing with Mark taking the lead. 

At the summit of Pumlumon Fawr.  Two down, six more to go.

Cycling from the summit was bliss as we hurtled downhill, the back end of my bike flipped on a couple of occasions which was quite scary as it gave the immediate prospect that I was going to be thrown head first over the handlebars, thankfully I remained intact and on board.

Heading down Pumlumon Fawr toward Eisteddfa Gurig

It took us 25 minutes from the summit of Pumlumon down to Eisteddfa Gurig, we now had 3 miles downhill on the A 44, this proved great when at the back slipstreaming Mark who was in front, but it proved tiring cycling in front as the wind blew against us.

We met Hazel and Barry in Devil’s Bridge for a welcome rest and refreshments, before pressing on toward Cwmystwyth.  This road would lead us into the heart of the mid-Walian wilderness and toward tomorrow’s slog upto Drygarn Fawr, which was the one hill during the whole trip that I had worries about.  Although the mist started to clear and the persistent rain had stopped, we still had intermittent showers as we cycled up the road. 

Feeding time in Cwmystwyth

I've had my feed, now it's time for Mark's

Beyond Cwmystwyth we stopped for a number of minutes as Mark felt decidedly wobbly, we rested and I encouraged him to take on food and water.  We continued at a slightly slower pace and were joined by Barry at the top of the road for the last 12 miles past the Elan Valley reservoirs of Craig Goch, Penygarreg, Garreg-ddu and Caban-coch toward the Rhiwnant where our camp for the night had been planned.

Mark feeling decidedly wobbly

This whole route was proving to be a wonderful experience and the road from Devil’s Bridge to the Rhiwnant was an ideal way to unwind after the exertions of getting the bikes up and over Pumlumon.  We’d now completed four days with each being over 30 miles, after washing in the river and trying to extinguish the local midges we set up camp, took on more food and settled down for the night.  As I lay in my sleeping bag I hoped that the hills were clear of mist for the miles of moorland bashing upto the summit of Drygarn Fawr that was in store for us tomorrow.     

Taking a dip in the Rhiwnant

Tomorrow:  Drygarn Fawr – Llanwrtyd Wells – below Mynydd Du     

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