Friday, 25 March 2016

The Gap Road - Brecon Beacons

The house feels like an oven, I’m down to a T-shirt but the rest of the family seem happy enough in jumpers. Just too hot. Of course the reason for feeling too hot is that I have been out in the cold for the last two days; it certainly makes you realise how our bodies get used to the temperature. But more on that trip in a minute….


The blog has been quiet for several months now; mainly because when you spend all day in front of a computer, sometimes the last thing you want to do is more of the same when you get home. No excuse really, but it’s mine and I’m sticking to it.


Before I try to catch us up on all the happenings since the last post (and there is lots to write about); here is an update from this weekend #microadventure to the Brecon Beacons.


Following completion of a full year of microadventures, this years plan was to build on what we did last year and try for bigger trips each time we head out. Last year saw some truly memorable trips, ‘The gravel dash’, the shipwrights way, Snowdon and many more smaller trips born of the necessity of being time crunched, all these had fuelled the fire for more ‘epic‘ adventures.

a picturesque start

We started off the year with a South downs way trip (another one for a later post) and February was a chance to re-introduce some people to the delights of outdoor living. So for March we planned a trip along the gap road which leads up to the saddle between  Fan-y-Big and Cribyn in the Brecon Beacons. The walking route continues onto Pen-y-Fan, the highest point in south Wales, but the cycle route turns downhill in an epic descent. I’ve done the route before, several years ago, but we threw in some additional miles along the Monmouthshire and Brecon canal as we had plenty of time to get to our planned overnight spot. Constructed in the 1790’s the 35 miles of navigable section (by boat) and 55 miles by foot or bike (The Taff Trail) is predominantly the old Monmouthshire canal; the original being two separate canals, the Brecknock & Abergavenny Canal and the Monmouthshire Canal. Mainly used to bring coal, limestone and iron ore from the hillsides; the canal played a significant part in our industrial heritage, connecting Hill’s tramroads to the iron works in Blaenavon and the forges at Garnddyrys. The route was packed with wildlife and history so the early part of the ride was conducted at a leisurely pace giving us a chance to take in the scenery and abundant bird life.


Plenty of stops along the way
Detailed planning took place on the Wednesday evening before we set off and I was still fettling the bike on Friday after I discovered a seized jockey wheel. With travel time only 3 hours to get down to Abergavenny, we had a good 9 hours of daylight to play with.


We found suitable parking in Llanfoist and fully loaded up, were straight into a steep but short climb to the canal. Obligatory starting photos completed we set off at a leisurely pace towards Talybont-on-Usk, some 15 miles away. We held a steady pace with plenty of stops along the way as we spotted various wildlife and interesting historic lime kilns and bridges; the sedate pace and wide paths allowed us to ride side by side and point out the many buzzard and crow battles being fought. Although, conditions weren’t favourable for Lee to spot his beloved Dipper.


At Talybont-on-Usk we turned off the canal and began the climb past the reservoir to the saddle leading down to Pontsticill. At this point my lack of fitness was beginning to show and bouncing off the rocks while cycling a fully laden bike was taking its toll on my energy reserves. The pace reduced further as we teetered our way over two logs masquerading as a bridge (no easy task carrying a heavy bike) and paused for photos of the stunning scenery.


Diabetic coma anyone?
Descending towards Pontsticill we passed some bemused mountain bikers who clearly weren’t expecting to see two mountain bikes loaded with gear come flying past. Lee picked up a puncture on the rocky descent and I took the opportunity to enjoy a brief burst of sunlight and chat to a passing walker before we headed on down to the reservoir. We had to clamber past an abandoned landrover that had got itself wedged on a fallen tree and I found myself wondering how much he wished he had packed an axe or a chainsaw. Judging by the holes dug and the scrubbed tyres, I suspect a lot.


Onwards toward a late lunch at ‘the old barn tea rooms’ at Pontsticill, skirting the reservoirs and passing several groups of walkers. I think I managed to induce a diabetic coma through the massive lunch and cream tea we consumed or perhaps having to climb the steep hill straight after pushed me over the edge. A short bimble later, and we were in the vicinity of our selected camping zone. Somewhat worryingly there were several tents already setup, with rubbish and used gas canisters scattering the area. An abandoned tent completed the scene and we decided it was just too close to potential trouble sources. The amount of rubbish and damaged trees angered me greatly as part of my ethos is to try and leave no trace. The dense forest left few options for campsites and we followed the river in both directions before settling on a semi secluded spot well away from everyone else. Although not perfect due to its closeness to the water (think flash flood) a small fire pit was already established so I rearranged it to protect the ground more and we setup the tarps, using the now familiar tent configuration. I added an additional ridge line to see if this kept the back from sagging so much and was soon well established for the night.


Tranquil camping spot
There was plenty of dead standing wood in the area and we gathered a pile of different sized twigs, branches and logs to keep us going through the night. For those interested in what to gather, you need wood that isn’t on the ground, and it should be dead, though some woods will burn when green. Dead standing wood should be easy to spot in the summer and ideally you want woods like ash and oak that burns with low smoke if dry. Size wise, for tinder, gather something the size of the end of a pencil, about the length of your outstretched hand and enough to fill a circle made by your hands. Kindling wise, something no thicker than your thumb, about as long as your forearm and enough for a generous armful. Finally for the main fuel wood about as thick as your wrist, about as long as your arm and a stack as high as your knee. That should keep you going through the night depending on the wood type.


Lee on fire duties
I was feeling quite tired by then and lazily left the fire tending duties to Lee as I warmed my feet and watched natures TV. Despite the monumental lunch we decided to eat again rather than risk running out of energy the next day but it wasn’t long before I was climbing into my sleeping bag for the night. A fitful night lay ahead as the normal night sounds were obscured by the sound of the river and I kept imagining people trying to steal the bikes. One reason why being well out of sight is my preference. Still, a beautiful spot.


The following morning we breakfasted on the usual porridge pot and packed up. On the road before the other campers we started the climb toward the summit pausing only to admire a pair of crossbills that Lee announced as the highlight of the birds spotted this trip. For me it was watching Lee’s face as he rode down the steep cutting near the start of the climb. Snowboard style he slid down the hill looking highly relieved to have survived the experience.


Summit time
The wind was howling as we turned out from the protection of the hill and crested the saddle between Cribyn and Fan-y-Big. Snow was visible as we took some photos before beginning the descent; and what a descent. Approx 2.5 km of trail that starts with rock gardens and small drops before finally smoothing out and eventually becoming a grass track, the last part really allows you to gather speed and I took advantage of the natural terrain to the side to go off piste, arriving at the gate with a big grin on my face.


Following a short stop to take on some food, we followed the three rivers ride along a twisting set of roads to Llanfrynach and then on to Pencelli where we re-joined the canal path and set off towards the car. By now we both wearing most of our spare clothing as the temperature had dropped and neither of us wanted a repeat of the previous days chills. Less stops on the way home as we were keen to keep warm and I for one was flagging in energy terms. We passed more people than on the Saturday and in the summer progress must be slow as many people enjoy the canal and its many sights. I insisted on stopping off for the pigs we had passed on the way out, and the bird spotting continued as we were treated to close encounters with a heron and a buzzard. 

As the finish hove into view I breathed a sigh of relief which just shows how unfit I have let myself become. Compared to last year my fitness is nowhere near where it needs to be, I’ll need to sort that out pretty sharpish.

Tired but happy
With 53 miles covered we loaded the car and set off for home already discussing the highlights of the trip.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Paddles & Polar bread - a review

I've spent a good deal of my life racing through nature; peddling a mountain bike as fast as I can, running trails, flying down mountains on a snowboard or speeding around the country on various fossil fuelled means of transport. I've even raced across a few Scottish lakes in a canoe, though my experience in them remains fairly limited.

Following some positive reviews on Facebook of a book called 'paddles & polar bread' I decided to order a copy and its been a delight to read; awakening a fire within me for a canoe adventure.
The book recalls the story of five men undertaking a canoe trip to Sweden. Told from the viewpoint of Dave it recalls the weeklong journey around the Swedish lake Stora Le. Those hoping for a harrowing tail of triumph over adversity would be disappointed, for this is not the books purpose; nor is it to pass on expert advise on bushcraft or canoe adventuring.

Instead, the book best conveys that bond between friends and an experience shared. The book use the term 'companionable silence', a term that when I read it immediately encapsulated all those moments i've had with great friends and family sat around a campfire at the end of a long day. A moment not always experienced when racing but so often found when involved in that wonderful pastime called 'bushcraft'.

Perhaps it's my ageing body telling me to finally slow down a bit, but seeking out those moment of quiet enjoyment now seem more important than pushing myself to run over a mountain or to cross the country in just a few days. By the end of the book I was mentally packing my bag and searching for canoe trips to undertake.

The thing I loved most about this book were the subtle messages it conveys; that adventure is achievable to all of us, it's not always about enduring hardship, pushing your limits or tackling challenges. That adventures are sometimes about being a little outside your comfort zone doing something different from your normal everyday life. That being equipped with knowledge and not more material possessions gives you the chance to experience what other miss and go where others do not normally tread.

In summary a great read that serves as a reminder that not all challenges in this life are physical and that the greatest times in your life can be found well away from modern life.

Now, where did I put my paddle?

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

The Shipwrights Way



Waking under a canopy of oak leaves, I watched the sun slowly rising and the small glade begin to fill with light. A dry and still night just off the trail but in sight of the sea meant that now warm and cosy in my bivi bag I could spend some time reflecting on the journey so far while watching dawn break over the pebble beach. We’d left Bentley station at the start of the shipwrights way the previous morning around 10am and followed the trail forty miles to the south coast and Hayling Island. As routes go I was impressed with the diversity of trail and scenery; routes like the downs link are very consistent in the terrain you are cycling on, with no major hills to navigate and are quite busy and well used. In contrast I think we only saw a handful of people on the first 30 miles of the shipwrights way, following the distinctive blue and white markers that mark the trail to the coast.



Beautiful villages to pass through

Travelling at a leisurely pace we’d taken time to photograph statues, admire the views and stop for lunch in the small village of Liss. The route so far had been gravel paths, muddy tracks and some small road sections and we’d both commented on how suitable the route was for mountain bikes rather than hybrids or road bikes. The route is still unfinished but we managed to find suitable connections though there were some areas where additional signage would have helped. 

At Buriton the route takes a sharp upwards turn with a steep off road climb to a car park for Queen Elizabeth country park (QECP) followed by another rocky climb through the park before plunging to the valley bottom, turning left you then climb again to a point not far from your original entry point into the park, a shortcut that decided to utilise on the journey home which saved some long hill climbs.

Couldn't resist

Having not ridden any sort of distance since the gravel dash in May, I was concerned about my fitness and the beginnings of a cold did not reassure me that I was ready to take on a long trip. I’d underplayed the distance having decided it was well within my capabilities, instead choosing to focus on the adventure and given how I felt the next morning I think the approach worked well.





In the run up to September we’d agreed that weather would be the deciding factor on which weekend to make the trip, and a favorable forecast had sealed the trip for the last weekend in September. We were duly rewarded with glorious weather throughout. Having packed for the colder evenings we both felt we were too warm in our down bags and I had to strip off a few layers until the early hours when the chill descended and we reminisced over the first few trips in the colder months.

A fitting end to a great day on the trail
Saturday evening was consumed with checking out the beach and scoping out ideal bivi and fishing spots and after a hearty dinner of fish and chips we were tucked up early and taking advantage of the shorter evenings to secure some much needed sleep, it’s been a long time since I had 11 hours of sleep but felt it was much needed. The night passed uneventfully with only the moon waking me due to being very bright and full, our little glade was flooded with moonlight and despite the odd passer-by we were undisturbed.



Awaking before dawn we rose gradually and packed up ensuring we left no trace of us ever being there before heading to the main beach for breakfast and the convenient public toilets. 

Enjoying breakfast on the beach
My cold was beginning to take hold and a few flue tablets were needed to help alleviate the effects. We cooked up our porridge while scanning the horizon for ships and basking in the early morning sun before heading to the old ferry point to try our hand at fishing the incoming tide.

A spot of fishing
The tide was racing in and there were several fishermen in the area as well as a several smaller boats floating with the tide. With no fish caught we detoured past the local Tesco  to fill up our water bottles before heading to the other side of the island to try an alternative spot. Although again unsuccessful I enjoyed just relaxing and taking in the scenery, a real chance to relax.

The return journey was smoother, as now familiar with the route we were able to cover the ground faster without having to navigate as much. The shortcut around QECP was a blessing as my cold was impacting on my fitness and any unnecessary hills were willingly avoided.






A hearty Lunch in Petersfield and then a steady grind back to the car at Bentley saw the return journey dispatched in just four hours which meant I still managed some family time once I was home. I’m looking forward to another trip soon and hopefully will have a chance to try out my new Alpkit frame bag and hopefully get some weight off me and onto the bike.


Thursday, 24 September 2015

My Microadventure kit list

Over the past nine months Lee (@1MansAdventuresand I have been undertaking a monthly 
Forgot a spoon.... Doohhh
#microadventure. Although we missed one together in August (I was busy with DIY, kids school holidays and had been out for several separate trips) we plan to make up for it in the next few months. Our next trip will be an bike trip down the Shipwrights way to Hayling Island. I thought I would take the time to go through my kit list. The below list is divided up as a base list on which I then add more personal item or weather/distance specific items. As the majority of our adventures have been bike related I’ve added a bike specific section.  
I do like to mix up my kit, so sometimes I take different kit like a gas stove or sometimes a wood burning stove just to try new things and to test out new ideas. You can get away with less, but this is what has kept me comfortable on my trips.

Basic Kit
Rucksack – depending on extras, either Osprey Talon 22, Camelback Hawg or Berghaus 35+ (ideally as light as possible)
Sleeping bag (Mountain equipment down bag)
Bivi Bag (Alpkit hunka XL)
Roll mat (Thermarest) 
Stove and lighter – Gas bottle, lighter, burner and support feet all fit inside the mug
Mug (titanium) – ohhh shiny
Pot (MSR stowaway 775ml)
Thermal shield - helps shield the stove also nice to sit on
Food – Snacks in the side pockets, evening meal (packet sauces and rice work well and squash into the cooking pot. Breakfast is normally porridge).
Water – Currently a camelback and a water bottle but once the frame bag arrives I’ll drop the water bottle.
Head Torch (Alpkit manta)
Waterproof (Rab) - although not bike specific it’s easier to have one with a hood if it’s raining in the evening
Toilet paper – enough said
Travel spade - as above
Plastic bin bag – For keeping your bag, shoes and goods dry overnight
Tooth brush and paste
Spork – Forgot this once and had to fashion something out of an egg custard tart wrapper and a tent peg.
Basic First Aid Kit
Buff – versatile headwear at its best
Portable power pack – keep the phone topped up overnight.
Hip flask – Relax, drink, sleep well
Phone / camera
Money
Hat – keeps your warm in the evening and overnight

Bike Kit
Bike – Obvious really
Helmet
Dry bag (Alpkit dual 20L) - on handlebars with sleeping bag and bivi bag stuffed in
Seat bag (Topeak Aero) – Multi tool, puncture kit, tyre levers spare tubes, spare mech hanger / split links
Bike Shorts/ jersey/ socks
Bike Shoes
Bike Lights

Nice extras
Sleeping Stuff – Clean/ dry stuff to sleep in
Sunscreen – I’m ginger, I can burn next to a candle
Sunglasses – Like vampires, bright light kills gingers
Drybag  - Keeps the rucksack dry and items organised
Fleece jumper - toasty warm
Spare socks / gloves – feels like heaven when everything else is wet.
Tarp
Paracord – for rigging the tarp
Pegs – As above
Down Jacket – keeps you warm in the cold months and packs down small
Waterproof trousers
Maps/GPS – Lost? No this is just a detour
Map case
Leggings/ fleece/socks/ arm warmers – mainly in the colder months
Fire lighting kit

Dry bags are really useful, not only for keeping out the rain but also for keeping stuff organised. I find it better to have several small ones and keep similar items together. It makes it much easier to grab one bag with all your fresh clothes in than trying to find a dry t shirt at the bottom of your bag while everything else spills everywhere.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

The sixccessful solstice microadventure

Our six microadventure hadn’t followed our original plan. We'd originally wanted to head out on the solstice, but life conspired to prevent this and although delayed, what actually transpired was a truly memorable trip with a distinct 'S' theme.

Having stated back in December that the solstice was a dead cert for a microadventure, a combination of DIY nightmares and other commitments meant that going out on the actual solstice would have been a rushed trip to a previous location. We recovered the evening with a BBQ at the kids school and despite having to carry two kids a few miles home, a great time was had and a lay in after a hectic week was very welcome.  Deciding to delay by a whole week meant a much more organised duo setting off after work on Friday on a ride to one of the Surrey hilltops with a wild swim planned for the morning.

Actually getting out the door on Friday was a bit rushed as I hadn't packed and faced the usual challenge of fitting enough into one bag, it was hot and I was stressed but eventually I got the essentials in without exploding. I'm certainly getting better at carrying less stuff and post Gravel Dash find it a lot easier to cycle with a bigger rucksack; but a frame bag is definitely on the list of next purchases.

Arriving at the chosen hill at around 8:30 we were both surprised how busy it was, there were groups of scouts and walkers hanging about, so we found a quiet spot and settled down to cook some food and enjoy the view. Feeling much more relaxed with the obligatory egg custard tart consumed we pondered life for a bit and I could finally feel the stresses of the week begin to fade away. 

Boys will be boys. Enjoying a log jump in the woodsWith the hilltop still busy we set off to find a better view of the sunset and stumbled across a tempting looking berm. Further exploration of the trail turned up a small tree jump and we set about sessioning the jump and berm as the light began to fade.  Singletrack- The first S of what would be six S’s was ticked off.

Heading back to the top we enjoyed a cheeky spot of Honey Jack and found a flat spot to make our camp, I was sure I heard voices…

Tucked in our sleeping bag we watched the clouds clear and the stars come out. Laying in our bivi bags we watched the international space station passing over, and it wasn't long before we soon fell asleep.

I was woken briefly around 3am by some headtorches and clicking walking poles which must have been a surprise for the walkers as we were  visible just off the main path, but despite being very visible nobody came to investigate.

Morning dawned to a beautiful sunrise and while cooking breakfast two walkers came down from the top and it turned out they had spent the night only a few hundred yards away from us; we chatted about our plans for a bit and then set off on our individual adventures.

Andy enjoying our early swim.Packed and ready to roll, we set off towards Guildford towards our Swim spot, riding the singletrack we found the evening before (which seemed to go smoother even with a fully loaded bike); we rode the few miles into Guildford.  The day was warming up nicely as we found our swim spot and after a baywatch style entrance we were soon splashing about in the river. We attracted a small audience as we swam, dodging the rowers and relaxing in the cool water.

After some careful towel work we were back in our bike gear and heading back towards Newlands corner for a cup of tea and then on towards home and I walked through the door around 11am and back into Dad mode.

Lee even made a video of our trip:

Friday, 26 June 2015

Time for Reflection

I've just passed an anniversary, one year since I stopped running. 

Not normally something to celebrate, so I'm putting fingers to keyboard to explain why, and to clear my head.

I still can't find the motivation to go out and run, but that probably a combination of being busy at work and in the midst of a house extension. Finding time to do anything other than those two things seems to be a tough ask right now.

But I don’t miss it, I've stuck to my objective of just enjoying what I do and focusing on creating for a bit and i've learnt a few things along the way.

The event that broke me was the London to Brighton Ultra (100km). I trained hard for that event, a full year of slowly increasing my mileage from my usual 10k distance to running past marathon distance. I did the Brighton marathon as a training run and ran 36 half marathons in a year, avoided injury, followed my training plan, ate healthily, all in preparation for the ultra. Then I failed to complete it.

Several things contributed to me having to pull out at the first medal point at 56 km. Mainly a strange recurring pain in my leg that comes when I walk (running no issue, cycling no issue, walking is agony). Due to the horrendous mud on the event I walked a lot, my leg played up. I pushed on, I got exhausted. I started holding my team up. The best option was to retire. I've visited doctors, had MRI’s and other tests but nobody knows what’s wrong with my leg. Motivation gone, training stopped. 

Life became pretty sedentary, I didn't want to train, I didn’t want to do events; in fact I got pretty good at turning people down when they asked me to take part in things. I felt disappointed with myself and felt I had wasted a year, sacrificing everything else to get in the training for the ultra and then failed to get the result I wanted.

So I decided to take a step back. Start doing things for fun, no competition, just good old fashioned type 1  fun (types of fun explained: http://www.tetongravity.com/story/adventure/the-three-and-a-half-types-of-fun-explained).

Throw in a bunch of less energetic stuff whenever possible and it’s been a great year.  A year to rediscover that it’s not all about racing across the country as fast as possible, it’s about taking the time to enjoy the journey. To spend time with great people and to spend time creating.


Creating memories, doing crafts, building houses and woodland camps; and most importantly rebuilding what is me. I may even find time to fit in the odd run.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

The Snowdon Adventure

Back in late 2014 one of my work colleagues asked me to organise a trip to Snowdon to walk Crib Goch, a host of invites were sent out and accepted and the planning began. The loose plan was to walk the Snowdon horseshoe, which goes up Crib Goch to the summit, heads down via the Watkin Path before heading up Y Lliwedd and then on to Cwm Llan and returns to the car park at Pen-y-Pass via the Miners’ track. Priority for the trip was a relaxed enjoyable weekend and not a test of endurance.

Fast forward 6 months and said work colleagues had abandoned the idea and this left Emma, Lee and myself as the sole adventurers on what would turn out to be a fantastic weekend in Wales.

I’d booked us into the superb Plascurig hostel (www.snowdoniahostel.co.uk) which boasts a five star rating with comfortable and well-appointed bunks. Emma and I were staying in our own private room and Lee was bunked in one of the dorm rooms. We arrived early and got settled in, spending some time chatting with the friendly staff and guests where we learned that Jude Law was apparently filming nearby, hence the fleets of off roaders and film trucks in the area. The facilities in the hostel are superb with a contemporary design punctuated with individual pieces of furniture, large kitchen and dining area
and comfortable living areas. A host of showers meant at worst a short wait to get washed and the backdrop of Snowdon and the river helped set the scene for a truly memorable weekend.

A short stroll down to the river and along to the village gave us a chance to unwind from the journey and to check out the river. Lee announced this as the perfect habitat for dippers and we began to suspect that his interest in birds ran a bit deeper than first hinted at.  Shortly after this the first dipper was spotted and ever since it’s been our most sort after bird.

Over a decent evening meal (thanks Emma) we discussed the possible routes to take. Knowing Emma’s fear of heights and my tendency to underplay the technicality of things (never trust me when I say “it’s just a small technical trail”) we agreed to modify our route and follow the Miners’ track to the summit rather than face the exposure of Crib Goch. At this point I have to confess to withholding that the route up Y Lliwedd may be more of a scramble than a walk, but hey there has to be a tricky part. Route confirmed, we retired with the aim of getting an early start.

Saturday morning arrived to a bright and clear day and I was surprised with the number  of people leaving the hostel at 7am. None the wiser to what this indicated we breakfasted and left at around 8am for the Pen-y-pass car park.

Which upon arrival was full.

Following instructions from the car park attendant we headed down the road about 2 miles and found
a layby with a bus stop opposite. A strong cold wind greeted us as we exited the car and after a short wait we squeezed onto a very full bus. The cries of sympathy for the late arrivals held no sway for the bus driver who’s clearly overloaded bus could simply take no more people. I certainly felt sorry for the dad and two young kids facing a half hour wait in the bitter wind.

Upon being deposited at the Pen-y-pass car park we did a quick kit check and then set off along the Miners’ track on the start of our walk. The high winds certainly made the decision to avoid Crib Goch more favourable and we enjoyed the gradual climb and shelter of the lower path while taking in the fantastic views along the way. With no time pressures and no kids to worry about we strolled along the Miners’ track to the start of the climb to the Pyg track, stopping for photos and snacks as we went.




The climb to intersect with the Pyg track was steep and we had warmed up nicely by the time we joined the main track and followed the stream of people up to the summit.
The wind was howling over the summit with a frost coating the vegetation at the top; and as we climbed the cairn for the obligatory ‘I conquered the mountain pose’
we struggled to keep our footing in the high wind. The bright clear day offered us impressive views of the surrounding countryside and we could see Ireland across the sea. With heat being stripped from our bodies we didn't linger at the summit, instead choosing to drop down into the leeward side of the mountain to have lunch, bundled up in our extra layers.

Taking lunch out of the wind
Our choice of lunch spot proved great entertainment, as with the café at the top closed (you can also take the train up!) we watched people searching for a toilet spot only to turn a corner and find three people watching them, which resulted in some hilarious rapid retreats.

 I collected a summit rock for our daughters rock collection and we began our descent via the Watkins path. The steep and loose path contrasted the gradual and well warn Miners’ and Pyg tracks we had used to ascend and we deviated off trail to take in the views around the ridge (translate as ‘we got a bit off track’) before beginning the ascent to Y Lliwedd.

Scrambling to the top of y LliweddThe trail soon turned to a scramble and Emma’s fear of heights reared its head, reassuring me that the additional exposure of Crib Goch would have pushed her too far outside her comfort zone.

Summiting the west peak of Y Lliwedd we stopped to enjoy the more sheltered view and removed a few layers as the temperature began to rise. I was glad I applied some suntan lotion as a precaution as the full power of the sun could be felt now the wind had dropped.

We then started our dascent (a term Lee coined as yet another of my “it’s all down from here” comments revealed yet another climb), following the well-worn path down gullies and steep descents to join the Miners’ track again in the shelter of the horseshoe. In high spirits we enjoyed a strange game of hopscotch with a veiled lady determined to be the first down. Fortunately we gained the upper hand on the next dascent, clinching the victory and reaching the carpark first.

A short trek back to the car and we were soon on our way back to Plascurig for a well-earned shower.

Suitably refreshed, our next port of call was obviously the pub. Our destination was the Tyn-y-Coed Inn at Capel Curig, a short walk (with obligatory dipper spotting) down the road from the hostel and we all enjoyed a hearty meal. I opted for what was possibly one of the largest desserts I've ever eaten and was certainly ‘calorie neutral’ afterwards. A few pints later saw a much slower return to the hostel and we ended the evening with some Jack Daniels Honey before retiring for the night.

Sunday morning saw us heading back home where our families waited. A quick stop for breakfast at the café next door to the hostel where Lee confused everyone by playing bird songs on his phone (told you his interest for birds ran deeper than first revealed) and then the long drive home. Definitely a highlight of the year and opting for the more sedate adventure in great company over our usual demanding adventures made for a relaxing and enjoyable time.

Roll on the next trip.