Machynlleth to Tre Ddol – Wild Camping

With a new rucksack to try out, and what looked like a break in the weather I decided to head off on a wild-camping adventure on Monday. I don’t officially work on Mondays or Tuesdays, but often end up doing so, especially if I’m at home. A couple of days in the hills would mean I wouldn’t be working either which has to be a good thing.

I set off to Tre Ddol and left the camper van there and caught the bus to Machynlleth. I had my new Deuter Air Contact Ultra 50 backpack with me. I had modified it somewhat to fit me better and wanted to try it out. It was fully laden with all of the gear I’ll be taking on the West Highland Way and enough food for 2-3 days as well.

Machynlleth to Pistyll y Llyn

I was soon in Machynlleth and after a quick stop to buy some things for lunch I headed off towards the Golf Course and then headed steeply up the hill towards Glanmerin Lake. It was a cool and overcast day and the recent rains meant that everything underfoot was sodden. I was soon tromping through flood waters and ankle-deep mud. At the top of the hill I made a little detour in order to bag the summit of Ffridd Rhiwlwyfen (278 m). I wasn’t sure if I made it as the actual summit was deep in thick, impenetrable forest, but I did manage to get close enough for it to register.

I retraced my steps a little and then walked around the hill on paths that I was familiar with from running here. I headed back up and once again made another little detour to bag the summit of Ffridd Cae-crydd (272 m). The sun came out briefly while I was here and I had some nice views of the surrounding countryside.

Next I headed SE along a track I hadn’t been on before and soon headed off the track a little to get another summit at Bryn Mawr (367 m). It was still very wet and muddy everywhere, but it was a nice enough day for walking and my backpack felt good. At times I could see the huge waterfall of Pistyll y Llyn. I was heading towards it and hoping to camp at the top of it tonight.

The waterfall of Pistyll y Llyn in the distance
The waterfall of Pistyll y Llyn in the distance

I aimed for the forest where there was some shelter from the wind and stopped for lunch at the bottom of ‘The Chute’. This is a mountain biking trail that I have ridden a number of times in the past. I knew that it was a steep descent coming the other way so I’d now have a steep climb ahead of me. I lingered a little over lunch, and admired the thick carpets of moss everywhere but soon got going again.

Colourful Mosses
Colourful Mosses

The climb up the Chute was indeed a long one but it wasn’t too bad. The clouds were rolling in by now and as I made my way off the path towards the summit of Pen y Darren (529 m) I was shrouded in mist. The terrain here with knee-high tussocky grass and boggy ground was a little more difficult too. My original plan had been to head from here towards the waterfall of Pistyll y Llyn and camp for the night. I was still early though so instead I thought I’d bag a few more summits.

A few more Summits

I therefore headed south, away from my final destination and wandered up and down the summits of Creigiau Bwlch Hyddgen (506 m), Foel Uchaf (522 m), Foel Grafiau (528 m) and Foel Fras (529 m).

With those under my belt I’d now walked quite a way so headed back towards Pistyll y Llyn. I made my way through the forest and then out through a very wet path towards the falls.

Pistyll y Llyn is one of the tallest waterfalls in Wales and in fact the United Kingdom. It is formed where the River Llyfnant falls from Llyn Penrhaeadr for approximately 160 metres into Cwm Rhaeadr. There two waterfalls, and a series of cascades. The tallest waterfall is a single horsetail drop of 91 m.

I scrambled around in the difficult terrain at the top of the falls and then found what looked like a perfect area of flat grass to camp on. I started to set my tent up only to find that the reason there was none of the crazily uneven tussocks of Molinia grass in this small area was because it was solid rock. There was no way I was getting my tent pegs in there. I went off looking elsewhere. I waded through the bog, crossed the Llyfnant River and eventually found a spot on the other side of the falls. It looked fine, but once I was set up it wasn’t quite as flat as I had thought.

Wild Camping

I soon had the stove on and a nice hot dinner inside me. I then did a little bit of work! I know, the whole point of being out here was to get away from it, but I had a good 5G connection and it was kind of fun to do some website work for the University from the middle of nowhere.

It did feel like the middle of nowhere as well. There was no one around, in fact, I’d seen nobody since leaving Machynlleth earlier that morning. The nearest road was miles away and even the tracks were farily distant and remote. I was unlikely to see anyone all night. That might sound like bliss, and in the past it would have been, but for me these days there’s always a little bit of worry associated with being far from help.

Since my heart attack, being alone and a long way from help is somewhat scary. I guess in some ways that’s why I’m doing it. I can’t live my life in fear and doing things like this challenges myself in ways that weren’t an issue in the past. I’m still not sure if it’s sensible to be doing such things. The thought of having another heart attack is always on my mind no matter where I am and what I’m doing, but if it happened out here while I was all alone I’m not sure what the outcome would be. I try not to think about it too much, but that’s rarely possible so maybe pushing myself out of my comfort zone a little will help with that in the long-term.

Anyway, here I was in the middle of nowhere settling down for the night on my own as the wind started to pick up. I hadn’t really noticed it before but as I tried to get to sleep there was definitely a strengthening breeze. Before long there was rain with it too and the weather just got worse and worse. Come 4am I was beginning to fear for the safety of my tent. I got up tightened all the guy-lines and made sure the pegs were OK and returned to the tent. By 5am I decided enough was enough. I was basically sat there waiting for it to get light and not getting any sleep anyway so I thought I may as well just pack up.

Pistyll y Llyn to Tre Ddol

I packed everything away in the pouring rain and howling gale. It was also pitch black so I did so by the light of my headlamp. I then set off first through knee-deep bog and tussocky grass and then a couple of river crossings before reaching a rocky track. It was a little difficult navigating in the pitch black and driving rain but once on the track I was fairly certain of where I was and headed off towards even more familiar tracks around Anglers Retreat.

As daylight broke and I descended in elevation a little the rain finally stopped. I then found a sheltered area in the forests and stopped for breakfast. A nice cup of coffee did the trick and with the improving weather, things felt OK again.

It was now downhill most of the way on track and trails that I knew well. I was feeling quite tired here and there so kept stopping for a breather. Not surprising really as I hadn’t slept at all and hadn’t had a proper breakfast so I stopped and had some food before continuing on my way. I soon felt better and the miles ticked past.

I finally made it back to the camper.

With more than 13 miles walked the day before and another almost 11 miles today it had been quite the trek and all god training. I wasn’t completely convinced by the new backpack though as it had started to become a little uncomfortable in places towards the end. Maybe it’s the backpack, or maybe I just have to accept that carrying a 10kg backpack for 20-odd miles is going to be associated with a little discomfort here and there!

At least the very early start that morning meant that I was home before lunch time so had plenty of time to start drying things out and chill on the sofa. Where next??

1 Response

  1. Avatar forComment Author Mum x says:

    I’m sue Anna worries too ( and me) however providing you are sensible and if ever you start to fill unwell you ring for help and not wait and carry on hoping you it wil get better by its self, then you should be OK, aa al your test hafe proved, at least your tent is visible, especially with your light on . hard though it maybe for us who care, we also realise that life without adventure for you would be miserable. I’m happy snuggling down with a book and chocolate underneath a cosy blanket……

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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.

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