Surf ‘n’ Turf
This may be showing my age, but the University tagline used to be ‘Where the Mountains Meet the Sea’. It’s always nice therefore to have a day where I manage to get in the sea and then head off into the hills.
Things have been a little quiet here since we returned from holiday. Anna has a new job so has been really busy and I’ve been catching up with work too. Morgan even has a job in Canada now, working in a bar/café at a ski resort above Banff. All this work had kind of got in the way somewhat and I was dying to get out for an overnight camp to try out some new kit.
Anna was out Friday evening and all day Saturday as she was playing in a concert at the Arts Centre – she might even write a blog post about it, you never know! I therefore decided to head off on Saturday morning for a walk in the hills and a camp.
I checked the surf before going and it was ‘going off’ Ynyslas was full of spray as head-high waves rolled into the beach and had their tops blown off by the offshore wind. With surf like that I couldn’t go walking in the hills so instead grabbed my board along with plenty of neoprene and went for a surf instead.
The waves were lovely and the sun was shining. I didn’t catch that many as the strong winds actually made it difficult to get onto them. The full winter suit and hood didn’t help matters. The ones that I did catch were perfect though as big, vertical walls of water held up forever in the winds. It wasn’t too cold with the right gear on either.
I was done by midday, ate some lunch and then headed a short way inland for a walk in the hills. I parked up at Pendam, hefted my rucksack onto my bag and headed off.
I was using a very old rucksack as I’d sent my new Gregory Focal 48l back to exchange it for the women’s version of the pack. No, this isn’t a reflection of overall physique, or due to the presence of man-boobs, it’s just that the man’s version only comes in a medium or large torso-length and the medium was just too big for me. The women’s version, the Gregory Facet 45l comes in small or extra small and I’m hoping the small will fit me better. I’ll let you know once I’ve tried it but I don’t think I’m going to be able to find the perfect, do it all backpack with all the features I want that also fits perfectly. We’ll see, and half the fun is testing these things and finding the right one. The Gregory Focal/Facet has most of the features I want at a decent weight and price too.
The one I was using today had no such features, there were no pockets or storage areas accessible whilst wearing it so I’d have to stop and take it off to get anything I wanted. I therefore had my phone in my trouser pocket instead. It’s not surprising that it didn’t have a phone pocket I suppose as nobody had a mobile phone when this rucksack was created! It was fully loaded with everything I’m going to need for a 8-10 day backpacking trip. There would be plenty of things I wouldn’t use today, but it’s all good training so I was carrying the weight I’ll need for longer trips.
The plan for today was to bag a few summits that I had never been to and then find a camp spot for the night. The summits weren’t high nor even particularly exciting, which is why I’d never been to them before. They were just some humps and bumps that I must have cycled, ran and walked past loads of times. Today I thought I’d try to bag them ‘just because they were there’. Some might prove impossible as they could be in the middle of impenetrable forest, but I’d take a look anyway.
I strolled along the road and then up the track to the top of the Hippity Hop MTB trail. From here I hopped over a fence and started up a hill alongside the forestry. Actually, ‘hopped’ makes me sound a little more spritely than I am these days. I guess nowadays ‘clambering’ over a fence is the best I can manage.
The first of my summits was Banc y Garn (437 m). This was indeed in the middle of some forestry but with a bit of ducking and scrabbling, I managed to force my way through the trees and undergrowth to emerge into a clearing where I was surprised to find a moss and lichen-encrusted trig point to prove that I was at the summit.
It was now a lovely day. The sun was shining, there was a keen breeze and temperatures were around 6ºC. I made my way back out of the forest onto the open hillside where I had views right down to the coast where I’d been surfing earlier that day and out across the Cambrians Mountains.
I dropped down the hillside onto a track that I know well from mountain biking and then headed back up towards the forestry, passing two large forest machines that were chopping down trees, stripping the branches from them and then cutting them to size and piling the timber up. I gave them a wide berth and continued on towards Llyn Craig y Pistyll.
The next summit on my list was Banc Lletty Ifan Hen. I didn’t expect to get to this one really as it too was in the middle of some forestry. However, the area here had been clear-felled so after some clambering up the hill over piles of brash and some slightly dodgy ground I made it to the summit. Another one bagged.
I retraced my steps and then followed the track around to the shores of Llyn Craig y Pistyll. It was getting chilly now thanks to the wind that was blowing strongly through the valley. I stopped to put on an insulated jacket and filled my water bottle up from the stream. Next on the list was a steep climb to the exposed summit of Pen Craig y Pistyll (455 m).
It was tough going up this steep climb. There weren’t any paths so I was tromping through knee high heather and bilberry bushes and picking my way between the tussocks. I did have some nice views behind me back down to Llyn Craig y Pistyll.
I eventually made it to the windblown summit. I headed just over the top to find some shelter and stopped for a drink and and quick energy bar. From here I turned right and continued along the grassy ridge to another small summit and then dropped down to the Syfydrin MTB trail. Again, this was a trail I knew well from mountain-biking but today I simply crossed it and then started climbing up a steep muddy slope to the next summit Banc Sychant (444 m).
With another summit in the bag it was time to drop back down to the Syfydrin MTB trail and follow its rocky way towards Nant y Moch. I didn’t go all the way to the reservoir as the summit of Cerrig yr Hafan (482 m) beckoned first. This was the highest, albeit fairly modest, point of the day. I explored the rocky hillside and quarries and then started to think about a camp site for the night. There were no obvious water sources around without losing quite a bit of elevation so I topped my large water filter bladder up with 3 litres of water from a little trailside stream. I strapped it to my rucksack and then started climbing to the ridge on the opposite side of the valley.
It was very quiet here with barely a sheep track to follow. There were a few perfect places to set up camp but I decided to first bag the summit of Llechwedd Gwynau (446 m) and then found a nice little spot slightly out of the wind just below the summit.
I soon had my tent pitched and my camp sorted for the night. I wasn’t expecting to see anyone or be bothered here!
I set to cooking dinner as the sunset.
Surprisingly I had a decent 5G connection so was able to check a few things on my phone and even watched a YouTube video about a guy backpacking from John O’Groats to Lands End. I took the obligatory photo of my tent at dusk with a light on and managed to send it to Morgan in Canada! He replied with ‘Wow, your tent is like a lantern’, so here it is lit up like a lantern. I then settled in for the night.
My new Thermarest Vesper 20 sleeping quilt was lovely and warm even though temperatures dropped to around 2ºC overnight. I rarely sleep at the best of times but did manage to get the odd hour of uninterrupted sleep here and there. It then started raining at 5:55am. Typical, I’d have wet kit to pack away. Oh well, I may as well stay toasty and warm in my quilt for a little longer.
I got up as things got light outside, had a coffee and then ventured out and back up to the summit to take a photo as the clouds lifted a little. You can just make out my tent in amongst the wide open spaces.
Another Day in the Hills
I packed everything away and set off once again over the hills. I made my way along to the end of the ridge then dropped down to Nant y Moch reservoir and followed the road for a little while. I then headed up a track and off once more into the forestry along a very wet bridleway that I used to mountain bike along. I followed this along Nant Glas until I once again joined the Syfydrin MTB trail where the going became a little easier. I followed the trail all the way to Llyn Syfydrin itself and then headed off to climb to the summit of Disgwylfa Fawr (507 m). I stopped halfway up the climb for a little break.
I didn’t linger long at the top, just made it to the summit and then retraced my steps back to Llyn Syfydrin and on towards Llyn Pendam where my van was waiting.
Not a bad weekend, surfing, summit-bagging and wild camping. Where next?