Coed Brenin Enduro 2014

Coed Brenin Enduro 2014

Monday, 18 July 2016

Wales Coast to Coast mtb

Jo decided it would be fun to ride the Welsh Coast to Coast (North to South) and basically asked if anyone was interested in joining her for some of it. She 'persuaded' me to join her on her first day which basically went from Llandudno to Coed y Brenin.

The slightly tricky bit was how to bike with her, but then get back to my van. A plan was hatched that I would meet her near Betws y Coed at the Marin Trail centre and bike with her over to Ffestiniog and then head back, either the same route or by Penmachno.

The damp start for me at the Marin Centre!
While most of the country was experiencing nice weather I met Huw and Jo in a very wet carpark in Wales, and we set off. Firstly going round some of the Marin Trail before dropping down to the ugly house and searching (GPS useful) for the (unsigned) route over to Dolwyddelan.

slippy single track
From Dolwyddelan it got interesting.... I'd already got to the 20km point and although I was very much enjoying being out biking with Jo, and having a good catch up I was conscious that at some point I had to turn back (in the rain!) to get back to the van.

Unrideable track over to Dolwyddelan
Nice track, still raining
We headed South gradually climbing on another forest track into Cwm Penamner. Then after what seemed forever Jo suddenly stopped and pointed to a small hobbit sized hole in the trees at the side of the trail and declared that this raging stream was the 'path' through the forest to get up onto the fell/moor land (high point) before crossing over to the old slate mine working near Ffestiniog.

This looks flat, but actually it was quite steep!
After a tortuous bike push up a steep rocky stream we emerged onto an exposed moor. It's fair to say it was quite grim. I was reluctant to leave the sanctuary of the forest and suggested I may turn back here but Jo wasn't having any of this and wanted my moral support until we got across this to the more distinct tracks of the old mine workings shown on the map.

At the edge/lip of the big quarry!
We were looking for vague sheep tracks to follow (didn't find any), and visibility was down to about 10-15m so we had to keep checking GPS readings (Jo's phone) to work out where we were as there were no paths/trails/visibility. Eventually we found the edge of the massive old quarry we were aiming for which was really spooky because you could tell it was deep, but couldn't see the bottom, just a shadow of a giant tree growing in it.

Bye Jo (the first time!!)
We said our quick goodbyes, both wet and cold, Jo just had to follow the edge of the quarry and get to the tracks that would lead onward, and I headed North into the cloud/mist. But then the weirdest thing happened, I ran off pushing my bike (it was so cold by now), thinking I was heading North, saw a fence (that I'd not seen before) and followed it... This went past spoil heaps and turned into a track, alarm bells... this isn't the moor route back to the wood, stream, home etc....

By now committed I cycled the track thinking I'm lost, but I don't have many options I have to see where this goes. Then I saw a cyclist heading towards me (phew, saviour), I can ask them where I am! Oh its Jo!!!! What on earth has happened!? No idea but somehow I've gone in a complete circle and got ahead of Jo who's on her correct route heading South!! Even when I downloaded my bike GPS route later at home it doesn't show how this actually happened (Welsh Triangle or time travel I think).

I was totally stuck at this point.... it would be foolish to try and go back on my own into the mist and try again as I was now in a completely different place/location. The only safe plan was to carry on with Jo at this point. Jo suggested I continue on her whole route and stay at Corris, but I had to be back in the Lakes for climbing on Sunday so this wasn't really an option.

We carried on down the mine tracks, checking our position at the junctions with the GPS to be sure the ground matched the map. At a point where it looked possible to cut across to Penmachno again we parted.

The next 30 minutes were quite tense, exhilarating and stressful as I headed off into the mist following macro land features (the edge of a forest and big ground features) and my nose. Eventually I passed through lots more complex mine workings before finding a decent track that dropped me down and eventually out of the bad weather and into the Penmachno Valley! Phew!

As time wasn't on my side I just blasted back mainly on the road (with odd quick forest section) the 20 or so km to the van as the sun finally came out and I gradually dried off after 6 hours of damp cycling.

Its ages (can't remember when) since I was stretched like this, both physically having not biked much this year, and mentally, carrying on in the rain, unfamiliar terrain/area, unclear navigation, wet/cold, all impacting decision making. But its these testing/challenging days that you get the biggest reward from. So thanks Jo, what a great day.

If you want to hear about Jo's journey check out this (Huw's) blog.

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