Back on the Cambrian Way

It’s been over a year, but finally I’m getting back to the Cambrian Way. In a little over 10 days I’ve gone from not even considering doing it to impatience to get out there on the trail. The Lakes has had most of my attention for the last year, but happily now the balance is being readdressed.

Last year I called a halt at Storey Arms after 10 days due to fatigue and the planned second trip to finish off never happened due to getting a new work contract. So with a decent break now, I’ve decided to pick it up again, despite strong urges to push on and try to complete the Wainwrights. As already mentioned, the decision has come as a bit last minute and I’ve been madly scrabbling away for the last few days putting a plan together. The decisive factor was finding that the two time slots I’ve got actually fit the walk really well, and as soon as I reached that conclusion, the Lakes trip I’d half planned got shoved to one side.

The Plan

So  on Friday I’ll be heading for Storey Arms to resume the walk, aiming to get to Barmouth in 11 or 12 days. Then I’ll return in mid-August to do the last bit. However, I won’t be heading directly for Storey Arms and plan to ease myself into the walk by starting at Merthyr Tydfil and walking across the Beacons over the first couple of days. This also allows me to pick off a straggler Nuttall (Cefn yr Ystrad) and have a couple of camps in places I’ve had my eye on. Tiredness aside, this part of the walk last year was my favourite, and I wanted to start this year’s walk with something I know I’ll like. It also gives me a few days to assess how the walk is going before I fully commit to the remote bit in the middle of Wales.

Another benefit of this is that I really struggled to choose between the two alternatives for the Cambrian Way – the route over Torpantau (which I’m doing this time) and the Talybont variant (which I did last year).  So I’ve solved that problem now as I’ll have done both. This does mean that day 2 of my walk will largely be a repeat of my last day on the first chunk, but I felt I didn’t enjoy that walk as much as I could and should due to the tiredness that eventually caused me to stop. I plan to enjoy that bit more this time and have the flexibility to adjust the day lengths to ensure that happens.

I’ve spent several days mapping the route and alternatives on Anquet and creating a route card cum calculator that I then used to work out my intended daily distances and which I can use on the walk for decision making. This worked really well last year, and I have adopted the same approach on any reasonably lengthy walk that I do and where the route is largely pre-determined. This balancing up distances and where I wanted to stop each night then led me to the one remaining route decision for this section – whether to take the Cnewr route o the Ystradfellte variant. Last year I planned to do the latter for reasons of stopping in Glyntawe for provisions and possible use of campsite. This year, however, I’m hoping to take the more direct Cnewr route which misses out that re-supply possibility entirely. This is only possible because of where I’m starting – I wouldn’t have been able to do it last year. This option does also mean I time one of my overnight stays in the Fan Brycheiniog area, which is what I wanted, and it evens out the daily distances better, including reducing that final drag into Llandovery to something manageable.

The route (click picture to investigate in more detail on Social Hiking)
The route (click picture to investigate in more detail on Social Hiking)

 

The main planning challenge I’ve had this time is working out where to re-provision. Clearly Llandovery is one such place but that’s on day 4 (of 11 or 12) so I could still be struggling under quite a load if I can’t find anywhere else after there. I have, however, arranged to post a parcel to my accommodation in Llandovery so that the things I can’t buy locally are catered for. This is basically decent freeze-dried meals. I’ll also throw in items that I don’t want to buy in Llandovery.

The Stats

One of the problems with mapping software is they all give different figures for distance and ascent and hence the expected time taken. The figures below are what I’ve calculated from Anquet with Social Hiking’s in brackets after:

Distance: 156 miles or 251km (173 miles / 278km per Social Hiking)

Ascent: 35,702 ft or 10,882m (30,892 ft / 9,416m per Social Hiking)

Descent: 36,234 ft or 11,044m (31,421 ft / 9,577m per Social Hiking)

Although there’s a bit of a discrepancy in the figures, what is clear is it’s a hell of a lot of climbing – at least an Everest, just on this section. I’m hoping I still have some residual fitness from recent walking.

Route profile
Route profile

Accommodation

Based on my 11 day schedule, the aim is to wild camp the majority of the walk (7 camps), but I did want a few nights “proper” accommodation to provide some variety and facilitate drying out, washing and re-charging. I’m getting B&B in Llandovery and Dinas Mawddwy and having one night in a YHA. That’s about the right balance, and they’re spread ok across the duration of the walk. of course, having made the bookings, I am now tied to a schedule.

Gear I’m still finalising what gear I’m going to take, but some components are already decided upon:

  • Pack – Gossamer Gear Mariposa with Airbeam frame – I got on so well with this in my recent trip to the Lakes, that this is a shoo-in. I intend to fit my other gear around the capacity of this pack and now I’ve sold my old Lowe Alphine 80L bag, I have no choice but to.
  • Shelter – Scarp 1 – on a long walk when I can’t predict what the weather will be doing in 10 days or so, this is the sensible choice. It can take whatever the weather is likely to throw at it.
  • Clothing – the forecast, or at least as far ahead as I can see, is for sunshine with showers and temperatures in the mid to late teens during the day and 10-12 at night. This is a job for base layer (Chocolate Fish), a very light softshell, a light waterproof outer layer (just in case) and my Mammut Scree Pants. I don’t plan to take overtrousers or gaitors – except ion torrential conditions I’m usually happy getting wet and drying quickly.
  • Shoes – Salomon X Ultra GTX, which is what I wore last year and what I usually wear for all of my non-winter conditions walking.
  • Stove – well it will involve a Trangia burner and Fuel4. I still need to decide on the optimal combination of pots and stands though.
  • Hydration – as usual it will be Sawyer filter, a dirty platypus and a drink bottle for treated water. I’m still tossing up whether to use my Camelbak.
  • Meals – because of the amount of meals and the likelihood of having to carry a big bulk of them, I’m going to mostly depend on Fuizion free-dried meals. I’ll throw in some of my Acme porridge mix for the first stage, and apart from copious supplies of chocolate (solid and drinking) and tea, will then manage as best I can with what comes across my path.
  • Technology – I’ll be using the Spot for relaying my position to Social Hiking and for sending “OK” messages home. My phone will largely run in Airline mode to conserve battery. I’ll be taking both a Powermonkey mini-gorilla and a Tecknet to give me the battery coverage I’ll need. After the sweat debacle on the 10-in-10 I’ll be taking a camera rather than just relying on my phone. I will probably take some form of MP3 player and have yet to decide whether a Kindle or an actual book is worthwhile.
  • Maps – will be printed onto Toughprint waterproof paper at 1:25k, with a few sheets of 1:50k to provide overall context. I’ll probably take my BMC mountain maps of Brecon Beacons and South Snowdonia as they’re really useful for getting a sense of the landscape ahead and for re-planning. I’ll also be taking a routecard showing all of the official checkpoints, the peaks and main centres of civilisation. Although the figure often prove to be up to 10% out, this is an incredibly useful tool for decision making.

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