The need to get in some serious backpacking practice before the Big One in Scotland in May saw me heading back to Ponterwyd a bit sooner than I’d expected. I’d decided that the Cambrian Way would be a suitable training ground for the TGO. Furthermore, in a moment of madness I had the idea of going irrespective of the forecast (within reason obviously), and if it turned out grim then all the better as preparation for Scotland. This plan didn’t last long.
The forecast was SO grim that instinctively I shied away from it. My history with the Cambrian Way so far not being a stellar one – twice stopped short of where I’d planned to reach, and only once having covered the whole planned distance – throwing an abysmal forecast into the mix was just asking for trouble. With limited windows to fit a trip in, I monitored the forecast daily, casting my hopeful eyes on better weather opening up the week after I’d hoped to go. And so it came to pass, the rain and wind cleared to leave brighter, sunnier times, but with the threat of more gloom coming right at the end of the trip. I took my chance and went for it.
It took most of the day to get to Ponterwyd, but even so I arrived earlier than I would have done if I’d taken the coach back there. An unexpected bus at the station saw me not have to wait an hour in Aberystwyth and effectively gave me an hour back for walking. This was just as well, as the plan had been simply to walk out of Ponterwyd and camp on a small hill nearby, this being the plan also if I had taken the coach due to arrive after nightfall. The flaw in this, happily avoided, plan was revealed quite quickly – I couldn’t, even in daylight, find the footpath that led up there. It didn’t matter now and I simply banged out the walk across a muddy bridleway and a stretch of road to Dyffryn Castell.
The ascent up to Foel Wyddon was hard going, this being the first proper walk up a big hill this year. But some of my attention was distracted by the issue of finding water and somewhere to camp. The ascent levelled out and Y Garn came into view above the forest. I had the idea of grabbing some water from Ceunant Du and looking for somewhere nearby to pitch. This took a while and the sunset was far advanced by the time I found a spot to the west of the summit of Drybedd. On big puffy grass, it wasn’t until pitched that I realised there was a bit of a slope to it, but I didn’t really have time to do much about it, so just put up with it.
Somehow, my gear chose this time to rebel. The Honey Stove fought back and kept falling apart, and then my lighter which seemed to have plenty of fluid still in it, refused to generate a flame. I then rued my decision to bring bio-ethanol on this trip, with the amount the burner could hold not being enough to complete a full boil of the amount of water I needed. There was much cursing. I reasoned that I might as well get all the issues over with in one go, and plumped with the dubious-sounding Chicken Curry from Adventure Foods as my dinner. The stove finally yielded to my ministrations and offered up a dinner. It didn’t just sound dubious, it tasted pretty dubious too. But I was fed and watered, that’s the main thing.
Wind pressed on the Duomid throughout the night, and coupled with a loose flappiness of the cheap Chinese inner I was using, meant I had inner in my face most of the time. It wasn’t a great night, and I was glad when daylight came.
The new day dawned fine and bright, but I still had the wind for company. It was a slow plod up the ridge and onto Plynlimon itself. The wind was scouring the deserted top and it was a struggle to get into the shelter for some respite. I continued on over Pen Pumlumon Llygad-bychan and onto Pen Pumlumon Arwystli. Here I saw my first people since leaving Ponterwyd.
The fence carried on northwards and near the source of the Severn, I saw another 4 or 5 people. Then it was my own company again as I made my way to Carnfachbugeilyn, the fence still my handrail as it had been from almost camp. On the descent, a new stream caused a lot of bogginess and at one point I went in knee deep. I fought my way out of the bog and onto solid ground, joining Glyndŵr’s Way. The crossing of the Nant Goch was delightful – a footbridge in a setting complete with waterfalls and sheltered from the wind in all directions. There was even a tent-sized flat patch of grass. So tempting, but it was still a bit too early to be stopping for the day, and it would leave me a very big day to make up tomorrow. So semi-reluctantly I carried on. It’s never nice leaving a perfect spot simply because it falls at the wrong point in the walk, coupled with the knowledge that the actual spot I’d end up with would likely be far inferior.
In the descent towards Dylife, I somehow missed the footpath turning and ended up on a byway heading away from the village. Only a little way out, but irritating.
Dylife itself offered the temptation of a pub at a dangerous time of day – 4pm, and such that I knew I’d be done for the day if I stepped inside. A rest on a roadside verge did instead. Then it was a climb up on a bridleway alongside Nant Bryn-moel and a succession of fields. I arrived below Bryn y Fedwen as sunset was getting under way, picked up some water and then climbed up onto the little Tump to find as flat a spot as possible. The Duomid went up, a better pitch tonight, and I sat down to watch sunset, rewarding myself with one of my best self-dehydrated meals – pasta bolognese. It had been a hard second day with 15 miles and nearly 1000m of ascent, and I felt I’d earned it.